Is it time to address our biggest challenge? I think so.

Is it time to address our biggest challenge? I think so.

Last week was Digital Cream 2014, a roundtable event run by Econsultancy. Over 200 client side marketers in one room for the day and an opportunity to do exactly what you often struggle to do at more traditional conference style events. Talk. Exceptionally valuable! This year the table I was moderating was all about Integrated Search Strategies.

Traditionally seen as the integration of natural and paid search, they require significantly different optimisation tactics but allow a brand or business to target the same customers and specific key phrase territories. That of course comes with a number of perceived wisdoms about how each channel should be used – for example, use SEO to target head terms, use PPC to target the tail and to support tactical or short termopportunities. What is certainly true is that the data and insight you derive from one channel can support its counterpart.

Take-out number one – compared to some of the ‘new kids on the block’ – content marketing, for example, which I moderated a table on last year – the brands and businesses sitting around my table had a pretty clear idea of what they were doing when it came to integrated natural and paid search within the context of understanding their customers and the associated customer journey. Furthermore that understanding had evolved over time – through a long-standing desire to join up activity across these channels.

Take-out number two – that same understanding had evolved through establishing fit for purpose measurement and evalution programmes and a clear understanding of the toolset required to support it. In other words, an appropriate amount of energy spent on nerdy data driven insight!

Both these take outs are indeed confidence inspiring.

However, as integration in it’s fuller sense becomes increasingly important the topic of integrated search potentially becomes a lot broader – to include the use of multiple channels to support search visibility in the longer term as well as more direct integration with display and social media. Three key drivers support this;

  • The consumer journey becoming increasingly complex
  • Significant changes in the way Google indexes and ranks content
  • Data analysis and attribution modelling that supports a better understanding of integrated approaches

Take-out  number three – delivering a more integrated approach across a wider set of channels was absolutely on the radar but inevitably more challenging. Not least because attribution analysis has some way to go – especially where multiple device attribution is concerned. But more importantly, when you start talking about barriers to delivering better digital marketing programmes, it is often those things beyond customers, channels and content that come up – stuff like people, structures, politics and leadership.

Yes, that’s right. The real ‘warts and all’ organisations we work in.

Sobering isn’t it!

I have for a long time talked about how digital marketing might be growing up. We often talk about the empowered, super connected and always on customer and how that is driving change.  Your customers are becoming relentlessly digital and thus digital needs to be at the heart of everything you do. That is elevating the position of digital in our organisations and even driving a new species of Marketing Director. Exciting stuff.

But the reality is a tough one.

Maybe the time is right to address our biggest challenge – taking an organisation wide view of digital. One that supports a truly integrated strategy, helps develop and retain the right skills to deliver it, creates the right environment and set of processes to make things happen and of course one that adopts the right toolset and platforms to support it. Ultimately creating digital-first brands and businesses capable of surviving in today’s rapidly evolving environment.

That’s a big challenge.

At Econsultancy they call it ‘digital transformation’ and here’s a slide deck from their CEO, Ashleigh Friedlein which describes what it is and how to get there.

Food for thought for sure.