Digital Marketing 101: Know your brand, add value for your user, take risks

Digital Marketing 101

Wrote this post a while back on the Brand Arc and Google and ZOO, and just now I stumbled across this post on Wharton’s website about digital marketing. The overall theme of the post is kind of buzzword-y — the authors, who work with Google/ZOO, encourage brands to chase something called “nimbleocity,” which basically just means being more responsive to quick decisions — and they talk a lot about that Newcastle “Super Bowl Ad” campaign with Anna Kendrick as if it’s the most glorious thing in world history. It was a great campaign and got a lot of attention, but I’m never entirely sure that a campaign like that — especially one aimed at millennials — can be directly tied to sales. It’s kind of amazing that advertising drives almost everything in terms of how to monetize content and yet, the entire thing is probably a massive junk science.

If you get down to the bottom of the Wharton post, though, you see the three key takeaways from the authors, which are:

  • Know Your Brand
  • Add Value For Your User
  • Take Risks

These seem like three really good tenets for marketing, but specifically digital marketing. If you’ve worked in marketing departments with old-school people (who have more of a focus on advertising and TV spend and maybe an in-house magazine), you probably have observed a bunch of lip service to digital, but no real focus there. (That’s been a common theme of most places I’ve worked.) Digital marketing budgets are definitely creeping up, but … they still tend to represent less than 1/5th of overall spend. The “digital revolution” is here for a lot of people, but sadly not necessarily for marketing departments.

Here’s a breakdown:

Know Your Brand: This one seems pretty logical, no? In almost every industry or vertical, there are dozens — if not hundreds — of competitors. The strongest way you get business is through human connection, honestly. That primarily means referrals in a lot of spaces, but you can’t always get those. You need a digital presence that people can find easily from their phone, tablet, laptop — whatever they use and wherever they are, because there’s a good chance some dude you need to be in bed with is Googling you from his Android at an airport. You need to tell your story and/or “make your story.” This all comes from a really basic place that some people can’t seem to understand: the conventional “sales/marketing funnel” changed about 1,400 times in the past decade alone. People can find out dozens of things about you before they even interact with you. You meet a lot of old-school business guys who will tell you that “the website doesn’t make you money.” Indeed. Often it does not. But the website loses you a ton of money — when you’re not paying attention to it, people are arriving at it and leaving because it looks sales-y, spammy, or a handful of other things. Those are lost customers. That’s money you could have had. So know your brand and tell your story. That’s it. That’s the bedrock on which everything else rests.

Add Value For Your User: This is another thing that can seem “lip-service-y,” in that CEOs and whatnot discuss it, but then it looks like CEOs want to make money and could care less about the user. Well, you make money through your users (give or take), so your first goal after telling the story of what you do should be to make sure you add value for your user. (These are actually 1 and 1A in the sense that any story you tell should be about the value someone would get from using your service.) In the modern era, I’d argue the No. 1 thing you should focus on — and simplify, not expand — is your interface. If you do that right and make it easy for the end user, the money can/will come. Honestly.

Take Risks: People are not generally big fans of taking risks; for more on this, Google “behavior, human.” To begin to understand this situation, read this. The whole notion of “digital marketing” is literally 97 percent clutter; I wake up every day and my GMail Promotions tab has about 11 new items on it. Everyone’s upselling something, you know? It’s all noise at some point. So rather than doing what everyone else is doing, why not take a risk? Don’t believe me? Eat shit and die. No, I’m kidding. But think about this: in your personal life, probably some of the biggest risks you’ve ever taken have led to some of the biggest rewards, no? Sure — there have also been total flops. (That’s life in a nutshell.) But go ahead and take a business risk. Maybe it’s a complete flop, but maybe the little idea that could reinvents your entire business model. This happens way more than we think.

You can make marketing extremely complicated if you want and talk about 92,187 different concepts surrounding it, right? That’s easy to do. But in reality, and especially in the digital space, everything comes back to these three tenets above. Know Your Brand. Add Value For Someone Working With/Using Your Brand. Take Risks.

If you operate from a base of those three all the time, you’ll probably do alright for yourself.

Ted Bauer

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