Instead of real sales growth, marketers have delivered web site visitors and click-through-rates. Instead of strategies that sought to maximize profit by tonnage, they’ve focused on efficiencies. In short, it seems like the entire digital marketing ecosystem has been satisfied to pick up the dregs of demand driven by traditional media. And brands, up to this point, have more or less allowed this to happen.
But is the current digital framework on its way out? I see trends that give me hope: Brands are waking up to digital’s potential—potential not leveraged by their agency partners. They’re bringing digital in-house and they’re holding their in-house teams accountable to sales growth. Concurrently, I see management consulting firms acquiring digital agencies in order to tap into marketing revenue. These firms are uniquely positioned to understand how marketing tactics can impact the P&L of a brand. They are used to looking at deep client data, including sales and CRM data and are good at speaking at the board level.
So have we reached a pivotal moment in the evolution of digital marketing? In the past five months, I’ve described the fundamentals of I what believe to be a healthier framework – one that leverages digital spend to create real sales growth and net new customers. Here are those principles in a nutshell:
- “Date” your Customers: Today’s marketing must be like dating, but it’s more like harassment. By only focusing on retargeting and other lower funnel tactics, marketers seem to want to skip having a cup of coffee and go right to bed. Modern marketers must leverage digital throughout the customer journey, and develop messaging that matches the stage of the funnel the customer is at.
- Fertilize the Lawn: If your profits are grass, you can’t mow so short that you burn the lawn. Upper funnel branding tactics “fertilize” your business and create new sprouts. Lower funnel tactics (mowing) sweep up the new customers you have grown. You need a balance to between branding and DR tactics to achieve sustainable success.
- Don’t Navigate by Looking Back: Too many marketers use yesterday’s data to make decisions about tomorrow’s marketing. That’s akin to trying to drive a boat by facing the stern. Digital marketers have increasing access to predictive models that offer forward-facing strategy ideas. Historical data is great, but don’t navigate by it only.
- Intent must be Created: Yes, “intenders” for your brand or product are out there, and it’s become somewhat easy to find them in the digisphere. But just finding and retargeting them doesn’t grow customers or move the needle for your business. It simply sustains the business you already have. You must also leverage digital channels to create word of mouth buzz and actually make new intenders.
- Identify Opportunity: Do you know where your biggest opportunities lie? Or where your next 1000 customers are going to come from? Most digital marketers start campaigns and use much of their budget finding that out. Smart marketers need to understand what specific neighborhoods will yield more customers before they launch campaigns. You must heat map your profit potential, and use that map as your guide to success.
Connecting these concepts is a measurement system—one that supports a healthy cycle of growth and efficiencies across marketing initiatives. It attaches the profitability of the company to digital efforts and gives marketing the power to do what Peter Drucker demanded it should: Produce results.
Christopher Skinner is a frequent speaker at Google conferences and other digital industry events. He founded MakeBuzz in 2001 and has worked with over 250 leading companies, including Vodafone, Target, United Airlines and Oreck. Look for Christopher’s column on The Makegood every month.