Building your Digital Strategy for Execution | Perspective

Just continuing from where I left in my previous post

And I want to begin this post by quoting the legendary Sun Tzu:

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory, tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” 

Whether you are a digital marketing manager or a Digital Strategist working for an agency, this post is to remind you the importance of digital execution.

For now, lets just go back to the most fundamental questions.

Do we really need a digital strategy?

And if we really need one, when do we know that it’ll work?

One of my personal learning after pitching digital to clients globally is that any digital strategy is nothing but a powerless, pointless presentation till the time is executed.

Why Digital Strategies Fail?

Why Digital Strategy Fail

According to a C-level survey conducted by EIU, close to 1/3rd of the C-level executives believe that “lack of project management skills lead to failure in the strategy implementation.

As a marketer or a digital agency, we don’t realise that a strategy is not really a thing till we have a person and a team who could bring it to life.

Merely a bold vision & mission statement for your digital marketing at the beginning of every financial year is not sufficient till we really have a roadmap to work towards.

Perspective to Digital Strategy Execution

Tactics vs Digital Strategy

I quoted Sun Tzu in the beginning for a very specific reason, he mentioned about the importance of tactics in strategy, and often many digital marketing teams mis-interpret campaign tactics as digital strategy.

Honestly, there is a very thin line of difference.

In many problems, execution strategy is the real strategy itself. For example, if an e-commerce client is using Google search & Facebook in their marketing plans, it can’t be called as a “Digital Strategy”, as there is no rocket science there. Whereas, how you choose to use audience targeting & Re-targeting in Search and Social is the real “digital strategy”. ( Also Read: Difference between Targeted & Re-Targeted Ads )

Digital Strategy and Measurability

Any strategy without a measurable goal is like a shuttle without an orbit in an endless space.

In fact, I am one of the firm believers that the strategic process should complete, only after you have identified the most relevant metrics. Metrics lends a purpose and a stress test for your brand’s marketing efforts.

Every piece in your digital strategy can focus on pushing your brand closer to the metric, otherwise you might end up doing a thousand things but still would not find out its relevance or impact to your brand.

Digital Strategy and Technology

Top marketing challenges

According to hubspot research, close to 1/4th of the marketers say that ‘Identifying the right technology’ is a major hurdle.

Remember, nothing in this digital world can be executed without keeping your focus on its technology implications during the strategy process.

Your digital strategy is as good as nothing if you have not thought about every technical nuance related to your idea.

In fact, most of the digital strategies today are “technology first“.

Understanding of technology could well be the deciding differentiator between the usual and staying ahead of the curve.

Digital Execution

Even the best of the digital strategy would fail if the person or the team (agency) is not competent to create its roadmap.

Pritchard’s speech (from P&G) was a wake up call to the entire digital agency fraternity, that things are not going in the right direction. While digital has grown at an exponential pace, but very few agencies have understood on how to integrate the solution for the brand.

When it comes to digital as a medium, below are some of the common challenges faced by all CMOs:

  • How to take the brand philosophy in the digital media without compromising brand safety & relevance?
  • How to measure the impact of digital advertising dollars on the brand?
  • Why do we need so many agencies / vendors to land one single solution?
  • Why there is such a huge talent gap between the strategy and execution teams in digital agencies?

 

Building Perspective – The First Step In Digital Strategy

The Context

Creating future ready digital strategy is on the top priority of every brand today. Here’s what you need to know to create a solid foundation.

Below graphic (source: Global Web Index) is an indication of the times we are in. In a nutshell, 65% of our media time, across audiences (in India) is spent in Online and close to 1/3rd of our digital life is spent on social networks.

Time Spent By Media Channel

 

What has really changed after Digital?

First

Gone are the days when the products were discovered in TV commercials or Newspaper Ads (refer to below graphic), according to GWI report, 50% of the global audience discover any brand on a Search Engine.

Search As Brand Discovery Channel

Second

There is a significant shift within the younger audience (18-24) segment towards social media as the new discovery channel. (see below graphic)

Social Media As Discovery channel

Social networks are now just 6 percentage-points behind search engines as the number one port-of-call for product research.

