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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 most common views about digital. Digital evangelists, who love digital too much. Digital deniers, who reject it. And, digital decathletes who take a more balanced view. Read this to learn how to deal with different digital perspectives. 

This year, more than any other, we’ve relied on digital 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, you couldn’t avoid it. Looking for opportunities. Using it to overcome challenges

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

Woman wearing a grey sweatshirt and looking at her phone in a dark room

Reach customers. Engage customers. Sell to customers. 

And with those customers stuck at home, forbidden to go out and interact, digital and online have been the main ways to deliver these marketing objectives. 

So, those businesses who’d already built digital marketing and e-Commerce capability had a head start, right? We should be seeing stellar examples of digital marketing and selling from these guys. Customers spending more time online and on their social media feeds. Online shoppers spending more. All those lovely rivers of digital data to work out what your target audience searches for, reads, views and buys. 

And yet ...

And yet, if you look at what’s happening online right now, really deeply analyse it as we do, there’s loads of really bad digital marketing and e-Commerce out there. Poorly thought out and targeted. Cringe-worthy execution. And little to no chance of selling, because it’s not based on good e-Commerce knowledge

There are a few exceptions as we covered when we looked at grocery and travel, for example. But to be honest, we could fill this column every week with examples of bad digital marketing and e-Commerce.

Most businesses give it a go (good). However, digital integration into their overall marketing plan is often poor. Many don’t get the benefits of digital marketing. And in our experience, that comes down to the 3 types of digital people you run into :-

  • digital evangelists.
  • digital deniers.
  • digital decathletes.

Digital evangelists

You know the digital evangelists, right? They’re the ones who can’t shut up about digital.

They’ve spent all their time working in digital. The world outside of 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 creating 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, their disconnect from the world outside digital lessens their effectiveness. And in particular, their dismissal of ideas which aren’t digital often makes them come across as arrogant and superior.

And that matters. Because the world outside of 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 of 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 of 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 which 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 through, even though they had no defined target audience or insight 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 digital evangelists. But, these processes have been proven to work. Don’t throw them out just because they don’t fit your narrow view of the world. Learn about them. Use them in your digital marketing. Remember, you still have to understand customers and what they need. 

We recently saw a great quote 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 in 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 lots of senior business leaders who’d rather digital didn’t exist. They didn’t grow up with it. They don’t understand it. And they feel defensive when it tramples over their view of the world. 

It’s not all older people who are like this. There are loads of silver surfers out there, for example.

Man on apartment balcony holding hand in front of face to say stop

But, there’s a certain type of person who reaches a certain age and their view of the world becomes 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 how to use 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 know quite a few people like this. 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 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.

They’ll happily spend millions on traditional marketing activities with no guarantee of success. No problem with doing packaging upgrades and sales promotions and launching new products.

But investing in customer data capture? Setting up a CRM system to interact with customers? Using it to build loyalty? No chance.

It's not just marketing

These are marketing-specific examples. But, you’ll find them in all functions of 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, as he’d never used it. And one CMO, we had to explain why it would take time, money and effort to get his brand to the top of the search rankings in his category. We even had one senior R&D leader tell us she didn’t have the internet at home as she felt she didn’t need it. 

This might sound a little shocking. And though we won’t name names, some might be able to guess who some of these people are. But, we know we can safely talk about this stuff here. Because we put digital in the article’s title. So digital deniers will never read this.  

Digital decathletes

Digital evangelists harm the digital cause because they’re too devoted. And digital deniers harm it because they reject it. So, who makes sure digital does what it needs to do for your business? 

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

One who’s learned the many different skills you need to 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’s 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 also work with agencies and 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 are 3 types of digital people you’ll come across in every business. 

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

Photo credits

Angel : Photo by Gary Butterfield on Unsplash

Woman looking at phone in dark room : Photo by Chad Madden 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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