For many brands, SEO, social media, email marketing, conversion, content marketing, mobile, and website design and development have been approached as independent practices for many years.
While some have always approached the digital space with a marketing perspective – applying marketing fundamentals to drive strategy, implementation, and measurement – many have handed off the strategic implementation of each channel to its perspective implementer.
As the lines blur between website user experience, publishing content, sharing on social media, and optimization for search and visibility across devices, marketers are being forced to go back to their roots. They must create, manage and own the complex multi-channel, integrated strategy.
Search and Social Media
SEO (search engine optimization) is of no value if what is being optimized doesn't serve the customer in their quest for answers, solutions, and deals.
Because search engines care more about delivering the best result to those searching, brands shift their focus toward providing quality and relevant answers. Marketers must shift their thinking from keywords to context when developing pages, posts, updates, and conversations that put the brand in the path of customers.
Social media has become the ultimate delivery mechanism for quality content and direct engagement with customers of brands in all industries.
"When trying to create deeper emotional connections with consumers, social media is an essential channel for brands," said Kristin Brewe of IAB. "This isn't surprising since social media is the only channel where it's possible for brands and consumers to have meaningful two-way conversations, making the strength of connections that much stronger."
Publishing or broadcasting into the social landscape won't be enough, as most marketers are beginning to learn. Interaction with customers, on a one-to-one level, delivers tangible benefits. Ninety percent of consumers who have interacted with a brand on social media are likely to recommend that brand, with 83 percent willing to try the brand themselves according to a study conducted by the Internet Advertising Bureau.
The Bottom Line is Still the Bottom Line
CMOs are being pressed more than ever to deliver metrics that demonstrate ROI from marketing investments. After all, positively impacting the bottom line is the ultimate goal. IBM has predicted that ROI will be the leading metric for CMOs to measure success by 2015.
This perspective forces strategic planning and accountability that many marketers have escaped amidst the adoption of multiple digital platforms in the marketing mix in recent years.
ROI doesn't tell the whole story, however. The measurement of this metric must extend beyond promotion to the other 4 Ps of marketing (product, price, and place) to fully leverage investments and insights that can impact the bottom line.
Sales: Feed the Funnel
In today's digital, social landscape, the path from sales prospect to customers is far from linear.
Social selling isn't a new concept. However, social selling in the digital landscape has not come naturally to the sales professional, as reported by SalesForce.com.
One fact has become clear: It's imperative that marketing and sales work in concert in order to gain the full advantage of how today's landscape impacts the relationship with prospects and customers. Every aspect of the marketing mix and sales process must be cohesively orchestrated to connect with prospective customers and provide everything they need to make that purchase decision.
(Good) Content is King
Social media, search, email, video, and all other owned assets must be driven by quality and intent.
Content for content's sake benefits no one. An astounding 70 percent of content generated by B2B marketers goes unused or unconsumed, according to Sirius Decisions, indicating that the content isn't being developed properly.
Nearly 16 percent of the annual marketing budget for B2B companies is allocated to creating and distributing marketing content.
It is imperative that content be strategically developed and deployed or it becomes an exercise in futility. This is perhaps the largest area requiring marketers to evolve. Content must serve a purpose.
One of the most organic, powerful ways to make content more valuable is to use content to replicate the way customers interact with every touch point of the brand (brick and mortar, events, sales, customer service, etc.).
Quality content will anticipate customer questions, answer objections, invite their participation, inspire them share, and to make a purchase. This can't be achieved in a vacuum. The cultivation of quality content will require contribution from every area of the organization, and support every aspect of the business.
Mobile and Multi-Device Consumption
Today's "perpetually connected" consumers are known to consume the web across multiple devices, as reported in The New Multi-Screen World Study by Google. Creating content that is easy to consume, share, and act upon – consistently across all platforms – is more important than ever.
Collaboration Across the Organization
Gone are the days that marketing can build their strategy strictly with a promotion mindset. In the digital space, their customers are seeking more than deals.
The brand must be prepared to meet the needs and exceed expectations in any one of the three phases of the buying process. This requires an expansion beyond promotion to provide answers to basic questions to those in the research phase of their purchase journey, accompanied by information that differentiates the brand, complemented by incentive to buy.
The purest source of this information is the department responsible for delivering that information (i.e., field representatives, product development, salespeople, customer service, etc.). Conversely, the insights gained from marketing must then be shared with these departments to facilitate product development, address customer demands, expectations and requests.
Collaboration across the organization will be key to achieving short-term wins, as well as long-term sustainability of the brand.
Localization and Personalization
As the connection with individual customers becomes a priority for most businesses and brands, localization and personalization become paramount to yielding optimum results from investments in search, social media, email, etc.
The collection and analysis of customer data is paramount to supporting the quest to connect with customers on a more personal level.
The Role of Big Data
There remains a disconnect between what senior marketers know needs to be done and what they feel empowered to do, as demonstrated by a study conducted by Columbia Business School and NYAMA, which reveals:
- 91 percent of senior marketers believe that successful brands use customer data to drive marketing decisions.
- 51 percent of these senior marketers report that lack of data within their organization is a barrier to determining ROI.
- 57 percent are not basing performance of marketing budgets on ROI metrics.
- 65 percent report marketing across various digital media is a "major challenge."
The challenge to leverage multiple digital media is best met with a basic understanding that efforts on each must roll up to a more cohesive strategy and plan.
Multichannel, Omnichannel – Its All Connected
Businesses and brands have sought out the expertise and support from experts in each of these fields to help them leverage each method. That approach is now outdated.
The new standard of using all mediums to support every facet of customer engagement forces a more holistic, omnichannel approach, which promotes efficiency and projects consistency to audiences, and enhances ROI. The allocation of resources must be guided by information, as opposed to intuition and industry hype.
Blurred Lines: Website, SEO, Content, Email, Social Media & Mobile
For years now, some like myself who approached the many facets of audience development and engagement in social media, search, email, direct marketing, mobile, and media as extensions of guiding marketing strategy have been in the minority.
It is quite common for each area of the marketing mix as a separate practice area. SEO is left to the search engine optimization experts, website design, content, conversion left to the web experts, email owned by the marketing team, social media left to the marketers, and analytics for each all-too-often viewed independently.
All Roads Lead Home
Content plays a vital role in driving social media sharing, conversation, email marketing and social-selling, all of which influence authority in search and drive traffic to the website as the ultimate destination for all activity.
To fully enjoy the benefit of content, SEO, social media, email, etc., the website must be the ultimate destination and authority on all topics related to every offering of the brand.
The CMO Is More Important Than Ever
The time has finally come for businesses and brands to merge every aspect of customer engagement under the marketing universe. If there was ever a time for the CMO or at very least a high-level strategic marketing leadership role, it is now.
Without a comprehensive overview on how each of these efforts adds strategic value to the development of the offering, sales of that offering, relationship with customers, media, employees and partners; the investment in any aspect of marketing (SEO, social media, email, PPC, video, etc.) is destined to disappoint.
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