Third

A Sample Digital Customer Journey Map

A Sample Digital Customer Journey Map

SOLOMO (Social+Local+Mobile) have altered (and continuously altering) the consumer journey for all product categories.

The conventional linear journey of Awareness > Consideration > Preference > Purchase may not be able to capture all the possible decision making touch points as audience is now searching outside the funnel.

Lets take example of Automobile, thanks to the wealth of information available today through digital and traditional channels, consumers are better informed than ever—even before they actively look into buying a car.

According to BCG, 57% to 67%, depending on the country) settle on not only the make but the actual model they want to buy in the prepurchase phase.

What does digital strategy really mean?

According to Wikipedia:

Online Marketing  is an umbrella term for the marketing of products or services using digital technologies, mainly on the Internet, but also including mobile phones, display advertising, and any other digital medium.

In many ways, digital has blurred the lines between online and offline.

Hence, digital strategy is:

identifying insights about your audience, competition and category to deliver a seamless brand experience across all relevant touch points for achieving specific business objectives.

First 3 steps to infuse ‘Digital Thinking’ for your brand or agency?

Remove the line

As marketers & strategists, we can no longer be obsessed about creating television commercials only.

Our customer does not see above the line, below the line or online, lets just “REMOVE THE LINE”. It means remove the silo mentality and focus on delivering a quality experience to our audience.

Data is the new king

There cannot be any “strategic” point of view if it is not backed by data. Giving higher priority to your data in shaping your business & marketing strategy goes a long way in “future proofing” your brand.

Understanding of the metrics

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.

~ Alice In Wonderland

While data is important, knowing the digital metrics, i.e. what you want the data for is equally important. What is also important is that evaluating digital metrics is a continuous process and not a one time exercise.

4 Things you must know as Digital Strategists

  • What is your expectation from digital? (Sales, Brand Awareness, Reach etc.)
  • What is your overall business goal? (Market share, Overall Revenue etc.)
  • Do you see digital as a separate line of business?
  • Who is your digital audience?

 

5 practical ideas to stay ahead in digital agency business

Running an independent digital agency business is a tricky affair in any part of the globe. Speak to any startup agency founder, they would tell you exactly what pain they went through in setting up their company. Poor cash flows & bad debts, intense competition & price wars, fear of losing your business in a minute, lack of skilled manpower & high attrition rates are some of the factors that can demolish all the motivation of any digital agency entrepreneur.

Maintaining high profitability is on the top priority for any digital agency startup, it allows them to stay positive and make better business decisions.

Here are 5 practical ideas for business transformation of any digital agency:

Focus on your core digital service offering

Most of the “so called”, “integrated”, “one stop shop” digital agencies make this mistake of offering everything and they eventually end up offering nothing. While the idea of an integrated service offering is indeed a great one, but to deliver it successfully to clients, is a different ball game altogether.

While strategy lies at the heart of everything, it is very important to know if your creative, media or technology talent is your core strength. For better operating margins, focus on your core services in which you can scale your operations, hire more talent and add new clients easily.

Make technology your best ally

When it comes to productivity, most of the digital agencies in India are way behind their global counterparts. It is ironical to see that most of the digital teams are still using archaic processes to deliver client’s work. In most of the agencies, productivity & collaboration tools are still considered to be way too tech-ish. Agency owners must understand that technology is not just an enabler but can lower the cost of operation significantly.

Breed entrepreneurs, not just employees

I am sure, most of you would just dismiss this as a nice joke but let’s face it, attrition would continue to haunt you in your agency business. Even increments and appraisals can’t stop people anymore. After all, we are living in the times of “Entrepreneurship” & “Startups”.

The new breed of employees is looking for exponential growth in their careers, and they are prepared to do anything for it. However, if you build a culture of ownership and entrepreneurship in your organisation, chances are you would get to retain your best talent who would eventually earn you a lot more revenue in the future and at the same time, save you the cost of training new talent.

Build..Master..Repeat

While it is always good to have big retainer clients in any agency business, but not every agency can have that luxury. However, what is more important is to have a practical view of your business and the market. Unlike any product based business, it is difficult to quantify what you are selling in a service business, but there is a way in which you can quantify it for real, i.e. by calculating the effective man hours of your employees for which you are paying them. Companies like Accenture have mastered that art for ages.

