Integrated marketing seems easy enough to achieve on paper. You bridge the gap between online and offline, ensure you use the right tools, channels and people at the right time to meet (and who knows, maybe even exceed) your goals, and that’s it.
So why does it seem to be so complicated? In truth it isn’t, but it’s made difficult by organisations failing to understand, and in some cases, refusing to accept, the true nature of the changing world we live in.
Tiptoeing through the silos
When I landed my first job in marketing, which was for a well-known brand, I was a fresh-faced graduate with the belief that I could make a real difference. It didn’t take long for that to change, and not because of any cynicism, but quite simply I butted up against too many walls in a fragmented business that had made its name before digital was a thing.
Quite soon I realised that each department was very protective of its area of responsibility, like little fiefdoms with their own processes and ways of getting their job done. I spent quite a lot of time tiptoeing around the various teams, trying not to upset anyone or appearing to go over someone’s head to get something done.
This is not a criticism of that specific business; it’s something I’ve seen time and again at other organisations throughout my career. Usually it’s at bigger businesses that have had to integrate new technology into existing processes, procedures and systems.
Navigating the Twitter storm
One element of the job involved managing the complaints that were rearing their heads on a relatively new platform to them: Twitter. I remember the arguments about who owned the channel (marketing or customer services), trying to bring about change by submitting a strategy outlining an approach to dealing with online complaints, only to be told, by people who had no idea what a tweet was, how to send one, or deal with a complaint in 140 characters: “We’d rather just get them to phone us… we know how to deal with complaints over the phone.”
As the weeks went on a similar pattern emerged on other projects. Each department within the organisation was so caught up with their own activity that no campaigns were running particularly effectively or coherently. As a result quality was suffering. The digital team, who worked on email communication and CRM, had very little input or anything to do with the eCommerce team who built the site and released patch changes and so on.
They could call me a digital native, millennial or any other trendy buzz name, but the truth is at that point I was just a person who had a clearer understanding than them about the reality of the world we were operating in.
It’s a mindset
We don’t live in a digital world, an online, or a connected world. It’s just The World, which is how the majority of your employees and customers see it. Digital technology is simply the way to get the same things done they have always done.
Change needs to be embraced wherever possible. The one thing I know for sure is that change is inevitable, so instead of resisting it why not accept it and learn from it?
That doesn’t mean diving in both feet first without a plan, randomly adopting new platforms, tools and ways of working in the hopes that one will be the silver bullet for your problems. Put a plan in place, sanity check it, measure and analyse it; if it’s not working then change it. That’s the path to true digital transformation.
At the end of the day it’s got to be better than having your customer services call handlers trying to log into twitter for two-hours, just to ask someone to call you back at their expense.