The Power of “Now” in Digital Marketing

As many Smarter Marketing readers already know, the past couple months have been a traveling circus for yours truly, with the Online Marketing Summit visiting 18 cities to date (and with three left on the West Coast). It’s made finding the hot, interesting topics easy for me each month. All I do is listen to the questions asked, like at our end-of-day “Big Brands, Big Plans” keynote panel, and translate the answers and lessons.

The question of “what’s next?” seems to come up in every city. What’s next in digital marketing? What should we be looking out for? What will be the next big thing? These aren’t bad questions, as it shows marketers’ never-ending curiosity with the new and cool.

What’s next is “now.” We’re adopting technology and online media so fast that the only thing we can possibly do is get in the flow of what’s happening here and now. What’s next really is how to be nimble, flexible, and smart enough to get in the flow of now before great market share and brand leadership opportunities pass you by.

Now, Not How

Now is a perfect example of what’s wrong with marketing and the old-guard advertising world. Those who have been in marketing and advertising for a long time have a tendency (rightfully so) to preach the gospel of what to do and why to do it rather seeking the answers like their newer, hungrier, and significantly younger staff.

If you talk all the time, you aren’t listening. If you aren’t listening, you aren’t learning. And if you aren’t learning, you’re calcifying.

The only thing that stops that process is a major revelation — or a broken bone. Where we’re forced to learn, we stay flexible and, if possible, we reverse the calcification process.

Now, Not Before Then

So many of us are like my five-month-old son. He’s so curious about everything around him, suddenly turning his head to whatever happens to catch his attention at the moment. Even when he’s feeding and desperately hungry, he gets distracted by the sounds and sights of the now and forgets the important task at hand.

We marketers have the same natural curious tendencies, and we easily lose focus on the important and fundamental tasks at hand.

Perhaps 90 percent of us marketing professionals (myself included) haven’t done the job when it comes to the three pillars of digital marketing: e-mail, analytics, and search. Because we’ve been trained to think about the next big campaign, we start building the next cool e-mail marketing campaign to wow our audiences with. Or we build a Facebook application, group, or page to get into the social networking game. And on it goes.

Answering questions like the following can help you stay in the now:

  • What are your potential customers’ three most important needs when they come to your site, and how are you better serving those needs to raise conversion rate?
  • How do your Web analytic reports tie into your overall marketing and corporate business goals, and what trends can you show to support the progress of your efforts toward those goals?
  • Where does your e-mail marketing strategy integrate into your marketing efforts to lift your engagement and relevancy?
  • How are your leveraging search marketing (search engine optimization in particular) efforts to put your Web site content to its best use?

Now Is Forever

Looking at the big picture, at these fundamental elements and how the improvements to such things as our Web site can give returns for years to come (if not forever), should help justify the time and resources. We all need to get a lot better at the fundamentals before we spend so much time on the fun stuff.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t build a Facebook groups page. But we must continually work on the fundamentals to make sure that all the cool new stuff we do works in tandem with the foundation.

Much like any particular sport, you must have a thorough grasp on the fundamentals, such as dribbling, free-throw shooting, passing, and shooting, before you do the really fun stuff, like the double-pump reverse dunk. If all you focused on was the dunk, how many basketball games would you win?

Join us for a one-day Online Marketing Summit in a city near you from May 5, 2009, to July 1, 2009. Choose from one of 16 events designed to help interactive marketers do their jobs more effectively. All sessions are new this year and cover such topics as social media, e-mail marketing, search, and integrated marketing.

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