Not simply something to add to your mix
I was speaking with a prospect the other day who said “we’d like to add some digital marketing tactics to our mix.” This organization used a number of marketing strategies and believed that a few digital tactics could round out their existing efforts. They were quite surprised to hear me say that I thought their approach wouldn’t work.
I hear these kinds of comments now more often than I’d like to admit. A lot of marketing people think that their current marketing strategy and tactics just need some spiffing up, a bit of digitizing.
I don’t think this is true. It is not effective to make digital marketing an afterthought, something you do once real marketing is put in place. In today’s world, digital marketing is marketing. Here are some ideas to help you take advantage of the tremendous opportunities that digital marketing offers.
Thinking about 2016
There is an old saying in business that I think is pertinent here. Innovate or die. When I examine the marketing plans of a lot of professional service firms these days, I see plans built on assumptions about the way the world used to work.
There is danger to marketing executives who build these kinds of plans. The danger is that their company will get left behind and they’ll be held responsible. Here is the most common assumption I see.
People used to find out about a service firm, visit their website and then make a decision about whether or not to engage the firm. That’s old fashioned thinking. It doesn’t work anymore. Why?
Because in the age of digital, those three points I just described above have completely changed:
- How someone finds out about your firm
- What they do with your website
- The next steps they take or do not take
As we prepare to move into 2016, it’s important to build marketing plans based on assumptions about how the world actually works today, not how it used to work. To understand what works today in marketing, we have to understand the in-bound journey and the digital sales funnel.
The in-bound journey and digital sales funnel
The in-bound journey is how people move in-bound toward your company. In my experience, after having analyzed the digital footprint of literally thousands of people, there is a four-stage process to the journey:
- Anonymous: users visit your website and surf pages without filling out forms.
- Acknowledged: users fill out forms for content assets that they want to consume.
- Engaged: users think about your ideas and register for more than one content asset.
- Leaning-In: users are ready to talk to a consultant.
These four stages are all encompassed within the first two phases of the digital sales funnel. This describes the entire process, start to finish, for someone to become your new client.
- Awareness: someone becomes aware of your company and visits your website.
- Consideration: someone consumes your content and registers for at least one and possibly several gated assets. The person then thinks about your ideas and considers how those ideas will or will not help them achieve their goals.
- Interest: if they are impressed with your ideas, they reach out for a conversation. If you have marketing automation and lead scoring in place, your business development consultants might also reach out to them before they request a call. Either way, dialogue takes place and a proposal is generated out of the dialogue.
- Evaluation: the prospect examines the proposal and evaluates it against their needs, budget and competitive offerings.
- Selection: the prospect says yes and moves to delivery.
Of these phases, the most important to marketing are the Awareness and Consideration phases. Marketing typically owns these phases for most organizations. So how do digital strategies change the way you should do things?
Analog and digital marketing
For decades, service firms went to market with just a handful of analog strategies and tactics.
- They asked their clients for referrals.
- They attended tradeshows and conferences.
- They advertised in highly targeted trade publications.
- They joined industry associations and networked.
- They spoke in public.
- They formed partnerships and strategic alliances.
- They bought lists and mailed people.
- They cold-called prospects.
Then along came digital and suddenly marketing people found themselves overwhelmed with trying to keep up with all of the analog strategies while adding these onto the already burgeoning list:
- Social media
- Email marketing
- White papers
- Action guides
Herein lies the challenge. With small marketing teams at service firms already so busy, how are they supposed to do everything? The answer? You cannot. In fact, you should not try to. Instead, you have to pick the right combination of analog and digital marketing strategies and weave them into one seamless whole.
The marketers who figure out how to do this will be the big winners. They’ll have to innovate and experiment. They’ll have to be willing to realize some small-scale failures until they figure things out. But if they stick to it, they’ll win big time.
Why digital needs to be thought about first
Let me explain why digital marketing needs to be first and foremost among your marketing plans, not an afterthought. Let’s look at a fairly common example of a new client opportunity today.
Let’s say one of your executives goes out to speak at a conference. Let’s call her Jane. Jane is very intelligent and a good speaker. She makes a good impression. Let’s assume that there are more than 100 people in the room when Jane speaks and sitting at the back is someone named William who fits your ideal client profile.
William has a million-dollar budget and needs your services. But William also has a tight schedule. After Jane speaks, William would like to talk with Jane, but he doesn’t have time to do it right then. William walks away. What happens next?
In the old analog world, the expectation is that William would visit your website and then maybe reach out for a conversation. But William doesn’t want to do this because he already has too many people trying to contact him and sell him something. William is busy. He is a bit jaded. He’s been burned a couple of times.
William was also not fully convinced, based on the short talk Jane delivered, that your company is right for him or can help him achieve his goals. He’s not sure how much he trusts Jane.
In the old analog world, William’s interest would die on the vine right there. Jane’s great ideas would fade from his memory. Opportunity missed!
But in the digital world, a smart marketing executive, let’s call her Alice, would already have anticipated next steps. Alice would:
- Feature Jane in the Our Team section of the website so William could easily find Jane.
- Add Jane’s blog-posts to her profile so William could click on those and experience more of Jane’s brilliance.
- Include a link on Jane’s profile where William could, with one click, go to Jane’s LinkedIn profile and send a connection request.
- Ensure each of Jane’s blog posts also lead to a deeper-dive content asset that allows William to register for even more great ideas.
- Implement marketing automation so William’s registration notifies Jane that a prospect is considering her ideas.
In this scenario, William’s interest (and million-dollar budget) are not ignored. William doesn’t die on the vine. Instead, William and Jane have a conversation and then Jane submits a proposal. Alice wins marketer of the year award. Happy Alice.
But for this to take place, Alice must anticipate and have a plan for every step that William might take. William’s journey started in the analog world, a speech, but quickly turned into digital activity.
This is why you cannot “add on” digital to analog. You have to think about digital first and build a plan for it, from start to finish. You never know how someone will start their journey.
Just as importantly, William doesn’t see the world the way marketers do. The Williams of the world do not care if the ideas they access come from a speech, a website, a LinkedIn post or anywhere else. All they care about is the quality of the ideas to help them achieve their goals.
How should you build your plan?
Digital marketing can seem like a foreign country or even an additional and loathsome new burden that marketing people have to carry. I don’t see it this way.
Digital marketing strategies empower marketing people to become real contributors to the revenue potential of their organizations. I also believe that there are numerous analog marketing tactics that could be disbanded to make room for far more effective digital strategies.
To help you think through what might be right for your organization, I’ve developed a new e-book called Ten Things Service Websites Must Do To Drive Revenue.
This e-book gives you great ideas to help you start to build a digital marketing plan. It also includes an audio e-book delivered chapter-by-chapter in case you don’t want to read and prefer to listen.
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