Digital Marketing Complexity As A System

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Digital Marketing Complexity As A System

Digital Marketing Complexity As A System

Digital marketing is a rapidly evolving and largely complex system. With new technologies, publishers, formats, models and agencies emerging at a monthly pace.

With the proliferation of data being driven by mobile penetration, increasing device connectivity and consumer behaviour, we believe that we can expect the overall complexity of this system to continue.

Marketers today echo this and believe that the level of complexity faced over the next 5 years will be high (55%) or very high (29%) as per the SoDA 2016 Digital Marketing Outlooked prepared together with Forrester research analysts.

Despite the expected increase in complexity, digital marketing like many other complex things is at its core a system of many parts with a few nodes (things) that matter most.


Stephen Wolfram put it well when he said:

Throughout the natural and artificial world one observes phenomena of great complexity. Yet research in physics and to some extent biology and other fields has shown that the basic components of many systems are quite simple.

Navigating this complexity when you consider the ever-increasing number of tools businesses are now using can be a difficult challenge.

Common marketing team tools range from data management platforms, email marketing software, CRM, analytics accounts, social media software, retargeting platforms, website optimisation software, landing page testing tools, marketing automation software, planning and task management software, form tools, heat mapping tools, website support tools and much more.

And though we feel that the digital marketing ecosystem itself is complex, at its core it is made up of some simple basic components.

These components can be simplified into:

  • People
  • Process
  • Technology
  • Data

Each component is one piece of a system that is available for optimisation by a business.

Whether it is improving knowledge transfer between teams to uncover opportunities, driving a more customer-centric and agile marketing process to increase speed to market, or through the use of tools that enable deeper insights and better communication with your customers.


Let’s take a look at a few ways that these components can be optimised to deliver better marketing performance.


Better communication and sharing is giving high performing teams a better opportunity to understand the problems they are trying to tackle. The important piece when optimising teams is that what is being communicated. What needs to be communicated efficiently is high-quality data.

With an open exchange of information and ideas, we can better assess evidence, identify opportunities, build trust and learn for each other’s experiences.

An example of this is closer integration of sales and customer support team information into marketing teams. By deepening the information from non-marketing teams and by speeding up its delivery businesses able to gather additional insights into customer behaviour.

We recommend a focus on improving the way and speed at which your teams communicate. This can be driven by process, technology, or both. Cross team communication needs to be simple enough for your customer support team to pass an insight through to marketing.


Organisational process is rapidly changing and in recent times has adopted movements and principles like Agile from the software development community.

Agile itself is made up of 4 key values that intersect well with modern marketing teams.

Agile Values:

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  2. Working software over comprehensive documentation
  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  4. Responding to change over following a plan

Similar to this new age of marketing, Agile also takes a customer-centric view of the organisational process to better align a team in order to improve flexibility, response to change and continual optimisation.

Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.

We recommend reviewing the way you are currently planning your marketing activities and having an open and honest conversation about how it is working. A focus on being more responsive to change and continuous optimisation should be at the forefront of this.


Perhaps the most complex part of digital marketing is the sprawl of software as a service (SaaS) tools that are available to marketers.

The purpose of marketing technology should be to enable teams, not disable them. Unfortunately, teams are becoming encumbered by the complexity and misplaced value of tools.

Like any good strategy, we believe that technology should fit into your overall business roadmap. Companies without a technology roadmap that aligns to their business goals will often lean towards new and more expensive solutions when practical and low-cost ones exist.

Critically, a structured and value-driven approach to simplifying a technology roadmap is needed.

Web sites such as BuiltWith (which allow you to see what is under the hood of a website) and SimilarTech (which helps compare platforms) can be helpful in understanding what technology is out there.

While the technology space is overly complex, we recommend developing a technology roadmap that aligns to your business goals. Included in this is some flexibility to move with emerging technology, but enough simplicity to ensure you are continually moving forward.


Alongside technology is the increasing amounts of data available to businesses and marketing teams. Organisations are now taking a data-driven approach to most aspects of their marketing activity and are becoming more familiar with making decisions based on data.

While technology is enabling us to capture, store and make decisions on data, marketing teams are still struggling to integrate data in a way that it enables their decision-making and provides is clear and simple insights that can be communicated across the business.

A common pain is the challenge to aggregate sources of data from offline, to CRM, to online, sales and customer support. Which at the same time has lead to questions like, ‘how do I value a phone call vs an email lead?’.

With increased availability data, comes increased complexity.

While the situation for your business is unique to you, there are ways to navigate this complexity by considering data a subsystem of the wider digital marketing system.

Firstly, by considering the important nodes (sources) of data you will notice that there tend to be only 3-4 highly connected areas. These could be your offline, your online and your CRM.

We suggest that by focusing on driving simplicity and clarity around these 3 highly connected areas you are essentially adhering to the Pareto Principle, more commonly known as the 80/20 rule. Where roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.


If you are interested in how we can help your company accelerate speed to market, drive low-cost digital marketing, grow fast and deliver business value through people, process, technology, and data then please contact us.


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