I’ve finally finished the last module of the Rutgers online course on digital marketing! In some respects, it feels like I just got started, but in other respects, it feel like I’ve been doing this a LONG time, and I’ll be happy when my test and capstone project have been turned in so I can get my weekends back again! 😉
Mike started this module with a pep talk to the class by validating that the class would probably feel overwhelmed by the flurry of content that’s been thrown at us through all these modules so far (uh, yah, you think so?) and how transitioning from learning to actually doing will be scary (no, Mike, it’s TERRIFYING!!). But Mike reassured us that we have learned plenty that we should be able to employ these new tools to be effective, and the best way to truly learn is to DO some of these actions to gain some confidence. (Well, I’m gonna try, no matter how terrified I am about all this!)
To prove his point, he said that it’s usually the CMOs (Chief Marketing Officers) and CIOs (Chief Information Officers) who usually have the shortest tenures as C-Level executives at an average of four years because they can get overwhelmed with this stuff, too! They both have digital marketing in common! So it’s okay to feel overwhelmed, but you shouldn’t run away from it, but rather face it head on! Mike said nobody’s an expert in digital marketing–not even any of the instructors from this whole course! (You could’ve had me fooled!) Things change so often that the instructors can’t keep up either, and so even they can be nervous about this stuff, too. “You will never learn enough to be comfortable. If you are looking for comfortable, then this is the wrong profession for you!” said Mike. (Sounds like a tech comm statement!) You can feel nervous and still do this! If you are doing this right, you will make mistakes, but the trick will be learning from them. Mike encouraged us that we are up to this, because this is not the hardest thing you’ve ever done in your life. (Good point, dude.) Make sure you share your fears so you don’t feel so alone. (Dude, have you read this blog?)
After this pep talk, Mike made a segueway into the five ideas that would transform digital marketing.
1) Big data is the biggest change in marketing
The world has changed from traditional media to social media in the last twenty years, and the contributors have grown exponentially, while the response time has shrunk from days to minutes. It happened because of Moore’s law–transistor density doubles every two years, and costs plummet even more sharply. This has resulted in drastic changes in everything that technology touches, including marketing. So, theoretically in 5 years, today’s $500 iPad will cost $50–but that’s not what’s going to happen. We’ll have wearables that will be taking over.
Mike defines Big Data with the 4 “V”s:
- Volume – The obvious large amount of the data
- Velocity – It’s up to the minute because it changes every minute
- Variety – It drives the IT people nuts because you keep needing something new
- Veracity – Nothing else matters if you can’t trust its accuracy
He then outlined that Google knows a lot about us, namely who we are, what we are interested in, what we buy, and who are friends are. Amazon knows a lot about us, too, when we are on its site, such as where we came from, which ads we’ve seen, which products we have already looked at, and it knows our previous purchases. Mike then extended it to what marketers know when we are at the mall. Soon enough, there will be face recognition which will tell us gender, age, ethnicity, and maybe identity. Some of this is already in play with the use of free wifi in a store can happen because marketers can recognize your phone in that store.
It’s not just about how marketers are using technology with your phone. It can also be how consumers find out information about the products they buy. For example, in the near future, there can be RFID tags on a milk carton. An RFID tag can be on the milk jug when the cow is milked, then a new RFID tag is created when the milk is placed in the carton, then the dairy ships the carton to the store, and the consumer can see facts about the cow and its shipment to decide whether to buy the milk based on freshness, antibiotics use, and how the milk was cared for during shipment.
Mike continued by saying that Big Data is changing the market. He pointed out that according to IBM, 98% of the data in existence was created in the last two years. We think of that as e-mail, photos, and social media, but with omnipresent security cameras and sensors on almost every item in the supply chain, it’s not hard to conceive of the notion that in five years, 98% of the world’s data would have been created within the last two MONTHS. (Holy Big Brother!)
In the end, it’s still marketing! Mike said that you need to target your audience, understand what they care about, and connect with your message, because if you do, you improve your image and drive sales. The difference is how you do it! Digital marketing is actually good, because you can see the results of things instantly in such things as Google Ads and yank them quickly if they don’t work in a matter of hours instead of a much longer period of time like risky traditional marketing. The risk is much lower, and the ability to test more to find the right thing is much easier.
