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Digital evangelists, digital deniers and digital decathletes

Digital evangelist - transparent angel statue against a backdrop of computer code

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Why read this? : We share the 3 types of “digital” people you’re most likely to run into. Learn about digital evangelists and where they go wrong. Learn the challenges you face with digital deniers. And learn what a digital decathlete is, and why they’re your best all-round digital solution. Read this to learn how to deal with different points of view on digital. 

Digital technology mattered more than ever

This year, more than any other, we’ve relied on digital technology to get through our day to day lives. Video calls. Online messaging. A surge in e-Commerce sales

And for marketers, if marketing technology wasn’t already on their radar, then this year, it’s been very top of mind. Looking for opportunities. Using it to overcome challenges

But pandemic or no pandemic, the underlying job of marketing is still the same. 

Reach customers. Engage customers. Sell to customers. 

And with those customers stuck at home, forbidden to go to busy enclosed spaces and mingle with others, digital and online is the way to deliver these marketing objectives. 

So, those businesses who’d already started building digital marketing and e-Commerce capability had a head start right? We should be seeing stellar examples of marketing and selling through digital from these guys in this most challenging of years, right?

Customers spending more time online and on their social media feeds. Shoppers spending more online. All those lovely rivers of digital data to try and work out what your target audience searches for, reads, views and buys. 

Stellar examples of marketing and selling through digital?

And yet, here’s the thing.

If you look at what most businesses do online at the moment, really deeply analyse it like we do, there’s a huge amount of bad digital marketing and e-Commerce out there. Poorly thought out and targeted. Cringe-worthy execution. And little to no chance of selling, because they haven’t built their e-Commerce knowledge

We’ve looked at it this year with products in grocery and in experiences in travel for example. But to be honest, we could probably fill this column every week with bad examples of digital marketing.

Most businesses give it a go (good). But digital integration into their overall marketing plan is generally badly done. And in our experience, that’s because there’s 3 types of digital people in most businesses There’s the digital evangelists, the digital deniers and the digital decathletes.

And only one of those actually knows what they’re doing when it comes to the benefits of digital marketing

Digital evangelists

So, first up, the digital evangelists. You’ve come across them, right?

They’re the ones who can’t shut up about digital. They’ve spent all their time working in digital. The world outside digital seems quaint and old-fashioned to them. 

Blah, blah, blah. If it’s got an e- or an i- in front of it, they’re in. 

The loudest ones are mainly the “front end” people who are all about pasting new content. Here a cool image. There a witty piece of copy.

Digital evangelist - transparent angel statue against a backdrop of computer code

They love to set up and work on social platforms and create content for websites.

And the quiet ones are the back-end people who like the data, the coding and do all the work on the marketing technology

But while you need these skills to do digital, the lack of connection to the world outside digital creates a barrier to their effectiveness. And in particular, their dismissal of ideas that aren’t digital makes them come across as arrogant and superior.

And that matters. Because the world outside digital is important. That world outside digital is where real people live. And, real people see digital as a means to an end, not the end itself. 

Remember there’s a world outside digital

This is where digital evangelists often shoot themselves in the foot. They forget there’s still huge value in key marketing processes like market research and brand strategy.

These processes work in the real world. And they’d work in the digital world, for those open minded enough to use them.

Without these processes, understanding what people want and having a clear idea on how your brand will deliver it, there’s a big risk of digital work for the sake of digital work. 

And that’s what makes up about 80% of the junk that clogs up your social feeds and your inbox. 

It’s important to do your research to understand customers and their needs. In digital, if you don’t, you risk your digital marketing activity not actually being for anyone. We’ve worked with many digital evangelists who pushed big digital projects though, even though they’d no defined target audience or research to back up the benefit.  

Added to that, the nuts and bolts marketing processes like segmentation and brand identity are often dismissed or seen as old hat by these digital evangelists. But, these processes have been proven to work. Don’t throw them out just because they don’t fit in with your narrow view of the world.

Learn about them and use them in your digital marketing. Remember, you still need to understand customers and what they need. 

We saw a great quote recently, that technology changes, people don’t. It’s people who buy things, not technology. People buy into brands and what they stand for. Your brand drives your business growth.

Digital is based on technology. But technology is only a tool. People still have emotions and psychological drivers which shape their actions.

