Google recently launched a free initiative to teach the fundamentals of Digital Marketing. The opening paragraph of this initiative claimed that “The world has gone digital”. A bold, and perhaps understandable claim coming from the world’s largest tech company. But it is a claim with little basis as, if it were true, 2016 would not have seen the launch of a new daily newspaper and Google themselves would have stopped posting leaflets through our agencies’ door. As important as ‘digital’ is in today’s world, it is still only part of the picture. Marketing has always had a ‘tool kit’ and digital is simply another tool that we can add to that kit.
When planning your marketing strategy, it is unacceptable to think of ‘digital’ and ‘conventional’ marketing as separate. The objective of a marketing strategy is to identify the strategic position of the organisation, outline the opportunities it has and identify particular components of the market place. It is then a case of looking at the whole range of tools available to the organisation, both ‘digital’ and ‘conventional’, to determine how the strategic aims of the organisation can be achieved.
Hospitality events are something of a fixture in the social and marketing calendar for many Chambers. Through strategic planning, what once was an event to entertain existing or potential clients, can become an integrated ‘digital’ and ‘conventional’ marketing opportunity. A client attending the event will not only want to communicate with you over canapés and drinks, but they may also want to communicate with you and other attendees digitally before and after.
From the client’s perspective, every event starts with an invitation. This could be in print, through personal calls, e-mail, or a combination of all three. As ever there is a data management issue associated with the invitation list. So there will also need to be a mechanism for invitation acceptance or declines. The whole process could be done through digital event management software or completely bypass digital means utilising any spare time you may have to keep a written record. Once the client receives their invitation, their acceptance process will go through a number of stages. They may search online to find pictures or commentary of your Chamber’s previous events and a by-product of this search will undoubtedly lead them to the Chamber’s website. This is where digital tools add substantial value. Social media could be used for sharing content or images from previous events and the Chambers website could be used for news and information relating to the event. It is only after these important stages that a client may be convinced to accept your invitation. Digital tools can be used to ensure that the physical networking efforts have not gone to waste. Guests are likely to connect on LinkedIn after meeting, or even follow each other on Twitter. The chambers website could even provide a portal for attendees to network with each other after the event.
This simple example shows how a blended integrated approach is required to maximise the success and value of an event. Sometimes events can seemingly be run for ‘the sake of it’ or because ‘we have always done it’. However, good strategic planning can help determine the style of an event or even question its existence! It could be that the strategic marketing plan could conclude that there is a need to project a distinctive personality for the Chamber in a sea of similar competitors. This could then have a substantial impact on the style of an event. Rather than it be a traditional drinks party it could take on an innovative ‘experiential component’. This is where a degree of creativity is required. Events have near limitless creative themes and choosing something that is distinctive and matched to the values the Chambers is looking to project is important.
This example shows why drawing a line between ‘digital’ and ‘conventional’ marketing is problematic and that an integrated approach should not just be adopted for events. Once a client has connected with you through social media, sent you an email, or found your website the communication with them should be ongoing and supported by clear objectives.
This is a ‘channel’ with an ever changing and evolving landscape. New products arrive frequently, others drift out of vogue, and existing providers add new features and buy-out competitors.
It is easy for professionals of all types to be somewhat dismissive of social media – it can be seen as unfocused social chatter and at worst inane digital noise. But Social media sites vary in content functionality and of course, users.
Linkedin continues to be the go to platform for professionals and is widely populated by solicitors and others who can instruct Barristers. A simple presence is not enough; content needs to be generated, groups need to be joined and contacts sought to make the most of Linkedin. It is a reasonable platform for helping to achieve an enhanced perception as a thought leader.
Twitter is coming under scrutiny not just by users but also by the City. Its user base is wide but comparatively thin. It is evolving and still has a role to play from a breaking news perspective and as such is widely monitored by news organisations and feature journalists and commentators. For an industry where the Barristers name is used by reporters rather which Chambers they belong to, Twitter can help capitalise on this exposure.
There are many other sites that could be mentioned but the conclusion is clear. Look at the site, consider who is using it and for what and then determine whether the functionality and the user base is of interest in terms of achieving a specific strategic marketing objective. Do not think of social media as the end of the strategy. It’s all well and good achieving the sought after 500+ connections on LinkedIn, but if your strategy does not include a way to bring some of these connections through the door and onto the client sheet, the social media efforts were futile.
We are all bombarded by e-mails from a variety of sources. Some we discard without opening, others we glance at and a few we read because the content is interesting or we may even be looking to buy something. What many people do not realise is that e-mail packages allow marketers to determine who has opened an e-mail, when they opened it, and what stories were read. This information can then be used to send out automated follow-up’s or possibly to make follow-up personal calls. This information is widely tracked and reported on to determine how effective campaigns are but it’s real power is in automation and segmentation. If you know what emails someone likes to receive, you can start to tailor the experience to them.
Websites should answer questions. While it may appear like the asking of a question is a metaphor, the release of Google’s Hummingbird algorithm confirmed that question answering is the gold standard of website usability. When using search engines, users have an increasing tendency to literally ask the search engine a question. For example, when a user wants to know what a Chamber specialises in, they will type “Chamber Specialism” and expect the search engine to answer the query as though it were a full question. Websites are in competition to grab the attention of the search engines when a user types these queries. Optimising a website so that it answers users search engine queries efficiently is a technical specialisation in its own right and falls within the broader practice of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). There are books written on SEO, but some simple actions such as describing pages and content in a way that search engines recognise that can generate remarkably quick improvements.
If the user is asking for a phone number, they are more than likely viewing the website on their mobile phone. One common stumbling block here is when the website’s dimensions do not respond to the size of the mobile phone’s screen. This is an example of a website not answering the user’s question. The user will get frustrated and may even seek to have the question answered somewhere else, or by a competing Chamber. Having a web site with no promotion or direction is somewhat like having a printed brochure and hiding it under a hedge in the countryside!
What the above brief article reveals is that organisations need a joined up marketing strategy that takes all the components of marketing and deploys them with a degree of understanding and creativity to achieve stated aims. Some of the digital tools require specialist knowledge, but that does not mean they need to be treated as a separate function.
About the Authors
By Stephen Bedford, Managing Director and Steven Dumbleton, Digital Consultant of the Strategy Consultancy and Marketing Outsourcing Business Conical.
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