2) Your marketing must attract your market
Your target markets are ruled by the business that sees your ads, and you won’t even know how it happened. Attracting business is mostly about opting in. Mobile works the same way–coupons can be sent to people who are nearby searching for you, or who checks in, or becomes the Mayor on Foursquare. To target your message, digital marketing rewards pull over push, as Mike put it. More often, markets find you or you give your customer permission to search, download apps, opt-in for emails, subscribe to your blog, or follow you on Twitter to provide customers with a means to find you. Mobile makes the experience more interactive, because your customer might look at a review online before purchasing, or might write a review shortly after purchase. Because of these kinds of interaction, you need to be part of the conversation because things are so transparent now, and you need to be making sure that you are engaged and listening to what customers say. You can start to understand what customers want through digital marketing because digital marketing is direct marketing–you can see what your customers do when they interact with your marketing message and website. The customers vote with the click of a mouse or tap of their finger on a mobile device! Web marketing is the biggest opportunity of direct marketing you could have if you use your analytics tools. Websites are to sell stuff!
So, how can you drive demand for your products? Increase your conversion rate, increase your traffic, or better yet, both! Brand awareness is not the decisive factor here, it’s SALES, so sales needs to be the focus.
You need to decide your conversions–would they be through online sales, making store, partner, or dealer location information available, making it easy for customers to make phone calls, create affiliate links, or allow customers to download a whitepaper, or even something as straightforward and simple as filling out a contact form?
To track offline conversions to the web is most easily done by contacting the customer. Mike advised that if the customer switches channels, it’s good to draw the customer back by doing things like offering a special phone number, providing a coupon that can be printed to present at the retailer, or make the product specifications available to print out and bring to the dealer.
Website visitors come to websites to learn (research products and services), shop (compare offerings and prices), buy (check out and purchase), get (check order status), and use (get technical and customer support) through the buyer journey. But you can look at this same journey path to measure value. Examples of this would be helping the customer find the right product during the learning stage, seeing how many customers that view a product actually put it in their cart during the shop stage, see how many actually check out during the buy stage, and the multiply the difference by your average revenue to see what the actually impact on revenue is. Each stage is a micro-conversion. You have to decide what your buyer’s journey is going to be and how you are going to adapt it for that journey. Some sites lead to offline activity, so you need to account for that.
3) Your marketing message must be welcomed
Mike asked, “How do you connect with your message?” His answer was that relevant content will be passed along by search engines, linked by other websites, and passed along by your customers in social media and mobile. It’s really that simple! You need to concentrate on creating high quality, truly informational content, because if you do, you will become influential. Influence marketing is a matter of identifying the most persuasive ideas, and getting your customers to, as Mike put it, “sing your song.” An example would be authors asking certain people to review their books to help promote it, like asking Oprah to feature it in her book club. Campaigns alone are costly with huge swings, but if you have a fan base, then with both campaigns and engagement, your consumer interest will go up.
To measure influence, you can look at a Klout score, but you look at how many people they influence and what they are influential about. If they don’t appeal to a group that you are targeting, then you don’t want to work with that person. Influencers have relationships with each other. Some players have a lot to say, but no influence, and others are quieter, but influence many. Mike calls targeting that influencer the “D-list approach”. He says to use the long tail for blogger outreach because A-listers are hard to reach who get dozens of pitches every day. Your pitch might not break through, but it would with a D-lister.
4) You must respond to your customers
To connect with your message, you must change your message in reponse to what your customers say (tweets, likes, comments, blogs, product ratings) and do (search, purchases, page views). If you’re unresponsive, customers will burn you publicly with the customer reviews. Your solution is to accept comments and trackbacks on your blogs, allow your products to be rated and reviewed, and staff your efforts with enough people to respond. Not taking these steps gives off the impression that the company doesn’t care, and any negative commentary must be true–this is anti-influential!
