I’m on vacation. I’m currently on the very end of Long Island, NY, in a beautiful little town of beaches, a lavender farm, vineyards, and some of my most favorite people in the world.
Many of us take vacations this time of year. While it takes a few days for our buzzing work minds to slow, to stop checking email every hour (at least), the time away gives us new perspectives and renewed excitement for our work when we return.
For me, it’s a chance to read books instead of magazines and online content, to catch up with friends and family, and to meet new people.
First, the book. I grabbed an old favorite on my way out the door and it’s reminding me of some key fundamental truths about my work as a digital marketer. The book is “Momentum: How Companies Become Unstoppable Market Forces” by Ron Ricci and John Volkmann. It’s a fantastic book and if you’re a digital marketer in a mid-sized to enterprise company you need to read it; it has been the most influential business book I’ve read.
Whether you’re a digital marketer who must periodically purchase software and expertise or you’re a vendor creating and selling these things, Ricci and Volkmann share two fundamental truths that emerged from their research and lay the foundation for all of their insights. They are:
Digital products are never finished
Digital products never stand alone
While they dive deep into the implications of each of these truths and examine how they impact everything a digital marketer does, they are key reminders of how what we do is different than traditional marketing and different than most other professions.
From the perspective of a digital brand manager, for example, you must come to terms with the fact that to do your job well you must actively engage a wide range of software vendors who are aggressively developing their tools and expertise, in real time. Unlike old guard marketers, you are not able to make a TV commercial and pay to run it during primetime. These are well-established tactics and marketplaces. In many ways they are finished.
For digital marketers, everything from email, analytics, and CRM vendors to Google, Facebook, and ESPN.com is a work-in-progress, at differing stages of maturity. And due to the very dynamic nature of digital technology, none of these will ever be “finished.” To add to the complexity, everything digital is intimately connected and doesn’t exist on its own. I’ll let Ricci and Volkmann explain:
“In the [offline] marketplace, products naturally worked well together. Cars ran on gas from any gas station. Different brands of film fit in cameras without any hassle. Any detergent worked in any washing machine. Any kind of paper worked with Xerox machines. Every match could light a cigarette. Plug any phone jack into the wall and there was an instant dial tone. Shaving cream worked with any razor.
But digital products don’t work easily together – despite the logical, on-off nature of digital technologies and the role of open standards. The complexity of digital technologies and, increasingly, the competitive politics of the companies that supply them have heightened the difficulties of making products work together. In addition, almost all digital-based applications are an amalgam of components and products from different companies.”
Pinterest wouldn’t exist without Facebook. Seventy percent-plus of all interactions on social networks are on mobile devices. The fastest growing Facebook page is Best Vines, a page promoting competitor Twitter’s video service. It’s all so crazy, but this is our world.
Now, on to the new perspectives. My sister, after being a successful photo stylist in New York City for many years, decided last year to move to the North Fork of Long Island – this sleepy but vibrant town – and convert an old convenience store into a modern general store. Little did she know that she would need to not only meet the needs of locals in search of their morning cup of coffee and newspaper but also the likes of Martha Stewart in need of a caterer for a brunch on the beach – and everyone in between. Not only has she and her business partner risen to this formidable challenge, they have also become a key part of their new community.
Now that they are on their feet and have learned all about their diverse customers and their needs, they are thinking about the next big opportunity and the opportunity after that. This sweet little store will never be finished. It will grow and morph and evolve as these strong and smart women do, and as the community does.
And because they are smart, interesting, and creative people, they not only care about selling what people will buy, but about delivering great quality, surprising and delighting, and finding new and exciting products for their shelves. For them, “never stand alone” is a mission, an ethos. They help raise the chickens that lay the eggs for their egg salad sandwiches, they make sure the new vineyard down the street has bottles in every picnic basket, and they’re always supporting other businesses in their community. And they are thriving.
My juxtaposition of the digital and “real” worlds is purposeful: as digital marketers, so much of our work is ethereal. We often bemoan the insane pace of change in digital, the new tweaks to the Google algorithm, or the latest Facebook update. But it’s time we learn from people like Ron Ricci, John Volkmann, Lucy, and Erin and accept our truths – we will never be finished and we never stand alone. Every new day we continue to push back on the complexities of our marketplace we limit our ability to iterate quickly and to capitalize on the expertise and tools around us. We limit our success.
How would your outlook, your campaigns, your success, and your future change if you truly embraced these truths today? I look forward to hearing you share them here.
As you do, I’m going to enjoy a few more incredible summer sunrises, play a few more games of pool volleyball, drink a few more glasses of local wine, and return home with new excitement about the amazing digital marketing opportunities that await me.
Image on home page via Shutterstock.