Watch Out, the First Step in Marketing Is Now a Doozy

Think back to a couple of years ago or even as far back as the mid ’90s. You may recall some commonly espoused good advice on starting a digital marketing effort. Often, we counseled brands against reaching out with interactive marketing efforts and dollars until they got their online house in order. In earlier days that meant setting your foundation in your Web site, but now has grown to be a much more dispersed and complex task.

Original foundation-setting activities typically included a short checklist that looked something like this:

  • Build or update your Web site.
  • Use SEO (define) best practices.
  • Ensure you have a content strategy in place.
  • Assess your customer or prospect lists and permissions for e-mail communications.
  • Assign responsibility across relevant internal stake holders for various Web-related activities.
  • Cross market your URL on traditional print, packaging, and other offline communication vehicles.
  • Enable some kind of Web analytics and set benchmarks.
  • Market using third party tracking technology to optimize post click activities.
  • Regularly monitor competitive activity including site changes and online marketing spend.

In the earlier days, new online marketers often relied heavily on the expertise of digital agency partners to help them complete this list of activities. They simply did not have the right experience or resources internally. Marketers had to fight for new budget to build and support all this new activity. Remember when marketers and information technology departments battled for control of Web-related budgets and efforts?

While new to many, this short list seemed simple enough for the time and often took the push paradigm of marketing and simply transferred it to new channels. Now, largely because of the advent and growth of new channels and of social media, we have much more work to do to ensure we are ready to put a public face online. Today’s online marketers need to add the following activities, among many, to their preparation phase:

  • Broader competitive reviews including social media, e-mail, mobile, video, and other efforts — some of which are not captured by current tracking technologies.
  • Social media monitoring — a regular review of what others are saying about you in what tone and how often, with what credibility and influence.
  • Complete review of all company practices in anticipation of their coming to light in this age of transparency.
  • Building a social media platform so you have the format to engage and respond to the marketplace and training the personnel to do this.
  • Customer service training for multiple channels.
  • Advise or train all personnel on their corporate responsibility in their personal but public personas.
  • Proactive link building.
  • Video distribution.
  • WAP site optimization.
  • Smartphone applications.

The preparation list could be endless and will vary based on circumstance. But this phase is now much less of a build-and-deploy effort and more an effort that requires monitoring, analyzing, training and response. Why? More online activity around your brand is happening independent of corporate efforts. They started without you. Participating in business online today demands attention to channels you control and build but even more so to those areas you have no control over. The mind shift to this reality is daunting.

Times have changed. It is rare at this point that any marketer, save a new business, is starting her online efforts from scratch. New businesses face an expanded checklist before they even get started, but even existing businesses have to continually examine and refit their Web assets and efforts to keep pace with the changes in the marketplace and their audiences. While this cost of entry continues to rise, businesses will be forced to make choices. Can they dedicate staff? Can they afford to be present in a comprehensive way? The operative question might be can they afford not to be?

The commitment to online for businesses now is no longer one of a small group of people in the organization operating in an independent mode. In this age of transparency, because more customers are online or conducting business online, because more critical activities occur online — the commitment has to span the entire organization. It has to be core. It requires the organization to build flexibility into its budgets, training, messaging, and other key functions. It requires constant preparedness as opposed to the old paradigm of a start up preparation phase.

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