My memory is a bit fuzzy now but it was probably late 1994 when I began immersing myself in the online world. I was working in U.S. sales for a manufacturer of high tech electronic equipment. Back then all there was were text based browsers (remember Archie & Veronica?). Next came GNN, Internet In A Box, AOL, Netscape and the rest as they say is history. I wasn’t a digital marketing expert then and I’m not now. I’m a marketer who happens to be comfortable with data, emerging trends and new technology.
I’ve been employed as a digital marketer for a while and over the years (16) quite a few folks have asked, “How do I get started in online marketing?” In my head I’m thinking, “ you really want advice from me?,” but I’m also humbled to asked. Like I said, I’m no expert. I’ve just been banging my head against the wall longer than most. When it seemed like everyone else jumped into real estate after the dot.com crash, I kept banging my head with online and media start-ups.
So here are five opinions about what I think a traditional marketer needs to realize if they want to get into digital.
1. The Website is the store front, brochure & cash register
This may seem obvious but the website needs to convey the brand’s personality. It’s the front door to a business and the checkout stand. It’s a brand’s voice and ear to a global market. Yet there are still many many firms, that spend more on the plants in their lobby than invest in their website. Search engine optimization (SEO) enables your site to be found. Web usability helps visitors navigate your site to find relevant information, products or services they’re looking for. And website analytics enables marketers to understand which tactics are most successful and optimize the experience to better serve visitors. In the end, it’s only about the users, not your CEO.
2. Core elements of digital advertising marketing
There’s going to be more than a few who’ll probably disagree with me here but…whatever. You don’t need online display ads (i.e. banners, rich media ads, etc.). Your digital marketing program needs to include paid search. Start a program right after you’ve refined the website into a decent user experience. Google AdWords is not only extremely effective at targeting even the “nichest” of audiences, it’s market research on steroids. That said, paid search and display can yield better overall results when properly used in conjunction with each other. Think of paid search as direct response that can drive brand engagement with your website. Display is like that annoying billboard you see every day on your commute. You hate seeing it but you remember what it’s advertising. If you haven’t started, begin dabbling and experimenting with social media. Social is the new word-of-mouth and it’s not going away. Get in it. Make mistakes and learn.
3. Always be testing
Yeah I know testing has been around as long as marketing. But testing online enables near real-time feedback at a fraction of the cost. I feel it’s better to be 80% right and faster to market than strive to eliminate all uncertainty. Finding out something isn’t working is great! You’re that much closer to finding the right answer. Marketers in the digital space need to be comfortable with numbers, analysis and yes, spreadsheets. If you’re not testing, failing, analyzing and learning you’re not marketing. Test creative, test acquisition channels, test product mixes on your site, test keywords, messaging, etc. Test everything you can!
4. Make sure you close the loop
In general, people want to give their opinions and they want to be heard. Today there are numerous opportunities to close the loop with customers. Just a few of the mechanisms to stay in touch with customers include: email, surveys, forums & blogs, Twitter, Facebook (and other social media), online communities, etc. Customers and marketers have the ability to communicate with each other. There’s no excuse not to. Explore these options and learn which may be best for your company. Not every brand is right for every option but when you interact you gain understanding.
5. Keep investing in yourself – Seminars, network, consume & share knowledge
The digital world changes constantly. In fact, the only constant is change. Whether it’s the latest flavor of the month or changes within tried & true vehicles such as search, what is today will change tomorrow. There will likely be certain topics that appeal to you more than others, dive deep into these whatever they are. Then there’ll be the secondary interest. Keep on top of these with regular blog reading. Then there will be the tertiary interest. Keep a list of websites bookmarked that you can turn to when needed.
Seminars are available that provide either overviews or deep dives on any topic you can imagine. Think about attending a seminar at least once or twice a year. If you live in a metro area there’s likely a local special interest group that meets or a chapter of the American Marketing Association.
Nothing earth shattering, right? Stories still need telling, messages need communicating and Awareness, Interest, Desire & Action still count. Only the channels have changed. Well there is one thing that’s changed. What you do online, stays online. Forever.