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Digital: All about relationships
The Digital & Social Technologies Study 2013, conducted by Managing
Partners’ Forum, PM Forum and Elephant Creative, uncovered some
interesting insights. Helen Hammond summarises the findings.
The inaugural survey, completed by 190 inhouse
professionals within management and marketing, and available
in full later this month, explored three crucial aspects:
1 Digital in context
Putting digital in context with other communication channels:
- Over 90% use the tools to collaborate with others during
working hours – 30% for half or more of the time. 40% for more
than two years.
- Most prefer articles, discussions with co-workers and trial &
error to formal training.
- Digital experts view using the phone or emails with clients or
social media for work purposes of equal relevance. By
contrast, digital novices gave a significantly lower ranking to
- There is significant confusion over the impact on relationships,
whether digital technologies could contribute to this and
whether clients needed face-to-face interaction.
- The perceived value of face-to-face time is changing – whilst it
is universally seen as the most important communication
channel, there was considerable confusion over the impact that
digital technologies have on the value of meetings with 93%
believing that they waste time in them. Many felt that digital
technologies could be used to improve this.
2 Relevance & usage of digital and social technologies
The extent to which specific digital channels are used now and in
the future, and are seen as relevant to awareness and knowledge,
relationships and interactions, and gaining new client
- The primary usage of these channels is marketing to prospects
with building brand/image and attracting new clients being the
key areas of focus – effectively advertising. Twitter is viewed as
the top channel for marketing and knowledge sharing, with
strong growth also anticipated for YouTube, Facebook and
- Although 84% use one or more digital and social channel for
marketing, there is no consensus over whether they are seen
as an essential precondition of marketing a firm.
- LinkedIn, the most popular channel for interaction, is not
expected to be an area for growth in the next year.
- Digital experts are winning the argument on client interactions
but not on using these tools for internal conversations.
- Respondents are predicting limited changes from current
usage levels in these tools despite the world being characterised
by disruptive change.
3 Evaluation & outcomes (ROI)
The extent to which firms are currently evaluating the level of
investment relative to preferred outcomes, collecting tracking
data, and sharing it with those needing to know:
- While the standard metric for advertising campaigns is changes
in awareness not new work gained, obtaining new instructions
from clients is perceived to be the most highly valued outcome.
This is a critical mismatch, supported by the volume of relevant
instructions being low, with 50% reporting fewer than five new
clients, and 46% reporting fewer than five new instructions
from existing clients.
- Client care and helping the firm to achieve its business objectives
are seen as the least valuable outcomes, with engagement
occupying the middle ground.
- Although cash investment is a misleading metric for a timebased
activity, 18% of management intends to increase the
budget for digital technologies by over 10%, yet only 7% of
marketing expect such an increase.
- 85% of firms collect tracking data against KPIs, yet there is a
noticeable lack of sharing of relevant data with MPs and practice
leaders despite their critical role in business and practice
development. This reflects the belief that the primary purpose
of these tools is awareness, rather than engagement and
collaboration with clients, as part of an extended process to
generate new work.
- Another danger is that clients may gain the impression of a firm
not being cost-conscious through excessive time wasting on
- The impact on a firm as its digital novices become experts.
Should this be sped up through effective interventions?
- Ensuring the disruptive impact of emerging technologies is
considered in business strategy discussions.
- Facilitating a culture of collaboration with resulting productivity
and business growth.
- Setting personal goals – in particular the role the tools could
play in performance assessment.
Survey demographics: 190 in-house; 82% UK-based. Equal
numbers of management team and marketing experts. 24% digital
experts; 64% working knowledge; 15% novices. Firm footprint:
47% global; 15% capital city; 16% national; 22% regional. Sector:
46% law; 21% accountancy; 16% consultancy; 9% property.
Helen Hammond, Elephant Creative Solutions.