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The foundations of marketing strategy in the digital age
“Digital marketing isn’t about finding one golden ticket for lead generation. Successful digital marketing strategies typically require campaigns (plural) running over a variety of channels.”
Developing a digital marketing strategy is typically borne out of a need to generate more business. Certainly, in the minds of business leaders online marketing should be as simple as that. In our digital marketing world, we can talk about brand reach, personas, customer experience, and the like. But our ultimate goal is to retain or gain customer's business. Inspiring trust and loyalty in the minds of our potentials and customers comes in at a close second. Social reach and corporate responsibility follow (if they're mentioned at all).
From what I experience in the market, digital marketing is all too often boiled down to this simple ideal: bring me the leads and our sales guys will drive the business.
However, the reality of creating a successful lead generation campaign - especially for B2B's - is that competition online is extremely high across the majority of markets. Thus, lead generation strategies have become increasingly complex. Basic pay-per-click to long form sales pages don't work as well as they used to.
The Golden Ticket
Digital marketing isn't about finding one golden ticket for lead generation. Successful digital marketing strategies typically require campaigns (plural) running over a variety of channels.
Sure, we've built successful landing pages with high conversion ratios. But as you'll read throughout my article, my point of contention is that leads will typically have more than one touch point with your brand in the online space before becoming a qualified prospect.
Before we stream ahead and uncover FY2015's hot ticket to building your online business, it's important to define your greater business goals. If we're not presented with a big picture during the planning phase, it makes it very difficult for us to define the objectives from a campaign perspective. Being lead by a mission, vision and company value statement(s) gives a marketing team a powerful direction. Their job is to then break this down from a macro to micro level. It may look like this:
- National coverage by 2018.
- Planned business acquisition in 2016 to bolster growth on east coast.
- 25% revenue increase required in FY2015 with 5% growth in profits.
- More resources and personnel offered to sales department.
- Increase above-the-line advertising spend by 25%.
- Market share increase from 10% to 50% to close off market to competitors in short to medium term.
- Double revenue generated from online lead generation campaigns.
- Maintain lead to sales conversions at 30%.
- Improve speed of customer acquisition by 7 days.
- Lower cost of customer retention by 10%.
- Grow marketing/sales contacts database from 1000 to 5000 within 6 months.
- Increase PPC traffic to lead conversions from 1% to 6%.
- Increase organic traffic to lead conversions from 0.5% to 3%.
- Streamline website UI for mobile and tablet users to increase site engagement (across a range of variables).
- Increase social media engagement by 200%.
- Increase traffic to website(s) by 500%.
Of course, the top items are best managed by an executive team, a decent management consultant or business coach. However, with this information in tow, your digital marketing department (that's us) can easily work backwards to build the objectives to reach your goals.
Content Planning is King
Planning and research are the keys to successful campaigns. Gone are the days where we're pressured by clients to fly by the seat of our pants to create, develop, and launch campaigns on the turn of a dime. Such campaigns are rarely well executed due to lack of planning. With planning comes foresight. With planning comes research.
Our methodologies page says it all... Conception of any campaign - whether it be an entire go-to-market for a startup, a rebrand, or a xmas campaign, requires a modicum of research, mood-boarding, concept development and documentation. Interestingly, the amount of time we spend on research is often in direct proportion to the success and quality of the campaign.
Here, we also set our KPI's which should be aligned with our overall goals.
Inside the head of your target market
This is where marketing is really challenging. Part of the research phase requires us to get inside the heads of your target market. We need to understand what messaging will resonate with these individuals. We need to know who they are, how they operate, and what their needs are. Our basic question should be: how can we solve their problems?
There are a few important phases here that we'll skip over for brevity's sake. But ultimately, our findings during the planning process manifest themselves as the initial campaign concepts - whether they be particular messages, phrases, designs or technologies.
For instance, if we've spotted that a major competitive advantage is your unique product delivery processes, then a technology and well-crafted message may well be the best initial direction for a digital campaign.
Traditionally, one could take quite a linear mindset to such a process. As aforementioned, hefty online competition requires us to think outside the square. Especially in B2B scenarios or service-based businesses where relationships need to be built before a transaction can occur.
Roughly 80% of our digital strategies are now multi-channel strategies whereby we'll need to leverage a number of different online platforms to maximise a campaign's reach. Of course, it's unlikely that your target market is sitting on Facebook all day. They're likely to use a multitude of platforms to consume content. According to this study, 42% of adults consume information across more than one social media site. This doesn't take into account news, blogs and business websites. So getting in front of your people requires effort. This trick is to understand where they're likely to be playing!
In our world, content marketing strategies are very hot right now as they attempt to solve the problem of having to create compelling content that spans tens of technologies. With diversified content, such a strategy plays to niche markets beautifully and to a large extent levels the playing field between SME's and large enterprise.
We're seeing excellent results in this space - proof of this can be seen in some of our client case studies.
Content Marketing to Lead Generation
Like social media marketing, content marketing can easily fall into the trap of offering a brand no measurable ROI. So bolstering your efforts with a lead generation strategy feels like a no-brainer. If staff are going to be creating published content, then seeing a return on their time spent is critical.
To wrap a bow around this whole article, we'll often leverage a Content Marketing Strategy to develop a lead generation campaign. Lead gen campaigns require content to help build credibility, trust and educate leads before they make a choice to become a client. A good lead gen campaign will also operate as a qualifier so that sales staff aren't consumed by leads that are not yet ready to purchase (understanding your customer buying cycles are important). Conversely, there are some really good tools to assist in this process of lead nurturing. Infusionsoft is but one of a few tools that integrates marketing automation and sales processes into one trusty database.
But I digress.
Test & Measure
I really like the concepts expressed by Eric Ries in his book The Lean Startup when it comes to the build, test and measure loop. In fact, he expresses it as a Build, Measure, Learn feedback loop. Whilst not specifically employed for digital marketing, it is particularly pertinent to our cause. The development of campaigns needs to be fluid. Quite simply, if something doesn't work based on the measurable results, we must adjust and redeploy the campaign.
This is the huge advantage we have as digital marketers. Whilst we don't aim for failure, we have the luxury of being able to minimise the exposure of campaigns before we feel we have nailed the needs of the market. Traffic to lead conversions should ensue. Then enquiries. Then offline communications. Sales should follow.
I refer you back to our macro to micro objectives breakdown. Add one live dashboard for each of these metrics and you'll be one happy business manager.
You'll note that this article transcends any "website as an online brochure" discussion. We've moved past that now as the value of such a website is questionable at best. Due to the likely competitiveness of the other players in your industry, we must even elevate our thinking past the point of your corporate website. Digital marketing strategies should be considered as a cross-platform affair that are ultimately aligned with brand and business goals. The success of digital campaign rollout should be measured in the context of your nominated performance indicators and should ultimately drive the intelligence behind your lead generation campaign.
It's a rich tapestry. But the outcome should have a direct and positive effect on the brand experience your customers and prospects enjoy. Increased brand equity and market share are other outcomes that are possible and should not be discounted... Especially if you're thinking big picture!