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  • Writer's pictureVal Fox

CMOs agree: Growth is their top challenge.

Updated: Feb 21, 2020

Why digital marketing innovation needs to be a top priority.

When it comes to driving growth, marketing leaders are in violent agreement it’s the top challenge they are facing today (this recent CMO survey reports 38% of marketers agree driving growth is more important than brand building or securing budget). Why is driving growth such a priority -- and challenge - for so many marketers?

It’s a digital marketing innovation and talent arms race

I’ve had the experience of driving growth in various industries -- health and wellness, higher education, consumer products and telecommunications -- and one thing remains constant:

Digital innovation is creating significant levers for growth.

Companies at the leading edge of the digital innovation curve are better at adopting analytics to quickly iterate and deploy resources, delivering (and even predicting) experiences and products customers want, syncing messaging across a nonlinear customer journey and much more. These efforts can take years to deploy making them strategic differentiators and setting leading companies on a growth trajectory (marketing teams, take a bow!)

No surprise then that in the same survey, marketers rated having the right talent as the most important factor driving revenue growth, ranking it higher than having the right data, technology or operating model. Now, new outsourced "fractional marketing" models make it even easier for savvy organizations to boost their marketing bench strength with fractional, part-time or outsourced CMOs who quickly get up-to-speed and make an impact.

Fractional marketing support is a super effective high intensity workout for your marketing efforts.

With a wealth of experience, fractional marketing leaders can run with a range of strategic marketing initiatives: projects I’ve tackled include assessing a health and wellness company’s digital content and launching a new search-engine optimized content platform (see case study below) and developing a customer segmentation model for a business education publisher.

For organizations without the right talent or late to adopting digital innovation, driving growth can be a never-ending “beat the clock” race against faster and more agile competitors. But that doesn’t mean they should give up.

You can still lap competitors even if you’re slow out of the gate

In my experience, organizations that are late to adopting digital best practices can still rally from behind to lap their competitors and steal market share (this great article from MIT Sloan Management Review cites evidence that most pioneers fail, while market leadership positions are more often held by “early leaders” or fast followers). I’ve often found that examining what competitors have previously done can be a great jumping off point to differentiate and best their efforts. Here are a few examples from organizations I’ve helped that were competing in industries facing significant digital disruption.

CASE STUDY: Digital innovation in health and wellness - content to fuel social media, email newsletters and traffic growth

Great reads on digital innovation and marketing

Want to ensure your organization stays relevant into the next decade with its own digital tailwind? Here’s a list of great reads on digital marketing and innovation, many of which offer case studies and examples on how industry leaders have reshaped the rules of engagement.

This book offers practical advice and plenty of examples for executives and aspiring leaders of established companies seeking to retake market share lost to digital-ready competitors. Get a behind-the-scenes look at how industry leaders like General Motors, NASA, Mastercard and Proctor & Gamble transformed themselves to come out stronger in our post-digital age.

Hacking Marketing: Agile Practices to Make Marketing Smarter, Faster, and More Innovative I met Scott Brinker years ago and his book and posts on agile marketing illustrate how marketing teams can adopt software-inspired practices to get fast and flexible, a natural result of going digital. There are a lot of similarities between software UX and today’s iterative marketing campaigns and programs in terms of understanding the customer (or user) and addressing their pain points in the right context. In the past, marketers would spend months mapping out a new campaign, product launch, etc. while in contrast, today’s agile marketers are starting with MVP (minimum viable product) launches and innovating their campaigns in real-time based on audience behavior.

I’m a bit biased having worked at Forrester but even years later, I still regularly scan their content and appreciate their strong frameworks and marketing technology product reviews (note: Forrester clients and content skews enterprise so probably not the best resource if you’re a smaller company and/or have limited resources). Their Age of the Customer and Digital Marketing blogs provide a great starting point whether you’re an experienced digital marketer or just starting to bring best practices to your company.

Not surprisingly, many digital marketing solution providers create some of the best content. I follow many of these blogs and would recommend them as a great starting point (many of these reads are under 5-10 minutes):

Neil Patel’s Blog brings the analytics behind content marketing, search engine optimization and paid ads to life and makes it accessible for all audiences. He also offers a video-based Marketing School and tools you can use to analyze your website in minutes.

The Hubspot Blog is from the company behind the inbound marketing SaaS platform and they definitely practice what they preach, producing dozens of posts every day on topics ranging from sales to SEO to social media marketing organized for beginners, intermediate and advanced readers. Their posts are written as tutorials with step-by-step guides grounded in best practices they’ve put to the test.

Contact me if you're seeking a fractional CMO to bring digital innovation best practices to your company or organization.

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