Digital evangelists often get too caught up on the tool. They forget the people it impacts. 

Digital deniers

At the opposite end of the digital spectrum are the digital deniers

And maybe deniers is too strong a term, but there are a lot of people in senior positions in business who would rather digital didn’t exist. Because, they didn’t grow up with it, don’t really understand it, and feel defensive when it tramples over their ingrained view of the world. 

This group are not exclusively age-based. There are loads of silver surfers out there for example.

But, there’s a certain type of person who reaches a certain age and their view of the world becomes quite fixed. They’re close-minded to new ideas. 

The things which got them to where they are in life didn’t include digital. So, they don’t see any benefit in learning new ways of doing things through digital. 

Digital isn't for me

They’d rather bury their heads in the sand, shrug and say it’s not for them. 

You know some of them too, right? 

We’ve met many people in senior positions in companies who fit this description. You’d be surprised. These leadership seat warmers are trying to see out the end of their careers to retirement. They don’t have the inclination or energy to learn something new at this time of their life. At a push, they might go on LinkedIn because they can see the value of it for their profile, career and networking. 

But invest in search or social when they can spend money on TV ads?

Nope.

And who say there’s no value in spending on data capture about customers, when they spend millions on traditional marketing activities with no guarantee of success. There’s so much money spent to re-launch packaging, run sales promotions and launch new products.

But try to invest in a CRM system to capture customer details? To use it to build customer loyalty? That’s a hard argument to win. 

It's not just marketing

These are quite marketing-specific examples. But, you’ll find them in all sorts of functions in the business.

We remember having to explain to one CEO what Snapchat was. Another time, we had to show a CFO how to find the app store on his phone, because he’d never used it. And one CMO, we remember having to explain why it would take time, money and effort to get his brand at the top of the search rankings in his category.

We even had one senior R&D leader tell us she doesn’t bother having the internet at home, because she doesn’t feel like she needs it. 

To be honest, this might sound a little shocking. And though we haven’t named names, some readers who know us might be able to work out who some of these people are.

But, we know we can safely talk about this stuff here. Because, we put the word digital in the title of the article. And we know that means those digital deniers will never read this.  

Digital decathletes

So, if digital evangelists harm the cause because they’re too devoted, and digital deniers harm the cause because they ignore it, who do you actually need to make sure digital does what it needs to for your business? 

In our experience, there’s a new and rare type of business person out there.

One who’s learned enough about the many different types of skills you need be good at digital marketing.

Someone who’s a digital all-rounder. 

Relay sprinter holding a baton in his blocks about to start a sprint relay

All-round digital skills

Someone, who understands core marketing skills like market research and brand identity. But who is then able to write marketing plans that build the customer experience and cover key steps in the customer journey like digital media, websites and e-Commerce.

But, not only can these digital decathletes write the plan, they can work with agencies, IT people and do some of this digital work on their own to deliver all these activities. 

They understand and can use graphic design tools and marketing technology. They know how to write content for SEO and how to set up and run an e-Commerce store. Importantly, they’re happy to share when they learn new things

And with all this, they also understand business and how it works. They turn all these skills into activities which drive sales growth. They’re sometimes called T-shaped profiles. People who have wide knowledge across many areas, and deep knowledge of one specific area. 

But to us, they’re digital decathletes. Because the combination of all their skills is what drives them and makes them valuable. They’re the ones you want to find and nurture if you want to grow your business through digital marketing

Conclusion - digital evangelists, deniers and decathletes

There’s 3 types of digital people you’ll come across in every business. 

The digital evangelists love everything digital. But they’re blind to how it works in the real world, so you run the risk of their digital activity feeling disconnected from real customers. 

Digital deniers are at the opposite extreme. They don’t really care about digital. And they’ll go out of their way to block or get in the way of your digital goals. 

What you really need are digital decathletes. This rare breed has the all-round skills to bring traditional and digital approaches together. The more of them you have, the better your digital activities will be. 

Read our article on digital generations for more on this topic. Or, contact us if you need help to find and develop digital decathletes in your business.

Photo credits

Angel : Photo by Gary Butterfield on Unsplash

Code : Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Coffee Shop : Photo by The Creative Exchange on Unsplash

Sprint : Photo by Braden Collum on Unsplash

Hand / Stop : Photo by Nadine Shaabana on Unsplash

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