Find out how much business you need to generate, in order to utilise 100% bandwidth. This would give you a break even point, beyond which you can maximise your operating margins. Small time agencies lack the vision to think big and hence could not visualise the whole canvas. They spend most of their time worrying about how to find their next big client. The solution lies in looking at people’s time just like any other tangible product.

Get innovative, find something tangible to sell

If you’ve been to a grocery shop, you would understand what I am talking about. Grocery shops in India sells a lot of side items (like wafers, snacks, newly launched products etc.) for which they pay only after those products are sold. It’s the real estate which those brands wants to occupy to sell their products. Guess what, something similar is also possible in the digital space. While you are selling your digital services, you can also sell different marketing products of tech companies & startups like their CRM, marketing cloud, social listening tools etc. Not just it would position you as an advisor and thought leader in the market, but it would also create a parallel revenue stream for the agency.

RIP CMO, viva CDO!

Has digital really killed the role of traditional CMO?

As the adoption of digital media and devices surges, digital is getting pushed towards the ‘most basic need’ in Maslow’s Pyramid.

Digital readiness is now looked upon as the key differentiator and also a success factor for any organisation’s future growth and competitiveness.

This elevates the importance of the chief marketing officer (CMO) as a strategist, a social innovator, and above all, a curator of advisory services and technology.

According to a C-level survey conducted by CMO.com, 76 per cent of CMOs believe that marketing has changed more in the last two years than it did in the last five decades.

Until now, the role of a CMO was leaning towards handling marketing communication and brand management. However, in the last few years, the digital industry’s growth has forced the organisational talent map to re-design the CMO’s role and tilt it more towards technology and data-driven marketing. So much so that companies are now even considering a dedicated Chief Digital Officer to drive this crucial mandate.

To get the maximum ROI from their digital efforts and also stay ahead on the innovation index, the CMO will have to become a ‘jack of all trades’ and wear multiple hats at the same time.

Due to the myriad digital devices, a consumer journey is no longer linear in any industry or type of business.

Technology is successfully delivering the end-user experience across multiple touch points in every purchase journey. As a CMO, keeping a hawk’s eye on the changing technology trends is indeed the new ‘marketing way of life’.

Modern-day data analytics has forced CMOs to stop making any hypothetical assumptions about the marketing process. In fact, CMOs will have to take data science as their biggest ally in marketing warfare. Focus on data insights would allow them to make scientific business decisions at every step of customer engagement.

As a CMO, digital transformation is the new mission critical which is a lot more complex than just running an integrated marketing campaign.

The real transformation journey never ends, and begins a lot earlier than campaign launch. It involves tying up all the loose ends in design, technology and data science, including cross device UI & UX, website SEO strategy for overall brand discoverability, defining audience targeting filters for laying down rules in the programmatic campaign, and so on.

For all this transformation to happen simultaneously, it is vital for any CMO to get their hands dirty with new emerging technologies, devices and marketing tools in order to understand the brand’s core target audience better and recommend any strategic changes from an organisation standpoint.

In the words of Leon C. Megginson:

“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.”

It would not be an exaggeration to say that the role of a traditional Chief Marketing Officer in its current avatar may go several feet below to the dark soil. Only to be able to resurrect as a digital transformer.

And like brands have to now re-imagine their story and bond with the customer, the CMO too will have to morph quickly and surely into the CDO. And place the epitaph on their past with an RIP.

[The above article was first published in The Hindu Business Line]

Digital Media Strategy – The Past, Present & Future

Digital Media Strategy – The Past

Back in mid 2000’s, digital media strategy was just an excel crunching and data munching job. It was nothing more than a cost optimised ms-excel plan. Almost all the plans followed the same construct, lots of rich media innovations, roadblocks & tonnes of banner impressions.

Back then, even the clients had little expectations from the media planners. The term ‘Media Strategy’ was considered to be an oxymoron. Marketing folks were extremely selective while discussing their overall marketing strategy, leave alone the business strategy.

