Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Marketing in the Digital Age: Focus on the Journey, Not the Destination

By Maeve O’Malley
EMEA Marketing Manager
Hewlett Packard Enterprise

The wheels are turning, and we see our customer sitting comfortably in the driver’s seat, as we marketers struggle to grasp the speed of change and the evolving needs of these customers.

To succeed today, an organization requires a mix of traditional and agile marketing, a focus on breaking down barriers within the organization, a process for listening to the customer, the ability to respond in real-time, and tools that allow true engagement. Yes, all of these are the core competencies needed to build an effective digital marketing strategy!

How can a brand turn the ever-changing customer roadblocks into opportunities, and enable an effective digital marketing strategy?

With 75% of B2B buyers now using social media to research vendors, social media has given the customer a voice and visibility like never seen before. Companies need to focus on how to be social and how social media can help deliver results.

Analytics is the cornerstone of any digital marketing strategy, so don’t let big data stress your marketing department. It will allow you to learn more about your customer, identify growth opportunities and target your ideal customers, thus focusing your marketing. Personalization, is a key way to get closer to your customer, and it is only possible with marketing analytics.
Understanding your customer and their needs and their wants allows you to deliver targeted communications and build a credible relationship with them. Ideally over time, you become their trusted advisor.

Once you know your customer, a good content strategy with consistent, authentic content is crucial. Your communications should direct customers to relevant and targeted information, allow you to engage real time and measure and achieve business results.

Hand in hand with a good content strategy is a strong, organic SEO strategy. Use both strong content and an informed SEO strategy to create visibility and a consistent, steady amount of traffic to your website.

Planning the Customer Journey

In today’s fast-paced world, where technology and the customer continue to evolve in unpredictable ways, the customer journey can be unpredictable too. Your brand’s multi-channel strategy should showcase your brand personality and allow you to measure these various channels, both online and offline.  All of the touchpoints along the journey should be streamlined and connected, to allow for a good customer experience across all devices.

It bears repeating that analytics allows you to identify customer needs at different points along their buyer’s journey and therefore allows you to deliver the right “snackable” content at the right time. The current rise in interactive content such as quizzes and games shows how quickly the journey can change direction.  Whether you’re an SMB or a large enterprise, video should be high on the list of digital marketing strategy priorities. Video and mobile create the highest engagement and emotions between people and the brand.

Of key importance along the journey is delivering a differentiated customer experience at each stage and across any device. This may pose some challenges for some marketers, but exploring your journey is vital for any business.

With so much emphasis on social platforms and social engagement, companies must not forget about the importance of their company website, which can offer a reliable base along the customer’s journey. This is where the main engagement happens, such as a purchase, the download of a whitepaper, contacting a company representative or even live chat.  All are examples of meaningful engagement with the customer.

Lagging or Overtaking the Competition

Benchmarking against your competitors is key to the success of your digital marketing strategy. You must place particular emphasis on the digital marketing strategies most likely to deliver results. Listening to the market through social media can help you understand the market and what your share of voice is in the marketplace; however primary research is key to understanding where you stand in comparison to your competitors and other industries. This will help you focus on innovation and remain ahead of the curve.

The Speedometer

Many businesses are not sure what they want from their social platforms. They are uncertain how to measure and place trust that these platforms will deliver the KPI’s they need for lead generation.

The difficulty is measuring the success of digital marketing. What can your social channels deliver in terms of KPI’s? Organizations need to focus less on the ‘vanity metrics’ and more on the more ‘meaningful metrics.’ A lot of the marketing budget is spent on getting people to a company’s branded channels, however the most important metric to focus on is engagement.

The Journey to Success

Overall, organizations need to take their own road to success and build their own unique strategy based on their particular needs. In the end, all marketers share a common goal, to enhance the customer experience by improving efficiency and removing inconsistencies along the customer journey.

But the real key to success is to remember that you are not developing a “digital marketing strategy,” you are merely developing a “marketing strategy” in this digital world. There is no one-size-fits-all and no magic recipe to ensure digital marketing success.

Maeve has over 16 years of experience in the IT sector and currently leads the Digital Marketing Project Management Office for Hewlett Packard Enterprise across Europe, Middle East and Africa, also known as EMEA.

She is a passionate digital marketing leader with experience driving Social Listening, Digital Strategy, Influencers Programmes and Demand Generation activities to build new business across the countries in EMEA.