How To Create The Best Digital Marketing Capabilities To Compete In 2014

online marketing

February 10, 2014 by

Who wins the online battle for share of audience, leads and sales when competitors have similar propositions? Is it the company with most creative agency or is it the company with the most creative in-house team? In the past it would often be companies with the best agency team who could gain cut-through in across offline media.

Think of how your direct competitors engage through digital media. Who is doing the best job at engaging their online audience and encouraging sharing. Is their success based on the agency skills or those of the in-house team? I'm asking these questions since recent research by Smart Insights on approaches to managing digital marketing suggests that many companies are increasingly relying on in-house resources for their digital marketing. Our research showed that across many digital marketing techniques, the in-house team is most important.


Using in-company resources for core digital channels makes good sense since the details matter to getting results in digital. Details include the insights on your audience and optimizing creative for relevance and engagement on your site and in social media. Often, in-house staff have a greater depth of understanding of their audience and what resonates with them than is possible with agency staff who aren't permanently assigned to one brand. Search engines are still a significant touchpoint that drives initial awareness and consideration of many brands so they demand in-house attention. Paid and natural search marketing is so important to many businesses that they have built up sizeable in-house teams to assist with this, with some agency or consultant assistance. The chart from the research shows that a hybrid or shared approach is finding some favor, although relatively rare.

Assessing your in-house capability

If core digital marketing techniques are managed in house, then the company that will win is the one with the best talent or skills combined with the best management of digital marketing. That's all the key processes which drive performance such as planning, analysis, implementation and optimization.

The Digital Talent research from the Online Marketing Institute showed that it's worth reviewing the skills available on your team for different digital channels. Many companies don't have the right level of skills across the business.

Rating or scoring your digital capabilities can help show colleagues where you need improve your capabilities. A tried-and-trusted approach is the McKinsey 7S model reviewing Strategy, Structure, Style, Staff, Skills, Systems and Shared values. You can then review each of these across a scale, it can be a simple Good, Average, Poor or a 5 point score similar to the Carnegie Mellon Software capability score. In the Smart Insights research we asked companies to rate their online marketing capabilities performance. The capability assessments showed that fewer than half of companies have satisfactory capabilities.

Moving on from a simple assessment you should then review your capabilities by auditing performance across different aspects of digital marketing. For example, we have developed this digital marketing audit to help companies benchmark performance across different customer lifecycle touchpoints from Reach, Act, Convert and Engage.

Using this type of capability audit can help take your online marketing to the next level in these steps:

1 Audit current approaches to digital marketing to identify areas for improvement;

2 Benchmark against competitors who are in the same market sector;

3 Identify best practice from more advanced adopters;

4 Set targets and develop strategies and roadmaps for improving online capabilities through time;

5 Communicate the current situation to budget holders and highlight investment priorities in for different activities.

Take Dave’s How to create a winning digital strategy class now and learn how to create a plan and roadmap to take your organization to the next level. You’ll learn how to integrate digital marketing with other marketing activities and how to use content marketing to drive growth. Take this course now.

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