Don't get lost in Digital, Data & Tech

Going around in circles with digital, technology and data discussions? If so, then please read on. This article, by one of our top strategy consultants, will help you focus on the top five actions required to cut to the chase, in the race to stay on the cutting edge.  

crossing the intersection of Digital, Data and Tech

Before I dive in, I’d like to share an experience with you that led me to writing this post. My kids and I had an adventure at Bondi Beach in Sydney recently, ending with a ride on the new ferris wheel (“Bondi Eye”).  It’s 32m high, with incredible views over the ocean from the enclosed gondolas that can twist 360 degrees horizontally, whilst you’re travelling around in a circle. It’s truly an amazingly engineered structure.

Now whilst I’m no engineer, I do think of myself as a marketing engineer. Planning out blueprints, collecting relevant information and data points, and making sense of it all to drive business outcomes rather than focusing on shiny new toys (that's the job for the technologists, creatives and designers). 

digital data and technology strategy

Whilst I was riding in the Ferris Wheel I noticed a couple of things: firstly, and most obviously, we kept coming around to the same point where we got on. And secondly, that there was a replica by way of a shadow on the grass below. 

And it got me thinking. That this pretty much explains the current digital, technology and data discussions that I come across with business leaders.  People are going around in circles, and most discussions are ending up as shadows - a reflection of a structure, without actually being a structure. 

Decisions are being made on automation technology, programmatic media, collaboration software, mobility, customer-centricity, and a myriad of other areas, without focusing on building a logical and integrated structure with aligned parts. Sound familiar? Well if it does, then here are 5 actions to take in order to re-focus your teams and activity.

Action #1:  Get clear on the problem you are solving

Agree what problems you are solving.  This sounds so obvious. However, I see many strategies, and read many communication briefs, and all too often, the problem hasn’t actually been defined or succinctly articulated. For example:

Do you want to carve out new market share or do you want to maintain loyalty?

What does this mean in terms of people and behavior? 

How will you deliver on this with your product or service experience? 

What are the true differentiating benefits to your target audience? In short, why should they bother to listen and then take action?

And how will technology assist or enable you to deliver on problem solving?

It’s easy to get distracted by exciting technology or motherhood words like “customer centricity”, without actually defining what the problem really is. 

The problem is not that you need automation technology or more data. You need to ask how will automation technology, or actionable insights gleaned from data, actually help solve my problem. Hence start with clear objectives.

Action #2: Set a strategy that positions, differentiates and identifies the direction of what you want to do to achieve your objectives

I often ask marketers whether their teams understand the difference between insights, strategies, and plans. And the question almost always uncovers inconsistency in understanding. 

Once objectives have been set, it is critical to develop a marketing strategy. Not a list of tactical activity. Not a calendar of channels. 

But a strategy outlining what you need to do in order to own a position, and differentiate from your competition. In essence, what you want to do from an overarching perspective to achieve your objectives.  

A great strategy is of course built around insights. And in today’s data-driven world, insights are getting weaker and weaker, as teams drown in data or only gather insights from their silo of activity. 

So you need to be clear on whether you are gathering hypothetical insights (from panels, research, and 3rd party segmentation) or whether you are analysing real customer data. And most importantly you need to agree which are the most potent insights to develop the strategy from a customer perspective. 

I like to think of insights as truths about people, a product or the market, that can be used to change behavior and drive profitable growth. Or in everyday vernacular: why the hell should certain people care about what you’re going to say? 

Action #3: Create a plan on how to implement the strategy 

Once your strategy is agreed, it’s critical to create a plan of action on how you’re going to implement the strategy. 

There’s a saying, “the best strategies in the world are useless if they can’t be implemented.” So in developing your plan, you need to agree three key areas:

1. The roles of channels and technology 

It’s only at this stage that you’ll start to identify the role of technology in enabling the customer behavior that you’re looking to change. There will be fundamental backbone discussions such as platform integration, potential website architecture changes, and search optimisation, as well as tactical owned asset utilisation, and automation event triggered activity. 

Define what the role of each channel is in terms of the customer journey. Why are you using the respective channel, and by channel I mean channels and / or disciplines (eg. social paid, social earned, TV, PR, sponsorship, mobile App, CRM etc).

This will involve a high degree of prioritisation and is often a major headache for traditional, silo-based organisations due to non-aligned ownership structures, competing interest, and infighting for budgets. 

2. The most impactful moments in a customer’s journey and user experience. 

Marketers, and the marketing media, often talk about the marketing funnel being dead and that consumers are schizophrenic nowadays in searching for products. It’s rubbish. People still go through decision-making stages. It’s just that the stages can all be crunched due to technology, and that there are more channels now available. But importantly, you need to understand which are the key moments for customers and focus on those. 

For example, why doesn’t a prominent telco invest more money into their service experience in homes and help communicate better with customers on timeframes that service people will arrive? This would significantly impact customer satisfaction over investing in videos for Facebook! And they’re a Telco. So they should be able to use geolocation and SMS for a competitive advantage, wouldn’t you think?

3. The critical measures of success or KPIs

Make sure you then agree the most critical measures of success to determine whether you are actually achieving your objectives through the strategy and plan being implemented. 

These shouldn’t be a laundry list of all possible measures that you can look at. They should be the key ones to focus on for success assessment. 

Action #4: Execute and report on the KPIs

Once the plan is aligned it’s into creation mode, whether it be ideation, designs, tech builds and development, testing and QA. 

At this point a significant amount of energy should be invested into focusing on the integration of your marketing stack, the passing of data through different systems within your digital ecosystem, and ultimately the resulting data footprint.

Reports need to be agreed upon. To do this you’ll need to agree what information will be analysed, and what information will be used for insight generation and optimization (whether in-campaign, post campaign, or ongoing iteration and refinement).

Don’t create sexy dashboards for the sake of it. Focus on what you actually need to identify and act upon. 

Action #5: Evaluate success, learnings and optimise investment

And then finally you will be in a position to glean learnings, new insights, and decide whether to:

invest in successful areas

disinvest in non-performing areas 

revisit the strategy for refinement

To sum up 

The marketing landscape has never been more confusing to navigate. However, there is a shining light as it continues to evolve. It’s important to be pragmatic, ask logical questions, and navigate through a process that works for your business.

Hopefully the five tips above give you a more logical pathway for success, and a way of preventing circular discussions on digital, technology and data opportunities to grow your business.

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