The Evolution of Digital Marketing In The Enterprise

September 9, 2016
The Evolution of Digital Marketing

Evolution of Digital Marketing Image via AIS Media

The Early Days of Digital Marketing

Since the early days of Prodigy, AOL, CompuServe, and into the 21st Century, Digital Marketing has evolved at an increasing high velocity throughout global businesses. Over the past 3 years, I have had the unique opportunity to meet with dozens of digital marketing executives at Fortune 100 Companies, to gain an understanding of the digital strategy trends in their organizations.

Over half of these executives agree that marketing team structures are improving for the better, yet 89% still have a deep concern over internal support for their digital teams from their key executive counterparts–namely Sales and IT–on how to clearly define digital leadership roles in their businesses that are aligned with all executive stakeholders.

Alignment of Digital Team Structure

Digital team meeting

Most digital teams report to the CMO, while others are positioned under the Vice President of marketing, who may then report to the CIO. Whichever alignment your organization chooses, it is critical to align digital teams with the executive who understands that while marketing emphasizes speed, creativity, and customer-centricity, IT values stability and security.

A key quality of the digital leaders must be their skill at working with teams across the company to build alliances while achieving tactical quality and tangible output from everyone involved.

The New ‘Digital’ Marketing Executive

Busy people overlooking the city

After hundreds of discussions with marketing executives from Silicon Valley to New York, to Munich, Germany, it is more clear than ever that digital is now the lead dog in corporate marketing strategy.

In today’s fast-paced digital environment, it is critical to have leadership that can optimize team performance and results, yet that depends on the processes accepted by your organization to plan and execute initiatives, while remaining flexible around the multiple influences that impact structure and processes.

Not long ago, many digital marketing teams were reactive, overwhelmed, and positioned more like tactical “copy shops”. Additionally, these teams were ill equipped to shape originality in their workflow, much less drive digital strategy and innovation outside their own department.

How times have changed.

Today’s digital marketing executive brings much needed focus, rigor, and strategic optimization of existing content across all channels, producing stronger outcomes and the ability to scale resources while amplifying organizational marketing efforts. It is key to increase the entire marketing team’s focus, intelligence, and internal influence while successfully advocating for digital resources to build and enhance highly skilled teams.

With a strong digital marketing executive leading the digital efforts, digital marketing is positioned as an ideation hub within the business unit, driving execution of digital tactics and marketing solutions against the backdrop of corporate strategy proficiency. Supported properly, the digital team can and should deliver tactical execution of email marketing, website updates and builds, social media, SEM/SEO, video, design, and user experience––either with demand generation, or lead generation at its core driver for ROI.

Digital Team Structure Evolution

Align team and strategy

With leadership in place, alignment of team structure in the organization plays the next key role for success. Research presented in The Stanford Social Innovation Review, four models are presented that reflect my findings on the current state of digital team structure:

  • Informal
  • Centralized
  • Independent
  • Hybrid

The first, informal, is typically a legacy of a poorly managed institution that lacks brand consistency and has an overall rudderless strategy. This is a reflection of companies that are stuck in a pre-digital leadership stage and that are struggling with.

The second centralized structure, is a common model that places the digital team in a silo (For example: in marketing), which then serves the organization from a central office. Unfortunately, these digital teams are slow to respond to change, burdened with heavy processes that stifle creativity, and lacking the capacity to add mission-critical functions such as storytelling and rapid engagement.

The third independent team organization, presents multiple centers of digital leadership with digital roles sprinkled throughout the organization. Unfortunately, as presented in the article and shared by my colleagues, this method is many times random and lacks a coordinated focus. I have experienced this model frequently and it can create not only a competitive culture––rather than a collaborative one––and there is often a duplication of resources, mismanagement of time and a lack of focused leadership.

The fourth hybrid structure model, is a more progressive and better example of how enterprises can sustain cultures that successfully scale at a pace that keeps up with the evolving, ever-changing digital ecosystem. This model has the best chance to consistently produce integrated, customer-centric digital experiences across all channels in the organization. While closer to ideal, for this to be sustainable, there must be support originated via an initiative from the company’s executive leadership.

What is The Future of Digital Marketing?

Digital marketing lightbulb

There are many positive trends in digital marketing today, and we may finally be entering a much more consistent and productive time––where companies integrate digital innovation into the very fabric of their enterprise. To build a comprehensive digital strategy that is shared broadly and repeatedly at scale within your organization, it is critical to embed digital literacy across the entire company.

Digital leaders must continue to sharpen their focus on the impact of their team’s efforts to continue the growth trend in staff development, resources, and influence. It will be increasingly important for all marketing leaders to demonstrate that digital is critical to the success — and the future — of their organizations.

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Author: Rik Walters