Dr. Elisa Cerruti is a digital marketing strategist consulting with CMOs, startups and digital marketers on the planning and execution of their marketing strategies.
Prior to working as a consultant, Elisa taught marketing and management as a lecturer and an adjunct professor for start up incubators and for executive programs.
Elisa started her career as a project manager in the arts, before earning her PhD, and then a research fellowship in Business Administration at the University of Turin. She joins us from Turin to discuss the role of the digital strategist in Italy. You can hear our conversation in iTunes, Stitcher or Soundcloud or below now.
Elisa is brought in by companies that need to develop strategies or reshape their existing marketing initiatives that have developed over time in a patchwork manner. These requirements are generally around the need to grow visibility and brand awareness. Whatever the need, Elisa typically only takes on an engagement if it is clear that she can provide real value for a company.
Her career progression from the cultural sector, through academia and ultimately to digital strategy began with a desire to be independent and to ‘explore many cases and realities’. This is driven by her love of fixing ‘problems that come from completely different backgrounds and contexts’.
Working in digital strategy in Italy brings with it particular challenges. She identifies 3 things to consider about the Italian business environment; first, customers are increasingly using digital media, although there is a delay in this shift when compared with elsewhere. Online buyers have almost doubled in last 3 years, from 9 Million in 2012 to 16 Million today. Additionally, 69% of Italian households have access to the Internet as compared to 88% in the UK, as she says, ‘not a huge gap’. In spite of this, companies are not moving their efforts to digital, which brings us to the second consideration of the Italian market. 33% of Italian companies don’t want to use social and digital media, a significant number when compared to the 22% of European companies that are of the same opinion. Elisa notes that ‘only 4% of companies are eCommerce enabled’. She believes that this reluctance to shift to digital is a result of the perception that it is expensive when compared to the benefit. She notes that this is a curious gap since as she says, ‘if you leave space someone else will satisfy the needs of your customer…there are quick and easy substitutes for almost anything’. Which brings us to the third challenge of the Italian market, namely that there is ‘culturally less use of marketing…Decisions rely on the CEO and on assumptions but not on research and data’.
These challenges combine to provide ‘huge space’ for strategists in this market. In order to succeed in digital strategy in Italy, Elisa identifies a couple of requirements. First, know your market and your customers. For example, Italian culture doesn’t respond well to push marketing strategies. The second recommendation she makes is to develop a strategy and stick to it and avoid being blown off course. Base this strategy not in the technology, but in ‘ideas and creativity’. She advises strategists to be innovative and says that Italian consumers are very open to innovation.
Elisa identifies a couple of companies that are doing great work in digital strategy in Italy. The first is Berto Salotti, a traditional company in the upholstery industry that recognized early that their audience was shifting and that it was impacting their business, and rather than simply adding digital capabilities to their company, took the bold step of completely re-organizing their business around digital. This wasn’t just around how they sold online, but also meant a re-structuring and overhaul of their people and processes. This initiative, undertaken while in market has led them to grab the leadership spot in their industry. Elisa also points to Experenti as an Italian company that is doing great things in digital strategy. A digital native company built around an augmented reality app, Elisa sees the work they are doing as being best-in-class data driven digital work.
In an economy with high youth unemployment, Elisa sees the digital strategist role as a great one for young people. But in order to succeed, her advice is to focus on marketing basics. This begins with a knowledge of analytics, a key requirement since ‘data is exponentially growing’ and it is important to know which data to use. She also sees the need to learn about broad marketing strategy. In her experience, too often young people drawn to social media courses, but typically are disappointed since their knowledge on completion is so narrow and they don’t know the fundamentals of marketing. She believes a broader focus will allow for a solid method to develop strategies. As she says, ‘you can produce your own personalized method with the right foundational learning’. Her final advice to aspiring strategists in Italy is to ‘be strong…it’s not easy to start’. This is particularly the case in a market where too often companies are skeptical about what digital marketing can do for them. But by being strong it gives you the opportunity to demonstrate results, which in turn puts you on the path to a rewarding career.
Next week on octopus, we will continue to explore the role of the digital strategist. Please be sure to comment below. I’d love to hear from you. Please subscribe for alerts about new episodes and content. Thank you for listening to octopus. I’m Nasser Sahlool.