7 Habits of Highly Effective Digital Marketers

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Digital marketing is one of the most in-demand professions in the marketing industry and according to Google trends it will continue to be in demand well beyond 2015. With an increase in demand, there has been great interest across the board in this profession. The purpose of this post is to provide a solid foundation needed to excel as digital marketers and build a stable digital marketing career. These use cases or habits work in real life and are more powerful than taking a digital marketing course.

1. Live and breathe data: Data is a core ingredient of the digital marketing success. Unlike traditional marketing avenues, there is no shortage of data in the digital space. Digital marketing data comes in all shapes and size. We have digital analytics, CRM, finance, lead scoring, commerce, social, search and variety of other data sources. Digital marketers can use the data to drive solid marketing strategy. It is important for those pursuing to become digital marketing leaders to learn and own the digital data. You can become a subject matter expert (SME) expert if you master the data. Econsultancy, a leading research agency reports 70%+ of US buying decisions include the digital footprints (mobile and social is included).

Which means digital marketers data responsibility extends well beyond the pure digital transactions. They also have to play a key role in helping understand the buying process of non digital transactions.

According to CMO study conducted by IBM, 94% of CMOs believe advanced analytics will play a significant role in helping them reach their goals, yet 82% say their organizations are under prepared to capitalize on this data explosion. This validates the importance of data for business and specifically for marketing.

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Source: IBM C-Suite Study – CMO Infographic

2. Put results ahead of campaigns/programs: Digital marketers are real time marketers. We are responsible for understanding our customers and deliver actionable campaigns continuously. This means a decent size digital marketing team is running 10s of campaigns any given time. Due to this 24/7 engagement, teams often get lost too deep in the weeds of a campaign. They worry about micro measurement metrics such as clickthru rate (CTR), viewthroughs, reach, or tweets.

Another issue is digital marketers get carried away by the mechanics of its programs. They get emotionally attached to the campaign images, the length of lead nurturing emails, location of buttons, message headline or touch points. While these are valid areas of review, these should not overpower the results of the campaigns. The single most important part of any digital campaign is the result it delivers. Everything else is irrelevant if the campaign fails to deliver the results it was originally developed for. A true digital marketer or marketer in general will always put their head ahead of their heart in measuring the effectiveness of campaigns or programs.

3. Plan for long-term and execute in real term: I am always fascinated with the variety of marketing minds in the digital space. Some started with digital marketing right out of college while others moved to digital space from traditional marketing avenues while some joined from other professions. Due to the interesting mix of minds, there is always confusion on execution and planning. Marketers think because digital space changes so fast they have to plan and execute in short-term. This is a perfect formula for failure. Managing digital marketing projects is quite similar to running development cycle of a software or an app.

There is a strong long-term vision and strategy behind a solid product even though the new features may be available frequently. The product roadmap may change from time to time but strategy, story and vision are consistent with each new release. Take example of Hootsuite. Right now, the Hootsuite iPhone app is version 2.7.1. New features are added consistently although the vision is still the same “to provide users with the best twitter management platform.” Similar fundamentals can be applied to digital marketing. Your core strategy or vision can be to drive 30% of business through online channels by 2015 or to enable 50% of store transactions to have a digital footprint by 2H 2014 or simply provide 100% of customer support digitally. The real term execution can be a mobile support portal app that enables real time customer interaction. It could also be a project to understand the digital journey of customers and deliver in context messages via app messaging.

4. Develop strong teams: If you ask me what is the number one characteristics of successful organizations, I would not blink to say strong teams. John Maxwell in his book 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork says “individuals play the game but teams win championships.” Digital marketing foundation is built on strong teams. There are several moving pieces to the puzzle when it comes to developing digital teams. Your team may include analytics ninjas, creative minds, social and PR, programs managers, search marketers, UX experts, marketing automation managers, database programmers, product marketers, content writers and/or developers. It is important to hire people with the correct mindset and skill set. When hiring individuals for my team, I like to ensure we are hiring the right talent by making sure:

a. They have a story to tell: We all have many stories to tell but only few can effectively communicate or make others part of our story. Winners understand this unique skill set and use it to their advantage. The ability to tell stories improves the chance of converting dreams to reality. This may sound philosophical, but it is time tested as you read about great leaders and learn how stories make them different.
b. They are a culture fit: Every organization has a unique work culture. Some organizations are colorful, some put strong efforts on employee development and some are plain corporate. Individuals who enjoy free flowing autonomy will not be able to survive too long in a rigid process driven organization. Similarly, individuals who enjoy corporate culture will feel overwhelmed and helpless in a fast-paced startup. It doesn’t matter how competent the individual is if he or she doesn’t have an affinity to the culture of the company they are interviewing for. The same rule applies for those seeking jobs.
c. They possess leadership potential (team or domain leadership): Leadership simply is the ability to influence others. Individuals who can influence peers, direct reports and leaders are bound to be more successful. These individuals drive new initiatives, deliver faster results and are strong change managers.

