Jonathan Saipe

Get Smart, Get Digital!

14 September 2009, Jonathan Saipe

Jonathan Saipe - founder of EmarketeersBack in the 1996, my first “proper” job after leaving college was at Nat. West Bank working as a project assistant on a high profile project with IBM. I worked among a team of specialists who spoke a completely different language to me – full of acronyms and jargon.

I was responsible for all documentation within a PRINCE2 environment and had to write minutes from meetings; I was awestruck (and slightly panicked) by my lack of familiarity with this jargon. I realised that this was the way things were heading and that I had better get to grips with this new language if I was to survive.

Years later, this digital or online language has become commonplace, so much so, that it has infiltrated the English dictionary. To Google a phrase, or to blog about a topic is ubiquitous in every day speak, even among the less digitally minded.

So in 2009, have we reached a point where being savvy in the online world is not so much a benefit but more of a requirement?

With the UK online audience at around 35 million* which amounts to around 70% of the UK population, you simply cannot ignore the degree to which the web has infiltrated our lives as consumers or businesses. Compared with other European countries, the UK has the most active online audience; on average we spend 34.4* hours per month online (* comScore, Dec ’08).

Let’s also remember that estimates are somewhat distorted by the fact that some of us use our mobile phones to surf the web, so the figures above are probably understated.

So what does that tell us about getting educated in digital?

As a consumer, whether we are renewing our car insurance, doing our weekly Tesco shopping or researching our summer holidays, it is usually easier and sometimes more cost effective doing it online. Being able to carry out the above tasks is almost a given nowadays. And in the workplace, if your job requires you to be online, being web savvy is completely taken for granted by employers.

At the professional marketer level, having offline marketing skills is rarely considered enough to land a marketing manager’s job. With search engine marketing as the granddad of digital marketing and the newer social media marketing revolution almost at full throttle, the majority of employers will require candidates for marketing positions to fully understand and embrace digital marketing.

In the same vein, “getting digital” in business is crucial. We have long since passed the need to have a website simply because you have to. For a number of years, businesses have been migrating from offline to online as it is more cost effective, easier to measure results and often yields a better return on investment.
Successful businesses know they need to be cleverer than simply having a website if they want to get noticed.

Investing in online marketing in order to better generate sales or brand reach has proven its worth time and time again. If online marketing skills are lacking within an organisation, it is crucial to invest in online marketing training in order to educate staff.

Having worked in web design and development for over a decade, I’ve watched small businesses launch websites with next to no marketing strategy or expenditure. These small businesses soon fell by the way side despite my constant reminders that they required a marketing strategy – be it offline or online!

The Government clearly knows that getting digital is the future. The Digital Britain Report was published in June 2009 as a plan to secure Britain’s place at the forefront of the global digital economy. Giving universal access to broadband, enhancing the digital delivery of public services and getting the right solution to digital content rights are only some of the issues highlighted in the plan.

So, clearly, the mantra being spoken, whether you’re an employer recruiting staff or a business trading online is: “Get smart, get digital”. Ignore it at your peril!