Mar 22, 2021

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How to get things done in Digital Marketing

How to get things done in Digital Marketing

This essay by DMI member and contributor Charles Mackenzie is a well-considered reflection on where and how a digital marketer fits in. Feel free to join in with your thoughts on the Forum. And if you want to feature in the DMI library, share your own work for publication in our Community Insights!

There’s one thing we Digital Marketers can all agree on – to do our work we all need something from someone else.

Very little can be done alone.

This can be frustrating. As an expert Digital Marketer you can plan, create, execute or report on your campaigns and objectives. You can do your job and do it well. However, you need input to do it. This is the frustrating part, having the ability to do your job tied to someone else.

Let’s take an example: you work at a media agency and you want to run a simple Facebook post.

  • Who are you targeting, when, and with what budget? A digital strategist provides that.
  • What are the copy and video assets? A creative agency provides that.
  • How are you measuring conversions? An ad ops team provides that.

If you have all the inputs, you can do your job in minutes. If you don’t, you can’t do it at all.

To help overcome this frustration I have outlined some tips and tricks that I have learnt working with start-ups and multinationals on both the agency side and the client side.

Remember to whom you are talking

We all laugh about how hard it is to explain our jobs to our grandparents. They often don’t get it and more importantly they can’t imagine it. Sadly this is a real problem.

To give this some context. I am 36 years old (born in 1984). I studied marketing modules at university that covered traditional marketing concepts (2003-2006).  From there I taught myself digital marketing. Companies like Google (1998), MailChimp (2001), Wordpress (2003), Facebook (2004), Moz (2004) and HubSpot (2006) were founded and started to promote their product offerings. I used the products from these new companies to service my own customers.

For people like myself and for older generations, there were no university courses covering digital marketing, there was no Digital Marketing Institute. There were also no opportunities to practically apply these skills as working students, interns or in the early stages of our careers. They simply did not exist. Thus, many people in this position may have heard of digital marketing, may have done a short course on digital marketing but would have never done digital marketing. There is a big difference between theoretical and practical knowledge.

It is worth remembering at this point that the people who manage digital marketers are highly skilled and effective professionals who have been tasked with overseeing what is still a relatively new and constantly evolving marketing function. The same holds true for our colleagues in our business areas.

The onus is on us, the experts in our field, to educate the experts we work with from other fields about what we do and what we need to get our work done.

I was once running geo-targeted banners aimed at driving brand awareness with attendees at a physical event. The customer, a senior manager, wanted to run banner ads using a completely different corporate identity to the one on their website. I tried to explained that this horribly inconsistent customer experience would impact the campaign’s performance. They did not understand, the banner ads all looked the same so what could be the problem. They missed the concept that when a customer clicks on a banner ad, the link takes them to another webpage. The customer would see a banner ad using one corporate identity and then click to a website that used another corporate identity. Simple in theory but less obvious in practice.

Smart communication

Explaining becomes even more difficult when you are talking to a person who can’t imagine what you are talking about. You can hold a print ad in your hand or see a billboard on the street. You can’t touch or see a programmatic banner ad shown to a highly-targeted audience.

Some time ago I was reporting on the performance of a campaign targeting pregnant women. At the end of the presentation the manager I was reporting to said that the numbers of impressions, clicks, and conversions were impressive but they did not trust the results. The manager – a man – and not part of the target audience, had not personally seen any of the ads. For him it was as if the campaign had never run. Fortunately other members of the team who were in the target audience – pregnant women – had seen the ads and came to my rescue.

So if you want to get your job done, you need to find ways to educate the people to whom you are talking. You can’t assume that they know what you do.

Here are some methods I’ve found helpful:

  • Show people actual examples with pictures, videos, and screenshots.
  • Present the screenshot or mock-up of an actual post; this removes the need for a person to imagine it before approving it.
  • Whiteboard drawings accompanied by screenshots of the individual steps are great for user journeys.
  • Metaphors are also excellent tools for helping people to understand intangible concepts. For instance, tuning the engine of your car is the same as upgrading the SEO of your website. You may not be able to see the work being done but it does improve the overall performance over time.

Most managers love performance metrics related to money. Conversions based on view-through rates can be meaningless to them. Rather, show them – in hard currency – how your work makes them more money using return on ad spend or other return on investment metrics. However, it is not always possible to get exact revenue figures in your analytics. In this case, use calculated estimates or averages that managers can appreciate; e.g. “for every $1 you spend we made you $2”.

“It will be very difficult to get people to support you until they understand the importance of what you are doing.”

We Work with People

In some companies I have worked with over 60 people to get the input I needed to do my job as a digital strategist. This included people at the media agency where I worked, at other media publications, at creative agencies, in the customer’s digital marketing department, in the traditional marketing department, in market research, in sales, in customer service, in regional offices, in development teams, in ad ops teams, in analytics teams, as well as a few others.

It all comes back to working with people, and lots of them.

Here are three simple tips that have worked for me.

1. Find the right people to work with

If you want to get things done, you need to work with people who want to work with you. It takes some hunting but they are out there. These people know what is happening on the ground and have the ability to motivate for and make changes. Ideally you are looking for people who are responsible for the task that you need help with and are willing to work with people outside of their team and reporting lines.

2. Listen and build a relationship

Take the time to talk to people about their work and their interests. The idea is to listen, learn, and to genuinely care. It is not about driving home your agenda or impressing people with your talents.

3. Ask how you can help

A sincere offer of help can go a long way in building a successful working relationship.

A few years back I encountered an issue implementing event tracking in a mobile app that I was helping to launch. The app analytics code was installed but not the event tracking I needed to optimize the effectiveness of the campaign. No one understood what I was talking about. So I went and found the developer who actually wrote the app analytics code. Turns out he was a very nice man working as a consultant. His company was based in India and he and his colleagues would be sent to South Africa, to work for our mutual customer, in four month rotations. I live in South Africa, so I would join him for lunch every now and again, hear how he was doing and tell him about my country. He needed help with certain numbers every week for a time sensitive report for senior management. I could help him to get the numbers on time. He could help me implement the in-app events that I needed. I was able to overcome my roadblock and made a friend in the process.

This same principal holds true when you need copy for an ad, the ranking of sales regions to weight your location targeting or content ideas from the market research team.


Charles Mackenzie
Charles Mackenzie

This Member Spotlight piece was created by DMI Member Charles Mackenzie. He is an accomplished digital marketing professional with a Master's in Digital Marketing from the Digital Marketing Institute and a proven track record in developing cross functional digital strategies that connect businesses to consumers and deliver revenue through the use of specialist services, technology, insight and data. He currently leads the Growth Marketing team at NavVis, a leading German tech start-up.