Starting off the new year would be incomplete without some ambitious resolutions. So here's one for marketers to consider: don't just check the "digital" or "social media" box, go strong or go home. But what exactly does that mean? What do you do differently than what you've already done in years past? Let me offer a few ideas.
Missing Link Marketing
Too often, marketers have rushed headlong into digital and social media marketing, treating them as if they were extensions of traditional marketing, operating by the same rules. For example, many advertisers made Facebook pages and created Twitter accounts as additional places where they could push their message out at people. No wonder there were nearly no fans or followers, and the ones they did have worked for the company or their agency. They even bought social media ads based on reach and frequency metrics, thinking that if they beat more people over the head more often with their messages, they may stick.
In doing so, marketers have missed out on some of the true opportunity and upside of "digital." For example, while conventional marketing wisdom has always leaned towards controlling the exact words which should be used to describe the brand, the messy, unfiltered conversations that real people have about the brand, whether the brands like it or not, may yield new insights about what customers actually like or dislike or why they are "stuck," and unwilling to make a purchase (i.e., the "missing links" of information that prevent them from moving from consideration to purchase). Consumers' conversations have always happened. But now, with digital channels and social media sites, they are happening more and more online, where marketers can mine them continuously.
For example, I was at SFO and saw Fly Clear (the line without the line) and wanted to buy it right away. But my one single "missing link" was "who would have access to my iris scans, fingerprints, and passport?" Because none of the brochures nor any of the representatives could give me the answer, I ended up not buying - my missing link was left unanswered. In another example, listening to people's conversations online uncovered that most consumers, other than auto enthusiasts, had no idea there was any difference between motor oils - so they ended up always choosing the least expensive one. By understanding this "missing link," the advertiser created marketing that specifically addressed this issue, leading to healthy sales increases.
Let your New Year's resolution be to use digital and social channels correctly, according to new rules where you are listening for customers' "missing links" continuously and adjusting your marketing and messages accordingly.
BTM Innovation Framework
Uncovering missing links may also lead to new insights that suggest that innovations in marketing alone - like more creativity, cleverness, or viral-ness - may not be enough to break through sales impasses. Instead, innovations in other areas such as business and technology (i.e., the product itself) may be required. Enter the BTM Innovation Framework (Business-Technology-Marketing). Simply put, innovations can and should be considered across all "three legs" of this stool.
B: Instead of sinking more money into advertising their new line of flavored pouch tuna amidst total lack of sales, the advertiser realized that it wasn't the new pouch tuna that wasn't selling, but rather that the shelf space was entirely blocked by old canned tuna inventory. Their business innovation was a program to quickly clear the channel to make room for the new product.
T: Instead of using prohibitively expensive processors (at the time) to make a handheld device powerful enough to perform accurate handwriting recognition (as the Apple Newton attempted to do), Palm created "graffiti" where people learned simple conventions for writing letters - thus enabling a low-powered device to accurately recognize handwriting and launch at an affordable price point.
M: Instead of more extremeness in videos made solely for marketing extremeness' sake, a simple how-to video for installing a home theatre sound system provided useful information to would-be customers and got them to purchase one of the two otherwise similarly spec'ed and priced products.
Let another of your New Year's resolution be to weave in more business and technology innovation, focusing more on solving business challenges and improving the product itself to break through sales impasses, where marketing innovations alone have failed.
Finally, in the digital space, what people say about you, your product, and your brand is often, if not always, more powerful than what you say about it. A legend, by definition, is a story that people pass along from generation to generation. Some legends are passed on accurately and consistently; others are not. But legends are always told in "people's own words."
Legend marketing applies to the marketing of products and services. Legends cannot be purchased; they must be earned. Glimpses of what could turn into legends can be found in simple things like user-submitted product reviews on Amazon.com. For example, some detailed user reviews corroborated Canon's claims of low-light capabilities for its SD4000 digital camera. Another example is Drobo (Data Robotics) - the little company that launched an expensive back-up device for professional photographers that is actually easy enough to use for non-techies. Its legend was carried forth accurately and simply through social media, building up sales with no paid advertising. Finally, companies that have consistently delivered products and services that support their legend - such as Apple, Google, Whole Foods, JetBlue, etc. - can continue to ride the waves of sales generated by that legend. Legends live on even when the paid advertising stops.
So in an effort to focus marketers' attention on the "words they use instead of the words we choose," may I implore you to make one last resolution - to focus on building your legend, not by telling customers what to say, but by delivering a product or service so awesome they can't help but talk about it.
Hopefully, one or all of the ideas above will help you frame up your New Year's digital resolutions so you can go strong, and not go home.
Meet Your Favorite ClickZ Contributors
Many of ClickZ's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Jeremy Hull, Lisa Raehsler, Andrew Goodman, Bryan Eisenberg, Mathew Sweezey, Aaron Kahlow, Stephanie Miller, Simms Jenkins, Jeanne S. Jennings, Dave Hendricks and more!
Dr. Augustine Fou is the senior digital strategy advisor to CMOs, marketing executives, and global brands. Dr. Fou has over 15 years of Internet strategy consulting experience and is an expert in social media marketing strategy, data/analytics, and consumer insights, with specific knowledge in the consumer packaged goods, financial services/credit cards, food/beverage, retail/apparel, and pharmaceutical/healthcare sectors.
He is a frequent panelist, moderator, and keynote speaker at industry conferences. Dr. Fou is also an Adjunct Professor at NYU in the School for Continuing and Professional Studies and at Rutgers University at the Center for Management Development, where he teaches executive courses on digital strategy and integrated marketing.
Dr. Fou completed his PhD at MIT at the age of 23. He started his career with McKinsey & Company and previously served as SVP, digital strategy lead, McCann/MRM Worldwide and group chief digital officer of Omnicom's Healthcare Consultancy Group (HCG). He writes a blog "Rants, Raves about Digital Marketing" and can be found on Twitter at @acfou.
March 19, 2014