Articles tagged digital transformation

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The CMO who only delivers traditional marketing tactics wrapped in better analytics is losing relevancy

Much of what we do in marketing today seems anachronistic. We’re running campaigns to change minds. We’re chasing people around the Internet with banner ads. We’re still investing in the invisible value of impressions. Is that marketing in the 21st century? Is that what it takes to build a brand? While we try to shift focus from mere ad-making to data-driven, sometimes-automated ad-making, we may be missing the larger point. Digital transformation is not only about more relevant ads and content, it’s about better products. Actually, it’s mostly about better products.

You change minds when you change the product experience. The integration of data across channels and the personalization of content should be in the service of delivering a better end-to-end customer experience – because it’s the experience with the product or service that makes a brand today, and not much more. And that’s really what’s on the plate of the CMO tasked with spearheading digital transformation. They need to drive loyalty by delivering a better experience. Turn customers from one-time buyers of the product, which has traditionally been the goal of marketing, into lifetime users of the brand. From buyers to users, that’s the idea.

But to envision, and then ultimately deliver true product or service innovation is an extremely tall order for many CMOs. Connecting with a generation of digital natives – whether in B2C or B2B environments – is completely uncharted territory. CMOs raised in a pre-mobile culture, who have yet to commit themselves to learning the details of planning and executing leading end-to-end digital experiences, are finding themselves competing with CDOs (Chief Digital Officers) and CCOs (Chief Customer Officers) for ownership of their company’s vision for transformation.

CMOs who shunt the vision and execution of their digital transformation onto someone else ultimately put the company’s core value at risk. A financial services company, for instance, too narrowly focused on hard returns from their investment strategies, and not enough on the digital experience around consuming their products or services, won’t be saved from digitally immaculate competitors by investment returns alone. Core to the company’s value as those returns may seem, the end-to-end experience customers have with products and services is what ultimately determines whether they will be a lifetime user of the brand, or a one-time buyer of the product. It’s a new kind of CMO that both understands how critical the end-to-end experience is to the perceived value of the product, and how to get it right.

In B2B contexts, the challenge is the same. Take an enterprise software vendor who may be focused on delivering the broadest feature set in their market. As they look to attract a developer ecosystem around their products, they will struggle to compete for attention with outmoded portals, deficiently documented APIs, or anything in the way of startup-like usability. As good a marketing plan as they may have, they will have almost no chance against a competitor with a more limited feature set packaged in an experience that developers enjoy.

Everyone is competing on experience in nearly every industry, whether they’ve recognized it or not. No one is competing on marketing tactics. The CMO who is only delivering traditional marketing tactics wrapped in better analytics is moot. The value of the digital CMO is not that they mask customer experience issues with campaigns, but that they champion and deliver on a vision for a better end-to-end customer experience.

Marketing tactics are part of the job, for sure, but they should follow from the product experience. Amazon, for instance, can justify outspending Walmart, Target, Home Depot, Kroger and Best Buy combined in advertising because they can be sure that they have the experience right on the other end of the ad. Netflix spends a billion dollars a year in advertising aimed at driving potential subscribers to an experience that is so far superior to their cable cousins that they now have more subscribers than the top six U.S. cable companies combined. And while a billion dollars is a lot of money, Netflix has always been outspent by its competitors by many billions of dollars. Fortunately for Netflix, ads won’t make their competitors more attractive to consumers. They’ve got to first deliver a Netflix-like experience.

The digital CMO needs to think hard about the experience they are trying to deliver and how to be successful delivering it amidst such significant transformation. They need to think about how their product or brand strategy changes in the context of cultivating lifetime users. They need to think about messaging and how their narrative carries across the entire experience. Beyond “creative” as a brand or campaign deliverable, they need to think about experience design in general and how their brand standards and narrative are manifest in digital assets such as software interfaces. And what about those interfaces? How do you build truly exceptional software experiences? This is now core to the brand.

The successful digital CMO may need to have the broadest range of skills in the entire enterprise. They are being asked to outline the future of the company, the way it will interact with customers and the types of products and services it will create. They are being asked to craft a better experience, not to create better ads.

For more on building digital brands check out a recent episode from Agency on Record, our podcast about creativity and technology in a commercial world:

Michael Colombo is the founder and CEO of Maark where he oversees the overall direction and development of the agency as it continues to build its brand as a leading marketing and innovation engine for its customers. He has served as the executive lead in programs including corporate rebranding, solution marketing, sales enablement, digital transformation, and new product design for Fortune 500 companies around the world.

Photo credit: Rick Miller

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The usual big plans and big vendors mean big delays and big expenses for the content management initiatives of today’s big businesses.

