By Michelle Rash
Digital marketing is facing a brave new world. Not only do industry professionals have to keep up with the constantly evolving climate, but they are also working in an environment where success and failure can both occur within a matter of minutes, and in a very public fashion.
These are just two main points emphasized at the Internet Summit in Raleigh a few weeks ago. In addition to digital marketing, industry experts discussed the latest trends in social media and search engine optimization (SEO), as well as tools, techniques and tactics that are beneficial to building customer communities and driving sales.
One of the key messages for me was that success in digital marketing means taking risks. While most companies want to play it safe and stick to the “tried and true,” for digital marketing to truly resonate, businesses and marketers need to step outside of their comfort zones and experiment – see what works, what doesn’t and adjust campaigns as needed.
Speakers also emphasized that not every campaign will go viral or generate instant buzz. One common analogy I heard was that in baseball there are a lot more base hits than there are home runs – so it is with digital marketing. But, as in baseball, several base hits can still lead to a winning strategy.
Other top insights I gleaned from the Internet Summit include:
Marketing influences sales
As a communications professional, I deeply believe in the power of marketing, media relations, advertising and social media to reach potential customers and strengthen a brand’s reputation and image. The Internet Summit was a nice reinforcement of the increasingly vital role these elements play in the sales funnel – and how important it is to make sure all messages across all media are communicating the information you want to share to the right audience.
People are increasingly relying on websites, word-of-mouth and social media to research what product they want to buy or service they want to use before setting foot in a store or picking up the phone to call a sales rep, according to Jodi Wearn, product marketing director for marketing software company Silverpop. In fact, studies have found that as much as two-thirds of the buying process has been completed before businesses may be aware that an individual is a prospective customer. This means it is very important for businesses to tell a good story across all digital channels and work hard to maintain a solid brand reputation.
Quality content remains king
One of the key messages of many of the sessions at the Internet Summit was that creating content remains a key part of any marketing and public relations campaign. But what was also emphasized repeatedly is that the content has to be high quality and meet the needs of your customers – which will vary widely depending on your brand.
Chris Moody, director of content and social marketing for Oracle, said that in 2008 there were one trillion pages indexed on Google; today there are more than 30 trillion. That means there is a lot of competition for your audience’s attention – so the content you create needs to be more targeted and focused on their needs than ever before. Focus on what your customers care about, not on what you think they should know.
SMS (text message marketing) becomes crucial
The era of email marketing is coming to an end and we are now entering the era of SMS, or text message, marketing. Research has found that 95 percent of text messages are opened within three minutes, said Wearn of Silverpop. While a growing number of people will automatically hit ‘delete’ on a marketing email, research has found that 90 percent of similar text messages will be opened. Conversion rates on well-crafted text message campaigns can be as high as 40 percent, much higher than even the most successful email campaigns. While Wearn said text message marketing may not be a good fit for every company or campaign, it should remain an ever growing part of the marketing discussion.
Facebook changes gears
Several speakers talked about how changes in Facebook’s model over the years now make it harder for brands and businesses to organically reach their “fans.” For even the largest of brands, only about 2 percent of fans now see unpaid content shared on the social network, and many expect that even this percentage will decrease in the coming months and years. (Even earlier this month, Facebook said it was going to push brands toward a more advertising-focused model.)
However, many brands still focus most of their social media time and energy on Facebook. While Facebook – especially paid ads and promoted content – will likely remain a staple of the social media landscape given its large presence, many speakers encouraged brands to focus more on other social media outlets. It’s important that brands understand their customers, what social media channels they are using – whether that is Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat or one of the dozens of other sites – and find a way to engage them there. As the number of social media options grow, it will be increasingly important that brands identify the one or two key mediums for their audience and message, and find a way to create relevant, engaging content for those platforms.
As we look ahead to 2015, RLF is continuing to look at the most effective ways to tell our clients’ stories, both in the emerging technology and in some more traditional ways. We are excited about the possibilities some of these digital methods are creating to allow us to hit multiple base hits, and hopefully a few home runs, on behalf of our clients.