We recently teamed up Brett Relander, digital marketing strategist and founder of Launch & Hustle, and Erin Robbins O’Brien, COO GinzaMetrics, to discuss the current state of digital marketing and to provide some insights and tips to use as Q4 2014 approaches.

Mobile – The Largest Future Influencer

Moving toward 2015, mobile is going to have the single largest impact on all businesses, large and small. According to the Oxford Economics Digital Trends 2015 survey:

  • Mobile is projected to have the greatest impact on business over the next 5 years, beating out former trends including:
  • Business intelligence
  • Cloud computing
  • Social media

While all of these areas are projected to have massive growth in the coming year, mobile’s reach includes each of the other three – spanning B2B and B2C endeavors alike.

Mobile apps overtake PC internet usage

In February, Comscore, Inc. reported that mobile apps had overtaken PC internet usage in the US. Given these trends, brands must realize that now everyone has a mini computer in the palm of their hand and has information available to them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. As a society, we have become dependent on mobile for everything from getting the time, waking up in the morning, checking the weather, making dinner reservations, purchasing items, and staying current on our emails and other communications.
The challenge for many marketers is an overall lack of understanding of mobile and confusion about the different elements of the channel which includes:

  • Mobile Search
  • Mobile Aps
  • SMS
  • SES
  • MMS

There are so many different ways to communicate on mobile, and yet many small businesses and large enterprise brands have still not adopted mobile as part of a strategic plan. For small businesses, the roadblock has been a perception that adding mobile to the marketing mix is too expensive. In fact, there are companies out there that will apply an algorithm to your website to optimize it for mobile free of charge.  While this may not be a long-term solution, an algorithm optimized mobile website if better than not having a mobile presence at all. A mobile presence adds value and satisfies an immediate need by your consumer. A good mobile experience must include the following:

  • Easy to read company name and indentifying information
  • Streamlined graphics that work well across screen sizes
  • Eliminate the need to squint or zoom to see critical information
  • Design with the user in mind – mobile users tend to be impatient when searching online so put pertinent information up front
  • Put yourself in the consumer’s shoes and find out how they’ll get to your mobile site / app and walk through use cases to make sure you’re delivering for them

This last point deserves an explanation. Managing the user’s experience with your message or website on mobile is the key to success on this platform. An easy way to check to determine if your digital presence is useful and beneficial to the consumer at all points of their interaction with your brand is to go through the process of performing all the actions that a consumer would execute. In the process, you will find out where you are ranking for search on mobile devices and if your mobile site is optimized for a useful and easy interactions. A good user experience is generally action oriented and does not require a lot of clicks to get to the information or purchase completion.

Challenges for Small Businesses and Enterprise Brands

Small business and large enterprise brands are facing the same basic challenge – how to strategize and use social media and global marketing effectively. The difficulty for brands and consumers is information overload. For consumers, an abundance of channels including Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest and others all vying for attention and interaction. For marketers, the problem remains – creating a message that ensures someone looking to make a buying decision is aware of, and remembers, the product.

 What makes things memorable is that they are meaningful, significant, colorful. – Joshua Foer

Here are some ways to create memorable content:

  • Provide information that is new and relevant, be sure to use keywords and topics that your audience is looking for in your content
  • Make it eye catching by including visuals that add to the message, not distract from it
  • Consider your distribution – choose channels that are suited to the message and the audience
  • Create advocates of your loyal customers – get personal recommendations
  • Make an offer – create a savings opportunity at multiple points in the customer journey

Studies are now showing that people have started to lose the ability to retain information short term. The ability to search for anything and find it anytime we want has resulted in humans remembering less. The overload has made some consumers more discerning, using their ability to quickly access reviews, comparison shop, and compare pricing to help them make their buying decisions. But for others, the buying process is still emotional. Purchases are made based on what they need, or think they need, or want at a specific time. Whatever the motivation, Savvy digital marketers are using measurement and feedback from their campaigns to create messages that resonate with their audience and are more memorable.

The Marketer Has No Strategy?

