Marketing strategy in a digital world – NOT ‘digital marketing strategy’

July 2018

Anyone who’s read even a few of my blogs in recent years, will probably know that few things irritate me more than the narrative from some supposed marketers that all you now need is digital. What’s worse, they talk about ‘digital marketing strategy’ when, patently, there’s no such thing anymore – there’s just ‘marketing strategy’ in a digital world. It was different a decade or so back and ahead of the vast majority of consumers (certainly in the UK) having internet access via mobile, but now pretty much all of us are online, then as marketers we need to consider the digital world people live in (e.g. how this affects behaviours) as a central factor in determining marketing strategies and which tools and tactics we use to deliver them – not start with a list of digital tools and tactics and work backwards (which is what most with digital-only knowledge inevitably do).

I’ve recently been on a bit of mission to spread this message – e.g. with a government agency and other consultants I occasionally work with – and have been citing a terrific example to help make the point . . .

A long-standing client I work with is in the kitchen business. They make them, sell them and install them. Part of their market is selling direct through their own showrooms, and here our primary marketing strategy is to dominate online search results, then deliver the potential customer to the website and provide compelling emotional and tangible reasons to come to a showroom and cross the threshold of the entrance – and from there I largely let the sales folk take over. I’ve made that the primary strategy because a) research shows that the overwhelming percentage of consumers start their purchase journey for such a high value, discretionary and infrequent purchase by researching online (shock horror) and b) I know that if I can just get them into one of the showrooms – which are superb retail environments but getting folk actually through the door presents barriers – then it’s largely job done.

However, in most of the towns and cities the client has showrooms, there’s a whole load of competition. So type into Google something like ‘kitchen showrooms Newcastle’ (as you probably would at the start of your purchase journey if you lived there) and up would come my client in both the paid and organic results, though perhaps not always in first place for either but in any event there’ll be no shortage of competition vying for the same single click.

So I put in place a second tier strategy which is about building a degree of saliency in the market, and this with the aim of a) increasing the level of branded searches versus un-branded, and b) even if an un-branded search was still used then increase the level of clicks on our paid or organic results (so in other words the searcher is clicking on a brand name they suddenly realise they recognise).

When I looked for cost-effective and appropriate media to deliver the saliency strategy, the one which stood out was radio. Of course the campaigns have to be ongoing to be effective for such a strategy, and simply because buying a kitchen represents such an infrequent purchase. It might be that some folk hearing the ad will be in the market for one in the next month or so – or even right now if we’re lucky – but chances are we’re talking years if not a decade. So it’s a steady and long burn, but, if planned correctly, regional radio is still typically cost-effective for such long-term campaigns.

Another option I considered to deliver my second tier strategy was outdoor and specifically 48 sheet posters at key traffic junctions coming into the towns and cities, but the cost was simply prohibitive. So radio it had to be.

Has it worked? Too right it has, and key metrics which demonstrate this are an increase in branded searches which led to the showroom’s Google my Business page, then subsequent actions such as clicking on the ‘get directions’ button.

In essence then, what I’ve been doing is using a radio campaign as outbound marketing for the second tier strategy, and this to increase the success of inbound marketing for the primary strategy.

My approach puts proper marketing strategy first, and without any preconceived ideas on what the strategies should be and which tools and tactics I need to deliver them – digital or otherwise. I’ve looked at how consumers shop the kitchen market (largely start online and end up in a physical showroom), put strategies in place which take account of this, then decided which tools and tactics I need to make it happen.

Of course the digital-only ‘marketers’ wouldn’t have gone this route, because radio would be seen as old fashioned and out of date (even more so 48 sheet posters) – even though its effectiveness for such campaigns is well researched and understood, and indeed significantly outperforms some digital channels and in particular social media. No: for the digital-only brigade it would no doubt have revolved around some nonsense such as ‘making a bigger noise on Twitter’.

On the plus side of the last paragraph, the effectiveness of what I do for my clients is actually amplified by these people, as their ‘only digital tools and tactics first’ approach to marketing – and naively badged as ‘strategy’ – clearly puts them at a competitive disadvantage. That said, I’d actually rather the whole marketing world united for the better on this fundamental issue, and not least as the digital-only exponents are seriously damaging the credibility of the industry I’ve worked in for over 40 years.

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