Digital marketing sometimes seems like a bottomless pit — you blink and there’s something new you need to do (or learn):
On average, Google changes their algorithm twice per day.
Facebook isn’t much better on that front – in a conscious effort to improve their user experience, they roll out many initiatives. Some may see this kind of activity as throwing stuff against the wall, betting on which will stick. I can promise you this isn’t the case. Many tech companies (the digital marketers’ tool belt!) are doing exactly the same:
- LinkedIn have been adding and removing features over the years in a head-spinning speed: who remembers LinkedIn Answers? Company pages’ Products & Services tabs? LinkedIn Apps??
- Hubspot introduced a free, standalone CRM package last year. Marketing automation has become even more powerful than before.
- Foursquare integrated with Swarm – as two separate, yet bizarrely linked, apps.
- Instagram, a photo app, decided to allow video uploads, and limiting them to 15 seconds only!
These are only a few examples, which can illustrate how quickly things are moving in the digital marketing space.
So how do we cope with so many changes to the platforms we’re using? There’s no easy answer, but there is AN answer.
Back to basics!
It’s so easy to fall into this trap — our tools are changing so rapidly, it can really be a distraction for us, and hurt the effectiveness of our work.
So let’s take step back, and focus first on your strategy. Then you’ll find the right tools and features to execute it. If you think like our technology providers and choose user (customer) experience as your major strategic direction, it will help you choose the right platform for our own audience. Then you’ll figure out the way your audience prefers to interact with you.
Once you have your strategic focus, let’s look at some of the main channels, to craft our tactical plan (btw, user experience may not be our focus this year – you may have other areas to focus on: eg. customer retention or acquisition, increasing market share, expanding share of wallet, etc.
Your company website is the hub of our digital marketing activities. Let’s audit the website first, and make sure it serves your strategic goal(s):
- Is the website structured well?
- Does the content appeal to your audience (maybe it did 2-3 years ago, but not anymore?).
- Are you using the right media (photos, videos, podcasts, infographics, etc…)?
- Do you have clear call to action?
- Is the website connected and linked to your other channels?
Every marketer today knows it’s important for our websites to rank well on search engine. The question is — how much effort (and budget) should we allocate to it? SEO has varied importance, depends on the type of business we’re in.
Let’s think big picture — do your customers really look for your services using a search engine? Maybe they are only looking for you directly, to make sure you’re a credible company? Think of your SEO efforts in a strategic way, and then execute the tactics. Meta descriptions, content, link building etc. should all be crafted to achieve the strategic goal.
Google analytics can easily show you whether or not your audience is viewing our website via mobile, tablet or desktop. However, mobiles are not only used to view websites – your customers using their mobile devices to read your emails, to log into your systems (think banks & govt. departments for example), etc. We need to figure out first if Mobile is an important channel to achieve your strategic goals, and to what extent.
Then develop an appropriate plan to incorporate a mobile action plan into your digital marketing activities: from text messages, in-store Bluetooth messages & apps, to dedicated mobile sites, etc.
Here’s the thing: we all know we need to use social media in our marketing. What should determine what you do, and how you do it, is what you’re trying to get out of it.
Vanity metrics such as likes and retweets are useless really. Find metrics that have tangible meaning to your business, quantifiable value.
If you need to engage with your audience, you may need to invest your resources in a monitoring and engagement platform. You may need policies and best practice guides to know how to respond to inquiries, complaints and trolls.
Depending on the type of audience, and your available resources, you need to choose the right channels to communicate and engage.
Whichever channel or tool you use should always be aligned to achieve your strategic goal.
Digital platforms provide many opportunities for advertising, in a variety of ways:
From banner advertising, AdWords & sponsored updates on social channels; to pre-roll videos on YouTube, retargeting, product placements, and even guest blogging! How we advertise used to be dependent on budgets, but today we can advertise in many creative ways, which will require little to no budget (in the traditional sense).
CRM & Email marketing
CRMs (Customer Relationship Management systems) can be a fantastic tool, if used well. In my experience, there’s always room for improvement.
Firstly, many companies are using CRM as a marketing database. However, it’s the sales department that is in charge of the data input. Just from that point alone, you can imagine there’s some kind of mismatch already.
Secondly — and I’ve seen it on numerous occasions — it’s an old case of GIGO – “Garbage In; Garbage Out”. Inaccurate or incomplete information going into the system leads to incomplete or inaccurate reports.
Those reasons alone are enough for a marketing leader to adopt a separate email marketing system, where they can control the data and its accuracy. They can also have better graphics, data segmentation and valuable reports coming out of a decent email marketing automation system.
So, how do you start?
Let’s go back and review your marketing strategy document. If it hasn’t been updated for a while, spend some time updating it. I know time is scarce, but I encourage you to spend a little time doing some housekeeping (a brand audit for example), as it will help clarify your direction, and get you in the right frame of mind.
As you go through that process, try and keep your user in mind: analyse his/her behaviour from their perspective. If you’re not sure – ask! Conduct a survey and get feedback.
Look at your own digital presence and ask yourself: Have I done enough to appear as a credible brand? Do I have the right associations and the right people around me? Am I being displayed in the ultimate professional light: awards, certificates, client list, industry association, Case studies, etc. If not – what can I do to increase our brand credibility?
One of the most talked about subjects in recent years is data. Big data, segmented data, data visualization, and data utilization. Whether this is a focus of yours or not, you’re collecting a lot of data. What you need to find is the most usable and relevant data, and drive tangible and actionable insights from it.
Over time, data can (and should) become a major influence in your decision making process. Setting up a visual dashboard with various data points, can help you understand the numbers better, and find opportunities for action.
As digital marketers, we tend to be drawn towards the new and exciting: New apps and technologies. It’s very easy (trust me, I know!) to get over excited and forget WHY we’re doing what we’re doing. As you take the “back to basics” approach, stay away from AR/VR, wearable tech, drones and other exciting stuff, so you can stay focused on the WHY whilst you’re using existing (and a lot less exciting, admittedly) digital platforms, mediums and tools.
Personally, I’ve made a conscious decision to choose 2-3 areas to focus on this year, and make them a case study for excellence!
I will still find some time, maybe an hour a week, to experiment with new stuff, to keep my job fun & exciting, and my ideas fresh and current.
Look at other industries, and other industry players from around the world and see what you can play with, whom can you steal ideas from, and what apps and technologies are sprouting around you. Then see if there’s any segment of your client base or target market who’s likely to use it, and experiment with it.
Raz Chorev is strategic marketing executive, and the co-founder of Orange Sky - an outsourced chief marketing officer service to medium sized companies. His clients ranges from Tier one multinationals to startups and everything in between. An early adopter of social media and digital marketing, he brings a practical and strategic approach to integrating Social Media and Digital communication to his clients.