We spend a lot of time listening to clients’ challenges before we even start to think about solutions. And from this comes an understanding of the issues publishers frequently face. 

Often, we see common themes emerging that unite many marketing teams, whether academic, trade, education or STM. Which is why we recently brought a group of marketing directors together to discuss the pains and pleasures of getting digital marketing to power growth.

What is it that you want to do?

While this particular conversation was held under a Chatham House environment, the themes that emerged resonated with what we have seen over the years. At the heart of the challenge publishers face is a desire to do things better, and well.

Marketers want to transcend a purely transactional view of a customer to achieve a 360 view of needs. They want to have a deeper, more personalised engagement. Increasingly, even for sectors that have traditionally relied on intermediaries to reach readers, they now want to build a B2C relationship and retain customers by giving them what they need.

They want to improve data capture to build more effective campaigns. They want to properly implement marketing automation to optimise responses and streamline internal working.

Better attribution of successes linked to a campaign will focus energy on what works. It will demonstrate the full effectiveness of digital marketing and prove the ROI. And if they can integrate better content (such as video) or giveaways to nurture leads and progress sales, they can avoid making the mistakes of the past.

What are the challenges?

So why don’t these aspirations become reality? What are the pain points that hold marketing teams back? One of the most common issues is the lack of resources for making things happen. The perennial challenge of spinning gold out of straw with financial or team time leads to a culture of lean working. At the same time ambitious targets are in place which challenge limited resources. There’s no bandwidth for experimenting and reliance on manual workarounds is essential just to make things happen.

Meanwhile, marketing techniques have changed so much, but it can feel like a battle to stay ahead of the curve and mobilise the technology. With little or no segmentation, no insight or no opportunities for cross-selling there’s no proof for the additional investment business case. Separate lists (often siloed in different parts of the business) lead to poor use of data and quality issues. Difficulty integrating new and existing systems frustrates and undermines the effectiveness of the CRM. Balancing the use of third party suppliers who hold external records leads to a struggle with re-engagement. And let’s not go down the GDPR compliance rabbit hole.

But perhaps most of all, convincing people can be the toughest thing to tackle. It can be hard to convince established teams to adopt new ways of marketing. Often you are one part of a global company with a network of different teams, geographic locations, privacy laws and databases. Another facet is how willing IT are to commit to modernising the marketing systems (and wider business!). And we often hear how lead generation is not joined up and reporting sales funnels are not fluid and traceable. Add in the often glacial speed of change and you can almost feel marketers losing the will to fight (and doing manual workarounds again).

How can you move forward?

It can be utterly overwhelming to know where to start. Here are four steps we’ve developed when working with clients over the years.

1. Map and understand the problem. Quantify lost revenue or additional costs to the business. And read this handy post about building a case for investment at board level.

2. Research best practice and draw up a strategic vision of where you want your digital marketing to be. Break down into clear sections that relate to your business. Then map out some early, easy steps to get people on board and feel engaged.

3. Understand your data situation and start to clean it up. Work to improve what you do already and identify weak points with colleagues.

4. Talk to people that understand. Reach out to other marketing contacts. Share your stories and learn what works from each other. Read around for the different solutions. Talk to experts who can help unlock your potential.

And next…?

If you’d like to discuss your current situation and explore how we might help, let me know.

And if you want to get involved in future events and help shape further discussions around useful topics, email me with your suggestions.

Or, if you just want to hear about future events, tips and advice, sign up for occasional updates.

Paula Neary, May 2021