The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Digital Marketers

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Marketers have never been more integral to their organizations' growth as they are today. As a result, both marketing budgets and marketing's influence are on the rise.
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Marketers have never been more integral to their organizations' growth as they are today. As a result, both marketing budgets and marketing's influence are on the rise.

But seismic shifts in the industry and in consumers' behaviors have caused confusion for some marketers. To keep success and productivity on the rise, Jennifer Polk, research director at Gartner, outlined the seven habits of highly successful marketers at Gartner's recent Digital Marketing Conference. The goal was to provide a guide for marketers to help them better navigate this unfamiliar territory.

1. Execute marketing with a focus on business objectives

Marketing includes a plethora of decisions that affect consumer interest in a company: advertising, pricing, location, product line, and promotions. Marketers must therefore establish a definition and implement policies that will enable a company to live up to their vision.

Fara Howard, global vice president of marketing at Vans, who also spoke at the conference, concluded: "Include the qualitative data as well. It will give you a better understanding of what consumers are into that can drive much higher affinity instead of just focusing on the bottom line."

2. Run marketing like a profit center, not a cost center

In a perfect world, marketing is well integrated with other corporate functions and takes full advantage of the power and discipline of a strategically designed marketing operations infrastructure. As a result, it operates as a fast-paced, results-driven, and accountable function that serves as the pulse of the customer.

3. Be a constant student of your craft

Polk says to make it your business to know enough. Howard said, "I'm constantly trying to push myself to understand what's up and coming. That will be the nature of digital marketers. We need to be cognizant as marketers that we need to grow. Think about what's happening in your business and in the marketplace and marry them together. We need to be plugged into what's happening digitally."

4. Don't operate on your gut

Always use a data-driven approach. Curtis Kopf, vice president of customer innovation at Alaska Airlines, said the more senior you are in the organization the more you think you know what a customer wants. Data should be driving those decisions. "So many companies seem to be hermetically sealed from the outside world.... You should be out there in your stores understanding what the customer is doing."

5. Digital marketing is a team sport

This means understanding what is important to the person sitting next to you. How are they measured? What are their key initiatives? Do they understand importance of building an internal case? What do partners need to demonstrate? What does your CEO need to see in terms of strategic KPIs? Polk cited how Julie Bornstein, CMO at Sephora, has created partnerships to drive improvements and influence vision. Because of that, she has helped to speed and ease adoption by demonstrating how marketing can help the stores grow their revenue. "Do more with the help of others," Polk said. "Working with others to create win-win. It not only helps get things done, but it also helps to build personal relationships."

Mark Fliesciecher, head of products, e-Bay Enterprises, who also spoke at the conference, added: "Customer experience takes a village...it's a team sport. Whether marketing is leading the effort or another organization there needs to be many voices at the table," he said.

6. Budget and track digital marketing funding separately

Polk said for digital marketing leaders to be effective they need the ability to track spending on an ongoing basis and track results. "Do it separately rather than group [digital] into the overall marketing budget. Don't rely solely on the overarching marketing budget to tell the story."

7. Seek innovation

Highly effective leaders realize they must look to various sources for innovation including their competitors and the crowds. The idea of experimentation and iteration is critical, Polk said.

Howard added, "You need to be curious and need to take some risks and jump into the unknown on things."

Taking risks means bringing in ideas from a variety of sources and building muscle memory for long-term success. "Digital marketing is incredibly unpredictable," Polk said. "It's about how you build the capability to handle the disruption."

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