Is digital marketing a passing fad? Are we viewing digital marketing as a panacea for all ills or shortcomings that plague the brand? Does developing innovative new content, social sharing, and other related digital marketing tasks really matter in the overall scheme of things?
What is the rationale behind such vehement opposition to digital marketing? The reasoning is that the shelf life in the digital space is too short to make any lasting impact. Naysayers argue that the digital landscape moves so fast that brands are always struggling to keep up, and when the next big thing comes, they invariably fall behind their more agile competitors. A big banner ad in the brick and mortar world, or even a traditional newspaper ad, for instance, may generate more views and deliver more sustained results.
Such opinions, however, are unfounded. Print publications downing shutters in favor of their digital counterparts, and the increasing influence of the social media in everyday lives, both point to the fact that digital is here to stay. In fact digitalization of communication is still in its nascent stages.
The digital revolution has affected a paradigm change in people’s lives, just as the discovery of papyrus or the invention of the printing press did in the days gone by. The digital revolution makes possible interactive and customized communication, a marked departure from the one-way and the one-size-fits all communication of the past. The digital landscape has given birth to a new collaborative economy, marked by peer-to-peer sharing. This is unlikely to change, the same way people did not revert to writing on papyrus sheets or listening to story-tellers in a large scale once the printing press became widespread.
This does not mean that digital marketing has a smooth and trouble free ride. Digital marketing comes with many challenges.
The first challenge is to capture the targeted customer’s attention. The digital world has made publishing content incredibly easily, and there are now too many channels (and content) competing for precious eyeballs. In fact, to say that “every company is a media company now” would not be an exaggeration.
The second challenge is navigating the choppy waters. Digital channels remain in a constant state of flux, and what is a popular digital hangout today may be dead the next day – the social media channel Orkut being a case in point. Likewise, digital hardware will transform and morph, just as people abandoned gramophones and VCRs for better technologies in the past, and just as people now shift from PC and laptops to smartphones and tablets. Such changes would require a shift in the established marketing strategies centered on such gadgets and channels. When such changes become a daily occurrence, it becomes a nightmare to keep pace.
For digital marketing to retain its relevance, become cost effective and offer better value than traditional marketing efforts, it has to face and resolve such challenges head-on. The correct digital strategy requires, among other things -
- Farming relevant leads from the vast pool of contacts and prospects. This requires skillful lead generation tactics, including segmentation and hyper-targeting.
- Customization of the marketing effort, to identify the content type, medium, and channel that customers prefer, and reaching out to them on such basis. This requires intelligent use of big data analytics.
- Reaching out to customers through proactive inbound marketing interventions. Content has always been the most powerful way to engage and influence people, and a key tool for marketers.
- Establishing credibility in the digital space, so that people ta toke time to read the posts and take it seriously. This requires reputation management.
- Establishing a relationship with the customer through sustained interventions.
- Tracking progress on a continuous basis to identify the campaigns that work, and those that fail. This would require experimenting with many approaches, changing the calls-to-action, or changing the digital channel.
All these tasks require specialized knowledge and expertise, and it makes sense to partner with digital agencies that have developed a niche in these specific areas.
Rushing into digital marketing efforts without focusing on the customer, their interests, and their wants, is a mistake. Having a competent digital partner on board allows companies the freedom to focus on their customer, leaving the digital partner to utilize such knowledge to further the company’s digital footprints.
The bottom line? Brands have to take advantage of the digital marketing tools out there to create and promote relevant content to their target customers. To do so, they need to make use of both digital and traditional channels. And as long as the customer uses digital channels to communicate and share his or her concerns, digital marketing will remain a relevant medium for marketers.