In the contemporary knowledge economy, consumers’ increasing use of digital media has emerged as one of the most pragmatic IT innovations that drive business growth. The concept of marketing we used to know is expanding and transforming, giving more possibilities to businesses to break the limits. At the same time, the philosophy of digital and interactive marketing spans building competitive advantage in meeting customers’ needs, creating customer values, strengthening developer-customer contacts, and setting interactional ties via digital distribution channels.
Still, the endless possibilities of digital marketing may become a “nightmare” for companies starting with digital marketing not having a relevant skill set. In this stage, they will face two questions; when to implement digital marketing and how to implement digital marketing. In search of the true formula for when and how to implement digital marketing, we have come up with this article that may somehow shed light on this dilemma.
Here is some statistical data to understand the scale of digital marketing and development pace.
What keeps you away from adopting digital marketing?
Even though the advantages and disruptive efforts are convincing, some internal and external factors may become barriers to adopting digital marketing. Revealing those barriers is one stop to working on bringing digital marketing into business and using the levers to the full extent.
Generational differences or the “generation thing” may play a significant role in marketing practices and act as a barrier to digital marketing. Typically, the key SME decision-maker is the owner-manager, who significantly influences the firm's practices and performance. If run by older generation/mindset managers, it may become a significant internal factor influencing digital marketing practice arguing that marketing has little to offer their sales-focused industry and suggesting that they choose to run the business “how I've done it for the last 15 years.”
Company size may directly affect how firms approach their marketing activities, with both small size and limited resources frequently mentioned as key barriers to digital marketing. Limited resources are a significant internal factor relating specifically to the SME characteristics possessing limited financial resources, a shortfall in the necessary marketing-related skills and knowledge, and a lack of time to devote to marketing activities. The same barrier may play a role in the first stages of business development when the company is financed and doesn’t have enough resources to cover marketing efforts.
Depending on the product and service, the organization considers marketing less important than other operational functions. Even if the SMEs have a marketing manager, they lack power, with marketing “never taken as in-depth as some operational stuff and the production issues.” Such companies may consider digital marketing “a tier below in business development” with a low-key role. In this scenario, companies often share digital marketing roles and turn them into a mess clearly visible in the company’s social media channels, tone of voice, and message.
Although the companies acknowledge that digital can have a role in extending traditional business practices, their limited digital marketing knowledge acts as a major barrier. Without enough skills and expertise, they fail to understand that setting strategic marketing goals and using digital marketing can be crucial in building awareness and maintaining relationships to support future sales and business acquisition. Again, saving on marketing and neglecting the marketing role in business development has come from an unprofessional approach. A business that has never invested in strategies and ads is unable to track the positive impact of digital marketing.
Being less popular than other marketing channels, affiliate marketing is still widely used as one of the options for generating leads. The biggest mistake businesses make relying on affiliate marketing and neglecting all other channels’ benefits.
For those businesses, this channel can be an easy start; they handle all the processes for affiliates and require results instead. They are ready to pay for leads, not even caring about the next steps of lead conversion. Even though those companies do realize that their message does not reach the user and that affiliate marketing does not bring expected results, they just can’t or don't want to get out of the “vicious circle.”
Business development lifecycle
Looking at the examples and understanding the role of digital marketing in modern business processes, it is obvious that it can be applied at any stage of the business lifecycle having a tremendous impact on the development pace. Depending on which stage DM is implemented, the impact can be significantly different.
Any business goes through the following generic lifecycle:
The development or seed stage is the first step of a company's lifespan. This is when the brilliant idea is merely just a thought and will require a round of testing in its initial stage. In testing the business idea, it is critical to conduct research regarding the industry and gather feedback from a small group of people like friends, family, colleagues, or other industry specialists.
In this stage, digital marketing efforts can be limited to high-level strategic planning and moving on with quick branding to have something tangible to present to shareholders. Along with marketing strategies, the business in its pre-seed stage will need engineering and data infrastructure support. In this light, the business may require initial CRM data to later easily build and manage the customer base.
This is the true beginning of business growth. In this stage, the products or services are developed, and the business may now move on to marketing and selling. During this stage, the business will be tweaking products or services according to the initial feedback from first paying customers and market demand. The initial feedback is crucial to learn and adjusting the business model to ensure profitability and that it meets customers’ expectations.
It is the stage to build branding and brand visibility in the digital environment through digital marketing channels. Cooperation with a competent agency would probably be the best option to start with high-level marketing and sales data consulting, simultaneously providing website scalability and increasing efforts in content development while your business develops.