To cross an ocean, you must lose sight of the shore. For a business to change, it must embrace the unfamiliar. Many of the rollouts for large enterprise content management systems, like Adobe’s Experience Manager (AEM), don’t meet their potential because those rollouts are rooted in the familiar: Massive planning with massive partners and not enough focus on pragmatic approaches to deliver value quickly. It’s the exact opposite of digital business. And if you are a large marketer with multiple brands and businesses in your portfolio, that means literally hundreds of web sites to manage and a range of content to disseminate across many digital channels and platforms.

On its face, AEM represents all the value of next generation content and digital asset management. It can give enterprises the foundation they need to act nimbly and in real-time by integrating enterprise content marketing with analytics, audience segmentation, and personalization at scale. However, for many customers who have acquired and implemented it in some form, change has still been slow and disaster feels like it’s lurking behind each code deployment or content update. Even with all this new potential; the problem, the proposed solution, the lack of results…it’s all too familiar. Your transformation journey hasn’t really left port.

Taking advantage of the opportunities that AEM provides requires making some unfamiliar choices. For instance, harnessing the technology requires experts with deep experience in the specific platform as opposed to technology generalists learning AEM for the first time. The ability to configure, control, and manage complex AEM environments comes out of front-line experience from server-side teams that have created their own tools and hardened processes for automating operational tasks. Properly configured automation reduces deployment errors and downtime. And that takes focused, nimble innovators, which are hard to find in monolithic vendor organizations.

The teams you rely on - whether internal or external - to help you deliver transformation cannot themselves require transformation. Many legacy vendors suffer from the same need to overhaul their cultures as the clients they are attempting to serve. That’s why smaller SWAT teams, coming more often from startups than from the Fortune 500, often represent the enterprise’s best chance for change. You are trying to cross an ocean, not boil one, and to do that, you’ll need the small, swift guide boats that can help you navigate AEM’s tricky waters.

Smaller partners also help you focus more squarely on time-to-market over everything else. When industry dynamics and customer behavior were stable, over-planned corporatist initiatives made more sense. Now, they almost never do. Company-wide AEM solutions, while academically appealing to many consultants, lack the pragmatism that should be the first principle of any project that hopes to result in greater business agility. Fostering individual business-unit creativity should be the goal, not the obstacle. Platforms like AEM can support those individual business units looking to get to market more quickly with innovative ideas, but doing so requires lean development models, and an approach to code and component sharing that doesn’t rely on overwrought development.

Embracing the unfamiliar is the only path to transformation. It’s in that unfamiliar space that you will find the innovative tools and processes that really untie the platforms in which the company has invested so much. Choosing smaller, less familiar partners to work on them is going to bring the new thinking, the energy, and the technical wherewithal to help you achieve the change you want. And by focusing on the speed of individual business units, the journey toward transformation becomes an achievable one, mile-by-mile, with value delivered at each leg of the voyage, meaning you can say bon voyage to the old shore, and hello to the new one.

Michael Colombo is the founder and CEO of Maark where he oversees the overall direction and development of the agency as it continues to build its brand as a leading marketing and innovation engine for its customers. He has served as the executive lead in programs including corporate rebranding, solution marketing, sales enablement, digital transformation, and new product design for Fortune 500 companies around the world.

Ready to embrace the unfamiliar and transform your business? See how Maark can help you get more value from your AEM investment faster.

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Photo credit: Cooper Smith

You ever get that feeling, as you spin through vast libraries of media and information at the twitch of a finger, shuttling between the supercomputer in your pocket to the one on your wrist to the paper-thin one that hinges shut on your desk, that things just aren’t, I don’t know, better?

Well, according to The New York Times, things aren’t. At least not economically. From the article:

For several years, economists have asked why all that technical wizardry seems to be having so little impact on the economy. The issue surfaced again recently, when the government reported disappointingly slow growth and continuing stagnation in productivity. The rate of productivity growth from 2011 to 2015 was the slowest since the five-year period ending in 1982.

The piece contrasts two ideas. The first is that today’s digital innovations aren’t yielding the economic increases that the big-time inventions of yesterday did—electricity, modern transportation, medicine. The opposing idea is that the only thing we can blame today’s digital depression on is for making us more impatient since most industries have not fully embraced the transformation yet and will need to before gains can be realized. That’s the way all technology is, proponents of this side argue.

Meanwhile Silicon Valley continues to find investors and is every day closer to finishing that valley-sized spaceship so they can leave the Earth and all of us suckers behind.

Seriously, though, The New York Times piece is an interesting read. Although its hope vs. cynicism ping-pong tournament seems to fall a little more on the latter scale (cynical pieces always make for more interesting, more cathartic articles for some reason). But whether we haven’t fully committed to digital transformation or we are mistaken about assumptions of ever-marching technology progress, one thing is for certain…hold on, just got an app notification.

Photo credit: David Ingram