The research must be wrong. How can marketers go on creating content and interacting on social media without a strategy? It doesn’t seem possible, and yet it’s true. According to Smart Insights, 46% of marketers have no digital marketing strategy. The reasons marketers have not attempted to define their digital marketing and create a strategic plan is two-pronged:

Things are changing so fast it doesn’t seem possible to create a strategy and keep up

The best advice when things seem complicated and dynamic is simplify, simplify, simplify. A marketing strategy does not have to be a project in itself. There is no reason that strategy has to be a big, scary word or something that takes 3 months to develop. Enterprise brands and small business can both benefit from thinking of a marketing strategy as one or two core principals that unifies all the participating departments.

The C Suite wants what the C Suite wants

The C Suite should be included in the goal setting process, but should be kept out of the day-to-day tactical implementation of strategy as the view is too granular and often daily ups and downs will cause knee-jerk changes to larger strategy unnecessarily. When marketers are faced with random requests for tactics from C Suite executives, such as videos, white papers, slide shares, or any other number of popular content vehicles, the question should always return to the overall goals and objectives. Reminding executives that the goal is not to spend money without a purpose will give marketers a bigger return in the end.

A Simple Strategy

The key element to a simple strategy is a short document. Your strategy could even be written in bullet points that are easily referenced and adhered to by all departments in the company. A marketing strategy document really only needs to include a few elements:

  • Goals/purpose
  • Tactics to accomplish the goals
  • Measurement

The marketing goals should define where you are going and allow for alignment and parity with team members. If you are going to spend any time on digital marketing, you need to make sure that there is a goal or objective set for it up front. These KPIs are what will help you to measure your successes and to learn from the experience so that you can improve the process next time. Be careful to stay away from lofty, long term goals. These are usually a recipe for failure, or at least discouragement. Set three to four goals for three to six months and then review the goals at the end of that time to adjust for the rest of the year or the next quarter.
Using your goals, you’ll be able to choose tactics and measurement to meet them. This level of planning ensures that all team members are aligned and resources are allocated to a shared goal. When you are determining the tactics for your strategic plan keep in mind:

  • Available resources
  • Target audience
  • Type of product
  • Timing / duration of goal

Measuring Your Efforts

If you are not measuring your results, you are not managing your efforts. If you are spending time on any activity or effort and you do not have a way to measure those efforts, then you don’t know why you are doing what you are doing. Without metrics to measure benchmarks, there is no way to tie your efforts back to revenue and other business KPIs and no way to make sure you are improving sales. Think of your efforts as a marathon, not a sprint, and plan accordingly. Here are some tips to keep you on track:

  • Check in on strategic goals monthly
  • Set quarterly or monthly goals
  • Get the data you need along the way
  • Make decisions quickly based on the data you have
  • Avoid getting off track from executive leadership input

Keep in mind that the keywords a user will search for when they are on their phone or mobile device will be very different than what they would search for on their desktop. To make your efforts measurable, you must optimize your content and your website for mobile use and set independent goals and KPIs.
Starting small may be your best practice. Look at the information you have now. If you have a website, get whatever analytics are available now with the option to grow those efforts over time. Determine your customer persona on the information you have and begin to develop a short term plan that you can measure and cultivate as you start to see some successes from your initial efforts.

Focusing on 2015 Now

Marketers should be looking at progress in 2014 with an eye on 2015. This process begins with looking at what’s happening in your market now and what has been happening throughout the year. Some things to focus on include:

  • What has the consumer behavior been?
  • What is driving consumer behavior?
  • How is your target market behavior lining up with the KPIs you set at the beginning of the year?
  • How can you perform more efficiently and more effectively in the new year?

For most brands, success in 2015 will have a lot to do with how well they are set up now with the right tools and the right team members.  The right team members can make or break the ultimate success of any business venture. Look for people who have critical thinking skills and can look beyond the task at hand and make recommendations for the future. Although we live in an age where people are retaining less and less information in the short term, good team members should have the ability to pull from past experience and apply knowledge and experience to the overall efforts. 
If you’d like to watch the FOUND Friday episode, check it out below.