Why Digital Marketing Transformation Projects Fail

Why Digital Marketing Transformation Projects Fail
07 Jul 2019 / by James Pellizzi in Digital Marketing

Why do Digital Marketing Transformation Projects fail?  We sought to find the answer to that question.

We talk with lots of companies about their marketing and business strategies and whether it makes sense to help with consulting.  Everyone we talk to wants to hear about how we can help with branding and all the components of digital marketing, such as SEO, E-mail, Web, Automation components, etc.  No one needs those explained to them and everyone is generally sold on them.  We find a common thread, though is that these marketing initiatives never seem to move forward for some organizations.  Previous failure or stalls have prevented companies from trying again. 

We sought to deepen our understanding.  To do so, we approached it as trying to understand the wants and needs and people involved in Digital Transformation initiatives. Here’s a window into some of the conversations we had:

What they want:

  • To look like a hero.  Not in a bad way.  Everyone wants to be good at their job.  
  • To get things moving.  They’ve talked about these types of initiatives for what seems like forever.  
  • Low or no risk.  If things go wrong they want an easy and quick out.
  • Perfect communication between Marketing, Sales and Technology functions.  Good luck…

What they need instead:

  • They need help.  Often times they are in charge of multiple initiatives and running in circles is eventually paralyzing, which makes them look weak and uncertain (certainty not like a hero).  Especially if there was a past failure or stall, they need an unconditional cheer leader for them and the initiative.    
  • They need an expert.  Someone who isn’t afraid to push and pull certain levers to get things moving.
  • Some risk.  Anything worth doing comes with it.  They need to put skin in the game to keep them from becoming complacent.
  • To satisfy sales.  At the end of the day, revenue is what keeps a company alive and thriving.  That’s not to say marketing and technology will be pushed aside, but sales are king and any process needs to set them up for success.    

To make matters more complex, we also started looking at the feelings of Marketing vs Sales vs IT and tried to surface some of their insecurities, frustrations & tendencies.  That sounded a little harsh to us, but it’s only when you know the truth that you’re able to make positive changes. Does below sound like your organization?

  • Marketing: Territorial and sensitive
    • “These are my ideas and they are great..I’m not just giving them away!”
      • What we see:  Marketing is being viewed more strategically than tactical in this age, which is huge!  They are getting paid to generate ideas, otherwise some of them wouldn’t have jobs.
    • “We’re the ones putting in the hard work and receiving no credit.”
      • What we see:  Marketing is receiving credit, but they aren’t being celebrated the way a closer does.  It’s one thing to move the ball and another to score a touchdown.
    • “We don’t need outside help.  Our team has it covered.”
      • What we see:  They might or they might not, but many marketing representatives tend to poke holes in Consultants work rather than solve the problems on their own.  This stalls projects or moves them backwards.
  • Sales: Self-less but critical
    • “Help me sell our services!..I’m out here by myself making deals!”
      • What we see:  That’s true at times.  Sales is tasked with selling and the good ones do just that.  They need talking points, collateral, presentations, experts to bring in, etc.
    • “I’ve asked these guys for help and I haven’t heard anything in weeks.  What are they doing?”
      • What we see:  Other departments don’t always move at the speed of a sales, nor can they know specific deals that will close at any given time.  When things are urgent, they are sometimes exaggerated.
    • “I’ll do anything for the client.  Their success is ultimately our success.”
      • What we see: The best sales people are rock stars and they tend to live and breathe this.  Closed deals and repeat customers is a strong sign of this at work.  
  • Technology: Oblivious at times
    • “I’ll respond to your e-mail.  No need for me to stop up to your desk.”
      • What we see:  People heads down in the technology probably don’t want to interface with you or other people.  If they did, they wouldn’t be technologists.
    • “What you asked me to do wasn’t feasible for that deadline, so I didn’t do it.”
      • What we see:  More thought is given to what logically makes sense than the personal considerations of the person who needed it.  This creates some of the most frustration in this space and is responsible for many of the project delays as progress or updates are often pushed back with little notice.
    • “A technology update was available last week, so I handled it for the entire company.  Should we let anyone know?”
      • What we see:  Again on the logic end.  It’s less about bringing people along for the ride and more about staying on the cutting edge.  

So what do we do with all of this information?  What is the answer to getting a Digital Marketing Transformation project to succeed? 

 It comes down to a healthy mix of the head and the heart, as it’s a change management initiative at it’s core, but you need someone who understands the in’s and out’s.  For some companies that is a homegrown solution and involves appointing a Chief Information Officer or Chief Technology Officer to sheperd things through.  Someone who can bridge all these efforts.  For other companies, it’s an outsourced solution.  Many times the people who are best at this are in Consultant Roles at Marketing Services or Technology companies.  In either case, these people need to do the following:

  • Company Research:  Whoever is leading the initiative needs to fully understand the in’s & out’s of a company.
  • Department & Stakeholder Interviews:  People need to be involved in this.  These are servant leadership type of initiatives and all people / aspects need to be sought out.
  • Listening Sessions with involved Departments:  People don’t just need to be heard, they want to be.  Give them the opportunity to be involved and regularly update them and get their feedback on the initiative.  You can reserve the right to make the final decision, but they will appreciate the time. Even if they disagree, there is a solid chance they won’t work against the project.
  • Recommendation, Roadmap and Budget:  Know your Why before the How.  It’s basic strategy 101.  This includes aligning all resources needed as it relates to coding, sales process, marketing strategy, platform implementation, content development, training, etc.  
  • Help sell it internally:  There will be trials for each point and the majority will likely rule on each.  You need someone with a cool head to keep support high and be able to have some presence in front of Executives or an Executive team.
  • Implementation & Training:  Start to implement the How.  

James Pellizzi and Company has the resources you need to bring on a Digital Marketing Transformation initiative at your company.  Our areas of expertise include strategy & organizational buy in, selecting technology stacks, branding & content development, and marketing automation & CRM technical consulting.  

Download our guide or fill out a form if you’d like to be contacted!


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