DIGITAL MARKETING BY NON-MARKETERS
This is taken from the third edition of my book Digital Marketing; a Practical Approach. I have also made several rants about the subject on my
Since the birth of online marketing (1994, in my opinion) there has always been a battle between marketers and techies (my affable term for anyone with a computer science qualification). My argument - as a marketer - is that digital is a platform for marketing messages, and so it is a marketing discipline. Techies - well, some of them - feel that anything that happens on a computer is a computer science discipline. However, TV engineers never claimed that adverts on TV belonged to them, so why should computer scientists claim that marketing on computers is part of their domain?
The fault is not wholly one-sided, however. In the early days of the web, too many marketers eschewed the new media - mainly for fear of computers because they knew little about them or what they could do - and were happy to let the IT department control the organization's web presence. The realisation by the successful online businesses (the likes of Amazon and ebay) that to be effective you need input from both technical staff and marketers has - too slowly - filtered down to some lesser organizations when another - related - problem came to be recognized by some of those with a recognised status in the discipline.
The problem is this: there are a lot of people working as digital marketers who do not know even the fundamentals of marketing. These people may well be good, excellent even, at one aspect of digital marketing (search engine optimization is an obvious example), but they do not appreciate how that element is - or should be - an integral part of a wider digital operation. In turn, this means they certainly do not understand how their relatively small element fits into the organization's strategic marketing. And the situation is getting worse because some of these non-marketers are being promoted to positions of Digital Managers, or even Marketing Managers. That's a situation that will rarely end happily for everyone involved.
Similarly, these experts are finding jobs writing about digital marketing - though normally online rather than in books. In one leading industry online publication I recently read an article whose non-marketing-qualified author said; 'Return on Investment (ROI) has rapidly become a buzzword among marketers: a phrase that is often used, but rarely defined.' Sadly, the young writer is correct in that these non-marketing marketers have never come across the concept of ROI and so it has become a buzzword. However, for anyone who has studied marketing, ROI is a pre-requisite of any marketing strategy, tactic or campaign. ROI is business 101 - and marketing is part of business. And as for 'rarely defined', what's simpler than returns should exceed costs? In a similar publication I read advice for ecommerce product pages that read as if the suggestions were revolutionary. Sadly, to the non-marketers they probably were. To anyone with any sales experience they were things you picked up as the way it's done in the first week on the job. Note that account based marketing covered in the next section is also an example of this phenomenon.
Completing the circle back to 20 years ago; these non-marketing digital-marketers come from technical and/or computer science backgrounds where their degree and/or experience does not include any knowledge and understanding of strategic marketing - of which digital is just one part. The contents list of any Strategic Marketing text book or any marketing degree programme syllabus will confirm that not only is digital about a tenth of all marketing, but that it comes near the end where it requires the reader/learner to understand the basics before studying that element - how can a SEO specialist target a specific market segment if he or she does not know what market segmentation is, what its advantages are, what its failings are - or how, if you get it wrong - it can alienate potential customers rather than attract them?
Furthermore, as was the case at the end of the last century and into this one, computer scientists in marketing posts will invariably produce tactics and strategies that are led by technology - not by the needs of the customer. As Seth Godin said in his influential book, Meatball Sundae (2007); 'New marketing isn't about technology any more than fast food (and the drive-through window) is about cars'. That said, I also freely accept that too many marketers have shown little enthusiasm to learning the very basics of digital technology that that they need to know in order to practice or teach contemporary marketing.
When a practicing digital marketer published a blog article entitled; 24 Marketers You Should Follow on Twitter, outspoken marketing professor (of Marketing at Melbourne Business School), Mark Ritson took a look at the background of the 24 named marketers. He found that only four had any formal marketing training or education. Ritson's subsequent article in marketingweek.com caused something of a furore amongst the non-marketing marketers - but then it would, wouldn't it?
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