We’re all digital now, so is it time to drop the ‘digital marketing’ label? Not just yet, says Alex Footman, head of marketing and business development at Quantuma.
Alex joined Quantuma, the advisory firm, in March this year just as the world went into lockdown. He says the firm’s seven-strong marketing and business development team has real strengths in digital marketing and they have been in high demand. But there is still much professional services firms’ need to learn.
“Digital marketing is engrained into professional services firms but is still seen as the preserve of the digital marketer,” says Alex. “In reality, we are all involved in digital marketing whether our focus is on events, campaigns, clients or content.
“Of course, larger firms will have a greater number of specialist roles, but as technology develops and large-scale events continue to be off the agenda, marketing and BD teams in firms of all sizes need tech-enabled marketers.”
“And that means the competency of marketing and BD teams needs to change,” Alex adds. “Today’s team should consider T-shaped competencies, where everyone has a base-level of knowledge across all areas of marketing as well as much deeper and specialist skill-set in one particular area.
“In practice, that means everyone should understand digital; we’re all doing it, and everyone should understand the fundamentals.”
Take for example content. Professionals write but they will not necessarily give too much thought as to what channel they were writing for. Until just a few months ago, content programmes may have focused around printed reports and white papers that were then repurposed for online.
Now, how content is created and consumed has dramatically and permanently changed. Content teams need to understand how best to slice and dice content to suit delivery platforms and have access to more data that shows whether content hits the mark. The tactical execution is changing.
And this shift has seen some truly talented digital marketers choose the professional services sector.
“A decade ago, professional services marketing was largely overlooked by the best digital marketers, says Alex, “preferring instead to work with consumer brands. Now we are seeing exciting things happening as digital specialists relish the challenge of marketing a service and people. More and more digital talent really is being drawn into our sector.
“And the real prize are those digital marketers who know how to connect the myriad of systems professional services firms use, matching new technology and legacy systems. The infrastructure challenge, the knitting of stuff together, is still one many firms have yet to fully to grip.”
So, are we on the cusp of dropping the ‘digital marketing’ label as many B2C firms have already done?
“We’re not there yet,” says Alex, “but we’re not far behind. Our reliance on in-person events, which will return, means that the labelling of our marketers remains helpful, particularly in the eyes of colleagues.”
The upskilling of marketing and BD teams presents a major opportunity to drive and demonstrate the contribution we bring.
“Understanding and acting on the data we have at our fingertips puts us in a position to drive change and opportunities for our fee earning colleagues more than ever before,” explains Alex. “Data and analytical skills will also be key as digital marketers take more of a role in helping developing service propositions and the client experience, and that is really exciting.
“We are already seeing this with the growth in the delivery of some commercial online e-learning products with some digital marketing teams playing a role in the design, development and delivery of such propositions.”
But Alex has one final word of warning.
“Technology is not always the answer. The human touch is still very much needed when relationships are still important to buying decisions. And that is something the really clever digital marketers instinctively understand. There has never been a better time to be a (digital) marketer.”