Once you have a strong team you need to encourage a collaborative environment and enable your team to align with internal and external stakeholders. Digital marketing management is a cross-functional role as it requires you and your team to be super connected to other groups. Ask your program managers to have regular meetings with product marketing, content marketing, PR, finance, BI and other marketing teams.

5. Use tools of trade wisely: It was easy to run and manage campaigns few decades ago. Marketers had access to limited set of tools such as CRM tool or may be a contact database. Digital marketing has opened up a multi-billion dollar software industry. Every second a new digital marketing app or software is launched and there is so much traffic in the tool space it’s hard to understand what’s for what. CB Insights, a research firm analyzed 101 failed startup data to pinpoint the reasons these companies failed. According to them, the #1 reason for the failure of startups is “no market need” meaning these startups offered products or services that were not in demand.

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This tells me we are in creative economy and not a consumption economy as far as marketing is concerned. If you don’t believe me, then do a quick search for “marketing technology startups ” or visit any marketing conference. It is amazing to see cool new technologies and the use cases.
It is the responsibility of the digital marketers to pick the right set of tools from the haystack. Then they have to find ways and mean to integrate these tools so the organization speaks the same KPI language.

The other idea is to develop cross functional SMEs. Instead of having UX manager only use behavioral analytics tools such as IBM Tealeaf, train them to use web analytics tools. Teach your social media manager to run Marketo or Silverpop automation tracks. The next generation of successful marketers will possess multiple skill sets instead of being the SME in one area.

6. Follow the 40/20/30/10 rule:

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40/20/30/10 rule: 40% analysis, 20% planning, 30% execution, 10% reporting

This rule may surprise most digital marketers as it is contradictory to modern-day approach of launching campaigns at the speed of light. Execution is given precedence over analysis, and marketers are always in the execution mode. The reality is quite different because your campaigns will not perform optimally if you do not understand your customers. Moreover, you will not be able to measure the effectiveness of your campaigns and fix the performance issues. The 40/20/30/10 rule allows marketers to add a structure to digital marketing.

I strongly believe 40% of the time should be spent in analysis of the customer, digital, social and behavioral data. The first step of the analysis is to have a sense for who your customers are. Understanding your customers requires detailed demographics and psychographics analysis of your target audience. Once you have all the details about your customers it becomes easier to develop an audience persona. Developing audience persona is a lengthy process and beyond the scope of this blog post but there are many books and blogs on this topic.

The next step is to analyze the historical digital analytics and behavioral data and develop an attribution model. Having a proper digital attribution from the start will put you on fast track to campaign success and save you hundreds and thousands of dollars over the course of your digital career.

The planning stage involves utilizing the data from the analysis to setup SMART goals, develop the go to market message, create appropriate content and integrate tools. It should be noted I specifically called out the integration of tools as most marketers ignore this step and run campaigns in silos. Digital campaigns are all connected as visitors can take numerous paths to conversion. Proper campaign performance measurement becomes a daunting task without the integration of teams ands tools. I discussed the challenges a display media marketer can face when operating display campaigns out of context. The same rule applies for other channels such as email or social. In digital life, a success of one campaign is interdependent on the success and failure of other campaigns.

Execution of the campaign becomes a lot easier if analysis and planning are done systematically. The realtime analysis begins after the campaign is launched so you can optimize your attribution and conversion models based on the new results. The last piece of the puzzle is the reporting of the data. PowerPoint and Excel are industry standards for reporting campaign performance, strategy and results. Keep your PowerPoint slides short to the point and lists the key takeaways at the start of the presentation to grab attention. The fundamentals of powerful presentations remain the same, i.e. limit one result per slide, 3-5 bullets per result, less text more charts/graphs, links to detail reports and so on.

7. Communicate Effectively: Communication is the foundation of great leadership and clearly communicating your thoughts, ideas and vision is equally important for digital marketers. Being a digital leader requires you to take charge of your communication skills. According to the connected leader survey conducted by McKenzie, an effective communication skill set is required for 4 out of the 5 dimensions of leadership mastery (meaning, framing, connecting, engaging, energizing). Good communication skills can take you far beyond your day-to-day digital program management and help you turn data to insights. It can help you share your campaign results in a way that gains fans, followers and more importantly marketing budget. You can quickly connect with you peers, direct reports and leaders. Those who can communicate their emotions, fears, ideas, results, actions, strategy and plans effectively continue to lead for the long term.

Equally important part of productive communication is the listening skill. As John Maxwell says, most leaders communicate, few listen and very few connect. In order to advance to the levels of digital leadership, it is highly important to learn to listen. Another aspect of effective communication is to become popular in your space by sharing your success with the broader audience. Attend atleast two marketing events annually and submit your session proposal to as many events as possible. Savvypanda.com has a pretty neat list of all the major marketing events . These events not only open up your domain for new possibilities but are also good for career growth.

Hope this post gives you the tools your need to become a successful digital marketer. Feel free to comment to continue the discussion.

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