The company has already passed through the earliest stages of business development and is now in the growth or survival stage. The company is continually making money and gaining new consumers. These regular revenues will help cover operational expenditures while opening up new business prospects. The company might be losing money or making a good profit, but there could be some competition. It is also the time to fine-tune the business model; perhaps it requires established procedures, sales, marketing, and operations models before expanding the company to the mass market.
This is the most important moment for investing heavily in digital marketing initiatives to support business operations.
The stage is critical for digital marketing as well because the company requires powerful data strategy and tools to support the development pace. Organic and paid marketing, powered by technical SEO campaigns, will still be the focus of marketing efforts.
The business has grown and established its presence in the industry. It has now reached the stage of the 4 stages of business growth in which the business will expand and spread its roots into new markets and distribution channels. To capitalize on the business’s success, it will need to capture a larger market share and find new revenue. Therefore the business will experience rapid growth in revenue and cash flow. The rapid growth phases of business development take advantage of the proven sales, marketing, and operations models set forth from the growth/survival stage.
In this stage, it is critical to reconsider digital marketing strategies to align them with business prospects, re-evaluate and optimize existing tactics, and work on industry-specific crucial data integrations. To support the company’s expansion, the marketing team will work closely with engineering and data teams for lead nurturing, marketing and sales pipeline creation and maintenance, re-evaluation, and optimization of existing tactics to meet the stage requirements.
The successful expansion has taken the business to its maturity stage, the final stage of the 4 stages of business growth, where the company has a dominating presence in its market. The business could still grow, but not at the substantial rate it previously experienced. The current option is to decide to take a step back toward the expansion stage or to think of a possible exit strategy.
Marketing efforts can repeat the previous stage strategies or be focused on market expansion or rebranding. Depending on the exit strategy, marketing will be built respectively.
Every stage of business growth introduces new or pre-existing obstacles. Solutions that worked at one stage may not work in the next. Therefore you should always alter your company plan and operations accordingly.
Any digital marketing channel and technique focused on addressing the present bottlenecks and meeting company objectives can be implemented at any stage of business development.
Digital marketing best practices
We learn from best practices and marketing strategies that have been tested and proved efficient. And this is quite smart. Moreover, we avoid experiments to save resources and to make sure your company is protected from failures to the greatest extent possible.
As discussed above, digital marketing and its various components can be integrated into business processes at any stage of its development. Even giants with traditional business models at some point turn to modern digital solutions to implement new ideas.
Back in 2010, a world-known German automobile company popular for its high-performance vehicles defined the importance of digital transformations by using a CRM system to collect consumer feedback. This information is utilized to improve every client touchpoint and make every interaction more frictionless. In this case, more customer happiness translates into higher sales.
Porsche Consulting Innovation Labs, a blend of traditional business models with technology and software professionals, was established to foster innovation. They now help other companies by sharing their expertise and practice to become “Porsches” of their industries.
EasyJet, a British multinational low-cost airline company, ran an email campaign that used dynamic language, photos, and links to convey each customer's narrative from their first trip, as well as some surprising information about their travel habits and recommendations for future visits. The campaign used data collected for years.
With 100% open rates and a 25% higher click-through rate, the new digital marketing strategy provided overwhelmingly positive responses for the company and increased sales.
To maintain global performance in 190 countries, Unilever implemented a data analytics infrastructure in 2019, gathering 900 million individual consumer records, an enormous increase compared to the modest 200 million before integrating the tool.
Digital transformation is also present during the production process. Having data and predictive analytics capabilities, Unilever can increase the accuracy of demand estimations and plan its production.
Hasbro toy and game manufacturing and marketing company integrated an omnichannel marketing strategy in 2012, simultaneously harnessing digital storytelling, social media marketing, and video content production to better connect to consumers. Hasbro now uses customer data to make better forecasts and meet customer needs. Despite upheavals, instability, and changes in the sector, better use of digital data, technology, and targeted marketing strategies has helped Hasbro's stock increase from $36 in 2013 to $109 today.
Today customers give preference to shop online more than visit a physical store. Moreover, it is much more comfortable to surf online in search of desired products, pay online and get it delivered. With this in mind, brick-and-mortar stores like Macy’s spent $6.4 million for 1000 relevant keywords in paid search listings to get customer engagement in a digital environment.
Thinking of starting with Digital Marketing
What is the business development lifecycle?
0. Development / Pre-seed Stage
1. Seed / Startup Stage
2. Growth / Survival Stage
3. Expansion / Rapid Growth Stage
4. Maturity Stage
What are the barriers to digital marketing adoption?
Aside from resource and skill shortages, some internal and external factors may act as barriers to adopting digital marketing; relying solely on affiliate marketing, neglecting the role of digital marketing, sharing digital marketing roles between non-competent teams, etc.