Digital marketing state of the nation 2016
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Digital marketing state of the nation 2016

At CIM's Digital Summit yesterday, and for the fourth year in a row now, I delivered a ‘state of the nation’ presentation. Here are some of the key insights I discussed.

I mentioned the growth of algorithms and artificial intelligence, the expanding adoption of automation and personalisation to improve the user journey, and the challenges posed by ad-blockers. However, if I could sum up the most important elements of digital marketing in 2016 in two words, they would be ‘digital culture’.

We talked a lot about digital transformation at last year’s summit, and it’s still a hot topic for many organisations. However, even those organisations which have already been through the transformation process have come to realise that to affect true ongoing change, we need to adopt new behaviours and processes internally that allow us to keep evolving. The risk otherwise is that you update the technology and the techniques, and then things gradually become out of date again and you're back to where you started within a year or two. Adopting a new culture commits people to things like ongoing learning, knowledge sharing, cross-team communications and trying out new ideas in a ‘test and learn’ environment. All of things that are needed to keep an organisation agile and in a state of ‘ongoing transformation’.

Let’s take one of these behaviours as an example – the commitment to ongoing learning. In an increasingly fast-changing environment, we need to be constantly improving our skills and learning new things. Research shows that the demand for digital training is growing in line with the demand for digital jobs, but the days of getting everything you need from a once a year training course are long gone. Things change day-by-day now, so we need to commit to constant learning using the huge range of learning options available to us, such as blogs, podcasts, video, and so on. Allowing, enabling and encouraging this kind of learning is the responsibility of the organisation as much as the individual, and this requires an established culture of learning. Is sitting at your desk reading industry blogs seen as workplace learning or slacking off? A well-established culture can help encourage workplace learning and define the boundaries of how it should be carried out.

Let’s take one more, and probably the most important, example of the culture needed to effectively cope with the pace of change we are dealing with. ‘Test and learn’ needs to be embedded into everything we do. When a new social platform or advertising option appears, there won’t be a case study or example data yet to help us make a decision on whether it’s right for us. We either wait until someone publishes enough data for us to make a decision (which may be never) or we invest at a small scale, and test and learn. This approach needs a culture of commitment to trying things that may not work out; a culture of thoroughly testing things; and a culture of not associating blame when things don’t work out, but seeing it as a learning opportunity.

The real challenge with digital marketing is not the digital elements themselves, but rather those that surround them like leadership and processes. For that reason, digital requires companywide change – and having the right culture is key to this. Digital transformation is not an end point, but an ongoing process that allows us to keep evolving as the environment around us changes.

If you'd like to hear more from Daniel Rowles, then take a look at our two-day Digital Marketing Masterclass course. The masterclass will show you how to build effective digital marketing plans and judge return on investment. 

Daniel Rowles Course Director CIM
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