While the term performance marketing was existing, but then very few planners could show how the cross channel funnel works.

All the above points left a lot room for human bias and made the entire planning process highly dependent on the whims and fancy of media planning teams.

But guess what, times have changed.

Digital Media Strategy – The Present

With the rise of search, data analytics, biddable media, RTBs and programmatic buying platforms, complexion of media plans has changed.

Growth of RTB Programmatic in new age Digital Media Strategy

Growth of RTB Programmatic in new age Digital Media Strategy

The growth & adoption of programmatic is enormous in the western markets like the US (see above graph). More than four-fifths of agencies and brands already purchase display ads programmatically. And even greater proportion of publishers are pursuing programmatic channels as part of their sales strategies.

 

CMO queries on digital media strategy

Even the metrics for media planning have seen quite a lot of transformation. Today, most of the CMOs are more than interested in knowing how their digital activities are performing?

Discussions around basic web analytics (page views, bounce rates, etc.) have given way to more complex marketing analytics metrics.

The new marketing metrics include customer life time value (LTV), brand uplift, share of voice, engagement rates, conversion attribution etc.

With the rise of smart devices, cross device strategies became extremely crucial for all CMOs. As a result, marketing teams have understood the need of having a scientific, data driven wireframe for their digital media strategy.

These wireframes have clearly defined goals, metrics and attribution methodologies to create a comprehensive digital media approach.

The conversations in the marketing corridors are changing everyday. Digital agencies & digitalmedia planning teams have to learn to talk in the same language.

Digital Media Strategy – The Future

So what is the new language of digital media planning?

The answer is DATA!

In future, marketing teams would be more than eager to bring their digital media partner into a strategic roadmap discussion. Are media planning agencies ready to to drop their archaic hit and trial planning methods and focus on new age analytical approach?

As a digital media planner, one has to look into different data sources at all stages of strategy planning. These data points would cut across marketing and sales, online and offline, consumer and partners etc. Any sustainable digital media strategy must connect all these dots together.

Digital media planning would no longer be restricted to a few selected channels like display, social and search. On one side, number of channels are increasing and on the other side, the lines are continuously blurring between digital and media strategy.

Is your digital media planner ready for the future?

Razorfish Announces COSMOS™ Data Intelligence Platform

Razorfish, the world leader in helping global brands drive customer obsessed business transformation, has launched a new data intelligence platform, COSMOS™. COSMOS is the first-of-its-kind offering that uniquely combines cognitive algorithms, data intelligence and machine learning to create timely, relevant and seamless brand experiences across all touch points.

The data intelligence platform was debuted during Razorfish’s main stage seminar, titled “Cracking the Code of Creativity,” at the 2016 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity on Monday, June 20. In partnership with Contagious Communications, the agency was given exclusive access to a 15-year archive of Cannes Lions awards submission data, which they analysed using COSMOS to devise a formula for creativity and demystify commonalities in award-winning work.

Powered by patent-pending artificial intelligence algorithms, COSMOS data intelligence solves the challenge of fragmented audiences, disparate customer data sources and siloed brand experiences. By mining behavioural data, and in turn predicting the needs, wants, and motivations across the entire customer journey, marketers are able to unlock new streams of revenue and create business impact.

“New business models are changing old paradigms and companies must now adapt to connect with consumers who are more empowered than previous generations, with more touch points than ever before,” said Shannon Denton, chief executive officer, Razorfish. “With COSMOS, we can now harness intelligence from online and offline data to create a single view of the customer, while at the same time creating experiences that will not only disrupt and drive growth for businesses but also improve the lives of their customers.”

COSMOS is modular, allowing organisations to either deploy the platform at scale or purchase need-based solutions that can be integrated with existing marketing and technology platforms. COSMOS learns, reasons and activates deep customer insights by introducing cognitive optimisations that drive loyalty, customer retention and experiences in a never-before-seen level of personalisation.

