The physical and digital worlds are quickly becoming a single reality. We can either adapt to those changes, or let our businesses fade into obscurity.
The good news is, we can still be intentional about how this merging of the two worlds impacts our business. We can apply the same level of practicality to our digital strategy that we apply to our offline marketing strategies.
The core principles of this entire article can be summed up in three overarching pieces.
- We need to know our customers extraordinarily intimately.
- We need to build trust and attention, which are the most important assets online.
- We need to nurture our relationships, before and after the sale.
If what you’re doing online does not have any one of these three principles at heart, then you can’t expect great results.
The challenge at hand
The challenge we are facing today is a lack of true understanding about how digital marketing leads to actual new business. Many organizations are still “marketing for marketing’s sake.” It’s the old “spray and pray” method. If we do enough “stuff,” something will stick.
As a result, companies invest their time and resources into writing blog posts, just to write blog posts; creating email campaigns, just to self-promote; interacting on social media, just because everyone else is doing it; applying “search engine optimizations” to their platforms because maybe, if they get enough visitors, they will get more customers. The list goes on.
As a digital strategist, my job is to understand how the online ecosystem interacts with the marketplace. My job is to question why each thing matters, and how it will create positive results in business. And the outcome of this process is unique to each business.
The Internet is still new
The Internet is still in relative infancy. Less than 30 years ago, business was organized and tracked on paper. Communication was primarily done in person, over the phone, by telegraph, or by mail. It’s no wonder that people are still trying to figure everything out.
Many of today’s executives started their career with an education learned from generations past. Business owners and managers today are still trying to figure out how to apply traditional methods of marketing to the emerging digital world. And many are simply not “getting it” yet.
It’s not anyone’s fault, per se, but it is our responsibility as business operators to get a handle on it. There is simply too much at stake, both in investment and opportunity costs, to become complacent about our digital marketing.
So what does one do when everything is changing right under our noses? How do we adapt when we have no other choice?
Return to the basics
Going back to the basics is a simple approach to tackling the digital era that no one was prepared for. But it is what we need to do.
The core unchanging principles
How we do business has changed, yes, but the core principles of business have not. These principles are, in part, based on the following:
- Know your customers better than you know yourself.
- Serve your customers with something they actually want or need.
- Sell something that produces a benefit for both you and your customers.
- Continue serving your customers in a mutually beneficial way until the relationship runs its course.
So what does that tell us about digital strategy?
By identifying that we need to think more critically about our digital marketing activities, we can take a concerted step towards making things better.
A complete digital strategy can be organized into the following categories, with questions that can be answered for better clarity:
Strategy: Understanding who we serve, what we offer, the business objectives, competitive advantages, internal resources, and financial implications.
Platform: Understanding how a website converts visitors into leads and prospects into customers, the impact of design on business results, the details required to build trust, ease of navigation, mobile friendliness and more.
Content: Clearly articulating value, making a compelling offer, attracting attention, building trust, demonstrating authority, and ultimately adding value through digital content; answering questions, objections, educating our customers; how the right content actually leads to new business opportunities.
Promotion: Knowing where our target audiences spends time online, engaging with our target market online, knowing the correct mix of tactics to create a cross-beneficial result, determining the return on investment for those tactics; cost/benefits of investing in search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising, social media, email marketing, blogging and more.
Measurement: Understanding the story the data tells, measuring the number and source of leads being generated, measuring the profitability of each tactic, and knowing which tactics are generating the best results financially.
Iteration: Using real data and feedback from our customers, understanding what to do differently in the next period that will increase what is working, eliminating what is not working.
Building and managing an effective digital presence can be daunting at first. Like building a house, if you think about all of the details before you get started, you may feel overwhelmed.
Instead, think of it as building brick by brick. As you add each layer, ask yourself, “does this make sense”? Build the foundation, add your content, promote, measure, and iterate.
Like most things, you won’t get it exactly right the first time. But by building it up over time and following the process one step at a time, you’ll eventually start seeing results that may astound you.