“Digital Strategy” doesn’t have to be an oxymoron

Nov 20 2014

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Below is my interview with Chris Muccio of Social Fusion Group.

We recently had the opportunity to interview Melissa Fisher, on the topic of digital marketing strategy.

It was an insightful interview flowing around the following points:

  • digital and other media should be chosen to best reach the target market.
  • creating a digital plan without the end target consumer in mind is common and a great way to waste money.
  • a year-long marketing plan is best so that all efforts are coordinated and synergies are maximized.

Question #1 – If I were sitting down to craft a digital marketing plan with a specific target audience in mind, but… didn’t know how to find that target online, what suggestions might you have for me?

First and foremost, a digital marketing plan should be a part of an overall marketing plan. You may not have much traditional marketing (ex. print and TV ads), but consider your other activities such as trade shows, events, mailings, training, customer service, promotions, etc., and include a calendar that coordinates all activities to maximize their impact.

Target: Having a specific target consumer in mind is HUGE. Many people skip that step and waste a lot of money. It’s important to think beyond vague generalities. For example, think about females 18-34 years old but go further. Are they moms of young kids who are concerned about the health of their family and who connect with other concerned stay-at-home young moms via mommy blogs? Or are they single, childless, workaholic professionals renting in urban areas?

Lifestyle: Once you have that target consumer identified, think about them in a holistic way. Where do they go? What do they like to do? What other products do they buy? Where do they shop offline? Where do they go online? What sites do they visit? What digital content do they consume? What is important to them? It’s best to reach people where they are and connect naturally versus intruding into their lives.

Don’t make assumptions. People are surprising; you may be wrong if you assume you know all about them. Example: One of the fastest-growing groups of new Facebook users is 50-something females. That seems crazy, until you realize that they are on Facebook to see photos of their grand kids.

Instead, research. Talk to existing customers and prospective customers and ask them where they get information, where they shop, where they go online – ex. sites, blogs, etc. This research can be conducted online through simple surveys or focus groups in addition to your own anecdotal research.

Efficiency: From all of your research, choose the best, most cost-effective way to reach your target. Think about reaching the maximum number of people who will be likely to act. (Reaching large numbers of people who are uninterested or can’t afford to buy is a waste of money.) Examples: display ads on relevant sites – ex. hiking trails site; targeted ads on social media sites – ex. hiking clubs on Facebook; fun tips and content on hikers’ blogs; or PPC search ads for terms such as hiking and trails.

Question #2 – Are there any digital tools (or process flows) that you would suggest a marketer to use in building out the persona for their digital audience?

You need a strategy, whether building a persona for a business or for yourself, and that strategy should consider the following:

  1. Target: Identify that audience very carefully with as much rich description as possible. (See above.)
  2. Need/want: Your offering must address an important need or want for that target consumer. Start with your consumer (rather than with you and what you want to sell.) If it doesn’t address a need or want for the consumer, no amount of digital, or other, promotion will be effective.
  3. Media: Consider the most effective ways to reach out to the particular people in your target audience. Efficiency is key, and that is one of the advantages of digital – ex. PPC search ads, social, emails, posts, display ads. You can narrowly target the people who are most likely to act.

Examples: Can you give people who already know and love you something to share with friends such as an offer along with fun photos or videos that show your product in use – ex. house paint with before and after photos? Brands and companies that encourage participation such as sharing, voting, rating, etc. also enjoy more loyalty. Or are there sites that the target frequents where you can deliver an advertising message – ex. DIY home improvement sites?

  1. Message: The message, both visual and verbal, should quickly convey the fact that you have a solution to the target’s need or want. Choose the most impactful medium – ex. social media or advertising. Ads, such as display ads and PPC search ads, can be most effective if you need to reach beyond your existing network.

Another way to reach new people is content marketing – ex. posts, white papers, and webinars – that are worthy of sharing. (That is what Chris and I are doing now.) Content is very effective at showcasing both your expertise and your personality. Make it informative and valuable for the reader and soft-sell, and it will be more likely to get shared to new people. (Many people make the mistake of talking about themselves and how great their product is instead of offering truly useful, unbiased information. That hard sell is less likely to be shared.)