By responding to customers, you can change your products, your content, your prices, your policies, your experience, and then change them again as needed to help increase your conversions. It’s a great feedback loop! Part of that is testing, and seeing how customers respond, and then adjusting accordingly, like doing A/B testing on your website. The more you test, the more you can find what works and will create greater conversions. By doing all these things, you’ll be surprised at how smart you will look! Mike made the profound statement of, “The reason you’re not confident about how to start is because you think it’s on YOU to know what to do. What I’m saying is that if you set up the feedback loop, it isn’t on you, it’s on the feedback loop.” This relieves much of the pressure that you have to come up with the perfect idea.
One of the things that makes it hard is the speed expected to expedite things. The slower approach is typically the “waterfall” approach, in which requirements and structure is documented meticulously to get to the end, but it’s too slow because by the time you get to the end, the requirements have changed. Mike made the analogy that “waterfall” is like baking, because you know what you want up front, precise measurements and preparation are needed, and nothing is done until the end. It’s not as easy to do. In contrast, the Agile process is, Mike contends, is like making soup–you can experiment as you go, you can see what’s working and what doesn’t by adding ingredients as you go along, but it’s at its best at the end. This is more flexible and faster. So, marketing and IT should be soup–something you can change as you go along. (I guess the expression of “No soup for you!” doesn’t apply here!) Mike’s message was not to do everything at once. Start small, do a little at a time, like make only one YouTube video and see how it goes rather than decide to plan out and produce 10 videos at once that could flop. See how the first one goes, and adjust accordingly.
5) Marketing ain’t just for marketers anymore.
Customers don’t want to hear from marketers, so you need to get help. Customers aren’t looking for copy anymore, but rather for information from the experts in your company that can solve their problem, and that might not be you. Marketers must teach people–namely those experts–how to operate in public. There will never be a blogging department, and the PR team must teach the rest of the company to do PR through social media. You can teach them what you know, let them do their thing, and mentor them when necessary. There will always be some element of risk involved in getting others involved, but there is risk even without getting others involved. Your job is to help set parameters to minimize the risk of errors as much as possible. These experts are a big asset and to use their expertise is free! It’s all about internal marketing as much as it is about external marketing.
Another overlooked segment is reverse mentoring–there are lots of people who understand traditional marketing but don’t understand how to use the digital tools, yet younger people understand those digital and social media tools, and would benefit from learning more about traditional marketing. Traditional marketers should take advantage of learning from the digital literacy of the younger ones to start learning how to take better advantage of these tools. In fact, mutual mentoring is even better!
Another obstacle to tackle is how to persuade your colleagues into joining into this digital marketing mentality. Part of that will involve more of that internal marketing that you need to do as you do with your other company colleagues. One way is to work on getting the message to come from the top down, meaning an executive puts forth the idea of what needs to be done, but this can be difficult to implement consistently. The alternative is to get department heads to get together to find a common ground to implement actions, but that generally doesn’t work well either. The solution is that you have to admit that some business units are more important than others, and work with those. Mike gave the example of the Security Council of the United Nations enforcing rules on various countries, and targeting specific groups as needed. Using a scorecard to motivate teamwork and publicizing the results internally of how these things are implemented can be helpful in getting that cooperation, as it’s tangible and driven by data. You can slowly change organizational behavior by changing the rules, setting benchmarks, reviewing business unit scorecards, demand improvement, and repeat the process again with a new agenda or raising the standards of the one you are working on.
According to Mike, if these five ideas are implemented immediately, and things are put in place to start making it happen, you are much more likely to succeed. Take it one step at a time, but you need to act, or you won’t benefit from all the new information attained in this course. (Yes, all 10 modules!) You can’t run away from digital marketing, so it’s to our benefit to move forward with all this information and succeed!
Amazingly enough, this five-step summary was a good way to end things. Mike showed that digital marketing is not magic. (Now you get the Harry Potter image reference above?) It brought together all the main elements of all the rest of the modules together in a comprehensive way to implement them. Heck, I started using these steps immediately with some people I work with both inside and outside of my job, so I guess this course helped.
BUT WAIT–THAT’S IT! I GOT THROUGH ALL 10 MODULES!
I still have to take the final exam, as well as create and submit my capstone project, so I will be working on those for the next two weeks or so. Wish me luck, because my grade will depend on those! I’ll report on those as I complete them!
So what do you think? Do you think these five steps are the key, or is there more to consider? Comment below.