Every client is one of a kind, every brand message is unique, every social and digital channel is distinctive and every audience member should be treated like the special snowflake they are. So, why do we perpetuate the same marketing plans over and over again, reproducing nearly identical digital programs across brands, industries and all over the web? Shame on us.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but despite what you may have heard, there is no silver-bullet in the marketing game. Nor is there any guaranteed success – rather, it is the perfect blend of creative vision, expert execution and the crossing of fingers. Don’t get me wrong, over the years we have learned a great deal about what works and what does not, but each brand has its unique challenges, each stakeholder has their own set of priorities, and most important, each audience member their own agenda. Stop striving for that one-size-fits-all digital program.
Often the result of a cookie-cutter digital strategy is an obscene waste of both time and money. I can’t count the number of times that clients have forced a campaign’s hand, making loads of assumptions on behalf of the intended audience only to realize that their thinking was dead wrong or that the market was already saturated with similar communications vehicles or ideas.
So what to do? The best method of avoiding this and a means of assuring better accuracy (i.e more efficient spending) – simply hit pause on your initiative and assess the reality of your situation. We must borrow methodologies from the product design industry and follow a discovery analysis intent on mapping user-centric needs and evidence-based design decisions.
1. Start with Self Reflection
Take stock of who and where you are today – audit your brand’s digital footprint to establish benchmarks:
- Assess messaging, tone, content, navigation and functionality.
- Analyze content types, their sources and their owners.
- Assess social conversations, followers and overall brand perception.
- Catalog your library of visual materials, imagery, video and related assets.
- Catalog successes, failures and opportunities.
It is subjective, yes, but you can’t know where you are going unless you truly have an understanding of how you got here.
2. Data Doesn’t Lie
Conversely, data is quite objective and we can use it to ground the current success of our digital footprint:
- Review and analyze core site data – overall traffic, time on site, content consumption, drop-off rates, repeat visitation, user-flows, etc.
- Assess social media mentions, followers and content reach
- Determine successes and failures.
Understand your success and relish in your failures. Mine your data in search of clues: What sorts of content are most commonly consumed? How are people accessing these materials? Where do they drop-off? Start to envision a future state for your digital campaigns where you are addressing users needs, based on these very real findings.
3. Learn from Your Peers
Of course you have to align and exceed standard market success, so be sure to take toll of your competitors and identify trends and best practices in your space.
Aside from your competition, keep a watchful eye on the overall best-in-class leaders – look for forward-thinking trends and determine if and how you can benefit from employing them, and ultimately how that change could fundamentally affect the way your audience will consume your message?and information. Stay ahead of the curve but be careful of fads that fall out of fashion quickly.
4. Take it to the People
It’s been said that speaking to five members of your audience for five minutes will yield the answers to solve 95% of your issues. Consider this even remotely true and there is no doubt that we all have a great deal to learn from our audiences.
In order to ensure the final product meets and exceeds intended audience needs, investigate, interview and interpret feedback from the very audience you seek.
Either through focus groups, interviews, surveys, one-on-one conversations, etc., chat with your audience. Hear through their voices.
- Assess reactions to existing digital properties (content areas, messaging, layout, design, search capability and interactive features)
- Determine communications and messages that resonate.
- Identify features and programs that encourage repeat visitation, content consumption, etc.
- Assess stickiness of the site or reasons for continual engagement.
Listen to your audience. Hear their demands and put them into action. They know best.
While we all embrace best-practice methodologies in shaping the foundation of our marketing and communications strategies, we all stand to benefit by augmenting our programs with a more nuanced understanding of how digital? is ever-changing, what we as marketers are offering in a wide sea of marketing messages and ultimately, what our key audiences expect and need.
Embrace your inner snowflake; Get smart and stop guessing.