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Digital Maturity - Traversing the Marketing Technology Learning Curve and Building a Roadmap for the Enterprise

Most organizations are realizing that understanding and embracing the sea change that is impacting the marketing function will mean the difference between success and failure of go-to-market activities of entire businesses.  Unfortunately, the industry is so crowded and noisy that it is difficult to distinguish significant developments from distractions.  The wide range of tools, technologies and approaches that require familiarity, fluency and expertise means that marketing directors can spend inordinate amounts of time on researching options without achieving meaningful impact.

The challenge in developing new capabilities is determining where to allocate resources for maximum impact and identifying where an intervention makes the most sense.  What are the table stakes for digital marketing functionality?  What is the need to have versus the nice to have?  What infrastructure is required?  How do processes need to be adapted or updated?  How does the organization get the most from existing tools? Where do new technologies need to be considered?  What classes of technology are appropriate for consideration? 

Of course the answer varies from industry to industry and enterprise to enterprise though several elements run through almost every implementation: 

  • Product Information Management and related onboarding processes
  • Enterprise Information Architecture for content and data processes and systems
  • Digital Asset Management infrastructure and supporting processes for images and rich media
  • Site Search and SEO tuning processes
  • The customer’s Ecommerce experience
  • Marketing & merchandising functions
  • Operationalized Governance

The challenge and objective is tie all of the elements together and keep the enterprise from having to solve the problem every 18 months.

Each of these dimensions can be assessed and graded from a maturity perspective and that maturity can help establish current state baselines.  From those baselines, a roadmap can be designed that will take the enterprise to the maturity level required to meet the business needs of the organization and to serve customers most effectively and in a personalized, customized one-to-one way. 

There is a great deal at stake for organizations attempting to increase their digital maturity in their marketing functions.  Technology investments can have very significant impacts on campaigns, go-to-market strategy, social media outreach, promotion response and in-store and ecommerce success.  Ultimately the goal is to enable meaningful customer engagement and to allow the organization to target offerings and communicate in a way that captures prospects attention at the front end of the process and nurtures them through buying stages until final purchase.  If the tools are not used effectively, campaign dollars are wasted. 

Consider this situation – a manufacturer spent a great deal of money on various promotions to get customers onto their showroom floors.  The process began with traditional advertising to drive web site traffic using a special offer.  When a lead was captured, a salesperson at the dealer called on the lead.  If they were unable to reach the prospect, the lead was discarded!  No further marketing was done.  This sounds like a no brainer -- put them into a digital nurture program.  The problem was a simple one – there was no closed loop process to identify the disposition of the lead and to put that lead back into the process. 

The technology components were there but the processes across thousands of dealers was not easy to operationalize.   If the prospect visited the dealer, but did not buy, their information was captured and they were placed into a standard email marketing program, but without the details that were captured about their preferences and interests.  The face-to-face contact was an ideal opportunity to gather additional data – however, the data was simply not brought back into the tools and processes. These sound like trivial challenges with obvious answers however multiply this by dozens of touch points, multiple systems, thousands of users, hundreds of locations and culturally ingrained processes and the problem is no longer trivial.    

Another disconnect was the inability to see exactly what content resonated with the prospect.  The sales system did not pick up the “electronic body language” from the web site.  That lost intelligence meant that signals about the prospects preferences could not be passed on to the sales person who only saw a lead and had little additional context to go on.

At every step of the process, there is the opportunity to understand something about the customer. Imagine that a prospect was reading introductory material about purchasing a big ticket item (how to compare features, the value of different functions, differences between brands, ways to use the product, etc).  That behavior conveys “signals” about what stage they are in and what content and offers might be appropriate to send next in order to keep them moving through the funnel.  In fact, advanced marketing integration tools like Hubspot can track content consumption and then change an attribute about the user, place them into a list, or kick off a workflow where they will then receive other types of content and treatment.   The implication is that supporting data and information architecture needs to align the types of content consumed with characteristics of the user and their buying stage.  The content strategy has to support this process.

The challenge with building an integrated digital marketing program is that supporting processes have to be developed to create and feed the content machine.  Most marketing organizations are used to creating content and then pushing it out rather than using that content to create a dialog with the customer.  Think of the customer’s interactions on the web site as part of a conversation. They are reading materials and downloading content, perhaps registering for an event - each of these are signals where the customer is saying something to you with their behavior.  When they say something, the response needs to be nuanced enough to encourage a continuation of that dialog.     

We read and respond to people’s physical body language every day.  Marketing organizations need to do the same with their electronic body language.  They do so by watching the response that customers and prospects have to content – video, product pages, search mechanisms, etc.  What are the clues and signals they are sending?  How are you responding?  Does the organization have the necessary processes and tools in place to engage in a nuanced dialog and meet the customers short term needs enough to keep them on the path to purchase? 

This way of sensing and responding to customer needs and desires is what the modern marketing organization is about and the technology stack needs to support this.  That technology has to be aligned with needed capabilities and supporting those technologies and capabilities is a foundation of consistent information architecture.   Keeping everything aligned and working smoothly is the role of governance. 

Marketing organizations are facing an upheaval in how they do business.  Every business is going through a digital transformation.   The way to deal with this situation is by understanding where you are today and having a clear vision of where the enterprise needs to go to support their customer engagement strategy.  A roadmap can then be constructed that addresses multiple dimensions of enterprise digital marketing – product information, digital asset management, information architecture, site search and SEO, marketing and merchandising processes, the ecommerce or (for b2b organizations not transacting on their web sites) engagement experience and finally, holding everything together governance processes (which include metrics and measurement, socialization and training, change management, resource allocation , etc.).  Getting a clear roadmap that guides the organization along this path is the most valuable asset that can be developed no matter where the enterprise is in the process.  

Seth Earley
Seth Earley
Seth Earley is the Founder & CEO of Earley Information Science and the author of the award winning book The AI-Powered Enterprise: Harness the Power of Ontologies to Make Your Business Smarter, Faster, and More Profitable. An expert with 20+ years experience in Knowledge Strategy, Data and Information Architecture, Search-based Applications and Information Findability solutions. He has worked with a diverse roster of Fortune 1000 companies helping them to achieve higher levels of operating performance.

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