I write a lot about the importance of digital marketing cultural transformation when it comes to recruiting and placing leaders in digital marketing and ecommerce. It was important when I first started recruiting senior marketing leaders some 28 years ago, and cultural transformation in digital marketing is important today. In fact, candidates as well as employers tell me that in this age of customer journeys and integrated touchpoints, cultural transformation in digital marketing is the number one barrier to digital effectiveness. A 2017 survey by McKinsey backs that up. Nearly one third of respondents reported that internal behavioral challenges represent the most significant challenge for companies in achieving digital priorities. More specifically, three cultural deficiencies are spotlighted: Risk aversion, siloed departments and difficulty forming and acting on a single view of the customer. Sound familiar? And that’s on TOP of other landmines such as lack of IT infrastructure, lack of dedicated funding, and a lack of internal alignment between digital and more traditional business stakeholders.
As I look back on 2017, the ability to overcome cultural shortcomings was a defining characteristic among every executive-level digital marketing leader I placed. They know that in order for organizations to succeed, cultures must become less risk averse, siloed thinking must broaden, and having a single view of the customer must be a unifying force. It’s truly exciting to watch them apply their talents to help transform cultures. A marketing chief I placed at the beginning of the year with a multi-billion dollar energy company entered a place where “test and fail” was the stuff of high school science lab. She’s made enormous strides in helping her people feel comfortable with trying things that don’t work, and then trying again. They can also now make spending decisions for projects that used to require C-level approval. Busting down silos will take more time. Walls are a funny thing; we naturally trust our strongholds. I remember a wise man once told me long ago that it’s very difficult to tear down walls, whether organizational or physical, that have been standing for a long time. But these candidates jump right in and do what they do best: Take those first small steps to promote more cross-functional collaboration to bring a sense of shared understanding, with the goal of achieving a greater level of customer-centricity.
Because digital marketing is so data-driven, I should also mention the importance of driving more data transparency across the organization. Actually, data transparently is as old as data collection itself:
Cave man: “Look here, I brought you a rabbit”
Cave wife: “That’s nice, but we don’t need a rabbit”
Cave man: “What do you mean? I busted my butt to catch this”
Cave wife: “Didn’t you see the five hash marks under ‘Rabbit’ on the cave wall? We already have five of them. We’re good.”
Some things never change.
TechTarget calls data the “lifeblood” of the new information economy. As my digital marketing leader candidates know so well, the key is embedding data usage into processes so that it’s accessible to individuals across the enterprise, enabling the business to get closer to its customers. I’m excited to see what unfolds in 2018 as more companies contact my office realizing that the importance of cultural change is as important as hiring for skills and experience.
Their futures may very well depend on it.