Companies everywhere are looking to invest in and hone their digital marketing strategy.  They tend to use a variety of different tactics to enhance their digital activities and boost their effectiveness.

Typical tactics

Typical tactics used by top management to accelerate the digital marketing strategy include:

  • setting a specific investment level for digital marketing, i.e. a percentage of the total marketing budget
  • recruiting a digitally switched-on individual (a.k.a. a geek)
  • hiring a consultant to help construct or plan the digital strategy
  • jumping on the next new shiny object in the hopes to impress
  • attending or organizing conferences on the subject…

The problem with these activities is that, if the right mindset isn’t there within the company and, most importantly, within the C-suite, the return will be meager.  The question, at its core, is whether the top management truly believes in the potential.

Natural brakes

Brakes, The Myndset Digital Marketing and Brand Strategy

The reality is that large companies with legacy marketing systems and a more-or-less proven track record of success have difficulty accelerating the transformation to digital.  Despite edicts from above, it becomes a slow-as-molassses process for most companies, especially as viewed by some of the embedded digital natives or keen digital marketers who find themselves “stuck” inside. Depending on the industry and/or company culture, there are several natural brakes:

  • risk management
  • legal counsel
  • regulatory constraints
  • clients who aren’t obvious digital users
  • selling products that don’t seem to have a service component
  • third party partners that are even more behind
  • a history of success without digital… {click to tweet}

Even when top management says that digital is a key strategic lever for the company, the issue is transfering that desire and translating it into an effective implementation plan.

How to accelerate the digital transformation

In my experience, there are exactly four reasons or ways that larger companies quickly become digital:

  1. accelerator, The Myndset Digital Marketing and Brand Strategy A crisis occurs in social media (i.e. on a blog, a viral video, a damaging photo, …)  that blindsides the executive team.  Examples: DELL Hell, Nestle KitKat, Kryptonite lock…
  2. There is at least one member on the ExCom who truly gets and is digital — which I would describe today as someone who might blog, have 50,000+ followers on Twitter and/or a penchant for using the latest digital gadgets.  Most examples of socially adept CEOs are US-based, but there are plenty of great examples outside North America.  Here are some highlight CEOs on social media (including blogs): Bill Marriott (MHS), George Colony (Forrester), Jeff Immelt (GE), KaiFu Lee (Innovation Works, China), Anand Mahindra (Mahindra, India), Nicolas Bordas at TBWA (en français), Marissa Mayer (Yahoo).  If it’s not the CEO, then the ‘digital’ ExCom member must have sufficient gravitas and business experience to be an effective driving force.
  3. The CEO is the founder.  E.g. Howard Schultz (Starbucks), Ben & Jerry’s (now part of Unilever), Dietrich Mateschitz (Red Bull), Richard Branson (Virgin).  In these cases, the founder embodies the brand and has the courage to take on the risks associated with embracing  social media.
  4. Desperation - Business is burning through cash and digital seems the only way out.  (Example: Best Buy, and well others that could have listened to the signals earlier, such as Borders, Blockbuster, Polaroid, Kodak….!).  I have seen many more smaller companies, in a challenger position, turn to social media as an attempt to counter the bigger media budgets of the big players.

In each of the cases above, there is a stimulus that leads the needed transformation, which involves breaking down the historic silos, reconfiguring the organization, hiring the right talent, accelerating the decision making process, implementing new protocols…  But, above all, it is about a mindset shift, with a newly sharpened focus on the customer(s), a desire to be in a constant learning and collaborative mode and an ability to tolerate and learn from failure.

Some recipes to boost your digital marketing strategy

Herewith how a CEO might look to boost his/her digital marketing strategy and execution.

  • Get a credible member of the Executive Committee to feel engaged in digital him or herself.  The trick is  finding someone who really “gets” digital and social media and has a strong business acumen.  {Click to Tweet}  At the outset, reverse mentoring and/or coaching will be highly recommended for ExCom members.
  • Drive a spirit of constant learning inside the company.  A Twitter-like internal interface is a good testing ground.  But, in order for this to take off, top management must fully participate and path the way.  A CEO who blogs internally can be a great stimulator (as Grant Thornton’s CEO UK, Scott Barnes, does).
  • Evaluate carefully the training requirements and programs.  eLearning modules are useful and in demand; however, quality online courses with up-to-date material can be hard to find.  Useful tip: use social media (for example, an internal interface such as Wisembly or Yammer) within all training programs.  {Click to Tweet}
  • Encourage adventure and/or trying hard to fail.

Any others you would like to add?

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