CEO’s & CMO’s: 2017 Strategic Planning Questions for Your Digital Team

While the rest of us are enjoying the fall weather, football and the changing seasons, most CMO’s and CEO’s and their leadership teams are elbow deep in 2017 planning and budgeting. In addition to all the normal business challenges, most leadership teams are probably spending a significant amount of time talking – one away or another – about digital and/or their digital transformation. Maybe its a question of how to allocate the capital budget for digital capabilities, or it could be a culture question (“How do we get more digital talent?”). Or, more urgently, it could be an existential question (“how do we compete against X and the disruption they are causing”).

Eventually, those boardroom conversations and plans will make their way down to strategic planning discussions with the VP’s of Digital Marketing, the Chief Digital Officer, Head of Digital, or Directors of Digital. Here’s what we hope those lucky leaders are getting asked in those strategic conversations:

  • What’s our strategy to use data to develop a competitive advantage? We see a lot of C-level leaders who are missing the strategic opportunity to plan for, collect and analyze data in unique ways (not just the obvious stuff) to give themselves a competitive advantage. We know of one company that bought a couple large Instagram handles from their owners, just so they could get the day to day data on likes and use the comments section to gain unique consumer insights that their competitors wouldn’t have
  • How are we using digital to create a unified experience over the whole  customer journey? Smart companies are moving on from digitizing their functions (Sales, Service, PR, brand Management)  to looking for ways to integrate and unify the whole consumer experience. They are going from good/great execution at the functional level to managing the whole customer journey in a holistic, integrated way even though there’s not an immediate ROI and dramatic changes in short term results are rare. Not only is it better for consumers, it positions companies to collect unique, potentially proprietary data along the way. It’s an easy concept to grasp, but it’s incredibly hard to execute internally unless there is a multi-year commitment from the top to keep investing ahead of results.
  • What capital investments and resource allocations do we need to make to get better data across the customer journey? See above. A dramatically improved customer experience will generate incredibly valuable data
  • What must we do to invest enough in both incremental and transformation innovation? No good leader says “no” to opportunities to invest in innovation, but few leadership teams are disciplined enough to balance short-term, functional innovation (i.e. incremental) with the willingness to pursue transformational opportunities.or instance, we know of one company that is generating a surprising amount of revenue from advertising on their digital platform; enough revenue to pay for a larger, more advanced digital team. It’s almost guaranteed that the directors and managers and coordinators on the digital team have ideas for both, but they may not be getting the support to pursue both due to a heavy prioritization of short term results.
  • How do we need to evolve our brand position and actions to be even more relevant to our customers? All leaders should by now understand how digital is transforming consumer expectations of brands. But even after years of watching brands like Dove drive great results by moving the brand to a higher, more aspirational space (and creating amazing digital content that’s getting shared all over the place), too many leaders are still(!) focused on the result (“get me something that goes viral”) instead of the characteristics of a soap brand that millions and millions want to connect with. In other words, you have to do the work to elevate your brand and your company in order to be relatable, digitally.
  • What do we need to do culturally to create the conditions for more agility and innovation in our marketing? Most good business leaders have read up on Agile, Lean Startup, and “working like a startup”. It’s thrilling to see courageous leaders try to change their companies actions. But, smart C-level folks will listen to the digital teams about what needs to change culturally to create the conditions for more flexibility, agility and innovation in their marketing model (or their business, overall). The behaviors are one thing, but the attitudes and beliefs and values and incentives are another. Most importantly, CMO’s and CEO’s should be asking: Have I created the right incentives to unlock true innovation (or  will my team still get penalized for taking risks)?
  • Are we being aggressive in looking at business model or product innovation opportunities? This is something that any sufficiently paranoid organization should be asking itself every six months: “what would a potential disruptor do to come take our business away?” Or, put another way, “how do we not get Blockbustered?” And, as part of the same exercise, CEO’s should be asking their digital team “what opportunities are we missing to use digital for  new revenue, new products, or serving our customers more effectively”? It’s easy to get a false sense of security that “we’re on it!”.
  • What do we need to do to help our employees work at the pace and speed of our customers? As the proliferation of tools and technology accelerates, it’s imperative for customer-focused companies to enable their front line people – the sales folks, the community managers, customer service – to work with the same tools and platforms that their customers are using. So, whether it’s instagram or Snapchat messaging, chatbots or Kik, CMO/CEO’s will make the hard policy changes to stay connected with their consumers

If you’re the VP or Sr Director of Digital, the Head of Digital or the Digital Transformation leader and these questions aren’t coming up in the annual operating plan discussions, you should set up time with your CMO and CEO and push these issues forward. It’s your chance to lead “up” and push the thinking of your organization and, ultimately, position your team to drive even greater impact in the organization. And, to make life a little better for your customers in 2017.

