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How marketers can more effectively lead digital transformation

Social & Digital Technology & Data

How marketers can more effectively lead digital transformation


Digital transformation is one of the top three challenges facing marketing leaders today. Teresa Sperti writes exactly how marketers can be better prepared to drive meaningful change in their organisations.

There aren’t too many businesses these days that aren’t undergoing a transformation of sorts. Most industries and sectors have been impacted and disrupted by heightened competition, changing customer expectations and globalisation all of which have been brought about by the digital age.  

For most, operating based on the status quo is no longer a viable strategy as the pace of change will only accelerate.  

Whilst COVID-19 has enabled organisations to accelerate key digital projects and double down on investment, for many, the digital transformation journey has just begun. Given the increased focus on digital, more marketing leaders and their teams are being looked upon to lead digital transformation or key components in order to help the organisation to adapt to a changing market landscape.   

In fact, in the recent Marketing State of Play study, undertaken by Arktic Fox and Michael Page, digital transformation was one of the top three challenges facing marketing leaders today. 

Despite the need and demand for marketers to lead the change, the question we need to ask ourselves as marketers is whether or not we are putting our teams and ourselves in the best position to do so.  

Why marketing is best positioned to lead digital transformation 

While digital transformation can often be seen as the mandate of everyone, marketing, at least on paper, is uniquely positioned to lead digital transformation for the organisation or at the very least influence the direction. 

Marketers are the custodian of the customer – acting as a voice and advocate day-to-day to bring the customers into decision making. We have strong market orientation, which means the strategy and direction is more likely to be shaped not just based on internal needs and goals, but on customers’ wants and needs and how best to fulfill them. And marketing by nature has to work more cross-functionally than most, partnering with an array of functions in order to bring new initiatives and activities to market.

For some this unique position means they are being empowered to lead the charge – but are paddling upstream without a paddle – as they themselves aren’t equipped with the knowledge and expertise to navigate digital transformation. Or worst still others haven’t built the credibility and earned the right to lead such significant change for the organisation and are being overlooked to lead digital transformation.

Better preparing ourselves to effectively lead through digital transformation

In the recent Marketing State of Play report, four in 10 marketing teams stated that digital literacy within their teams wasn’t strong and only one in three felt that data literacy was strong. What’s more, one in four marketing teams stated they are investing less than 20 percent of their overall budget into digital.

 These data points provide strong cues that marketing leaders and their teams aren’t equipped to effectively lead the change.  So what do we need to do to better equip ourselves and our teams? 

Asking ourselves the tough questions to adapt

We as marketers need to ask ourselves the tough questions and be prepared to make difficult decisions to drive the change.  

  • What is impacting our ability to embrace digital?  
  • Are we putting the right level of investment and resource behind it? 
  • What can we stop doing that doesn’t add value to make space to focus on digital transformation? 
  • Are we investing time to educate others on why it is important?  
  • Is it a real priority for us – or are we pushing it back in favour of working on things that are more familiar and urgent? 

Bridging the digital and data literacy gap

When it comes to digital transformation, people need to be at the heart of the digital transformation strategy. It is the people that will drive the change and make or break success.

What the data indicates is that even today, Australian marketing teams still aren’t equipped with the level of skills and expertise they need to drive digital transformation and adoption within their department and across the organisation.

While learning on the job is also vital, it is hard to lead change if you aren’t empowered with a baseline level of knowledge to do so.  Knowledge acquisition can and should come from a variety of resources – podcasts, articles, industry thought leaders, networks and training providers – but needs to be prioritised. 

Create a clear vision and direction 

Too often a clear vision and direction can be bypassed in favour of doing and experimentation. Action and the ability to demonstrate outcomes is undoubtedly important, it is also important to have a longer-term direction you are building towards, in order to:

  1. Signal change is occurring and it isn’t temporary. 
  2. Help people understand what this means for them and their role. 

Co-creation of that vision and direction is often best as it allows key stakeholders from across the business and team members to play an active role in shaping the direction which in turn drives greater levels of understanding and buy-in.  

Ensuring digital is part of everyone’s job

We also need to start seeing digital as the way we do business – not a specialist business function that will sort out digital. Digital is pervasive, it is everywhere and it is embedded in our customer’s lives and how we operate as employees within business.

True transformation only takes hold when it is embedded and seen as everyone’s responsibility. This doesn’t mean specialist resources aren’t important – they are – but it needs to be an AND.

Ready to learn more about how to effectively leverage digital and data and navigate change? 

Arktic Fox has created a unique program to help marketers build and embed an effective digital and data strategy.  

Designed to help marketers to ask the right questions and lead with confidence. The Digital Marketing & Data Masterclass helps marketers upskill quickly in an environment with like minded marketers who share similar challenges. Past participants include marketers from leading and emerging brands including Coles, Laminex, Beyond Blue, Bridgestone, Movember, Vicinity Centres and many more.   

The program encompasses the latest digital trends, digital strategy development, customer journey mapping, digital experience and channel management, agile for marketers, data and analytics, martech implementation and more. 

The program is available as a public program and kicks off on the 2nd of June – details here.

Or can be booked as an in-house program to create a shared learning experience for your team: https://bit.ly/2SE1TY7  


Teresa Sperti is the founder and director of Arktic Fox digital.

Photo by KOBU Agency on Unsplash.


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