No One Has Gotten Digital Marketing Right So Far
I am about to make a bold statement: No one has gotten digital marketing right so far.
Bam! Gauntlet thrown. That’s right, it has been said. Now, after you snicker and roll your eyes at me, let me lay it down in a way that might make those rolling eyes look forward again and generate some introspection. Make sure your coffee is still warm, or that you still have some of that banana muffin next to your laptop. Sit back and read, oh marketer extraordinaire.
First, let me qualify my claim by saying that my intention here is not to say that all digital marketing has failed in all instances (no, no…even a stopped clock is right twice a day). In fact, I think there have been some excellent advances in inbound and outbound marketing strategies and campaign architectures. What I mean by saying “no one has gotten it right so far” is that there IS no way to “get it right.” Despite all the digital marketing articles and books that have been written touting “10 sure-fire techniques,” “secret insights stolen from the vaults of Al Capone” and “hot tips your mama doesn’t want you to know” (most of which are redundant and harken back to the same handful of best practices), there is one universal truth. Marketing, in all shapes and forms, is about generating interest with your audience, and what is of interest for a global audience is always changing. There is no way to devise a clear, solid strategy to appeal to a goal that is always moving, shifting and redefining itself. So, if your audience—and their interest markers—are always changing, how do we market to such a chaotic landscape?
Monkeys on Typewriters
We have all heard the old theory that if you put 1,000 monkeys in front of 1,000 typewriters and have them randomly bang on the keys for 1,000 years, eventually one of them will come up with an exact rendition of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” This is an attempt to illustrate the “infinite monkey theorem” which states that any effort, given enough resources for enough time, will eventually hit a target goal—no matter how specific. So it is with digital marketing, at least to the casual viewer. Behind the scenes, we marketers know about the endless data analysis and metrics review sessions that go into concepting out a new campaign, and the countless hours we spend writing just the right content. Once we launch our shiny vessel out into the world, we hope it will float and bring back lots of passengers. Basing everything on past performance indicators can help us feel confident about its effectiveness, but in truth whether we wind up appearing in front of the right eyeballs at the right moment is more about luck. The daily traffic across the Internet and the characters that make up that endless parade are ever-changing and there is no way to mathematically quantify exactly what will or won’t work. The best way to compensate for this is to bank on being memorable rather than incisive. A narrow arrow may miss the target, but a unique missile will be pointed at and remembered, even if it falls to the ground. Make sure your content marketing is noticeable and widespread, and make sure it captures the attention of whoever it may land in front of in a personal and human way. This will not only help you catch the eye of your intended audience, but also increases the chances your content will prove valuable enough for someone else to repost or refer a friend to – and that might indirectly get you through to the right prospect.
The Incredible Shrinking Attention Span
In this frantic ADHD age we all live in, media and web access to instant data has… oh wait, I want a lollipop! Seriously, this plethora of saturated media has created a “fast food” culture characterized by indulgence and absorption. We are bombarded with dozens of email sales pitches every day. We are distracted by digital ad boards in restaurants and subway stations, and we consume upwards of 8 to 10 ads per screen as we browse the web. Studies have shown that, on average, 55% of visitors to a website spend less than 15 seconds there, and most people spend less than 4 seconds reviewing an ad or link to content before deciding whether to respond to it. In the time it takes viewers to reach for their mouse and navigate towards the CTA they have already decided whether it’s worth it or not. So how do we create effective digital marketing content that will jump through this miniscule window of attention span? One answer: Make it personal. All the advice and best practices articles that focus on speaking to business benefits, solving the pain points and closing the business gaps of the prospect’s company are well-founded and positive—but they don’t address the core psychology of converting a lead to a sale. Trust me, you will never see a data-scouring A.I. system troll the Internet, decipher the messaging in successful marketing pitches and come up with a winning vendor based on value analysis. Without exception, prospects are flesh-and-blood people who research, discuss and decide which vendor to go with. And no matter how loyal, corporate-minded or team-oriented those individuals are, their main concern is how the decision they make will reflect on their careers and perceived success. It follows that all of your marketing should speak to the successes of clients who use your product, and it should speak directly to the prospect as an individual. Instead of saying, “Increase your company’s ROI!” make it personal: “Increase your ROI!” Make them think your offering will be good for THEM, not just the company.
Offer an Inch, They’ll Take a Mile
This is important: Tread carefully when exploring marketing strategies that involve social media and interactive participation! We live in a culture that is always breaking boundaries and blurring the line between corporate and social. Large companies are launching campaigns all the time that involve public participation, viral spread and word-of-mouth interactivity. Remember the KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) #IAteTheBones Twitter campaign? In promoting their boneless chicken, KFC launched an #IAteTheBones Twitter hashtag encouraging people to respond with their own tweets about scenarios in which they “ate the bones.” The intention was to get a kind of street-level public involvement in the campaign that would be humorous and go viral. Of course, they didn’t take into account the public’s tendency to take something innocent and pervert it. When you unleash a hash tag with the word “bone” in it, you can only imagine the indecent turn this campaign took; indeed, it quickly went downhill and collapsed into a colossal ruin. Loads of other companies have launched digital marketing campaigns around viral tactics, and found that the public is often more interested in making a mockery than positively participating. A few bad apples, huh? Sure, interactive social marketing can go viral and spread the word like wildfire—but the word that spreads might not be the message you intended to get out. It’s probably best to avoid viral tactics, unless your campaign is bullet-proof—and who can measure that?
Invest In Some Digital “Red Bull”
Frank Sinatra sang that New York is the “city that never sleeps”—and the Internet is the Big Apple on steroids! The web is always awake and always hungry. It is continually being refreshed and loaded with new content. Once you make your mark, give it 3 minutes and 24 seconds before you are displaced by the next ad or comment from some web marketing specialist in Des Moines extolling the best email template tips from 2015. Even the best-funded campaign can be washed away quickly by the volume of “content rain” that falls on the prairies of the web. And how do we deal with this, kemosabe? Your digital marketing must be ever-vigilant and active. It may not be possible to devise a round-the-clock bucket brigade of marketing efforts, but there are ways to keep up a regular cadence using planning and automation. Content marketing requires not only a steady flow (managed by scheduled releases that can be pushed through automation platforms) but also timely responses to social commentary or resource news. In order to stay relevant and within the field of vison of your prospects, you have to make them look for you by creating value around your brand and content. You might not be able to balance yourself at the top of the heap hour to hour, but even if you slip to the bottom of whatever feed they are on, they will scroll and find you again as long as they perceive value in your offering. Make your frequent releases speak to their core value set, offer long term solutions (not just quick fixes) and avoid being TOO diverse in your scheduled content. If you put out eBooks or articles on wildly different topics every hour, no one is going to make the connection between what your company does and the solution you could solve for them. Make sure your cadence has consistency and a relevant overall theme so that people can follow a trend and have that lightbulb moment when they associate your brand with a certain solution, and can’t think of anyone else in that space but you. Snapple has many different flavors for many different tastes, but they are all about iced tea. Coca Cola makes an iced tea line (FUZE), but they also promote upwards of 40+ drink varieties under their brand. Who do you think of when you want an iced tea?
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