We’re stuck.

And by we, I mean digital marketers as well as the companies trying to do all flavors of digital, social, or some combination thereof.

It’s like we’re all stalled in neutral, rehashing the same challenges and strategies that we’ve been facing for the last decade since social media became a core component of digital marketing and customer experience.

In fact, the book that Jay Baer and I wrote back in 2011 is still relevant in 2018, even if some of the examples are outdated. Conceptually, what businesses need to do is the same stuff they needed to do seven years ago.

So what’s in the way? Why are we still grappling with what feels like the basic blocking and tackling of digital marketing transformation? Here’s where I’ve found the roadblocks.

The Social Media Hype…And Crash

In 2010, social media was THE thing that people cared about. In many ways that’s because it was new and shiny, and new and shiny things are always popular.

But it was also billed as being able to do things nothing else could, like reach audiences at scale in a human way while we gathered their unfiltered feedback and delivered real-time customer experience. So we chased it…but we still miss the “human” part more often than not. Plus, the realities of data privacy and responsibility along with the complex workflows for customer service, very real resource demands (it was never “free”), and infrastructure needed to do it well have landed us squarely in backlash land.

That’s going to stall overall digital marketing transformation momentum as we figure out what roles these channels have in our marketing and customer-facing strategy in a much more realistic, pragmatic way.

It’s the reality check that was always coming, but whenever that happens, progress slows as we all re-evaluate.

Digital Isn’t Business Critical Yet

The technological revolution that underpins digital and social media is powerful. But it’s not yet mission-critical.

When Salesforce boldly showed up with their cloud-based CRM, people adopted it quickly and at scale because 1) the outsized hardware and infrastructure costs of in-house records management made a compelling case for moving to a cloud-based solution and 2) customer relationship data is an absolutely mission-critical part of multiple functions in a business, with sales and marketing at the epicenter.

And while marketing tech and infrastructure has moved closer to that status with CMO’s spending a third of their budget on the tech stack, the rest of the C-suite hasn’t quite felt the need to center digital marketing in their business, marketing, sales and customer service are still largely disconnected, and so the sense of urgency around it is still lagging.

It’s an unfortunate conundrum because marketing and a well-designed customer experience are part of the entire engine that drives growth and revenue, but it’s simply still in the “nice to have” category for too many businesses who believe that sales can fill the gap. Which brings me to…

We’re Still Struggling With Measurement

Marketing attribution is a complicated thing. While there are some simple models that seem straightforward on their surface, actually implementing even the simplest last-touch attribution for a digital marketing strategy is anything but easy.

Couple that with the lack of insight resident in the native data from digital marketing channels and the heavy demand that creates for human brains to do a lot of analysis and, well, we haven’t simplified the marketing measurement problem at all. We’ve complicated it.

Then we have the issue of being able to quantify other metrics like time savings, cost savings, and process efficiencies from customer experience and support management on digital channels. 

So many data inputs, so many metrics and variables, so many things to tag and track and try to make sense of across campaigns and initiatives at every level of the organization, and it’s no wonder we struggle. Then if we want REAL ROI measurements to justify additional investment, we need tight alignment between marketing, sales, and customer experience so we can truly quantify impact.

We Keep Putting Tactics First

As much as we talk about strategy, when it comes down to it, many marketing organizations are still letting tactics live in the drivers’ seat of their marketing programs.

We’re creating content and campaigns trying to capture every gimmick, every trend, every hot topic to come across our desks…and we’re losing the plot.

If anything, marketing needs to slow down to compete in a noisy digital world, but the frenetic, feverish panic I feel coming out of so many marketing organizations I work with tells me that we’re doing anything but. Thoughtful and strategic planning makes for successful programs, but the pressure on quarterly lead volume and sales results doesn’t help that cause at all.

So tactics capture our attention because they feel like quick fixes, and we spend days contemplating whether the button should be blue or green or whether we should be on Instagram or how many blog posts we should write to pitch our ebook and the bigger question of “what do our customers need from us and how do we deliver that” gets lost in the fray.

(There’s also a conversation here about the challenges inherent in business voice participating in a sea of very contentious human communication ecosystems and communities right now, but that’s for another post.)

I’m Not Giving Up

And neither should you. 

But the luster has most definitely worn off, we’re fumbling on many of the basics, and we’re stuck figuring out whether we overestimated what digital transformation can do for marketing and customer service, or whether we’ve simply underperformed on its execution. 

It’s probably a bit of both, but I’d be curious to hear from you about what you think has stalled our progress (or even whether you agree with that assessment), and what we need for digital marketing potential to be realized.

What say you?