The Evolution of Digital Marketing and Demand Generation in The Enterprise

Since the early days of Prodigy, AOL, CompuServe, and into the 21st Century, Digital Marketing has evolved at an increasing high velocity throughout global businesses. Over the past 3 years, I have had the unique opportunity to meet with dozens of digital marketing executives to gain an understanding of the digital strategy trends in their organizations.

From those I spoke with at Fortune 100 Companies, over half agree that marketing team structures are improving for the better. Yet 89% still have a deep concern over internal support for their digital teams from their key executive counterparts–namely Sales and IT–on how to clearly define digital leadership roles in their businesses that are aligned with all executive stakeholders.

Alignment of Digital Team Structure

Most digital teams report to the CMO, while others are positioned under the Vice President of marketing, who may then report to the CIO. Whichever alignment your organization choses, it is critical to align digital teams with the executive who understands that while marketing emphasizes speed, creativity, and customer-centricity, IT values stability and security.

A key quality of the digital leaders must be their skill at working with teams across the company to build alliances while achieving tactical quality and tangible output from everyone involved.

The New ‘Digital’ Marketing Executive

After hundreds of discussions with marketing executives from Silicon Valley to New York, to Munich, Germany, it is more clear than ever that digital is now the lead dog in corporate marketing strategy.

Not long ago, many digital marketing teams were reactive, overwhelmed, and positioned more like tactical “copy shops”. Additionally, these teams were ill equipped to shape originality in their workflow, much less drive digital strategy and innovation outside their own department.

How times have changed.

Today’s digital marketing executive brings much needed focus, rigor, and strategic optimization of existing content across all channels, producing stronger outcomes and the ability to scale resources while amplifying organizational marketing efforts. It is key to increase the entire marketing team’s focus, intelligence, and internal influence while successfully advocating for digital resources to build and enhance highly skilled teams.

With a strong digital marketing executive leading the digital efforts, digital marketing is positioned as an ideation hub within the business unit, driving execution of digital tactics and marketing solutions against the backdrop of corporate strategy proficiency. Supported properly, the digital team can and should deliver tactical execution of email marketing, website updates and builds, social media, SEM/SEO, video, design, and user experience––either with demand generation, or lead generation at its core driver for ROI.

In today’s fast-paced digital environment, it is critical to have leadership that can optimize team performance and results, yet that depends on the processes accepted by your enterprise to plan and execute initiatives, while remaining flexible around the many influences that impact structure and process. With leadership in place, alignment of team structure in the organization plays the next key role for success.

Digital Team Structure Evolution

With digital leadership in place, how should you structure the team? In The Stanford Social Innovation Review, four models are presented that reflect my findings on the current state of digital team structure:

  • Informal
  • Centralized
  • Independent
  • Hybrid

The first, informal, is typically a legacy of a poorly managed institution that lacks brand consistency and has an overall rudderless strategy. This is a reflection of companies that are stuck in a pre-digital leadership stage and that are struggling with.

The second, centralized, is a common model that places digital in a silo (often in communications), which then serves the organization from a central place. Unfortunately, these digital teams are slow to respond to change, burdened with heavy processes that stifle creativity, and lacking the capacity to add mission-critical functions such as storytelling and rapid engagement.

The third, independent, presents multiple centers of digital leadership, with digital roles sprinkled throughout the organization. Unfortunately, as presented in the article and shared by my colleagues, this method is many times random at worst, and lacking focus at best. I have experienced this model frequently and it can create not only a competitive, rather than collaborative culture, but I have seen duplication of resources, mismanagement of time and a lack of focused leadership that leverages the entire organization.

The fourth model, hybrid, is more progressive and a better example of how enterprises can sustain cultures that successfully scale at a pace that keeps up with the ever-changing digital ecosystem. This model has the best chance to consistently produce integrated, customer-centric digital experiences across all channels in the organization. While closer to ideal, and to be sustainable, support for this collaborative model of digital leadership must originate via an initiative from the company’s leadership that moves toward looser, more adaptive overall structure.

What is The Future of Digital Marketing?

There are many positive trends in digital marketing today. We may finally be entering a much more consistent and productive time during which companies will integrate digital innovation into the very fabric of the enterprise. To build a comprehensive digital strategy that is shared broadly and repeatedly at scale within your enterprise, it is critical to embed digital literacy across the organization.

Digital leaders must continue to sharpen the focus on the impact of their team’s efforts to continue this growth trend in staff development, resources, and influence. It will be increasingly important for all marketing leaders to demonstrate that digital is critical to the success — and the future — of their organizations.

Please connect with me on LinkedIn, and on Twitter



Strategic Growth Marketing Leader | Performance Marketing, Business Intelligence, Customer Acquisition & Success

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Rik Walters

Rik Walters


Strategic Growth Marketing Leader | Performance Marketing, Business Intelligence, Customer Acquisition & Success