How Digital Marketing Fits into Digital Transformation in Singapore

In this post, we will explore how digital marketing fits into a company that is undergoing digital transformation in Singapore. Should you set up a digital department in your organisation, and should this department also include digital marketing and e-commerce? These are issues which traditional SMEs, in particular, might struggle with as they try to transform digitally.

Digital Transformation for SMEs

Technological disruption has fundamentally changed industries and how businesses produce, distribute and operate. The digitally evolving world has also changed the way customers buy, and in turn, changed the way entrepreneurs, business owners and marketers sell to their customers.

According to a survey by Microsoft and market research firm IDC Asia Pacific, nearly 75% of Singapore firms have gone digital due to Covid-19 (The Straits Times, 10 Sep 2020).

The Ministry for Trade & Industry has also urged companies to transform digitally in order to stay competitive in the new economy (The Straits Times, 22 Sep 2020).

If your company is or has undergone digital transformation, congratulations! It is excellent that you are evolving and adapting.

Digitalisation comes in many forms and can include moving work processes, internal communication, project management and part of business processes online or aided by software.

Setting up a digital department to manage these aspects is essential, especially if there is a need for software or programs to be managed. A Digital Operations Manager should be appointed to manage this department.

Digital Marketing as Part of Digital Transformation

Digital marketing is quite different from the digitalisation of business processes. Digital marketing should fall under marketing or business development as it is about customer acquisition, lead generation and online brand building. Digital marketing should be guided by an overall business or marketing strategy that a digital operations manager may not be suited for.

E-commerce is tricky, as well. There are two parts to it. The digital operations include the running and maintaining of the e-commerce store and linking it to your production/ distribution operations in your company.

However, the digital marketing aspects of the e-commerce store is the online promotion of the store so that you can get traffic. This is vastly different in nature and scope of the operations of the store. So, in this case, the operations of the store can be the responsibility of the digital department. But, the digital marketing scope should come under the organisation’s Marketing Director or manager.

If you are a smaller organisation, you might consider having digital marketing report directly to senior management, like a Managing Director or Business Development Director.

This depends what senior management’s internal strengths are. Are the core capabilities of senior management more inclined to business operations, offline business development or inclusive of marketing?

Management must always provide the vision, long term strategy and keep the entire organisation aligned. But the strategic marketing and implementations of tactics will be done by the marketing team or staff.

Digital marketing should still fall under a director or manage with marketing expertise and experience. After all, digital marketing is really marketing in the digital medium and should not be conceptually seen as a completely different function of the company. In fact, for traditionally offline businesses with offline sales channels, I would recommend a hybrid marketing strategy so that digital marketing and traditional sales are aligned.

Whoever manages the marketing or business development must have a clear idea of how digital marketing fits with the rest of the sales and business. Then, it is a matter of overseeing the day to day tactics executed by a digital marketing staff.

Your Digital Marketing Team

When building up your digital marketing capabilities, you also need to think of the size of your digital marketing team. One person will not be able to do everything and may not have the expertise to manage all aspects of digital marketing.

You may consider outsourcing some specialised digital marketing work like search engine optimisation, SEO or building traffic funnels and the staff can do day-to-day social media management, content marketing, answering store inquiries etc. The exact types of digital marketing implemented depend on the type of business (B2B or B2C), nature of business and target customers.

Even if you do outsource some of your digital marketing work to an agency, consultant, or freelancer, I recommend that you work closely with them. For example, content marketing is an integral part of SEO.

In my experience working with consulting clients on their digital marketing, it is a pragmatic, cost-effective approach for the client to create the content, share it on their social media and update their site. The external SEO consultant can work on technical, on-page and off-page that is harder for an untrained client to do.

Conversely, for many businesses, especially B2B ones, if the subject requires lots of insider knowledge, it is more time and cost-effective for the client to create the content; as opposed to the SEO consultant/ team doing research, learning domain knowledge and crafting the content. At least for my firm specifically, most times, we have our clients create the content based on guidelines we give, and then we optimise for SEO after.

Digital Transforming Internally or with a Consultant

When you embark on a digital transformation for your business, one challenge is to align and shift the entire organisation to prevent these digital operations and digital marketing functions as being seen as new fads that the company is adopting. Team alignment (from top-down) and education will help.

Your digital transformation can be spearheaded and implemented internally through self-learning or asking for advice from trusted peers. Or, many businesses, SMEs included, engage a digital consultant to guide them in their digital transformation strategy & process.

A digital consultant is a professional who helps an organisation transform digitally from product innovation to customer acquisition to workflow processes to business operations and marketing.

The benefit of working with a consultant is that he/she will have the expertise and experience to make your transformation efficient and effective. While you will have to invest in the consultancy fees, you could potentially save more by doing things right the first time and within a shorter time.

Read more about hiring a digital consultant in Singapore here.

If you intend for your business to undergo a digital transformation in Singapore, you can apply for an Enterprise Development Grant (EDG) to help fund your digital transformation. You can apply for the EDG under the Core Capabilities “Business Strategy” or “Strategic Brand & Marketing Development pillars or under Innovations & Productivity “Process Redesign” pillar.

You can learn more about the EDG here.

I hope this post sheds some light on how digital marketing fits into an organisation’s digital transformation process. Feel free to leave a comment or contact me if you have any questions.

J C Sum

J C Sum is a certified management consultant (TR 43:2015), an American Marketing Association Professional Certified Marketer (PCM®) in marketing management as well as a certified digital marketing strategist (SSG-WSQ accredited) with 11 years of experience specializing in search engine optimization, content marketing and analytics. He is the author of "Evolve, Adapt or Collapse" and has been featured on The Straits Times, Business Times, Channel News Asia, The Edge Singapore, CNA938 and Money FM 89.3.

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