3 ways to drive innovation in digital marketing

Are you racking your brains on how to help your marketing department keep up with the fast-moving pace of the digital world?

Here are three tips from Thomas Brown, director of strategy and marketing at the Chartered Institute of Marketing, on how to drive creativity in a structural way that facilitates innovation in digital marketing.

1. Break away from traditional planning processes

Traditional planning processes that have been passed down through the generations of marketers are now seen as a hindrance to real-time marketing that needs to adapt to online customer behaviour by the hour and the minute.

"Marketers know they have to be agile and nimble but they continue to use the same planning processes and budgeting cycles, such as planning projects an annual basis," Brown said.

"These linear ways of thinking from the past cannot keep up with the pace of digital and social media."

Instead, he suggests setting key milestones with the marketing team and a destination to be reached at the end of the year.

The plan can then be applied on a weekly and monthly basis and adapted in light of new information arising out of ongoing campaigns.

Project management models of working are much more useful for balancing the short and the long term, Brown added.

2. Balance creativity, discipline and being data-driven

"You neither want a frivolous team nor cookie-cutter results," Brown said.

One way to plan for this financially is to ring-fence budgets, such as by allocating 10% of the marketing budget to trying new things while requiring the remaining 90% of the budget to generate certain results.

For the part of the budget allocated to experimentation, Brown says managers need to get involved to actively encourage people to innovate while discouraging them from perfectionism.

Another method is to do stupid questions sessions where staff are encouraged to throw out questions they may normally hesitate to raise during brainstorming sessions.

3. Move away from activity-based metrics for social media

Brown sees activity-based metrics in social media such as likes, shares and comments as vanity measures that the marketing industry should move away from as end-goals driving creative campaigns.

"For example, if you have launched an online video, you shouldn't be looking at video views but at what actions came before and after, such as downloads, registrations and calls," he said.

"These KPIs across platforms will allow you to connect the dots and see the bigger picture, deciding which parts of the campaign you should switch off and which parts you should boost and be supportive of."

Real-time marketing in this way requires small snippets of relevant data to be identified among big data.

"Marketers need to learn what data to use and ignore in their day-to-day work.  It's not about big data, which very few companies have the technical prowess to handle, but about small data made available through trial and error," Brown said.