Leading Digital Natives as a Digital Adapter

Leading digital 'natives' can be difficult for many leaders not intimately aware of the technology
Leading digital ‘natives’ can be difficult for many leaders not intimately aware of the technologies being used

 

The Real Transformation Required

Digital transformation in our organisations is not new. Business processes and systems have been automising, customising, integrating and optimising with leading edge technologies for almost 30 years. Many senior leaders have watched these changes with interest, educating themselves as they move up the ladder, but it is only relatively recently that it’s become clear that the real digital transformation required is not organisational, it’s personal.

Out of all the business functions where this personal transformation is required, marketing is on the frontline, purely because it’s a function that interacts with a rapidly changing digital environment on such regular occasions.

The challenges for marketing leaders during this journey of digital marketing transformation are multiple and complex. The speed of change and ever-growing range of marketing tools & tactics, changing consumer habits as well as changes in media consumption means that many marketing leaders now find themselves in a constant continuum of not only playing catch up on the digital marketing environment but also scrambling to upskill their own digital marketing competencies.

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Digital Natives vs Digital Adapters 

We recognise there are now two types of employees in the workplace: digital natives and digital adapters. The challenges of managing this divide are felt at every level and in every function. It affects culture, training, performance, competencies, processes & communications. Multinationals work hard to millennial proof businesses to attract and retain staff. So too marketing leaders are adapting to implement effective fully integrated marketing strategies to attract and retain customers while also managing the marketing resource required to do this.

This can be daunting task to a senior marketing leader who might feel like a digital dinosaur when faced with the challenge of developing a digital marketing strategy. In particular if your industry sector, past marketing strategy and resource allocation has steered your career in a direction that didn’t allow you to embrace all things digital. Until recently many marketing leaders have had to reply on agencies, interns and younger members of staff to help them acquire familiarity with digital platforms.
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Your Digital Transformation Journey
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So how can our marketing leaders manage their own personal digital marketing transformation journey? Firstly, it is important to recognise the fact that you are a digital adapter. If you have over 15 to 20 years Marketing experience you are not a digital dinosaur as the chances are you have been acquiring and building digital marketing skills throughout your career but at a time when they were not recognised as so.

I started my professional career with KPMG in 1998. The week I joined marked the firm’s transition from Macs to PCs and with that came Microsoft Office ’97 and Outlook. Within months we moved away from endless hours of faxing and de-duplicating excel spreadsheets to a seamless events management platform that could produce personalised html invites with a RSVP button so that with just one click we had downloadable RSVP capture. A year later I managed the development of the firms first microsite for graduate recruitment including a downloadable pdf application form – the first step to an online application process. The traditional graduate recruitment brochure was reduced from 15 pages to a simple housing folder pointing to the website and allowing for those without internet access, it was also available on an attached CD Rom. At the time this move was seen as radical.

quoteI can look back on my professional career reciting lists of projects and initiatives such as these and now I can refer to my digital transformation journey. Only now can I throw in terms such as web based systems, lead generation, user experience and content management systems to describe all this activity. But not back then. We had no such language to describe our marketing initiatives. In fact, we didn’t even know we were practising digital marketing. The term had not been coined. We were simply adapting and implementing change at a massive pace.

I am a digital adapter and as a digital adapter I can recognise the value of offline and online marketing tactics. I embrace the data and insights that digital now brings to help make more informed marketing decisions. If you are a fellow digital adapter be reassured that you are best placed to develop and deliver a fully integrated marketing strategy that embraces everything digital has to offer blended seamlessly with traditional marketing methods. But also recognise the need to embark on your own personal digital transformation journey.

Digital marketing has added many additional and new functionalities to our marketing departments. Our digital assets – our on-line brand, online community, online platforms, data, insights and content are now the first experience of our organisations for our stakeholders. Management of these assets requires knowledge of the new competencies and resources required for an effective marketing function while also having the insight to develop and implement fully integrated marketing strategies – and not ad hoc digital strategies nor abandonment of proven off line tactics.

Exciting, but challenging, times

If you are digital adapter leading a marketing team you know there has never been a more exciting time to be in marketing with an endless range of tools and tactics to test and try yet paradoxically, there has also never been a more challenging time to effectively reach customers. It is only by implementing a fully integrated marketing strategy that we can address this, a strategy that is bold and brave enough to drop underperforming platforms so to have the bandwidth to embrace new platforms and technologies while having the agility to respond and react to customer micro moments of enthusiasm for your product.

Despite all this technological change we should not forget that our objective as marketers has not changed – our marketing outputs have to be remarkable. Fully integrated marketing strategies have to be creative enough at each stage of the customer journey that our customers will reward us – it doesn’t require a degree in digital marketing to tell a team that.



Rachel-OLeary-1-1.jpgRachel O’Leary is an associate faculty member of the IMI and delivers the Marketing module on our Mini-MBA programme. Rachel is a Marketing Consultant with 20 years’ experience in the financial services, on-line retail, not for profit and education sectors.  Rachel specialises in Marketing Strategy, Social Media, Corporate Communications, Sponsorship, Event Management and Corporate Responsibility.