Home  › Marketing › Strategies

The Baggage of Long-Term Digital Experience

  |  March 23, 2011   |  Comments

Be sure to watch out for inertia and broken clock syndrome so your digital programs don't get weighed down by your own success.

Starting your digital strategy from scratch is, in some ways, a far easier thing to do than to continue to productively plan, optimize, and enhance an ongoing program. However, not many businesses are in possession of a clean slate anymore. The number of those who have yet to enter the digital marketing game in at least some fashion is clearly dwindling both because, over time, many have recognized the efficacy of the various interactive channels and because some percentage didn't and may not be here to compete anymore. New businesses and new-to-digital businesses have a unique opportunity to craft and hold to a digital marketing strategy that is devoid of the baggage that comes with experience.

We often tout the advantage of digital history and experience. Digital marketing history and performance data can tell you a lot about what works for what goals with what audiences at what cost in what circumstances at a particular point in time. It's a backwards-looking snapshot of the opportunities and competitive situation of that moment and doesn't tell you if you maximized those opportunities even if you are meeting your stated goals. The incremental optimizations within channels and across channels, on site and off are the everyday chances to test your programs and to bring them closer to your ideal. The problem is that all programs, especially successful programs, bring their own baggage. If you're not diligent, success can weigh down your digital programs, making them sluggish and plodding. Eventually, probably quickly, you will end up with a less competitive and less effective program.

Here are some things to watch out for:

  • Inertia. Long-term programs of any sort gather a kind of inertia that can be hard to break. If you have found a winning formula that makes the top brass and perhaps your shareholders happy and comfortable, it might be difficult to get buy-in for change of any sort to test new channels or approaches. It won't take long for you to fall far behind in the fast-changing landscape of digital marketing if you stick to the same approach quarter after quarter. In this case, risk aversion is risky.

    Solutions: Keep your proven winners, but always maintain a test budget that can be applied to new technologies or approaches. Test programs should always have learning objectives first and revenue objectives second. Any new information gleaned should be shared and reviewed in the light of all the marketing you're doing online and off to help make all programs stronger.

    Continue to make small incremental shifts and changes within those winning programs. Test new messaging or creative, optimize your landing pages, and try a new vendor, new pricing model, or a new audience segment.

    Challenge yourself to continually beat (not just meet) prior performance to avoid stagnation. Similarly, challenge your partners and vendors and avoid long-term commitments that lock you in without performance assurances or reasonable out clauses.
  • Broken clock syndrome. Your audience, competitors, and the environment in which you compete are all in a constant state of flux. Assuming that your proven program can remain constant while the world keeps on spinning is not rational or productive. You need to stay ahead of the changes that will impact your business performance. It's exhausting, but necessary.

    Solutions: Outline trends in audience and customers (especially new customers), competitive spend, and programs at least every six months or more often if your audience, industry, or segment are particularly dynamic. Look at those trends next to the changes evidenced (or not) in your programs.

    Do a regular internal review of all programs every six months or well in advance of any high seasons and make sure that the trend information you've gathered is explicitly addressed. Get a range of recommendations that reflect different assumptions and cover different time horizons. There are many ways to accomplish this depending on your circumstance. Often by asking for a low, medium, or high risk or conservative and aggressive recommendations accompanied by a full rationale, you can get what you need. You could ask your team to make two sets of recommendations - one that would be blind to the existing history of results (the clean slate set) and the other with that historical performance knowledge as its basis. If you have the luxury, you could split your team into two and have each team make their recommendation based on different information sets and assumptions. The point is to state clear goals and challenge the assumptions to keep your team focused on continual improvement.

Using periodic external audits to get a non-biased but expert opinion can be another good way to shake up the current state and avoid gridlock in your thinking. Often a leadership change occasions such a fresh look, which may partly explain why CMO tenure is reported at an average of 18 months. I'm afraid that's not often enough for most businesses to exercise their change muscles in digital marketing. While we continue to value and mine the information available from historical performance, we need to also recognize that historical performance data is necessary but not sufficient in itself to fuel our strategy. We must continue to look and plan forward, not backward, if we are to succeed.

Tags:

ClickZ Live Chicago Join the Industry's Leading eCommerce & Direct Marketing Experts in Chicago
ClickZ Live Chicago (Nov 3-6) will deliver over 50 sessions across 4 days and 10 individual tracks, including Data-Driven Marketing, Social, Mobile, Display, Search and Email. Check out the full agenda and register by Friday, Oct 3 to take advantage of Early Bird Rates!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Robin Neifield

Robin is the CEO and cofounder of NetPlus Marketing Inc., a top 50 interactive agency established in 1996 to focus exclusively on online marketing and advertising best practices. Robin brings innovative strategy and a depth and breadth of marketing experience to the agency's practice and management. As one of the industry's pioneers, she is a driving force behind NetPlus Marketing's ongoing success with a diverse and discerning client base that considers online results critical to their business success.

Robin is a frequent speaker at national industry events, including ClickZ, internet.com, OMMA, Ad:Tech, SES, Online Marketing Summit, and Thunder Lizard conferences and is a sought-after resource for industry and business publications for her insight and advice on such topics as digital strategy, social media marketing, and behavioral targeting.

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

Get the ClickZ Marketing newsletter delivered to you. Subscribe today!

COMMENTS

UPCOMING EVENTS

Featured White Papers

IBM: Social Analytics - The Science Behind Social Media Marketing

IBM Social Analytics: The Science Behind Social Media Marketing
80% of internet users say they prefer to connect with brands via Facebook. 65% of social media users say they use it to learn more about brands, products and services. Learn about how to find more about customers' attitudes, preferences and buying habits from what they say on social media channels.

An Introduction to Marketing Attribution: Selecting the Right Model for Search, Display & Social Advertising

An Introduction to Marketing Attribution: Selecting the Right Model for Search, Display & Social Advertising
If you're considering implementing a marketing attribution model to measure and optimize your programs, this paper is a great introduction. It also includes real-life tips from marketers who have successfully implemented attribution in their organizations.

Resources

Jobs

    • Senior Paid Search & Advertising Manager
      Senior Paid Search & Advertising Manager (Smarty Had A Party) - St. LouisCompany Description: A warm, loving, [slightly wacky] startup, we view...
    • Technical Project Manager
      Technical Project Manager (Agora Inc.) - BaltimorePublishing Services, a subsidiary of Agora Publishing in Baltimore, MD is looking for a great...
    • Financial Research Associate
      Financial Research Associate (Confidential) - BaltimoreThe Financial Research Associate will be responsible for responding to research-level customer...