What does your digital life look like? Think about it, for a moment. Take a piece of paper and sketch out just how many ways digital technology plays a part in your life.
This was the first exercise I did as part of a recent two-day conference on Marketing in the Digital Age, run by Falmouth University and Made Open.
And the results surprised me. From holidays to Hootsuite, email to eBay, it’s plain to see that digital runs deep.
The way we interact with screens has altered drastically in recent years. It’s no longer about the box in the corner of the room but also the one at your desk and the one in your hand (according to eMarketer, two billion of us will have smartphones by 2016).
“From holidays to Hootsuite, email to eBay, it’s plain to see that digital runs deep.”
Marketing used to be about TV and print ads, but now every click, every browse, every digital interaction is a chance for brands and companies to catch your eye. To engage you in conversation. To encourage you to buy.
From effective website design to customer service through social media, it’s more important than ever that businesses engage within the digital world and reach out to their customers. And the great news is that even the little guys can get in on the action.
Here are my top ten tidbits for businesses looking to improve their digital life:
1) The first rule of a digital marketing strategy is not to have a digital marketing strategy. Digital isn’t a bolt on, it’s an essential. The way you deal with the digital presence of your company should be tied in with your overall marketing strategy and your overall vision and values. The basic rules of marketing haven’t changed – just the tools and channels available. And you now have more of those than ever at your disposal.
2) Don’t be a busy fool. There’s a famous quote, attributed to John Wanamaker, the father of the modern department store who said, “I know that half my advertising dollars are wasted… I just don’t know which half.” Tools like Google Analytics and Adwords and the increasingly sophisticated trackers on social media sites can now help you reduce this gap in knowledge and better prove your ROI. So experiment. Follow the trail of digital breadcrumbs. Then put your money and your time into what works. And ditch what doesn’t.
“Experiment. Follow the trail of digital breadcrumbs. Then put your money and your time into what works.”
3) Provide content that’s engaging, useful and regularly updated. Keywords are still important, but Google’s clever little spiders that assess where to rank your website in those all-important search listings are now clever enough to recognise genuine content from keyword spamming. And they like regular updates too. Keep it fresh, interesting and try to provide useful information by anticipating the questions your customers might have.
4) Be there. In today’s 24/7 digital age, people are less tolerant and more informed — and they expect a speedy response. If you don’t have the resources to man your social media accounts and your email then just have the one you can keep up with. Tell people how long you’ll take to get back to them. And deliver. Consistency is key.
5) Use digital tools to build in-house efficiencies. The benefits of technology can help you refine processes as well as find new customers. Online tools like Trello, Harvest, Podio and Jira offer smarter ways of working collaboratively, tracking your time and managing projects. Social media dashboards like Hootsuite and Edgar can help you to schedule updates across your social media accounts. Tools like Slack help teams share documents and updates quickly and easily and stay connected no matter where in the world co-workers are located.
6) Design for mobile first. When you develop your website think about how it looks on a small mobile screen and then expand outwards. That means content too. No-one wants to have to scroll for ten minutes to read a page of words. Keep it lean and punchy so that it works alongside the responsive design. It will also help you to focus on what’s most important to your customer.
7) Think user experience. There’s no point driving people to your company if they then leave because they can’t find what they need. Put conversion front of mind, rather than just unique web visitors, it’ll help you understand where you want users to get to on your site and why. Successful internet-born companies like Airbnb, are great to look at for ideas on providing a clean, simple and accessible online service.
8) Understand and win the zero moment of truth. ZMOT (that’s pronounced Zee-Mot. It’s American.) is a Google term for the point at which online customers are researching and comparing products to make a decision to buy. Who are your customers and where are they searching? Whether it’s on Google or social media, on blogs, games or other websites, your business needs to be there. Then you need to offer something that’s better than the other businesses there – better prices, better service, a more compelling story, a friendlier approach. You need to show up at the right place and the right time – with the right content.
9) Be genuine… and authentic. In the digital world there’s nowhere to hide. And you’ll quickly get found out if you don’t deliver. It’s no use promoting a service and then failing to live up to your own marketing hype, because now it’s easier than ever for customers to share poor experiences. Drive to improve your services and do things differently. Respond consistently and answer questions well and you’ll develop a customer base with a community feel.
Digital offers an opportunity like never before to reach out, to share and to live your brand.
10) Use criticism to improve your offer. And whatever you do make sure that your online and offline work in harmony. Customers have been empowered to spread their dissatisfaction through the internet – as United Airlines discovered when they broke Dave Carroll’s guitar and failed to handle the claim to his satisfaction. Almost 15 million people have seen his digital dissing of the airline and it’s spawned two further videos, a book, a tour and a whole lot of negative PR for United.
Digital offers an opportunity like never before to reach out, to share and to live your brand. Whether you’re a big company or a start-up, you can get involved and draw people in with enthusiasm, consistency and quality content.