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Are British companies harnessing digital marketing?

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Making the case for investment in digital is no longer the issue. The challenge now, and the frustration for many companies, is how to execute a digital marketing strategy well. Digital is a strategic issue rather than a tactical one and worthy of championing at the highest levels. So does that mean we need a dedicated Chief Digital Officer (CDO) to achieve good digital transformation or great marketing results? The short answer is no.

At the turn of the century in the early 1900s, some companies actually hired “Chief Electricity Officers”. Electricity was so new and so important that it was thought someone at the board-level needed to oversee it. Whilst we can look back now and laugh at the idea, it could be argued that CDOs are the new Chief Electricity Officers of our age.

It’s not that we’ve got our head in the sand when it comes to digital marketing. In fact, UK marketers are investing and adopting it well. The latest IPA Bellwether survey shows a sharp upward revision in marketing budgets in Q2 2013. The rise is the highest in almost six years. However, the problem is that we still have a shortage of talent. Experienced digital professionals are snapped up quickly by employers. According to the Association of Professional Staffing Companies, many firms are now turning to temporary staff to help alleviate this skills gap. 

We are also now seeing those with digital expertise being moved up the ranks into multichannel and wider roles that will surely position them for a step into the C-suite. Companies such as John Lewis, Tesco, Marks and Spencer, and House of Fraser have all recently made senior management appointments to candidates with a background of various digital and ecommerce roles. A fluency in digital marketing is not just a useful skill; it can also fast track your career. 

Aside from the skills shortage, the other challenge facing marketers is leveraging the wealth of data digital marketing delivers. Despite the fact that many marketers today are collecting data, the vast majority of marketing professionals and departments are having trouble actually using it for decision making. In short, it’s pointless running a great digital marketing campaign if you aren’t able to easily access the analytics behind it. 

The reality is that global, technological, cultural, and media changes have forever transformed the process of buying and selling, and have left many B2B marketing and sales leaders struggling to keep up. Seizing the opportunities created by fundamental changes in buying, wrought by the web, digital media, mobile devices, and social networks can profoundly transform the sales and marketing performance of an organisation. 

But make no mistake. Facebook, Twitter, mobile apps and the plethora of other social media platforms are disruptive innovations of our time, and are forcing us to re-engineer our whole approach to marketing. The train is leaving the station – make sure you’re on-board.

Fergus Gloster is EMEA Managing Director for Marketo, provider of the leading cloud-based marketing software platform for building and sustaining engaging customer relationship.

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