A recent article in The Guardian called “the real marketing loss is old fashioned skills — not the digital gap” really piqued my interest.
One quote in particular stood out.
“Driven by bright, new thinkers and innovative startups, digital marketing is in real danger of not knowing enough about traditional marketing best practice to truly deliver.”
As a seasoned “digital marketer” you might expect to me to say that I think that the digital skills gap is the real issue. However, I’m 100% in the camp that believes young, aspiring digital marketers need a better grounding in the fundamentals of marketing if they are to really add value for the companies or clients they served.
The problem with digital marketing
There is such a clamor for ‘digitally minded’ individuals these days, who are able to tweak buttons on self-serve cost per click (CPC) or cost per mille (CPM) platforms.
But when they’re making these tweaks, are they doing it with a real understanding of the customer on the other side?
Has there been any thought put into who the audience is?
Or are they just relying on best practice for a particular technology?
Has the messaging been constructed to target nuances in the customer profiles? Or are keywords grouped robotically against a suite of uninspiring ads to explore Google AdWords quality score system?
I mentioned in my last article on a four pillars approach to digital marketing that not enough digital marketers refer back to behemoths of marketing, such as ‘Kotler and Keller’.
At Pancentric, where service design and design thinking underpin all the projects we undertake, a focus on the end customer is always elevated to a top priority.
In the performance marketing team, that means imagining a client’s tomorrow, from the perspective of tried and tested marketing techniques. After all, there is nothing like a Boston matrix to segment the product portfolio of an eCommerce client.
Striking the right balance
I am a champion of innovative, entrepreneurial and modern digital thinkers; however there is a trend for worrying about the technology before scoping the audience or the problem itself.
You may be offering the most advanced service or product in the market but, with little understanding of the basics, you could find yourself between a rock and a hard place. How can you hope to change customer behaviour and really transform performance, without knowing the customer themselves?
Don’t get me wrong; I like to work with an element of spontaneity and flexibility within any marketing plan. Over eagerness is something that I have looked to rein in over my career, having sat in meetings and been frustrated with the reluctance of certain clients to embark on the latest digital roadmap available.
However, over time, I have come to realise that this is often not a sign of risk aversion but primarily related to an understanding of the people who make the business tick.
The performance marketing team at Pancentric totally get this. We understand that the consumer is at the heart of a business and what defines their success. Our aim is to act as conduit between the deep understanding of what makes a business tick and the digital sphere that its customers spend more and more time in.
For example, we are not ones to shoehorn a portion of media budget against ‘brand building’ for Programmatic display because the 40% cut endears us to it. We also will not blindly setup an AdWords or paid social campaign to chase learnings blindly.
High-level scoping and discovery sessions are ingrained into the culture of Pancentric and these are undertaken prior to any subsequent media planning.
How to blend traditional with digital
Looking back at the Guardian article, another element that I fully endorse is the importance of storytelling.
Different channels remain chapters in the path for the customer to meet their goal and, for a “…happily ever after” ending, you need to revisit marketing basics and support these with a blend of traditional and digital expertise.
The power of digital and data in particular, inform storytelling. However, this is only an attributing factor to the bigger picture. As well as rich quantitative data unearthed from Google Analytics or any third party tool you may use, traditional methods such as focus groups and customer observation still stand the test of time. We live in an enriched marketing landscape, where we can combine traditional and digital for the greater good.
So, how can you incorporate these ideas into your strategy?
In an age where we are bombarded with the latest Google release, ‘native’ approach or ways to “monetise mobile”, we need to take a step back and carefully consider what our marketing is hoping to achieve.
Digital is part of a bigger marketing machine and the “newest, latest, greatest digital product” may be the wrong option for a client and, most importantly, a client’s customers.
I have compiled a few points, which may seem like common sense, but are often forgotten when trying to keep up with the modern pace of change;
- Keep the customer at the heart of everything. This point is seemingly simple, however often forgotten.
- Scope, discover and plan. It is difficult to push-back with impending deadlines, however these are critical to success and can be the difference between a broken or seamless journey.
- Go back to basics. There is no shame in picking up the latest edition of Kotler and Keller and immersing yourself in traditional marketing frameworks.
- Storytelling. Ultimately, how do you deliver that “happily ever after”? Where does digital strategy sit within this journey? Revisit point two for clarification.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. I have no doubt that there are plenty of opinions with regards to the digital vs marketing skills gap. There will be a ceaseless procession of individuals fulfilling the thirst for digital marketing roles, both agency and client side.
A simple grasp of marketing tradition, layered with the ability to harness the power of digital is what I believe is required. And I’d bet this won’t change, whatever the latest technology opportunity is.