ACHIEVE DIGITAL MARKETING MATURITY IN 2021

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In Pre-Covid East Africa, our homegrown businesses and brands took a wait and saw attitude towards full digital integration of their marketing communications at top leadership level. Entrepreneurs and business leaders remained in a hazy “I know I should be using digital marketing in a bigger way, but I’m not sure how or why” state. Marketing and Commercial managers had a difficult time in boardrooms justifying digital marketing budgets sometimes with shaky ROI computations.

Enter the now infamous year 2020 and the business realities were altered in an unprecedented way since the World Wars. The disruption of traditional customer contact tossed businesses into a world where most of their channels of trade and communications were unviable. Survival was fully dependent on establishing and maintaining a virtual relationship with customers. This forced many late adopters onboard the digital marketing ship.

As the legendary 6th Century Chinese sage Lao Tzu stated, ‘a journey of a thousand miles starts beneath one’s feet’ it is important to appreciate that we have definitely made our first step in the digital transformation journey and the profitability future is bright. It is the objective of this article to sensitize us on what lies ahead and providing clarity on what the journey towards digital maturity looks like.

 Image Source: Ifex Organization

Digital marketing maturity refers to the ability of a business to consistently use technology to deliver the most relevant content to consumers at various touchpoints along the purchase journey, also referred to as multi-moment consumer contact.

Having active social media sites, a graphic designer to make sure they look the part and an intern or marketing executive to update them regularly, are just but the first step in the long journey towards digital maturity. Investing resources in the latest technologies and influencers is definitely useful, but it’s important to realize that digital transformation must also involve the internal alignment of culture, structure and operational tasks in the organization.

The Digital Transformation 2020 survey by Deloitte ( https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/topics/digital-transformation/digital-transformation-survey.html ) clearly showed that companies identified by their executives as well along the road to digital transformation were three times more likely to achieve revenue growth during the hostile pandemic business environment.

Various models of digital marketing maturity have been advanced by researchers and scholars over the last few years with varying definitions and metrics for measuring success. Mediabeacon Digital Maturity Whitepaper (https://www.mediabeacon.com/en/resources/marketing-maturity-model ) provides five stages of the journey that you can use to measure your brand’s progress:

  1. Reactive. Mainly driven by external pressures, digital presence is minimal just to ward off…. or copy competition. Most tasks are manual and offline.
  2. Organized. There exists some defined processes, timelines, and performance metrics using basic computerized tools and solutions.
  3. Digitized. All brand projects, tasks, and processes are completed and measured digitally using specialized hardware and software.
  4. Connected. Software and hardware is continuously integrated with the other business processes and systems to support the brand. These include production, finance, logistics, procurement etc.
  5. Intelligent. An integrated ecosystem of complete information and imagery synchronized across internal and external interfaces. This must involve all stakeholders including customers, employees, suppliers, shareholders, government, and the public.

In marketing consultancy, one of the most comprehensive models I have found useful in evaluating the digital maturity of various brands and businesses is: The Deloitte-TM Forum model (https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/global/Documents/Technology-Media-Telecommunications/deloitte-digital-maturity-model.pdf )

This model envisages a marketing universe where ‘’digital’’ is not just another marketing communication channel, but rather a parallel universe where most of the components existing in day to day business operations must also be incorporated.

Digital maturity therefore is defined by the progress of the organization along a clearly defined path of full transformation involving 5 core business dimensions namely Customer, Strategy, Operations, Technology and Culture. These are then sub-divided further down into 28 sub-dimensions and like fireworks split further into 179 specific digital criteria that must be achieved before we declare a business digitally mature.

Source: Deloitte-TM Forum: Digital Maturity Model

It is only when each of these dimensions is fully digitally integrated can we say that a business or a brand is digitally mature. Such a model assists an organization to measure its own progress along this cyber glory path and also to understand the extent to which competitors are catching up.

R&D and Production teams must imagine and craft products that customers can experience digitally and provide feedback for continuous improvement. Company operations and logistics must be tweaked to regard the digital customer as mainstream as opposed to serving them as an auxiliary revenue source.

Finance teams need to integrate and automate digital payment platforms to make transactions fast and convenient including discount regimes, credit notes, returns and promotional offers. Digital Marketing communications must be planned and released digitally using automation tools to ensure consistency and audience retention.

While this article may not fully cover all the sub-criteria of this subject, it is my hope that it will provoke enough curiosity in business leaders to research further and obtain an in-depth understanding of digital maturity and drive their businesses towards it.

A quick internet search will yield an abundance of further reading material on this subject, but to get you started, you may want to consider this eye opening Entrepreneur.com article by Mr. Rashan Daxon, (Senior Business Consultant for Microsoft) on how to push your company towards digital maturity https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/330690

The author is the Founder and Managing Director of Frontier Marketing Ltd. He is also a marketing lecturer at United States International University (USIU) – Africa

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