Digital marketing is often dominated by talk of data, analytics and performance. Endless hours are spent analyzing numbers and conducting tests. All of this is fine and good. But … what if it’s not?
- What if you thought you were producing results, but you were missing out on far greater opportunities?
- What if you were spending significant time improving your campaign, but you were totally missing the goal?
- What if you could point to metrics proving that your campaigns were successful, but you were actually missing out on true success?
Although analytics are critical to effective digital marketing, the core foundation of the brand should be bullet-proof — otherwise, any success that your marketing achieves will be limited.
Is your brand clear, differentiated, and powerful? These are the underlying concepts that must drive your digital marketing, yet the focus of digital campaigns is often on tactics and techniques. This means many campaigns aren’t as successful as they could be. To solve this — and to ensure that your business is maximizing growth — completely rethink your brand from the inside out by taking the following steps.
1. Reclaim Your Identity
Who are you? What’s your positioning in the market? What’s your differentiation and values? Why should I care about you?
These are all extremely basic marketing questions. Yet, when was the last time you thought deeply about them? Try answering them right now. How’d you do? If you struggled, or couldn’t find anything impactful, you’re not alone. It’s actually stunning how many companies cannot articulate immediate answers to these simple questions.
Many organizations have a vague sense of who they are and how they might be a bit different. Some even have a vague sense of why someone would select them rather than the competition. If all you have is a vague sense, stop everything and figure out who you are, what you do, how you’re different, and why people should care. Without this backbone, you may be a paid search stud, social media guru, or conversion optimization expert, but you won’t maximize revenue.
2. Evoke Emotions
What emotions do you want prospects and customers to feel when they touch your brand, see your campaigns, or visit your website? Anyone can sell a widget. Anyone can run a paid search campaign promoting the widget. Anyone can develop a corresponding custom landing page to optimize conversions. But … can you get me to think about you, remember you, and be loyal to you? Can you get me excited, so I’ll buy from you and recommend you to others?
OK, quiz time. Which would you prefer:
- Reading about a beach.
- Seeing a photo of a beach.
- Or being at the beach with the wind in your hair, a cocktail in one hand, and your loving partner by your side.
Your brand needs to achieve #3. Period. End of story. If it doesn’t, you are selling a widget. And people can buy widgets from any company, which is bad news for your organization’s future.
Think of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. There are endless ice cream brands out there, many of them quite forgettable. The weaker brands may be doing all the right things by deploying SEO, paid search, or display advertising, but they’re operating with handcuffs on. They aren’t beloved like Ben & Jerry’s. They can test, analyze, and optimize all they want. Their digital marketing results will never be as stellar as if they had a solid, powerful core brand.
When I’m at the market, I grab a container of Ben & Jerry’s. The brand is zany, offbeat, socially-conscious, and fun. All these things draw me in and make me choose them. See how much more powerful a marketing campaign can be just by having a stronger starting line?
3. Begin Conversations
What are the conversations you should be having with your prospective clients? You might think, “That’s a silly question. I sell widgets, and so I want to talk to them about widgets.”
Wrong answer, dude. Here’s what smart companies talk about:
- IBM talks about a smarter planet.
- Patagonia talks about the environment.
- TOMS Shoes talks about poverty.
- REI talks about the outdoors.
- SAS Institute talks about caring.
- DreamWorks talks about having fun.
- Wegmans talks about health.
Seventh Generation’s mission statement is “To inspire a revolution that nurtures the health of the next seven generations.”
One of our clients sells supplies to the restaurant industry. The conversation they have with their clients, however, isn’t about their supplies. Instead, it centers on two major issues — fighting hunger in America and ensuring food safety. By having a completely different conversation with their prospects, they totally differentiate themselves. They demonstrate their passions while staying true to who they are. They have much more memorable and engaging messages than “we sell supplies to restaurants.”
By rethinking your message, your conversations will be more meaningful. You’ll be attracting the RIGHT KIND of clients, who care about the same things you do. It’s not about the product or the money. Think bigger than that. It’s actually all about who we are, what our lives represent, and how we want to impact the world.
Do this, and you’ll be totally fired up for your next digital marketing campaign. And when you’re fired up and emotional, it’s more likely that your audience will get fired up and emotional, too. Then the opportunities for successful social marketing and sharing — really connecting with your audience — will go through the roof.
4. Design Effectively
Apple helped the world see how design could impact business results. They went from the brink of bankruptcy (back when operations were their focus) and transformed into the most valuable business in the world after refocusing on design. People remember their ads, marketing, and products. There’s something about effective design that just feels right. And when a business can hook into this, it can be a powerful thing.
It’s not just Apple. Think about Braun, Pixar, Nike, Target, and Pinterest. Design matters. So why do so many companies have ugly websites? Or ugly ads? Or ugly email campaigns?
There is simply no good reason to market ugly. Your marketing should be beautiful, brilliant, bold. It should be stunning, memorable and powerful, drawing people in and inspiring them to action.
5. Maximize Messaging
Great messaging can be just as powerful as great design. Sometimes, the message can be the most memorable aspect of your marketing. For example:
- Got Milk?
- Just Do It
- Snap! Crackle! Pop!
- Think Different
- American by birth. Rebel by choice.
Consider the HSBC campaign about perception and different values, with three identical photos of the back of a bald head. The text on each head respectively was “Style,” “Soldier,” “Survivor.”
With any marketing campaign, it’s critical to nail the headline. Grab attention. Inspire people to learn more and take action.
If you’re working on a landing page, it’s tempting to follow so-called best practices by inserting keywords into the headline. But what if you didn’t? What if you instead focused exclusively on creating something as powerful as “Got Milk?” Think of the potential to take your landing page to an entirely new level, outside of typical best practices parameters.
The $100 Million Question
Unlock the potential of your marketing and you’ll be amazed at what you can ultimately achieve. It’s not enough to optimize what you’ve got, if what you’ve got is mediocre. Achieving a 10% lift in clickthroughs means nothing if you could have achieved a 1,000% lift in conversions.
Here’s an exercise to help your break through. Gather your troops, grab some great grub, and give yourselves an entire day (or two or three…) to brainstorm what it would take to transform your $10 million product into a $100 million product while staying true to your brand. In other words, how can you increase results ten-fold? We’re not looking for a 5% lift here. Instead, we’re looking to smash the mold and figure out how 10 times the number of people are going to be eager to be a part of your brand. There are several ways to achieve this type of transformation, including:
- Scalable product models
- Identification of new or additional audiences
- Customization for specific audiences
- New pricing structures
- Disruption of your current products and market
For example, if you sell consulting services, can you offer software and apps that help your clients achieve their goals? If you sell to the restaurant industry, could you also sell to universities or hospitals? If you sell a service, could you move to a subscription-based model?
Are these digital marketing questions, per se? Not really. But this new way of thinking will take your digital marketing results to completely new heights, breaking through any boundaries or plateaus you’ve experienced. Certainly the fundamentals of data, testing, and analysis are critical. However, to achieve massive success, it’s precisely these weightier questions, more so than any optimization or multivariate testing you’re doing, that will get you there.
Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in our premium subscriber area of Search Marketing Standard and was featured in our last magazine issue. We have now opened it up for general access.