Given that digital marketing is such a technology-driven practice, it’s tempting to let the technology itself drive a marketing transformation.

If only it were so easy.

A digital marketing transformation is a complex process that extends beyond the implementation of new tools or software packages. The real crux of it is paying careful attention to organizational preparedness and the resulting implications for your business. It requires a bit of vision, a steady hand and the ability to think of an organization holistically.

It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of (as mentioned above) implementing a new toolset and washing your hands. However, it’s often these cases where the product or method becomes a golden calf. Praised by few, reviled by many, impossible to kill, and dragging down business efficiency.

This is typically caused by management not fully appreciating the importance of digital transformation to a given business. It stems from the inability to see the need for a total transformation of said business and not simply the purchase of new software.

Here are six considerations for digital transformation leaders who want to build a modern digital marketing program – one that goes beyond simple outbound or paid communications to one that aligns with corporate revenue and brand awareness goals.

Can’t afford to fail causes terminal failure

A common roadblock to success is the “can’t afford to fail” mentality, usually promulgated by old-guard CIOs and the new-guard CMOs. While difficult for all businesses, large enterprises, in particular, don’t reward failure, also known as the inevitable result of trying new things. You don’t get ahead in a large organization by heading a project that fails, creating a huge disincentive to take on risky projects. The result is a wholesale stifling of innovation despite best intentions and proclamations to the contrary.

This is why large corporations so frequently buy startups and young companies — they are outsourcing either the development risk or institutional paralysis that prevented innovation internally.

Ironically, taking a conservative position in this sense is a sizable risk in and of itself (over the long-term). On the counter to NASA’s “can’t afford to fail philosophy” Elon Musk had this to say:

Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.”

This type of mentality has allowed his company, SpaceX, to land a rocket on a boat after failing several times before that. The CEO embracing the failure of his employees and telling them it’s okay to get things wrong are some of the reasons why SpaceX and Tesla are revolutionizing their industries and profits, while the bigger, well-known brands are left scratching their heads.

You may not be landing rockets on boats or planning to put people on Mars in the 2020’s – but your business can benefit greatly from a healthy relationship with risk-taking.

An executive in the hand is worth two in the bush.

According to data collected by Accenture: most CMOs are fully on board with Digital Marketing—37 percent state their digital marketing will account for over 75 percent of their total marketing budgets.

However, simply being on board isn’t enough. It’s still critically important that all success metrics of your digital transformation are agreed upon between you and your management team. Discuss and specify a limited set of digital KPIs that together drive actionable business metrics.

Skip bulk traffic numbers and other vanity metrics because they won’t give you any useful data. Instead, focus on the how and why of your results.

Be on the same page from the start and you’ll not only reap the benefits but avoid a good number of problems as well.

Content is still king.

The cliché rings as true today as it did in the past. Good digital content is what shapes your company in the eyes of your customers.

Carefully planned and curated content strategy is an invaluable element of the customer marketing lifecycle. Content strategy ensures your prospects react to your brand in a way that encourages them to purchase and keeps them engaged long afterward.

The real issue when it comes to content marketing is cohesion. When different teams, say, product marketing and an internal communication team create content, they do it with their respective audiences & contexts in mind (internal/external). This essentially stalls your ability to draw up an effective, streamlined content strategy and the results are often disjointed.

To optimize your content strategy its best to create a dedicated content strategy team that plans, curates, designs, and publishes content through all your digital channels. Remember, this doesn’t have to be a full-fledged department – a few dedicated marketers are more than enough to make a big impact.

Target quick wins for enduring credibility.

A digital transformation is generally a long-term project, and it can take months to get tangible results. Because of this, it’s important to engineer in opportunities for shorter-term wins. This is important to help you gain momentum and maintain alignment where you need it.

What does this look like in practice? Take the example of VMware, who created a social advocacy program for employees while they waited for other aspects of their digital transformation to take root.

This program gave access to social content and allowed employees to easily share content on their own networks. Over 2000 employees took part, and the most notable success was the promotion of the company’s annual VMworld conference – with employees driving almost 15% of signups. Unsurprising when you consider that most people give more credence to something shared by a friend or colleague than a marketing team.

In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t overly significant, but it does clearly illustrate the positive effect of a digital transformation – and it buys you time to play the long game.

Know what you don’t know (and hire those that do)

An organized leader knows his team’s strengths and can also recognize its weak points. This ability is particularly important when it comes to addressing skill gaps during a digital transformation.

Resist the temptation to stretch and try to get everything done in-house. Outsourcing and combining forces with other specialists in the field often result in clarity where it was lacking, and solid results where things were shaky.

Hiring consultants that will work together with not only you but members of your team in a mutually supportive way can drive a digital transformation from the foundation up. This is precisely what you want, as this approach tends to be more effective than a delegation style, top-down method.

Arrogance has sunk many a well-intentioned endeavor, so check your bull-headedness at the door. Don’t hesitate to seek outside help when you come up against doubts during your digital transition. A carefully selected consultant’s insight and strategy is often the difference between real success and failure.

Be your own best cheerleader

Never underestimate the amount of support needed to carry out a proper digital transformation. Without open communication and a lot of relationship-building, preparing your company to embark on this path can be impossible.

You’re going to need consistent buy-in from not only executive management but peers and other branches of the business. There are always going to be employees and outside business partners who will need that extra dose coaxing to let some ideas through.

So, make sure you’ve got your pompoms handy and never stop evangelizing. Continually seeking advocates & allies will help you eliminate obstructions that impede the execution of your digital transformation.

Conclusion

Technology choices are at the heart of a digital transformation, but too many people make the mistake of focusing solely there. Pinning down your exact objectives and success metrics is the critical first step to implementing new technology solutions.

Develop a healthy attitude toward risk, get your content right, outsource where needed and get a few quick wins under your belt. Interspersed within these steps is a discussion of which technologies will best drive your company forward. It’s only through this careful style of planning and an understanding of the broader context that you can truly be geared for success.

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About the author

Joshua Goldfein is the Founder of WPHelp Center and CEO of Mercury Digital Agency. Joshua has over 15 years of experience helping businesses the world over strengthen their digital brands and improve customer experience.

Joshua Goldfein CEO / Founder mercury creative