How to remain valuable to your company as a digital marketer? (for traditional marketers)

The Future of Digital Marketing for Traditional Marketers
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Maryanne Gaitho

Published on March 22, 2016


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Marketing has been constantly evolving over the years, and with this evolution comes new job titles and roles that did not exist a few years ago. Today, digital marketers have become some of the most sought-after employees, as organizations seek to build brand awareness online, increase traffic to their websites, and get more conversions.

This change, as much as it’s been good, has not been entirely welcome by traditional marketers who are not familiar with the digital space. Companies know that digital media allows them to do direct marketing, thus creating impactful engagement with customers at a personal level. Traditional marketing cannot create this type of value and as a result, companies have either downsized marketers who do not possess digital skills or, have made it a requirement for their marketers to know about Digital Marketing.

So how can a traditional marker become a digital marketer and remain valuable to your company?

That’s the answer you’ll find here.

The importance of possessing digital skills

Before we go into the how, it’s important to look at why it’s so important to have digital skills. Marketing teams in big and medium-sized companies have undergone massive restructuring. But in a field that is still relatively new, it can be difficult to find marketing professionals who not only have the skills but also a track record for adding immediate value. Hence any marketer seeking to move roles or get a promotion in an organization will find digital expertise very helpful.

Since the digital marketing environment is ever changing and more talent is joining the digital pool, increasing skill sets is even more important now. As statistics show, demand for digital skills will continue to increase as digital marketing gains wider acceptance. Any marketer with in-depth knowledge of content marketing, web analytics, and community management through social media, among others, will be in high demand. Even though you are moving into a role that is focused on digital marketing, having a strong understanding of the complex online environment would make you a stronger and valuable candidate for any company.

Most importantly, understanding how and where digital channels fit into the overall marketing strategy, and then leveraging it to create opportunities, is something that most employers are looking for.

Challenges in the current marketing environment

When traditional marketing is all you’ve known for a long time, it can be difficult to make the transition to digital marketing. You are bound to encounter the following challenges as you migrate:

1. Inadequate training curriculum

There’s a three-fold problem here.

First, getting certified in analytical and technical skills requires commitment of time, effort and money, all of which could be limited.

Two, where an employer decides to up-skill the talent available in-house, the investment made is not significant, which means employees will only receive inadequate training. This is not good if marketers are to be sufficiently competent in their field.

Three, university degrees are not yet fully designed to equip marketers with the full range of skills they need.

2. Unrealistic expectations from employers

Senior managers in any business are always eager for results. When faced with something new, it can be very hard for them to accept the fact that it could take months, maybe even up to a year, to get any noticeable changes and real results in terms of ROI.

They will thus instinctively lean on traditional methods of marketing which have already been proved to work. This can put a marketer in a consistent battle of trying to provide results with old methods while still proving that digital marketing has real promise.

Old school Vs new school

To deal with this, restrict yourself to reasonable targets and adjust upwards as you go. If you set very high targets and fail to achieve them, your marketing plan will look like a failure.

3. It’s hard to measure ROI

The fact that analytics technology has improved has not slowed down the debate about how to measure the ROI of Digital Marketing. As well, since there’s no established history, it will be difficult to know what to benchmark costs and returns against.

But the fact is, ROI can vary depending on the nature of a company’s business and its priorities. So instead of wondering how the rest of the market does it, find out the metrics that matter to your company, plan and set clear goals for those metrics and then invest time and money to get results.

4. Achieving integration of digital and traditional marketing can take time

An ideal marketing model is one that incorporates traditional and digital marketing. But integrating the two is not just a matter of plug and play. Marketers have to find what works best for them in their markets and how different tactics will complement each other, all while avoiding duplication of efforts and budgets.

5. There’s no scientific way to allocate budgets to digital marketing

Traditional marketing already has precedence that provides guidance on dollar investments. Budget allocations for digital media lack this sort of precedence. For a marketing manager, the task will be to establish this precedence and match success dollar for dollar.

6. Maintaining customer loyalty through digital media needs more effort and consistency

Digital media requires effort to keep customers engaged in discussions and to keep them coming back. If you are doing social media campaigns, for instance, you have to think about the time and effort required to maintain top-of-mind awareness. If you slacken on discussions, all the loyal customers you acquired will disappear.

7. The pressure to try out every digital medium available

There are quite a number of digital media channels but not all of them are suitable for everyone. However, internal and external pressure may result in chasing every digital media available as companies don’t like missing out particularly if they are making a significant monetary investment. This, in effect, causes digital marketers to lose focus of the channels that matter.

To surmount this hurdle, it’s important to not only go with what works for your company, but to also keep up with news on digital practices that drive maximum business impact.

8. Need for structures and processes to support flow of large body of information

A key characteristic of digital marketing is that information is received in real time. Without resources and processes in place to react to this information with speed, this can create a new problem altogether.

Happy customers

Speed of feedback and reaction is vital for success. Otherwise, you will end up with a failed campaign and unhappy customers.

Skill building: Digital tools and skills that a traditional marketer should have

That said, there are certain skills that once acquired, will equip you to deal with the challenges discussed above. Having these skills will also allow you to demonstrate that your knowledge extends beyond that of a traditional marketer.

Kirill Kronrod, senior global SEO manager at Adobe Systems identifies the following skills as being important.

