Is digital marketing the future of marketing

What does digitization bring to marketing and sales?

Integration of marketing technologies

It is precisely because multi-platform systems are convincing with their highly customizable performance that integration has become a major topic for marketing technology - with massive effects also for marketing automation systems. Today, many marketing automation tools already have a built-in "plug and play" interface for this purpose, which can establish a connection between the most popular CRMs and marketing automation platforms with just a few clicks. At the same time, the number of Ipaas providers ("Integration Platform as a Service") who provide the integration of platforms as a service is growing.

These new options enable an open, diverse approach to marketing automation and its integration. Because strict ties to a single system continue to dissolve and many specialized tools can be linked together, tailor-made solutions are possible. Here companies can put together their own ideal solution based on their needs. SMEs in particular, which, depending on their requirements, require a manageable or very specific range of functions, benefit from individualized and thus highly efficient solutions. For example, if a marketing automation system is to be supplemented by an e-mail module, this can be done without CRM integration. In this way, companies relieve their CRM system, because in order to prioritize new leads, not all potential customers have to be transferred to CRM immediately.

It is high time that SMEs digitize

SMEs in particular must be careful not to be left behind in the digital revolution. Because they understand - if they use it at all - the Internet only as a further sales market. Many SMEs are therefore still trying to understand this new digital world with the laws of the real world, without including the fundamentally different infrastructure. The so-called digital maturity of a company can be read from the degree of its digital transformation. The further the digitization of a company has progressed and corresponds to the laws of the Internet, the more mature and thus more successful it can operate in the online world. Many spectacular examples show that digital maturity is a real success factor, especially for SMEs, and that there is still a lot of untapped potential here. So it is high time that SMEs digitize!

Few industries are digitally mature

The University of St. Gallen and other institutions now regularly publish meaningful studies on "Digital Maturity", i.e. digital maturity, and thus on the digital transformation of companies. It is hardly surprising that this change has so far been carried out most comprehensively by the IT industry and communications companies, followed by retailers. In industry and numerous craft areas, however, there is little or no digital transformation. The graphic shown here illustrates this development for many industries in comparison according to the St. Gallen study (2016, source: The higher the number, the more advanced the degree of digital transformation.

However, if one compares Swiss, European and American digital maturity rates, it is also immediately noticeable that there is also a clear deficit between Europe and the USA, even in high-tech areas such as the IT industry.

There are certainly many reasons for this. In economic sectors such as industry and commerce, many entrepreneurs, CEOs and board members are not really aware of what digitization means for the company and why it is indispensable. There are also numerous largely unknown technical terms such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Internet of Things (IoT), Virtual Reality (VR), but also more familiar ones Terms such as social media marketing or search engine optimization (SEO). Even when it comes to SEO, many companies are not up to date. Content marketing, customer journey or lead evaluation are still far too low in e-commerce, especially in online shops. The big shopless commerce providers are much further along here.

Against this background, it is obvious that the digitization of a company involves much more than just setting up an Internet presence. Digitization is also more than just digital automation of corporate processes - it is more about the measures and their specific coordination with one another in their entirety. In addition, the digitally generated treasure trove of data is only used very poorly by many companies. For many SMEs, this is a construct that is difficult to grasp, as the composition of this data depends heavily on the individual company and its requirements. The St. Gallen study also shows that so far only two thirds of SME management are in favor of digital transformation or are open to it. The digital transformation is primarily a marketing transformation, because the customer experience with mobile devices is the focus ( .

Coordinate the mobility of customers and entrepreneurs

However, there must also be restrictions here: Very few entrepreneurs, CEOs and board members are even aware of how extensive and complex the digitization process is for the company. For many, digitization is already defined as fulfilled with a dedicated website. In German-speaking countries, attempts are often still made to adapt digital tools and infrastructures to the company, or more specifically to a product. It is almost in the structure of these companies to further develop a product instead of involving the customer, accommodating him and creating a completely new, innovative product and a new user experience.

Above all, the degree of mobility available today must be taken into account when digitizing companies. Smartphones and tablets have not only enriched people by being permanently “online”, the networking opportunities between companies and internally are also considerable. This becomes clear in areas such as knowledge management. In this model, the entire knowledge of the company is available to all employees, from the boss to the sales representative. The responsible person can, for example, give the sales representative the green light for a process at the customer at any time of the day or night. Resources and deficits in the company become quickly visible and can be remedied in a targeted manner through further training. In connection with digitization, mobility does not just mean the availability of knowledge. The product or service is also increasingly to be understood as mobile. For example, customers can be directly involved in the innovation process so that products and services can be developed and offered precisely as the customer wants. Digital sales tools can be individually adapted to the needs of each customer via lead management. Google has been doing this for a long time. Product search and product configuration can thus intelligently respond to the specific requirements of each individual page visitor.

The customer receives an individual, tailored service around the clock, seven days a week. A corresponding product configurator, which additionally optimizes the offer with the data obtained, rounds off the services - without any human intervention. This is how modern marketing automation works with the help of valuable lead data. But many SMEs equate “automation” with simple processes such as automatically sent e-mails. This is also one of the main reasons for the high discrepancy between “wanting to digitize” and what is ultimately understood by the decision-makers.

Market boundaries are blurring

It becomes clear that lead management and marketing automation are extremely important tools for digital marketing that SMEs can no longer do without. Competitors can quickly be found in markets that no one paid any attention to because they were actually successful in a completely different area. At first glance, what does a search engine like Google have to do with smartphones, a self-driving vehicle or even a digital heating thermostat? Why is an online bookseller like Amazon suddenly producing its own tablets? The digital transformation offers many opportunities, but business areas are also becoming blurred and the boundaries are becoming unclear. How else can it be explained that, for example, Uber, the world's largest taxi company, does not have its own vehicles, Facebook, the largest media company in the world, does not produce its own content and Alibaba, the world's most valuable dealer, does not maintain its own warehouse? This is where the challenges of the future arise, but also tougher competition.