Dan Williams 7 min read

The problem with digital marketing

It’s too complex. Starting my career in sales and marketing (the .com boom…then bust), the one thing I loved was being able to focus on a specific goal and target, then execute quickly. Remember those days? Execution could mean setting up a meeting with a new prospect, updating our creative portfolio or simply putting a simple growth plan together for ourselves or clients. But it was all about connecting a goal to an outcome, and then persevering. The only data-driven part of it came from results. Did I set a goal, plan the work and work the plan to accomplish that goal? I didn’t know it at the time, but it was good training for what was to come.


Over the years, digital marketing, and more so technology, have far outpaced companies’ ability to keep up with it. We’re working with a variety of clients across a multitude of markets, from $60B conglomerates to Bay area startups. One question rings true for all of them. How do we keep up with it? In our opinion, recognize it’s complex but don’t avoid it. Ask the hardball questions that need to be asked right out of the gate.


The key is to not assume anything. Assumptions becomes gray area, gray area becomes a gap, a gap becomes an activity or deliverable that gets missed. Something missed is a risk, possibly something major that will set the entire digital marketing program behind months or possible years.


This is not an exercise to scare the crap out of you. It’s a recommendation to slow down in order to speed up in the long run. To do that though, you need experts helping you put together a vision and roadmap to advance your digital maturity (or whatever phrase you want to use). You must deep dive into the unknowns, ask the difficult questions and layout contingencies. Get down in the trenches for a bit. The trenches isn’t a bad place to be as long as you don’t stay there. Hunker down and build a plan of progression. This early planning (the slowing down part) will yield high returns over time by connecting a strategy to customer experience to data to technology to operations and overall digital-first culture. And we see it all the time… big companies trying to do this in reverse order. They go out and throw a tech stack at the problem. “If we go spend $1M+ on a technology platform that promises digital transformation, it’ll solve our problem.” Yeah, well not so much. Here’s a car analogy… it’s the equivalent of buying an engine and chassis. Have you tried driving an engine and chassis lately? I have and it doesn’t go well.


So ok ok… how do you lean into issues, challenges and complex digital environments to ensure your company or brand has a plan?

  • Insights: Conduct research but do it efficiently. In our experience, a lot of market research either points to the obvious (too high level) or isn’t anchored in execution. Don’t conduct research for the sake of research, you must have a hypothesis you’re trying to vet.
  • KPI frameworks: Be realistic about where you are currently, identify the gaps across strategy, planning, data, technology and operations (people and process to deliver digital excellence). We call this the maturity model.
  • Roadmap: Focus on a vision and roadmap to unify executive teams and the teams responsible for execution over time. This concept is that no ‘one’ owns the vision… ‘everyone’ owns the vision
  • Partner: With expertise vs. hiring expertise (in the first 12 months at least). Things are advancing too fast- you need the right partner to help you leapfrog quickly. Then hire a team to maintain and progress over time. It’s too difficult to try and build an internal agency at the same time you progress. Example: BRINK completes enterprise digital strategy, vision and roadmap, then executes across customer experiences and marketing technology platforms in the same amount of time it would take to go put a team and process together
  • Right size: Choose the right marketing and data technology platform. All too often we see companies that purchased the Ferrari but actually needed the Tesla Model 3. There’s a ton of options out there right now, so make sure you do the ‘bake off’ and understand specifically how and why each platform will meet (or not) your business goals over time
  • Focus on results: Finally, focus on outcomes. Rise out of the weeds and connect that initial vision and roadmap to specific results and KPI’s. And these shouldn’t be more than 6 months out. We see companies stuck in strategy for 6 months or more. It shouldn’t take more than 2-3 months to have a vision and plan, then be executing in marketing and/or technology. For reference, we’ve launched entire new experiences, content and platforms in 6 months.


You can too. Feel free to hit me up on LinkedIn or email at any time. We love helping others figure out how their optimal path to Digital Maturity.

Dan Williams

Dan leads BRINK Interactive mission to be the best boutique digital agency on the west coast. His 'lead from the front' approach is one he enjoys. In his spare time as a non-work human, he enjoys hanging with his family, surfing, travel and finding enjoyment out of simple acts.