  • Ability to prioritize projects that will create the most impact, or what he refers to as ‘impact vs difficulty analysis’.
  • Skills for analyzing and interpreting data are crucial for any marketer who wants to ‘stay on top’
  • Possess what Kronrod calls the ‘startup mentality’. This means consistently being creative and thinking outside the box.

Other industry leaders have a lot to say regarding skill building. In an interview with theGuardian, some industry leaders maintained that the following skills will continue to be relevant to digital marketers:

Rich Wilson, CMO, of Relative Insight, believes that marketers who don’t acquire coding skills will be disadvantaged.

Shuvo Saha, director at Google Digital Academy points out that whereas with traditional marketing it’s typical to have strategy locked for the medium to long term, with digital, marketers have to be prepared to use the constant flow of data to shift strategy as they go. This requires leadership and strategy skills.

Other important digital marketing skills include:

1. Knowledge of the web

Web knowledge

Maintaining web platforms is part of a digital marketer’s job and includes some of the following roles:

  • Updating content
  • Keeping the website is aesthetically pleasing
  • Maintaining interaction through the comments section and testimonials
  • Marketing new products and deals through AdWords and banners
  • Maintaining brand awareness and relevance through social media

2. Social media marketing skills

This is the key for connecting in real time with target markets. As a marketer, you should know how to leverage social media, create and push messages and advertisements, create networks and stay up to date with relevant information.

3. Understand different tools and platforms

Every digital marketing channel is supported by a host of tools. Google analytics, for instance, is vital as big data becomes a focus for most companies, as it will allow you to draw insights from data.

4. Ability to Integrate online and offline channels

Some customers will hear about a brand from online sources and others from digital sources. No business wants to miss out on any opportunities that both these channels present. Marketers must therefore have the ability to take advantage of both channels when building campaigns.

How traditional and digital marketing can be integrated

It’s important to delve a little deeper into integration, since ensuring both digital and traditional co-exist is the only way to make the best use of marketing investment.

Achieving integration starts with identifying gaps that exist in processes, structures or talent and then addressing those gaps with the aim of attaining greater cohesion in the way of working.

There are three main obstacles that could hinder integration:

Lacking a plan for your digital marketing activities

Companies that plan are able to set goals and prioritize activities and resource allocation to meet these goals. Yet research shows that 46% of organizations doing digital marketing don’t have a plan while 44% don’t have a distinct marketing plan against which they can align their digital marketing.

Even though your digital campaigns start as isolated, once you establish precedence for them, you have to start showing how it supports your wider marketing strategy.

Failing to align on priorities

Even greater danger lies where marketing teams have separate individuals handling digital and others handling traditional marketing. Competition among teams and lack of alignment of priorities can crop up in such situations, causing deviations from the overall objective. To integrate the two, people, hierarchies, processes, and barriers that exist between functions need to be broken down.

To get everyone working together:

  • The vision should be shared
  • The whole team should feel that they are working towards the same goal. Marketing after all, supports selling and when sales are high, everyone in the organization benefits
  • Provide motivation for everyone to join in and back up efforts. This can be in form of incentives or creating KPIs that are shared among members of different teams
  • Measure results and share these with teams. Engage teams in dialogues to get their full attention and support

Handling digital and traditional marketing under separate agencies

It’s often the case that a company will engage agencies for traditional marketing and others for digital marketing. If the agencies don’t collaborate on the same projects, they will churn adverts that may support the same product but that are disjointed and do not link to each other.

Just as you would encourage team work and try to break silos in your organization, so too should you encourage your agencies to work together in execution of campaigns.

Get noticed: what is your networking ability saying about your digital skills?

Most professionals have a profile on LinkedIn but they probably never put emphasis on their other social media platforms when it comes to professional needs. For a digital marketer, while other social networks might serve personal needs, they could actually be the deciding factor for recruiters who are looking for capable digital marketers.

Rick Bakas, a director at St. Supéry Vineyards and Winery believes that a person with a strong online following is more likely to be shortlisted for a digital marketing job. This is because if a marketer can build their own brand, this shows that they can excel at building someone else’s brand.

Keeping an online following engaged is a good demonstration to an organization of a marketer’s abilities and is in itself a sort of resume. It’s also a demonstration of one’s ‘brand value.’ This means that when a company hires a marketer with a social following, the company benefits from the revenue potential that the followers represent.

Bottom line: What the future holds for your digital marketing career

The journey does not end with migration, nor will the challenges you’ll face while transitioning. More obstacles are bound to come up during day to day work. For instance, the requirement to sweep digital to the background in favor of more familiar traditional marketing methods might be something you encounter often from colleagues and superiors.

You will need to take time to build your confidence and become better. Focus on improving one channel at a time, depending on what will give the most value to your company, your customers and your career. Develop methods for weaving everyone into your plans by training them, sharing news and updates on digital activities, and getting them to own results. Above all, keep abreast of current developments in the digital world and keep your marketing ideas creative – because that’s the only way to come out on top.

About the Author

Maryanne Gaitho holds a degree in Sociology and writes on a wide range of topics ranging from technology to business and social issues. She has a background in IT and Relationship Management having worked for a multi-national mobile manufacturer and a multi-national bank respectively and has been involved in several high impact social projects through NGOs. Some of the topics she has written about and that have been published include; big data, project management, online Marketing and Salesforce.


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