Marketing Digitally and Socially
by Rob Wolfe – Connected Places Global
In my last post, I covered how smart organizations have continued marketing throughout the economic downturn, better positioning themselves for the long term. This economy has challenged businesses to work with smaller marketing budgets and to come up with more innovative marketing strategies. “Business as usual is not going to cut it this past year or going forward,” says Sheila Bacon, Principal at BaconGlobal Group in Dallas/Ft. Worth. For some organizations, the response has been to increase the use of digital media and social networks for reaching customers.
In January 2009, a 1to1 Media Expert Opinion article offered 10 marketing predictions for 2009. In addition to predicting that smart organizations would continue to market throughout the downturn, the article also predicted that digital media and social networks will continue to provide cost-effective delivery channels for customer messaging, but will be most effective when integrated with other marketing channels.
“With Twitter’s explosion this year, the staying power of social networks, and the thirst for information about the topic by marketers, these predictions really hit the mark,” according to Elizabeth (Clampet) Glagowski, Managing Editor at Peppers & Rogers Group, New York. She says it’s about providing relevant communication to people in the channels they prefer, and providing tools for them to participate.
“In my experience digital got a lot more recognition [in 2009], especially websites and other digital channels, like viral and email marketing,” says Laurence Botha, CMO, Johannesburg, South Africa. Similarly, Hugh M. Ryan, B2B Marketing Communications & President at Ryan Wellnitz & Associates in Providence, saw an increased reliance on social media, in large measure, he believes, because many types of marketing outreach can be made relatively inexpensively through LinkedIn, Twitter, et al.
To be effective, digital and social media marketing need to be considered as part of your complete integrated marketing strategy, rather than as add-ons or experiments. Like any other marketing approach, businesses need to have well-defined goals and consider the impact on the brand.
- “Social media is a great way to maximize money and find low-cost investments that drive marketing,” answers Chris Thornton, CMO of Definition 6. (DMNews, Toolbox: Cost-effective social media, May 18, 2009) “Like any marketing program, social media has to be done deliberately and strategically, and it has to offer real value and positive experiences to your target audience.” It’s important to be realistic, he says. “In the beginning, pick one thing to do well, and focus on one or two primary objectives,” he explains. “If you are not following that principle, you’re not going to achieve your goals — even if you are spending less. In many cases, social media may not be the best medium for ‘pure capitalism,’ especially if it doesn’t give the user something useful and interesting.”
- Social Media, which tends to have lower costs than other forms of marketing (commodity tools) can be very cost effective for those wanting to get customers to spread and share messages. On the other hand, marketers need to be careful, because doing it wrong will result in more work, and in some situations, brand backlash. (Jeremiah Owyang (blog), SF, Silicon Valley, Partner, Customer Strategy, Altimeter Group, Social Media effective during Recessions)
- As for making a more customer-centric web site, Susan Rice-Lincoln, Europe’s Leading Social Media Expert at Masterthenewnet.com, has a few suggestions: First, take a look at how you have set up your site. Most sites are built around what the company wants to tell its customers about itself. The problem with this approach is that most visitors come to you-not necessarily to find out about you but to find a solution for THEIR problems. So one way of making things more customer-centric is to build your site around buyer personas (profiles) and the needs of each type of buyer you have. This doesn’t mean you have to completely re-do your site–just add on some pages which talk directly to the different types of buyers you are targeting and try to answer their questions directly. You can also make things more interactive by adding a forum where customers can chat both with you and each other. Other ideas are adding polls or even allowing them to have live chats with you. “I am a big believer that your website should be the center of all things social,” says Rice-Lincoln, “and with a few clever additions you can make your site more interactive and a place where people can talk about issues that are troubling them.”
Aside from the cost-effectiveness and the speed-to-customers advantages of digital and social media marketing approaches, there are at least two other important factors to consider: measurement of marketing effectiveness and the strategic value of using the latest technologies to market to prospective customers.
In his blog article, 5 Reasons Why Digital Marketing Will Thrive in the Recession, Jay Baer asserts that online marketing of all types offers superior measurability and trackability in comparison to traditional tactics. “When implemented correctly, banner ads, organic search, paid search, blogs and social media, email, lifecycle marketing and all other online marketing tactics provide a user by user scoreboard that can be utilized to ascertain precise return on investment metrics for each campaign,” he says. “In this way, online marketing provides companies the ability to test a wide array of tactics, evaluate which generates the best response, and then adjust the marketing program accordingly.”
If your long-term marketing strategy doesn’t include exploiting the latest technologies for touching prospective customers, you may be missing an opportunity to establish reach to future generations of customers and positioning your business for competitive disadvantage. Technologies are being created everyday to help market. Fortune 500 companies have discovered that e-mail campaigning is a must have marketing technique, according to David Reed, E-mail Marketing Consultant, Colorado Springs. “And why not? There are 1.5 Billion people on the internet today sending 60 Billion e-mails. Many check their e-mails the moment they log onto their computers. Many have multiple e-mail accounts. And on average, they check their e-mails 3-4 times a day.” Reed also points out that social networks have given people the ability to spread the word for free. “And when you think about technologies,” he says, “you have to keep future generations in mind. How are they communicating? Those people within 5-10 years are going to be the customers. How are businesses going to get the word across to those people?”
Whether in a rough economy or when markets are strong, smart companies will continue to take advantage of the latest digital and social networking marketing approaches. As Mark Burwell, Owner Evolutions Business Group in Green Bay, puts it, “Marketing and understanding the new markets will be the survival for the future.”
Acknowledgements: Thanks to my fellow members of professional networking groups, as well as fellow bloggers, for your insights and contributions, which are expressed and reflected in the content of this feature.