My 10 Key Insights On Digital Marketing

17.12.2019: Off I go with my second blog. But before I start, I wanted to sincerely thank all of you who read, liked and commented my first one. Much appreciated and very encouraging! Keep it coming.

Today I wanted to share some thoughts on marketing. Why? I just finished an informative course Digital Marketing Advanced at the Swiss marketing institute SAWI which was co-organized by the Swiss internet industry association simsa. Being an “old” marketer who studied marketing at the University of Zürich in the early 90’s and someone who spent most of his professional career in marketing and sponsorship in a period when the iPhone was not yet invented, I really felt I needed a hands-on refresher. In my last job as Head of Europe & Africa at Switzerland Global Enterprise, I had the overall responsibility for marketing for my area. But the “real” job was done by our marketing team. Even in this setup – and as consumer – I couldn’t help but noticing that marketing & communications strategically and operationally were profoundly changing at a very rapid pace. And boy was I right!

Here are my top 10 key insights and thoughts after having completed my refresher training:

1. Technology is the game changer

Fundamentally it is technology and the underlying megatrend of digitalization that enables today’s new marketing world – and much more. Without fast and seamless connectivity, cloud computing, ever more powerful, smaller and cheaper devices or without smarter hard- and software, sensors, ibeacons etc., almost none of the exciting new marketing innovations would be possible. Or even thinkable.

Therefore, today there exists a large overlap between IT and marketing. In fact all of digital marketing is part of this. I am thinking about topics such as CRM, social media, ERP, CMS, SEO/SEA, analytics, big data, real time data, artificial intelligence, marketing automation etc. Without doubt: today, successful marketing needs to efficiently and effectively master and leverage the best technologies available to us. This is also why when you look at marketing job ads you might think you got lost in the IT section.

2. Customers Rule!

It is indeed because of new technology that today customers find themselves clearly in the driver’s seat. I mean, for many years now, the power has been shifting from producers to consumers. And of course, also customer centric marketing is nothing new. But today’s new possibilities have really fundamentally changed consumer expectations, needs and behaviors. One could summarize this new self-centric attitude as me, everything, now and anywhere. These dominant and very demanding customers again have a profound impact on what products and services are being produced and even on the people, processes and culture of the companies behind.

3. Fragmented Customer Journey & Low Loyalty

Today, the customer journey is more complex than ever before. E.g., customers decide how, when and where they gather product information. And of course when, how and where they buy. Some of this journey will happen online, some offline, usually it is a mix of the two.

Now given that a marketer usually tries to control all possible customer touchpoints e.g., by branding them, creating a seamless client experience etc., this just shows how difficult marketing has become. Well, actually we have to admit that it has become impossible to control all touchpoints. Which of course is a nightmare for classical brand managers. And what’s worse, even if you have done everything you could to positively influence your potential clients, in the end they might still buy elsewhere. Customer loyalty is definitely not a sign of our digital times.

4. Marketing Is More Complex Than Ever

All of the above and more adds up to creating the most complex marketing environment in history. So far of course. The below graphic shows how complex things have become in this new time of digital marketing and how many different topics a company could be considering.

And we need to always remember that most of this comes on top of all “offline” marketing which by the way marketers used to purely focus on until very recently. Mindboggling! And with typically limited resources (time, money, talent) each company, independent of industry, size or location, needs to smartly decide what to focus on to best achieve its marketing objectives. Not an easy task for any company – but even harder for SMEs and startups.

5. Mobile First?

As for most things in life, size matters. And in this case, the small screen seems to be the new champion! Already for a couple of years now, the majority of consumers globally spend more time online using their phones than a desktop (e.g., Americans in 2015 spent around 2.8 hours/day mobile versus 2.3 hours/day desktop). And the rise of mobile will go on. Does this now mean for your business what most digital marketers hail currently: Mobile First?

Well, not necessarily. As always in marketing, each situation is different. And there is more to consider than pure usage time. E.g. people tend to use phones for social media, messaging and catching up on news and gossip and much less for making business decisions and/or product searches (which is still overwhelmingly done via desktop and tablets). Also conversion rates in a mobile environment are much lower than on desktops. And don’t forget: 90% of all mobile time spent are spent in apps. What does that mean for you? Are you interested in more relevant internet usage stats for your market? Check out e.g. Google’s consumer barometer or the Flury mobile analytics.

But without question, mobile is here to stay. So you should at least consider a true multi-platform (mobile and desktop) strategy for your business. Or at least make sure that your online presence works for all devices by using adaptive design methods. Because one thing is clear: If you are not able to reach your audience through mobile search or display, or if you’re not offering an adequate mobile experience you will miss out compared to your competitors who are.

6. If You Want To Sell, You Need To Be Found!

Not only your customers use technology to optimize transparency and control in their buying process but also you as a company have new and great tools to help you sell. Just one example: No matter if in B2B or B2C, your clients use the internet to gather information before and during the buying process. E.g., in B2B, clients search online an average of 12 times before they contact a potential partner.

So it is very important that you are present and found where your clients are searching. And I am of course talking about search engines – another word for Google here in Switzerland. Without going into details, but if you want to be found, it is an absolute must that your webpage is search engine optimized (SEO), that you are active online in other channels (e.g. social media) and that you should definitely try out if search engine advertising (SEA) works for you.

