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Has digital marketing finally become just marketing?

07 Apr 2016

Article by Kirsten Newbold-Knipp, Gartner research director

“If you are building out a discrete Digital Marketing Center of Excellence (CoE), you’re too late,” I said a few months ago and stirred up some controversy among a group of marketers and analysts alike.

Seriously though, what is digital marketing? And how do you know if you’re maturing?

Ask some and they will describe digital simply as PPC/SEM and Digital Display (in fact that’s often how digital teams were historically built before they morphed and grew). Ask others and every form of marketing that can be completed using bits and bytes enters the definition including Email, SEM, SEO, Display, Social, Mobile, Content Marketing and the list goes on.

Both definitions are missing the boat. The customer boat I mean.

Your customers don’t care whether you are engaging them via email, telesales or a TV ad. Your customers are operating across channels and nearly every interaction is in some way influenced or powered by digital capabilities – whether that’s real time analytics helping optimise a web experience or sophisticated segmentation and targeting that’s defined a ‘traditional’ TV buy. The point is that digital capabilities should be infusing everything that marketers do.

True marketing maturity means building teams and processes that transcend channel and strategies that, when orchestrated in concert, deliver a consistent, compelling and customised experience wherever our customers may be. Achieving this pinnacle of marketing performance is not easy. In fact, few if any brands are already there. But the ones that will get there fastest are the brands that are:

  • Mapping customer touch points to build as close to a 360 degree view as is feasible
  • Infusing teams with digital DNA by cross-training and encouraging continuous learning
  • Investing in data and empowering all marketers with access to meaningful insights
  • Planning campaigns with a multi-channel mindset and testing to find the mix that drives the best results

How do you operationally get to that level of marketing maturity?

Every brand will take a different path, however, after much debate, I agreed that there are in fact a few times when a Digital Marketing CoE could make sense. This led to a broader conversation about Centres of Excellence and the fact that anytime you are embarking on a totally new way of doing something – a small, controlled group building internal expertise is a good thing. Over time, that group should be sharing knowledge, training others and ensuring that for some competencies, the know-how is broadly shared throughout the team. When it comes to a specific channel, say Social or Email, you would still want an expert team. But when it comes to ‘digital’, I urge you to up-level everyone’s game, instill the entire team with digital knowledge and use what may remain of a Digital CoE as a centre for innovation as new and totally untested capabilities come to the forefront.

Most marketing leaders agree.  Across the board, 98% of CMOs surveyed in our annual report agree that digital is ingrained in all the marketing that we do – ultimately, that we should stop talking about Digital Marketing as a siloed set of actions and instead realise that we are marketing in a digital world.

Article by Kirsten Newbold-Knipp, Gartner research director

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