MiMA 2016: The Future of Marketing in the North

I was fortunate to be there when a small group of early digital leaders got together to share their ideas for how to help each other.  Meeting at a Perkins in Edina, the group formalized what would become MiMA, the Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association. MiMA has been an incredibly positive force in Minnesota and beyond, and has helped shape thousands of careers. It’s annual summit is the one “must attend” event of the year, and joining the group is a critical step in the career development of any good, young marketer

Now, in a cool bit of coincidence GoKart Labs (where i’ve worked since 2013) is helping the leadership and membership of MiMA envision the next phase of the organizations growth. It’s an exciting project and our team at GoKart is immensely proud to be able to help a great organization.

I’m looking forward to seeing how the vision for MiMA takes shape. It will come from the minds and hearts of the membership over the next few months. But, if i could design the future of the organization, here’s what i would ask for:

  • Don’t Stop at Digital; Embrace the Your Role In Shaping the Future of Marketing – The origins of MiMA were in creating a safe place for people to figure out how “interactive” was going to drive marketing. Looking ahead, it’s time to be bold and acknowledge that all marketing going forward is digital. So, the role of MiMA is to shape all marketing, not just digital. MiMA should be at the forefront for the practice of brand building.
  • Building Brands, Not Just Marketing – From my perspective, MiMA could and should be a resource to help marketing leaders understand how digital is both driving and enabling a powerful evolution in what their brands can be. MiMA’s programs and efforts should be focused on a lively conversation about how great brands are being built as much as they are talking about how snapchat is helping marketers get the reach they need. It’s a nuance, but a critical one.
  • Serve the CMO, CEO and CIO – In the early days and probably even today, MiMA was a group that worked hard for the coordinators, managers and the directors of digital marketing. With so much focus on how the new tools, channels and tech worked, the group has been a great resource for the doers. But now, it’s very clear that all marketing is getting transformed (or already has been), and MiMA should be a resource for the C-Suite as much as it’s been a resource for everyone else. I’d love to see MiMA running programs and workshops to help the senior-most leaders adjust their business models, their brand building and their cultures to thrive in the digital/post-digital era. The first members of MiMA are now marketing VPs, CMO’s and agency leaders. MiMA has the credibility to do this
  • Advocate for the North – Minnesota, Western WI, Northern IA, and the Dakotas have a great culture of creativity, brand building and amazing talent. Digital is at core of all of this, and the brands that have come out of the north are driving cultural change and impact. MiMA can and should be at the heart of an effort to champion and celebrate the Digital North, to drive recognition of the great work happening here, and to attract others to the region. Whether we’re attracting the creative and technical talent that make our marketing services  and digital startups hum, or the brand leadership that drives our businesses, MiMA should be front and center helping to tell the story of how great our region is for digital work
  • Harness the Ideas and opinions of the membership – With it’s sizable audience  and the quality of it’s membership, there’s an enormous amount of value in the what’s on the minds of it’s members. I’d love to see an annual, omnibus survey covering tools and technology usage, predictions for the next year, what challenges businesses are facing, and what skills members are trying to build. Call GoKart if you’re looking for your first sponsor for that, btw.
  • Showcase and Celebrate the Work – After all these years, there’s still no one place where a buyer could go to find the best of the regional creative services firms or freelancers. Besides Google, there’s no unbiased and trustworthy guide to digital firms here, no way to see the portfolios of the digital experts that make this a great region for brand building.

I love MiMA. What the leaders of MiMA have accomplished with the Summit over the last 15 years has been incredible and the community here is so much the better because of it.

Personally,  I can pretty much trace most of the good things that happened in my career (so far) back to the day when i was at an event and Tom Borgerding introduced himself to me and asked if i wanted to meet with him and a few others to talk about the internet. That meeting at Perkins changed my life. I met so many other great people that have helped me along my career and helped me explore opportunities i couldn’t have imagined, otherwise.

Over the next few months, we’ll all get a chance to see where the membership wants MiMA to go next. I can’t wait to be a part of the next era that would take us to MiMA 2026!

Fighting off Google, Apple and others / Adobe Partners up with MSFT

Narayen, standing alongside Nadella behind a screen that read “Adobe❤ Azure,” said Adobe was attracted to Azure by its global scale, trust, compliance, and machine intelligence.

Source: Adobe partners with Microsoft to use Azure as ‘preferred solution’ for cloud services – GeekWire

 

Not to mention, solidying a defense against Google’s and Salesforce’s intentions to own the “cloud” space.