Don’t forget the call to action. This may not be buy, but join or sign up. For example, car dealers often encourage you to go through a process: visit their site, schedule a test drive, do research, ask questions, and then purchase.

  1. Metrics: Wherever possible, establish measurable goals that most closely reflect actual success. While impressions and clicks and likes are useful, sales are the best indication of effectiveness, so try to find a way to track conversion or sales.

Lastly, here is a high-level framework from our website that outlines the process we use to get to know new clients: http://fisher4marketing.com/success_focus.html

Question #3 – What would you say to a marketer that expects to immediately reach their target audience from day one of a digital campaign?

“You’re dreaming.” OK, I would probably be more diplomatic, but much of digital is more about creating an ongoing, deeper connection to a specific person who has invited you in, and that happens over time. If you need immediate results, you need to look to a different strategy.

When we receive a message, we all go through a similar process. Think of yourself.

Exposure: You are inundated with up to 5-10,000 messages – in one form or another – every day. Most are just blurred clutter.

Attention: Something catches your eye. A few of the messages will break through, and you will become conscious of them; the others will be ignored. You are curious enough to direct your attention to that message if it’s relevant to you. If it is useful or funny or informative, you appreciate the message’s source (the company or person) just a little.

Trust: Over time, if you see enough relevant, useful content from that source, you will develop trust in that company (or person), remember it, and feel positively toward it.

Decision and Action: You may then decide to buy or join or share or take another action, so a clear call to action becomes important for the company. It suggests to the consumer what they should do next. And because the company has given you value, you are more loyal to it, and you are more likely to recommend it and return in the future.

This whole process takes time, especially in digital. That’s the bad news; the good news is that the relationship is usually a deeper, more long-lasting, loyal one.

Question #4 – Can you offer 2 tips (one basic, & one more advanced) for building a process that enables a marketer to effectively connect with their digital target audience?

Simple partner exposure trades can be useful for many businesses. By trading exposure on websites and social media with non-competitive but complementary businesses, awareness increases for both businesses and each gets a small endorsement from a trusted source. For example, people who buy organic produce will appreciate knowing that a particular restaurant serves organic produce and vice versa.

Retargeting is a more sophisticated technique that allows you to gently remind people who have had previous interaction with you online. As they surf the web after that initial interaction, an ad reminds them about you, and you can make them a promotional offer to encourage them to act.

Interesting targeting methods for social media ads. For example, I know a shopowner who targeted Facebook ads at friends of his customers who had liked his page or mentioned his store on Facebook. We are very similar to our friends, we will be more likely to trust a business that our friends like, and we are likely to have some awareness because our friends have liked the business – these all make this type of targeting very effective.

That’s three, but consider it a bonus.

Question #5 – How did you get your start within the digital strategy space?

I was a brand manager at Mattel Toys when we had an urgent corporate initiative to “get online.” Problem was, our customers were not excited about us becoming direct competitors and selling the same toys that they sold. Quick rethink.

From there, I went to work for AOL at the height of the Internet boom (I experienced the bust about a year later), and we focused on pop-up ads and banner ads. In catching up with a former co-worker a few months ago, we were remembering a young woman who worked for me and was very passionate about the new idea of search-based advertising. Virtually everyone else rolled their eyes at her then, but she and I had some great conversations about the possibilities. All of those have been realized and so much more!

About Melissa

I have been fascinated by what drives businesses to grow and succeed for over 15 years. Across many industries and leadership positions from Mattel Toys to AOL and Limited Brands to Newell-Rubbermaid, I have produced profitable growth, created new brands and products, won awards, and exceeded goals. In 2007, I founded my own strategy and marketing company, Fisher4Marketing LLC, and in 2008, I took my love of marketing to The Ohio State University to teach graduate and undergraduate courses in my spare time. My own education includes an MBA from The University of Southern California (Fight On!) and a BFA in Advertising Graphics from Miami University. For more information, check out Fisher4Marketing.com and my blog at https://f4mllc.wordpress.com or email me atf4mllc@gmail.com.

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