How will you focus your digital marketing efforts throughout 2014?

How will you focus your digital marketing efforts throughout 2014?
By Marc Cameron

The ever-expanding digital landscape is continuing to alter consumers’ behaviors and disrupt a broad range of industries. Some, such as retail and consumer products, are being particularly affected. Today’s customers are expecting a lot from the brands they engage with. In a recent Booz & Company report entitled How to Choose the Right Digital Marketing Model, explained it this way: “Consumers today expect to browse, research, solicit feedback, evaluate, and push the ‘buy’ button at their own pace, and at the time and place—and via the platform—of their choosing. Consumers also continue to engage with brands online after a purchase and to share experiences with one another.”

Those of us involved in marketing and dealing with the complexity of digital advertising and customer engagement, experience the environment Booz describes every day.

Although there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to digital marketing, a limited number of  models are now emerging and becoming more widely accepted. The Booz report identified four models: Digital Branding, Demand Generators, Product Innovators and Customer Experience Designers. I describe and discuss these models below and draw some conclusions for marketers.

Digital Branders are often consumer products companies, retailers or other marketers that focus on building brand equity and deeper consumer engagement. These companies are moving away from traditional linear advertising and investing in digital experiences that connect with their customers. They are focused on recruiting new consumers to the brand, increasing advocacy and driving loyalty.

Demand Generators, such as retailers, play the numbers game. They are focused on driving traffic and converting leads in the fewest steps possible. To quote the report again, “All elements of the digital marketing strategy: website design, search engine optimization, mobile connected apps, and engagement in social communities, are tailored to boost sales and increase loyalty. Although Demand Generators also need to leverage content to drive engagement, they are more focused on driving volume and efficiency…”

Product Innovators are organizations who use digital marketing to help identify, develop, and roll out new digital products and services. Booz explains that “…these companies employ digital interactions with consumers primarily to rapidly gather insights that can help shape the innovation pipeline.”

The fourth and final model Booz identified is Customer Experience Designers. The report states that these companies focus on “reinventing how they interact with customers, and wowing them at multiple touch points; these companies hope to create an ongoing dialogue and build a loyal customer base.”

I agree with the overall premise of the report that the digitally influenced  consumer environment is leading to the emergence of new digital marketing models, and I like the first three models they describe, although they are not necessarily mutually exclusive models. For instance a “digital brander” could also choose to adopt the approach of a “product innovator” in its marketing strategy.

But I would argue that “customer experience design” is not a fourth model but rather a discipline that should be applied across all three digital marketing models. It creates the focus for the digital interactions involved in implementing these models.

For example, using the Booz model classification, a large retail client that my company is working with would be classified as a Digital Brander. However we are using customer experience frameworks and data points to mature and evolve their activity across mobile, e-commerce, social and in-store.

The fact is that online marketing needs to be relevant, timely and, most importantly, derived from a position directed at the value to the customer. Brands can no longer rely on interruption marketing. They must focus on value creation. They need to develop experiences and messages that connect with their customers. Going one step further and delivering valuable experiences creates a sustainable dialogue, and ultimately costs savings. Brands who adopt this approach are thinking beyond “spray and pray” marketing techniques and see customers as more than just database entries.

Customer experience disciplines allow brands to understand the “jobs to be done” – what their customers are trying to achieve – and innovate around that. All the best brands relentlessly focus on the needs of their customers in this way, understand what they are really trying to do and provide a solution. That is what allows products like the iPod to come into existence.

So as you develop your marketing plans for 2014, identify your marketing model, define your objectives and then take a disciplined approach to using customer experience techniques to carve out your unique position in the market. Listen, learn, innovate and succeed.

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Mark Cameron

Mark Cameron is CEO and lead strategist of social media conversion and commercialization agency Working Three. While his agency is based in Melbourne, Australia, he works for some of the world’s most innovative and forward-thinking brands. As a regular speaker and writer on social media and digital strategy, Mark stays focused on customers and outcomes, not the technology, leading to simple strategic conclusions.
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