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The road ahead for digital marketing

The Road Ahead For Digital Marketing – Marketing gurus predict all kinds of things may or may not happen in 2009 and beyond. Rather than unravel the mess of predictions published online, Stuart Ridley spoke directly with the marketers that other marketers follow. (Interviews conducted with the support of Epsilon International. Seth Godin interview by Tom Dawkins.)

When is the best time to focus your marketing efforts online and in other digital channels? Right now, of course, though you don’t need an economic downturn as an excuse. When planning marketing campaigns for the next 12 months you don’t need a blogger, industry pundit, or analyst to tell you that there’s less money to spend.

Therefore, if you really want a better bang for your marketing buck (that’s ROI or return-on-investment in corporate-speak) focus on digital marketing channels that are accountable and measurable. That’s true in any financial climate.

It’s also true that you’ll be in a better position if you can keep your cool when all around you people are losing theirs. The hard work you put into your marketing efforts now, including enhancing your brand, developing customer relationships, and building your business reputation, will give you a solid base for survival, growth, and long-term market share. Again, consider the future payoff for your digital marketing efforts.

Because your business is worth it.

Now let’s look at what four of the top marketing brains in the world have to say.

Miles Young, CEO, The Ogilvy Group

Creds: Miles Young has spent a quarter-century at the leading edge of marketing, including 13 years as head of The Ogilvy Group’s operations in Asia. Since 2003, Young doubled the group’s revenue across the Asia-Pacific region to $500 million. We were installed as CEO in January 2009 at the firm’s US HQ.

Tactics: At an abstract level, the big lesson from my time in Asia is patience! You learn that moving slowly is sometimes just as important as moving fast, so long as you’re clear about where you want to be eventually. Even when it comes to recession and crisis, Chinese colleagues will tell you that the Chinese character for ‘crisis’ has a similar spelling to the word ‘opportunity.

Marketing budget: You can’t argue with a client if he says he has to cut 20% of his budget. Yet, a lot of evidence indicates that companies that maintain or increase their share of voice during a recession will come out of it with a stronger market share.

Customers: If you achieve the best quality, you’ll grow. That’s where the decision-making skill of a manager is tested: time spent dealing with poor assignments is disproportionate to the value you get from them.

Creativity: The flow of ideas is more two-way than it has ever previously been within the context of the US and other traditional global brands. To keep an idea alive, however, requires a high degree of advocacy, an insightful understanding of a decision-making unit, and the ability to influence disparate constituencies into alignment.

Why digital?: Digital enhances all media. There are now a lot of accountable media which allow you to measure very precisely the return on your investment. The digitalization of advertising is something that is more present now than in previous recessions. Once you’ve assured yourself that you’re not losing ground, you need to smartly look at those communication techniques that are more measurable. 

Seth Godin, author

Creds: Rose to fame in the early years of the internet, with books such as eMarketing, Permission Marketing, and Purple Cow: Transform Your Business By Being Remarkable. Godin has helped change the way brands connect with customers.

Tactics: When the market is frothy and people are racing to spend as much money as they can, you don’t even know if you’re having an impact. When the market is like this, when people are cutting back on their innovation, their product launches, and media spending, it’s an opportunity to show up with something that satisfies the thirst of the people you’re trying to reach, because they’re way more thirsty now that a lot of the bars are closed!

Marketing budget: If you have marketing money that doesn’t pay for itself, you should cut it immediately – you shouldn’t have been spending it in the first place. On the other hand, if you have marketing money that pays for itself, how dare you cut it, right? The whole reason you bought a Google ad for two bucks is that you made four. So, buy more!

Customers: The two most important things to do are to listen and to speak. Those are new things for businesses. When I first started small businesses years ago, there was no ability for me to listen to the market, customers or prospects, unless I called them or got in the car and drove to where they were. Now it’s possible to use dozens of different tools to listen. 

I think the important question is not ‘which tool?’ – it’s ‘are you willing to listen?’

You also need to be willing to speak. It used to be that the only way to ‘speak’ was to print a brochure or run a commercial. That sort of speech is forced – it has a veneer over it. We’ve entered an era where you can have casual speech, honest speech, and interactive speech. There are a plethora of tools available for speaking. I don’t think it matters which one you pick, it matters that you decide to speak.

Permission marketing: As soon as you mechanize and automate it, it ceases to have that direct connection. You’re not likely to be as personal, not likely to be as relevant. So, we look at a company like Amazon, which does it almost as well as anyone – but the impact of their mailings isn’t as strong as it used to be because they’re trying to maximize their yield. The thing to understand about permission marketing is that it’s self-limiting. What will happen over time is that people who are willing to invest in rewards or personalization are more likely to earn more permission than people who are using it in an automated or selfish way.

Why digital?: I look at the world of sharing, micro sharing, weaving, twisting, and blogging – all those tools are good. You can’t do all of them, you’ve just got to pick. So I’ve chosen to use my blog in a certain way, to use Squidoo in a certain way – but I know I don’t have the resources to use Twitter the way it needs to be used, so I don’t use it. Those are intelligent choices, I hope, that a business can make using the speaking and- listening model.

The digital trend to avoid: I got a lot of flak for criticizing podcasting back in the day. The reason podcasting doesn’t work is that it doesn’t make it any easier to speak, because you’re stressed you’ve got [to speak into] a microphone. On top of that, it makes it very difficult for your followers to listen, because they can’t search, they have to subscribe – the chances of them bumping into one great podcast is very small!

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