COSMOS includes the following modules:

  • COSMOS™ Consumer 360
  • COSMOS™ Audience Intelligence Hub
  • COSMOS™ Cognitive Intelligence-as-Service
  • COSMOS™ Universal Graph ID

“Relevance has always been key in marketing. The opportunities to be highly relevant have increased tremendously with the omniscience of mobile and programmatic media. By the same token, the difficulty in finding the right moment of interaction has also increased. Our digitally connected economy is forcing brands to fundamentally redefine the way in which they interact with consumers,” said Rishad Tobaccowala, chief strategist, Publicis Groupe. “COSMOS helps solve this problem, unlocking moment marketing opportunities by quickly delivering data and insights that can be activated in real time across channels.”

The COSMOS intellectual property was developed and is led by Razorfish Chief Intelligence Officer Samih Fadli and is fueled by more than 1,500 data consultants and 6,000 delivery resources across 21 countries globally.

For more information on COSMOS, contact cosmos@razorfish.com or watch the COSMOS video.

(Credits: above article was published in PR Newswire)

Search is the beginning, middle & end of every buying journey

More than a decade ago, when I started my digital marketing career, concepts like consumer buying journey were non-existent in the agency parlance. In fact, no marketer was even asking this question to their agency. Perhaps digital was not considered strategic enough.

But travel e-commerce players (like MMT, Yatra etc.) changed it all forever, when they showcased the true power of the digital world to all marketing folks. From that point, it truly opened a perennial chapter of gold rush in the advertising business.

Arguably, if there was one company who was in the middle of this (never ending) gold rush, it was Google. Google’s success in the online business compelled a lot of people to try their hand at creating disruptive online products, but most of them ended up failing miserably.

Today, optimising customer buying journey is the most critical aspect of any digital strategy. Search continues to dominate every buying journey across categories.

Buying Journey – The Beginning

Over the years, humans appetite for information search has touched gigantic proportions. Mobile only added more fuel to this insane pace of growth. (see below image)

mobile vs desktop internet users - last 5 years

mobile vs desktop internet users

The journey which took desktop 20 years, mobile not just covered it in just 7 years but outpaced desktop in no time at all. And the result was quite apparent from there onwards. It triggered a never seen before surge in human appetite for information “search”. So much so that it became the penultimate lifeline in online discovery.

 

eCommerce buying journey in mobile

By 2013, more than 48% of online audience were discovering products through search only in the automobile (42%), home and garden (41%), apparel & beauty (38%).  Mobile only accelerated this phenomenon further.

Over the years, Mobile (or rather Mobility) has not just amplified the overall searches across categories but also altered user’s path to discover new products & services.

consumer journey by devices

Source : Forbes

Over 75% of product discovery starts on a smartphone or tablets, whereas only 25% is happening on PCs. This phenomenon has forced the brand teams to re-look at their entire marketing funnel and create a mobile first strategic approach.

Buying Journey – The Middle

Usually, the discovery cycle for any product category is longer, take for example the automobile category.

Source : Google Insights

In automobile, any purchase consideration cycle can go up to 120+ days. And the reason is quite obvious, there are multiple layers to any purchase consideration and it can get extremely complex if the category is highly competitive:

  • Type of vehicle to purchase ( Sedan vs Hatchback vs Crossover vs SUV etc.)
  • Variant A vs Variant B (Petrol vs Diesel vs CNG )
  • Brands A vs Brand B ( Honda vs Hyundai )
  • Car Dealer A vs Car Dealer B ( Outskirts vs Suburb )
  • Color Preference ( Metallic vs Non Metallic )
  • Finance Company A vs Finance Company B

When beginning a new purchase journey, most consumers consider an average of 3 to 4 brands, if they are not already loyal to one in particular. During this stage it becomes vitally important for marketers to increase their brand visibility while consumers are developing their considerations sets.

The search allows the consumer to deep dive into various parameters that can assist them in decision making by comparing multiple complex options at ease.

Buying Journey – The End

Customer Care Search Trends on Google

10 Years Customer Care Search Trends on Google ( Source : Google Trends)

Last 10 years Google search trends shows how customer care related queries have sky rocketed.

This shows that search does not stop at purchase, in fact it is a great tool for brands to engage with customers on ongoing basis by helping them find solutions to their problems. A lot of brands miss out on this opportunity to connect with their customers in the post sales phase.