Less is more. Small is beautiful. Content is king. Automation rules. If you take any cliché and tie it in with a cloud full of the latest contrived digital intelligence buzzwords, that’d make for one heck of an infographic. Hashtag content marketing, hashtag programmatic, hashtag automation hashtag. It’s all lunacy.
You wouldn’t blame a small business person for avoiding digital marketing entirely, either because they’re overwhelmed by the technological lingo or because they previously bought into it and got burned.
But don’t give up; there are plenty of valuable reasons for soldiering on. Just keep in mind the tips I’ll share in this column.
Separating Buzz From Reality
Keeping up with the trends in digital marketing is easy. Separating the important stuff from the self-declared digital expert’s latest money-making buzzword scheme is the tough part. Marketers are bombarded with listicle after listicle promising quick and easy solutions to very complex problems.
Digital marketing click baiting has become nauseatingly formulaic:
“5 ways to content marketing stardom”
“7 things you can’t afford not to do in social”
“9 can’t miss email marketing strategies”
“11 ways digital is self-sabotaging by making stuff up”
Every day, a new term is invented. And it seems like every day, I’m having conversations with clients who ask questions like, “Why do people talk about content marketing like it’s a new thing?”
Then there are the sidebar chat conversations between me and the client while we’re on conference calls with digital marketing sales people: “What’s an interstialated programaphot? Did they just make that up?”
The Important Questions
When you are separating buzz trend from reality, there are a couple of things to ask yourself. First, does the person offering you buzzword bingo have any practical experience? In digital marketing, self-declared “experts” are a dime a dozen. I’ve come across quite a few “branding” experts with absolutely no experience in working for brands.
It’s relatively easy to conjure Twitter filler-upper content to make yourself look important.
One of the foundational ways to separate the buzzword delivery experts from the actual marketing experts is to seek out proof of their experience in actually doing the work. Expert status is awarded by your clients and peer group, not your PR person.
Another way to develop a B.S. detector is to have a very close look at whatever you’re adopting, ensuring it is practical, functional and appropriate for your brand. Always test the latest and greatest thingamabob out before you commit to it.
Lenovo recently discovered that some of the third-party software bundled with its computers bore a striking similarity to malicious software. Lenovo claimed that it didn’t know because it doesn’t test third-party software as rigorously as its own utilities. Not so great for the Lenovo brand, eh?
The Incredible Potential
Despite the incredible amount of hype you may have to deal with, it’s well worth wading in. The digital marketing ecosystem has created a level playing field which allows marketers to reach target audiences all around the world without needing to have huge marketing budgets or hire dozens of staffers to get the work done. (I covered this idea extensively in Taking Down Goliath, authored by Rob “Spider” Graham and myself.)
I’m not saying there isn’t plenty for those dozens of staffers to do. Specialized work responsibilities perform well in digital because every aspect of online marketing requires a very specific knowledge set. There is no substitute for good, dedicated search, email, media and creative experts.
However, marketers in large and small organizations alike should have a working knowledge of each marketing tactic to help form their overall strategy in spite of their respective disciplines.
Digital marketing can be complicated but being successful is less about understanding the ever-changing technologies used to get marketing messages to consumers. At the end of the day, here’s what really matters:
Marketers need to be able to tell a compelling story to the right people
Marketers need to seek out innovative ways to bring clients and prospects together
Marketers need to know that effective marketing is never based on a single campaign but stems from the process of measuring the right things and using their understanding of how the digital marketing ecosystem works to optimize their efforts
Finally, all of this trend-spotting opportunism reminds me of one of my favorite quotes in one of my favorite movies from one of my favorite actors.
Robert Redford’s character offered some great advice in “Spy Game” as he was teaching Brad Pitt’s character to be a secret agent. Redford said:
Technology gets better every day. That’s fine. But most of the time all you need is a stick of gum, a pocket knife and a smile.
In digital marketing, technology does get better every day. But relying solely on that technology to deliver a solid multi-disciplined strategy is just foolish.