Winning in a Maturing Digital World

The surest way to become an irrelevant business is to lose sight of what your customers want.

Yet as companies grow, they often turn insular. So last year, Three Ships made a special effort to get out into the market. Not to talk. Not to sell. But to listen.

We went to conferences, and we hosted roundtables and one-one-ones. We studied how the marketing landscape had shifted in recent years. We kept asking: How will the needs of our customers continue to change? What do customers need from their digital marketing partners?

The voice of the customer came through loud and clear: “Play time is over.” We heard that more and more CEOs were focused on digital marketing. We heard that directors discussed it in board meetings. We heard that even investors wanted to see and understand the company’s “digital strategy.”

The broader business community seemed to be realizing that they needed more than a Facebook page to succeed online; they had to understand organic search strategies and paid media opportunities that moved beyond a baseline web presence.

Put simply, digital marketing is maturing.

As digital marketing matures, it reshapes everything. Marketers face pressure to bring the same rigor that functions such as finance and operations already have. Experiments are out. Spreadsheets are in. Marketers must talk about forecasts in addition to brand voice.

Through our conversations, we realized that three capabilities would determine who thrived in this new, more specialized digital world.

  • Lead Digital Transformation. Can you understand the brand, bring insight to customers’ pain points, and create experiences that compel customers to action? We must do this by becoming a true digital business partner that blends insights and creative to connect our clients with their customers.
  • Buy Targeted Media. Can you afford to not advertise when you can narrow a target buy to “IT decision-makers at hospitals” via LinkedIn? Once upon a time, media was binary – advertise on “NBC Nightly News” or “not at all.” But today, your customer’s attention is for sale. Right now. We must develop an edge in programmatic media buying to find the customer and connect to them.
  • Build Owned Media. Can you capture traffic through natural search and engage it? The rules of organic search and content marketing are fundamentally different than media buying. Search engines are rating the quality of your content with secret algorithms and users are signaling their interest via social media. We must look at each piece of content as an investment and measure its effectiveness at generating website traffic and leads.

The market is changing. Marketers must change in response, and we want to help them lead that change.

These conversations not only shaped our view of capabilities, but they also informed our own structure so we can best deliver to clients in the maturing digital world. We have organized around three business units – each focused on solving a top problem for marketers.

We have an Agency Team that creates remarkable digital experiences for growing companies, their customers, and their brands.

We have a Media Team that creates sustainable online channels for recurring, profitable customer acquisition.

And we have an Organic Team that provides a rigorous, data-driven approach to mapping the search universe to identify how clients can win their prospects’ searches.

Our goal is to continue providing great integrated marketing experiences through the Agencyand to accelerate the growth of the highly data-driven Media Buying and Organic Search technology. For both of the latter practices, we are building proprietary technology and working with PhDs from Harvard, UNC, and NCSU to build our competitive edge.

These three business units work together as a whole to optimize our results in the digital world. It is digital marketing, all grown up.