Dear Brand Leaders: Reaction is not a Real Digital Marketing Strategy

Feb 5, 2017Marketing Strategy, Sitecore

It’s more common than you’d think – brands operating without a proactive digital marketing strategy seem to be the norm, not the exception. But how long can you maintain your reaction-as-a-strategy digital marketing efforts before something breaks down?

Marketing sure isn’t what it used to be. The days of marketing departments churning out bullhorn style messaging, “BUY OUR STUFF!” are long gone. Push marketing has succumbed to customer-centric marketing and the rise of digital. Companies now strive to meet the exact needs of their customers, with the correct messaging, in context.
The time has passed to acknowledge that all marketing (even digital) is brand awareness marketing.
It’s a tall order to fill, that’s for sure, especially when far too many brands are still stuck in the marketing past, trying to disguise their disruptive tactics as “brand awareness”. They continue to focus their strategies around relatively ineffective, expensive and often times unmeasurable tactics, all while neglecting or ignoring their digital efforts. An effective digital marketing strategy is not optional, it’s required in today’s competitive market. I’m not talking about just the largest of brands having a digital strategy defined. I’m talking about all brands – even small businesses, too. If you’re wasting time, money, personnel and other resources on inefficient digital marketing initiatives, it’s only a matter of time before your competitors swoop in and take advantage.

Your marketing teams will never have enough (time, money, staff).

It’s the truth, and you likely already know it. If you’re in the marketing trenches, you know you likely have more stuff you could do than you’re able. If you’re a marketing leader, you also know you have to draw the budget line somewhere. Resources are finite, so it’s absolutely imperative that you use those scarce resources as optimally as possible.
So, why is it that so many brands operate without an effective digital marketing strategy?
Would you move into a high-rise office building that was built without a plan? Would you drive a car that was assembled from the parts that were just lying around without thought as to safety, efficiency or performance? If both of these examples seem preposterous to even consider, then why is it so many companies invest millions in digital marketing without first defining their strategy?
Daniel Ruyter - Sitecore Marketing & Technology Pro

Who is Daniel Ruyter?

An Orlando, Florida Sitecore enthusiast and MVP hopeful, a marketing consultant, content creator and photographer.
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First and Foremost – Your Strategy Needs Goals

The very first step you should take to begin defining your digital marketing strategy is to set goals. If you aren’t working toward goals, how will you know if you’ve succeeded or failed? Ideally, here’s what your digital marketing goals should look like:
  • Organizational Goal #1 – Increase customer retention & repeat business.
    • Marketing Goal #1 – Create contextualized marketing messages for customer segments.
      • Digital Marketing Goal #1 – Create a single view of the customer through data.
Goals start from the top. If your organization hasn’t defined goals, that’s really the first step. Without organizational goals, there’s really no way to know that everyone is working toward the same objectives. Lack of goals creates silos, wastes valuable resources and contributes to a chaotic environment. Your digital marketing goals should map to a larger marketing goal, which should also map to a company goal or objective. The example provided above illustrates these relationships between goals at various levels of the organization.

Step 2 – Become the Expert

Once you’ve defined your goals and mapped them all the way back to your marketing and organizational goals and objectives, you need to become the expert in how best to achieve those goals. That expertise should include the following areas:
  • Become an expert on your customer – Who are they? Where are they? What do they want (and why do they want it)? Customer personas may be a good way to start.
  • Become an expert on your brand – What is your value proposition? What assets are at your disposal? How are your products or services produced, delivered and supported?
  • Become an expert in your competition – What do they offer the customer? How do your brands differ? How are they alike?
  • Become an expert in your options – For every goal, there will be multiple ways to achieve that objective. Start by defining what’s important to you (your key performance indicators or KPI’s). Learn more about the options available to you and how they may contribute to your KPI’s.

Step 3 – Devise Your Plan

You’ve set your goals and you’re an expert in your customers, your brand, your competition and your options. It’s time to define the tactics (projects) that you will use to achieve your goals. Our example digital marketing goal above was to “create a single view of the customer through data” so that we could create contextualized marketing messages to defined customer segments (marketing goal) so that our company can increase customer retention and repeat business (organizational objective). Here are a few project ideas that we could implement to help achieive our digital goal:
  • Implement Sitecore XP & xDB
  • Integrate Sitecore with our CRM platform for bi-directional data sharing
  • Build digital customer personas
  • Map our content strategy to the various phases of our customer personas (awareness, consideration, preference, purchase, retention)
  • Implement an A/B testing strategy to optimize messaging for key personas

Step 4 – Execute Your Plan

While it may be one of the last steps, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. You’ve taken the time to define your goals, become an expert and plan the projects that will get you to your objectives. Your efforts have only just begun. Implementing your strategy will also take careful planning, resource allocation and maybe even support from outside expertise in order to succeed. Here are the types of resources you’ll need to execute your digital strategy effectively:
  • Digital Marketing Strategists
  • Digital Marketing Project Managers
  • Design & UX Experts
  • SEO & SEM Experts
  • Analytics & Reporting Experts / Data Scientists
  • SME’s & Business Delivery Experts
If you see roles you know you’re lacking, the time to fill those needs is before you begin to execute your projects. Don’t wait until you’re months into a project before you acquire the necessary human capital to make the project a success.

Step 5 – Measure Your Efforts

Last but certainly not least, you must measure your digital marketing efforts so that you can adjust your strategy accordingly. Measurement is one of the greatest benefits of digital over other, traditional marketing channels. You can measure almost everything in digital marketing. The purpose of measuring should be to identify what’s working and what’s not and to stop doing what’s not working and do more of what is! Make sure you’re measuring what’s important (remember those KPI’s you defined above?) and continue to focus your resources on the efforts that provide you with the most return. Focusing your efforts on your marketing ROI and getting away from the reaction-as-a-strategy marketing will make for happier customers, healthier companies and loyal employees in the end.

The Story Behind the Photo

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area - Las Vegas, NV
The photo on this blog post was taken at the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area visitor’s center. Red Rock Canyon is one stop I make every time I go to Vegas. I just happened to be wandering around the visitor’s center and stopped to look up. I saw the sharp tin roof of an exhibit contrasting against the sky and decided to snap this photo.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area Visitor's Center

Do you have a digital strategy defined?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article and your experience in defining digital strategies. What steps did you take to define your strategy? Do you feel a digital strategy is even needed? Please leave a comment below or feel free to contact me with your thoughts.

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