If you’re over 30, it may seem like 15 years went by in just a couple of blinks of the eye. But in the world of marketing — particularly digital marketing — the world of differences in concepts, tools and practice appears like a lifetime apart.
To try and get a better grasp on how the digital marketing world has evolved since the last century, we picked the mind of Samsung’s Enterprise Marketing Manager, Łukasz Kosuniak, whose 15 years of experience in the field with Samsung and Microsoft saw him help top IT companies generate demand for software, hardware, IT solutions, and has allowed him to witness the digital evolution firsthand.
Those who were born into the omnipresence of the internet may find it hard to fathom, but 15 years ago, when Kosuniak was working with the Microsoft License Compliance team, the internet, digital marketing — and even marketing as a whole, was viewed very differently than it is today.
Kosuniak recalls that while the internet and email already existed, at that time, marketers believed that the internet would be limited to something of a hobby for people — far from being a mature tool for delivering marketing messages.
Similarly, within the organizational structure of companies, marketers were perceived as a cost — one that did not merit the kind of investment it wanted, as no one knew back then how to quantify marketing success, with the sales team often considered as the company’s greatest asset as marketers were left in some obscure corner.
“What changed is the customers,” recalled Kosuniak. “They were starting to educate themselves, and search for the information about products, services and solutions that they wanted without involving companies’ sales teams.”
He remembers the change happening at lightning pace — with customers being equipped with search tools that allowed them to collect a wealth of information and compare products way before they got in touch with sales people, marketers like Kosuniak realized that they needed to provide customers with better information — birthing what is now known as content marketing.
“To some extent, information replaced sales people,” Kosuniak said.
Kosuniak adds that marketers were quick to realize that without the right, high quality content, they would not be afforded the chance to even have a sales conversation, and the succeeding proliferation of technologies allowed for digital content to spread like never before.
But while consumer behavior, technology, and digital marketing tools have seen unprecedented and exponential growth over the past decade and a half, marketers’ struggles to show and quantify their efforts on sales remains very real. And according to Kosuniak, a big part of the problem is that many marketers limit their perception of digital marketing tools to just being communication tools as opposed to lead generation tools.
“When you do not connect communication and customer and market education with lead generation, you don’t have a link with the sales process,” he explains. “So technically, without a link between your publishing, content marketing, marketing automation tools, and CRM — you won’t be able to prove that your efforts are generating financial results — and that’s the biggest challenge. To build the efficient process of generating, transferring, and tracking how leads perform — it’s not easy.”
Kosuniak cited his native land of Poland as an example, where he estimates that only 20 percent of Polish marketers are capable of proving their sales impact.
This is why he suggests marketing automation (Kosuniak was part of the first Samsung office in Europe to deploy marketing automation) deployed together with CRM, which will allow marketers to show that the marketing leads they are generating are leading to sales.
“Deploying marketing automation without CRM is like being a car without the wheels, you won’t be able to go anywhere.”
Another current challenge the veteran digital marketer pointed out is the one brought about by the continually expanding and ever changing media landscape, marked by a growing number of formats and platforms. And while the plethora of platforms allow for a wider reach, the challenge for marketers is not only to keep pace with the continually evolving technology, but to choose which ones work best for the company, its brands, products and services.
“The job of the modern marketer is to choose wisely,” Kosuniak said, citing the challenge of managing time, effort, and specific budget when it comes to the wealth of media platforms available. “Not every media fits all audiences and company needs. Test, and if the test fails, fail fast and move on to the next option.”
And much like the how the change in customer behavior signaled a shift in how marketing was done, the continually evolving customer behavior has now presented a different challenge to marketers — the need to produce valuable marketing content.
As Kosuniak explained, with customers’ ability to self-educate, the simplistic marketing materials of bygone days no longer suffice. Whereas traditional marketers are focused on the product, this age of digital content marketing requires storytellers — those with the ability to create conversations with their content, and allow the audience to engage with the brand in much more personal ways.
Kosuniak notes, that because is a significantly time and asset consuming task, the ability to re-purpose content is crucial in being able to run a campaign efficiently. They key, he points out is to have a well-structured plan.
Having a good foundation for the content creation (be it a mind map or a slideshow presentation) allows for your content to have a solid base, where all re-purposed content will be derived from. From that base, you can create all types of content — blog posts, videos, webinars, social media posts, etc.
“Having a good base, allows you to use the same content in different ways, making the most out of your resources and efforts,” Kosuniak said.
Not only will having content in most platforms be good for CEO (as Google loves external links), if you want to reach a new audience, different types of content enables you to engage with different types of customers, depending on their behavior. So if a blog post doesn’t catch their attention, perhaps a podcast will, or maybe a video — all of which are from basically the same content.
Kosuniak believes that there are two main points that will define the near future of digital marketing. One is with the marketers’ skillsets — and the need for more industry practitioners with the ability to tell stories, a vital skill in content creation.
In the continually shifting landscape, traditional skills have taken a backseat to the ability to conceptualize, create, and produce content. And the sooner marketing decision makers begin hiring marketers with that type of skillset, the better content will be produced.
As well, Kosuniak looks forward to the future where there exists a tool that helps plan a content, produce it, publish, promote, and check its effectivity.
The digital media landscape will inevitably keep changing as different technologies are introduced. And while different tools will eventually surface to help marketers keep pace with the advancements, one constant has proven to be key in keeping a step ahead of the game — understanding customer behavior.
Just as they set the tone for the re-imagination of marketing, and the birth of content marketing, customers will undoubtedly be at the core of how digital marketing will evolve in the coming years. The technology, tools, and type of messaging may change, but ultimately, marketers will still have to speak to, and engage the customers.