Finding the right digital solution is no corporate fairy tale

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Shade Wilson

Once there was a data-based management firm that had fallen in love with Instagram and thought it presented the path to prosperity.

Problem was, no one wanted to see Instagrams of developers toiling in front of their computers in darkened rooms. 

This company’s sweet spot was thought leadership and their understanding of how to solve complex data problems that were holding companies back. They began blogging instead about challenges they could help solve, and customers started to pay attention — a true happy ending.

Human nature is fallible, and when it comes to the newest technological advances in digital, companies often reach for the newest, shiniest object, without ever asking, “How can I best communicate the value of what we actually produce?”

That’s a tough question. An automotive brand can display cool cars on Instagram, while a professional services firm’s intellectual properties are better touted through online video, webinars or a blog where the firm can share success stories of how, under their tutelage, their clients prospered.

Every successful business has built success by taking calculated risks. The key word here is calculated. Shooting from the hip or blindly following the latest trend or fad may work for a while, but it is unlikely to deliver long term.

Instead, successful businesses need to think differently, to think strategically about their product market fit and how they can help customers solve problems.

How you market to these customers deserves the same in-depth strategic thinking.

If you don’t know exactly what you are trying to solve, any potential solution seems good. The first step to any successful campaign in digital marketing is understanding clearly what exactly you are trying to accomplish.

Here are some prospective goals:

• Expand your prospect audience
• Generate more sales leads
• Attract higher-quality leads
• Reduce your current customer acquisition cost
• Shorten your sales cycle

All of these objectives can be accomplished through one or more digital marketing channels, but it is unlikely that each digital marketing channel will be able to deliver on every one. I have found it better to prioritize what the primary and secondary objectives are to have a better opportunity of driving success. Be sure you know what “good” should look like before you begin.

Ready, fire, aim works no better in your digital marketing than it does in any other part of your business.

In digital marketing, it is very easy to spend a lot of your budget very quickly. The Googles and Facebooks of the world are happy to take your money and promise great return through hype-loaded phrases like AI, Segmentation and Data Driven. The tools they offer are powerful, but only if they are used in the right ways to reach the right buyers at the right time. Instead of starting with what tactic you want to use, instead begin with the buyer you are hoping to attract.

What are they using to satisfy their needs today? What are the products or services you offer that can provide them a better solution at a greater value?

Where are they going to learn more about the available solutions? Tradeshows, online search or referrals, for example.

When are they likely to be actively engaged in seeking out a better solution? For consumers, are there specific trigger events like a move, a job change or a new baby that lead to a new need? For businesses, are budgets always fixed on an annual basis? Are there months when they are open to reviewing new options?

Why would they consider changing? In my experience, “no action” may be the number one reason companies lose a sale. It’s not the competition that is the problem; it’s that the problem itself is not perceived as big enough for the buyer to make a change.

How can you get them to take notice of your product and value proposition? This will vary significantly by your product and industry, but depending on your typical buyer’s research and consideration strategy, this will lead you directly to the right digital marketing tactics to help begin the sales conversation.

Look to implement in a smart and measured way.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of adhering to “best practices.” These are the generally accepted practices that all businesses “should” follow. Except if every business is doing the same thing, your company has no chance of standing out.

Think about the recent phenomenon of video on LinkedIn. Video is a compelling medium to demonstrate your company’s value. LinkedIn is a great channel to reach a very targeted professional audience. However, when a channel becomes inundated with scores of poorly executed talking-head videos, it’s no longer about standing out. It’s now just becoming part of the noise your buyer will be seeking to avoid.

Never utilize a digital marketing tactic because everyone else is doing it. Look to find the intersection of where your customers are seeking information and where you have an opportunity to make an impression. Then take a “test and learn” approach to adjust and optimize your marketing to drive to the end result you set as your priority at the beginning of your planning process.

Shade Wilson is director of digital strategy at Elevation, a Richmond-based integrated marketing firm.

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