Companies that are able to see and then take the steps to make the strategic, organizational, and operational shifts required to become effective digital marketers will be more productive and accelerate revenue growth.
When the Internet began the great marketers in the sky looked down upon it and thought it was a vast playground or experimental laboratory. It was a game to become involved in but not yet one to put trust in. They began launching experiment after experiment to crack the code that generates sales and customer loyalty. Not surprising, most have failed.
Because, consumers adopted digital technology as they themselves saw fit, and in the process fundamentally altered the way they make decisions. Companies that understand this evolution are now carefully moving digital interactivity toward the center of their marketing strategies, rethinking their priorities and budgets, and substantially reshaping their processes and skills.
McKinsey and associates has found that the most successful digital marketers focus on four core elements as they increase the percentage of marketing and channel spending that is directed to digital activities.
- Coordinate activities to engage the consumer throughout an increasingly digital purchase journey.
- Harness interest in their brands by syndicating content that empowers the consumer to build his or her own decision matrix
- Think like a large-scale multimedia publisher and manage a staggering amount of content to support products, segments, channels, and promotions.
- Strategically plot how to gather and use the abundance of digital data now available.
The digital-marketing difference
At the simplest level, we’ve always known that consumers tend to take a unique, yet predictable journey as they make purchasing decisions. But most companies concentrate marketing resources on only two stages: brand marketing up front to get consumers to recognize their brand when they first consider buying, and promotions at the final point of sale to sway them as they are about to make a purchase. The four P's of marketing - Product, Place, Price (up front) and Promotion (end) - provided a total picture for the marketers decision making.
Digital technology is changing all that. Consumers used to seek out family and friends for word-of-mouth product recommendations but now they can read online reviews, compare features and prices on Web sites, and discuss options via social-networking sites. Consider the person seeking an attorney for a divorce or a lawsuit or perhaps a business merger. Previously, a consumer had to know someone to get a recommendation. Today, however, this process is much easier and much more transparent. They Google it, they tweet about it, they search Facebook and Linkedin. They EXPECT to find information they can use in their purchase process. And they trust the information they receive from strangers as much, if not more, than companies. Both business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) purchasers want someone to help them make smart decisions. They just don’t want to feel subjected to the hard sell—they expect marketers to engage them, not dictate to them.
Watch what they say at FastForward B2B and Digital Marketing
Moving from a one-way, company-driven sales mentality to a two-way relationship with consumers requires core changes in the way businesses operate. Companies are adjusting but change is difficult especially when the ship is in choppy waters. While they have tried everything from video ads, sponsored content, and online promotions, new forms of targeted online ad delivery have emerged.
Web sites have been overhauled, microsites for specific products or promotions have multiplied, buying thousands of search terms, and new agencies keep popping up to serve businesses’ increasingly high demand for innovative content, user tools, or social experimentation. While these initiatives usually make sense, their implementation often doesn’t: most companies merely add them to their other operations and thus stretch their organizations financially and operationally. Companies must thoughtfully integrate such initiatives by focusing on core sources of value.
To be effective, these new strategies must be implemented with the consumer needs as paramount and that is a very difficult shift for most marketers. Stay tuned as we explore some of these in the weeks ahead.