We are all aware of the best practices that we “should” be applying to our digital marketing efforts. However many marketers find that implementing best practice often gets lost at the bottom of the laundry pile amongst the daily pressures of KPIs and targets, an often too-short supply of time and resource, keeping up to date with an extremely fast paced industry and educating key business stakeholders upwards, downwards, and any which way.

So rather than the opening session at our recent Digital Marketing 101 Workshop teaching delegates even more new things they COULD and SHOULD be implementing, the presentation focused on 6 best practices which the chances are, you already know but might have got lost.

1) Value exchange
Since the advent of web 2.0 the days of getting something for nothing are far behind us (I’m not even sure they ever really existed).

In 2014 every communication, every interaction needs to have a clear answer to the following question from your prospective customer: What’s in it for me?

In return for their attention, engagement and particularly in return for their data customers expect something worthwhile and of value in return. As marketers this means knowing who your customers are and taking a personalised approach to delivering content and advertising which is valuable to them.

2) Earn customer trust
Your customers are suspicious – in particular they are suspicious of you! Customers may not blindly follow advertising messages as they did in years gone by but to those who they deem worthy they show unparallelled levels of brand loyalty and advocacy.

Neilsen’s Global Survey of Trust in Advertising shows that recommendations from friends, online reviews and editorial articles were some of the most trusted forms of advertising with text and display ads being trusted the least. That said, Neilsen’s report also showed that mobile and online display ads had seen the biggest % increase in consumer trust from 2007 to 2013 – so attitudes are changing!

In essence, it comes down to quality control. Every interaction has to add value and earn trust – whatever the medium, and to earn trust marketers need to find ways to have an authentic two way dialogue with prospects.

3) Sometimes the old ways are the best
Its true, digital has fundamentally changed the advertiser-customer relationship and dramatically altered the channels we use to communicate.

But if you dig out the old school marketing textbooks (yes the ones from uni) you soon realise that many of the principles can still be applied to digital communication. In fact, lots of these principles can help demystify what often seems like a very new, confusing and fast paced environment.

Take Shannon and Weaver’s model of communication (which is 65 years old!) and apply these to a twitter campaign.

The advertiser decides their message and composes a tweet using language and tone which is understood and accepted on Twitter. The tweet is sent and the audience receives and decodes it and may provide feedback through a reply, retweet or a click.  All the while, this message is competing against thousands of others in the twitterspehere – so getting heard above the noise can be tricky!

An even older model is Strong’s AIDA: Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action.  Users are still travelling through this basic journey from a status of unawareness, to awareness of of a need, interest in fulfilling this need, desire for a specific product and taking action to address this desire.

The difference is that users are relying on different tools and communication methods to make this journey. Articles and content to raise awareness, display and video to generate more interest, search marketing to research what’s available and social proof to reassure them of their purchasing decisions.

The key is recognising which digital tools are the best fit for the different stages of this sales cycle and using these appropriately. It might be tempting to load all of your activity into the ‘Action’ end of that journey but and this might work for a short period but isn’t sustainable in terms of filling the sales funnel with fresh prospects.

4) Work backwards
Start with the end in mind. Where do I want to end up? What outcomes are you looking for from your advertising activity? Clicks? Leads? Sales? Awareness? Advocacy?  All of the above?

In truth, you might be able to achieve all of the above, but probably not from the same advertising message, and probably not all at the same time.

It’s important that you know what metrics you are using to measure the success of your digital marketing activities. Not setting this out at the start can mean scrabbling round for any old metric at the end of the campaign with little understanding of what impact these have really had.

Do you have the attribution and measurement tools in place to track your user journey that closely and take a holistic view of your advertising activity? Many businesses find they can only really attribute sales back to the last click or touchpoint and find that the cost of true attribution modelling out of budget. What about the length of your sales cycle. Particularly in B2B, this can be long and can be variable. If your sales cycle is several months (or even upwards of a year!) then it can make working out the success of your activity a lengthy process.  Identifying other metrics which could provide an indication of success is therefore vital to help overcome some of the obstacles around attribution modelling and legthy sales cycles.

5) Steal!
This is a top tip which I have aptly stolen from Doug Kessler at Velocity Partners after seeing him deliver a fantastic presentation on content marketing at Social Media Marketing 2013.  Doug is the mind behind CRAP the Content Marketing Deluge – which caused something of a stir last year so when it comes to theft – his ideas are worth stealing!

  • Steal shamelessly. It’s more important to deliver something relevant and valuable to your audience than to reinvent the wheel for the sake of it.
  • Steal from far away. You can take inspiration from far and wide. Other industries, other companies, other formats!
  • Steal the right things. Identify precisely what it is that made something successful.
  • Steal from people who do it well. Look at businesses and individuals who are consistently seeing success and results.
  • Put your swag to work. There’s no point in just stealing ideas. You need to use them!

6) Be brave
The biggest and best, most memorable marketing campaigns share one thing in common. They are brave. They take risks. They might be timely, or funny, or shocking.

In B2B especially, its important that you are brave about your advertising. Yes we are talking to business professionals, but business doesn’t have to equal boring! B2B marketers who dare to show a personality (or even a sense of humour) are much more able to stand out from the crowd and to relate with their prospects on a human level.

One of my favourite examples is the Sage Harlem Shake video released in 2013 in the lead up to the RTI (Real Time Information deadline). It was topical, it was current, it was funny, it related back to the content and it was brave!

7) Adapt
So, we’ve already established that the basic principles of communication and advertising aren’t really that different. But the world nowadays feels drastically different. Because the channels and tools which we, as marketers have at our disposal are different. Because the communication tools used by our customers are different.

But getting your digital communication strategy right is really just about adapting your message to the medium. In the 1990s businesses everywhere started slapping their sales brochures onto their websites. When it came to advertising, brands decided that much in the way that a TV ad “pops up” in ad breaks, they could get their sales messages to “pop up” online too. Both of these strategies sucked. Gradually advertisers and businesses learned that the medium was fundamentally different and that their content and advertising techniques needed to adapt to fit in.
Then in 2004, along came web 2.0. And low and behold we did the same thing. Social channels which were designed for two way dialogue became channels used by brands to “push” their sales messages through. Wrong again.

And many businesses are facing a similar dilemma with mobile and tablet. What we’ve learned from our mistakes is that just putting your website into an app isn’t going to work. Content needs to be adapted according to the device – and often for the better. There’s so much opportunity for a closer, more interactive, touch first experience with mobile and tablet devices. But only if the content is adapted accordingly.


A summary of all sessions from Sift Media's Digital Marketing 101 Workshop can be seen in our previous blog post.