7. Content Marketing Becomes More And More Important!

As in the past, also today people generally don’t want to be sold to. So one possibly successful strategy to avoid too much hard selling is content marketing. The goal is to engage clients into a dialogue by offering them interesting and relevant content. Smart content marketing focusses on the overlap between your brand values and the interests of your clients. And of course, digital tools like social media, blogs, video etc. are very impactful tools for content marketing.

Because consumers don’t want to be sold to, in content marketing it is important to not talk too much about yourself, your products etc. It is much better to engage your existing and potential clients in a dialogue about topics that they are really interested in and which in fact might only have a broad link to your core business. Try to use content marketing to encourage your clients to speak back to you. Offer them reasons and tools to do that which can be as simple as offering them a feedback form, a hashtag or a blog. And of course, very consequently listen to your clients and reply to them if you receive comments. And of course make things better with this new market intel which is given to you for free by your most important opinion leaders.

Good content marketing is a continuous process. It helps you to better engage with your clients, strengthen your brand and thus finally support your business. Yes, people don’t want to be sold to but they might buy from a brand they like.

As everywhere, the return on investment must be favorable. I personally feel that this is not always the case in content marketing where companies often do too much of the wrong things. And as they struggle to properly measure the true impact of their content marketing activities, they continue to invest too much of their scarce marketing resources into this area. But of course, there are also a lot of good examples. Below I’d like to highlight some and underline how good content marketing and especially video can support a brand or sales by being engaging and ultimately by having gone “viral”.

The power of a good story

How to engage 86 million viewers to think about a technical product

Nice and emotional

8. Advertising Has Never Been So Targeted and Relevant!

To attract new customers, marketers try to deliver the right message to the right client, at the right time and at the right place. And for this, digital marketing is a dream!

The main reason why today marketers can target much better is because consumers have become much more transparent and locatable. This can happen offline where e.g., thanks to ibeacons, smartphones, CRM-data and more, retailers can identify customers as soon as they enter a store and provide her/him with a tailor-made customer experience. Or online where e.g. browser cookies allow webpages instantly to know about the context of new visitors (who are they? Age, gender etc.) and about their behavior (what are their interests? Which sites did they visit? What banners did they click on? etc.) which of course allows these webpages to display more personalized information and ads.

Today, this is often done automatically. E.g. programmatic advertising identifies who is visiting a site and subsequently displays in split seconds targeted and often even personalized so-called dynamic banners. This automated process involves a lot of hardware such as specialized ad-servers as well as software like DSP (demand side platform), SSP (supply side platform), external databases, CRM and much more. Quite complex! Which is why most companies will have to rely on external specialists here. Specialized companies that by the way mostly didn’t exist a couple of years ago. But the exciting bottom-line remains for consumer and marketers alike: advertising has never been so targeted and relevant than in this digital age.

9. The Ride Goes On!

This is not the end and things might even accelerate. Technology will further evolve and be the driver for much change to come. Of course, also marketing continues to be affected on- and offline. Some catchwords are: virtual and augmented reality, artificial intelligence, robotics, 3D printing, blockchain, marketing automation, big data and much more. All of these technologies will be used to offer a better and more personalized customer experiences and more tailor-made products. Let’s be open and curious about future developments and smart and fast to best leverage them to become better marketers.

10. It Is Still Marketing To Me!

Even in these times of unbelievable change, I believe that the fundamentals of marketing remain the same. Sometimes I feel that some of today’s marketers are so caught up in technology, optimization, analysis, real-time etc. that they lose a bit track of the big marketing picture. Which based on great consumer insight simplified to me is

  • thorough analysis
  • focused strategy
  • creative/integrated/high quality execution
  • controlling and optimizing

For all these steps, the digital age offers many improvements. Analysis has become much easier with all the information available – often at no cost and real-time. Big data analytics, artificial intelligence and social media engagement with your clients are possible new sources for real, exploitable consumer insights. In terms of execution, many great new digital tools exist to make marketers more successful. We can e.g. better than ever target our clients with individualized messages and reach them at places and times which were previously not attainable to us. And also in controlling, new tools such as google analytics exist to help us better and faster track, analyse and optimize our marketing activities.

However, at the core of all this remains strategy. And a smart marketer who knows how to juggle all these many great new – and old – options without losing focus. A client-oriented person who knows that technology is powerful but yet only a tool to achieve marketing success – and not the only focus. Someone who remembers that today’s people in a digitized, “high-tech” world actually profoundly cherish “high-touch” experiences – such as events, personal contact or real shops. And someone who can master online- and offline marketing alike and who ultimately knows which measures in what circumstances work best.

To wrap up my second blog: My class at Digital Marketing Advanced and the many discussions with the insightful teachers and inspiring classmates have underlined to me how much some of the marketing tools have changed over the last couple of years. But still, I believe that marketing fundamentally hasn’t. To me, marketing remains a mindset. A mindset that should not be affected by the far-reaching developments in digital marketing. But a mindset that is actually truly excited about all these powerful, new tools which enable us to become better marketers.

What do you think about this? Please share your thoughts!