The cloud and as-a-service innovations have lowered the barrier for born-in-the-cloud businesses, but what many would-be digital entrepreneurs are overlooking is the fact that marketing a purely digital company comes with its own unique set of challenges. In the early days of digital marketing, dotcommers either tried to shoehorn traditional Madison Avenue tactics into the newer digital reality, or attempted newer but overly simplistic digital marketing tactics that focused on the metrics and the adtech, but never quite got to the heart of their products’ value and the personal, emotional connection they need to create with consumers.
Marketing a cloud-born company is decidedly different from the norm, and the simplicity with which a dotcloud company can now be created belies the effort that must be put into increasingly more innovative marketing tactics. Banner ads and pop-ups, spammy SEO techniques and link farms worked for a short time but these tactics are no longer valid. Marketers need to keep the digital focus, while still retaining the creativity of old-world Madison Avenue marketing.
Expert opinions echo a few key themes: Strong, professional content is essential, a personalized experience has to be part of any digital marketing initiative, and artificial intelligence and analytics will play an increasing role in bridging the gap between digital and personal.
Adobe’s marketing evangelist Mathieu Hannouz says that “With hyper-connected consumers, marketers are experiencing challenges in making sure their digital marketing objectives are not only in sync with the rest of the company’s departments but also addressing consumer’s needs. Today, companies are reshifting their corporate priorities to focus on delivering a holistic, highly personalized, and real-time experience to their consumers.”
Hannouz points out for key pillars for successful digital marketing:
“Data intelligence: While data is essential to fueling any customer experience, data intelligence is key for its success.
“Content Velocity: content is not only still king but needs to be as powerful as messages brands wish to convey. Content needs to fit within every engagement opportunity to sustain an experience rather than selling more products.
“Delivery and Orchestration: channels are everywhere. From email, direct mail, mobile apps, kiosk, and social media, the experience needs to be delivered as much as orchestrated ailing the customer lifecycle.
“Attribution and AI: measuring experiences has become a critical component to success. With several channels to get data from, it is important to use attribution to measure channel mix and how we can optimize it along the customer journey. Artificial Intelligence is also becoming critical to make sense of a data deluge and helping marketers take the most well-informed decisions.”
Digital marketing’s powerful combination of creativity and technology may well skew on the technology end of the spectrum, and the artificial intelligence aspect may be the key to success in the future. Consumers will always respond to their peers more than an advertisement, and active product review campaigns are an effective way of bringing product value home while adding in a new level of personalization. “Digital marketing requires a careful mix of technology, personalization and user-generated content,” said Jeev Trika, CEO of CrowdReviews.com, a crowd-driven platform for user reviews. “Without the in-store experience, users turn more to their peers for product advice, and while original content will always play an important role, user-generated content will increase in importance.”
But what if those product recommendations came from a robot instead of a person? John Lincoln, CEO of IgniteVisibility, says that “The biggest change we are going to see is a shift towards marketing to artificial intelligence and virtual assistance. For example, Google Home and Amazon Echo both have technologies at their core. Google Home runs off of Google Assistant and is integrated with Allo and Amazon runs on Alexa. There is a vision that both of these devices will deliver information and facilitate service and product purchases. They are all built off of voice search technology at their core. This is certainly going to be one of the largest growing sectors for the population to find information online. Voice search is 100% going to take over, as well as voice activated online systems. The systems that integrate with voice search and directives will be using artificial intelligence to deliver the best search results and data. At the moment, they are brand new technologies but you can be sure new marketing abilities will be coming out soon, as well as new third party technologies. AI and voice really mean a whole new world! Take that one step further with the predictive analytics of software like Google Now and that is the future.”
But all tech and no content makes for a lackluster campaign. Michelle Snyder of Welltok says, “The ability to reach customers through digital channels is both easier and harder than ever. There are more channels available to reach the desired audience, yet it’s harder to break through the multitude of voices vying for the customers’ attention. I think we’re going to see a movement towards more personalized outreach. Most companies are marketing towards populations of people with similar traits (i.e. income, demographics, location), rather than to individuals. This new class of personalized messaging focuses on the psychographic rather than just the demographic, taking into account a specific person’s interests and communication preferences. This added level of personalization will be far more impactful than today’s more generalized outreach.”
Genevieve Paquette of Level EX reinforces the need for strong, original content creation. “With regards to digital marketing, I think we will continue to see continuous growth in content creation (blogs, videos, opinion pieces, etc.) as the main creative element in digital campaigns. So, by using what people are doing, saying, thinking, etc. and tying it with their brand, an emotional response that drives a desired marketing behavior will be triggered. We’re also living in a world of on-demand data and I’ve seen digital marketers become slaves to that data, often losing sight of the human element of marketing. You have content creation, through say a community manager or internal pundit, being put out into the online world and the digital marketing specialist thinking in spreadsheets and multivariate testing.
“Bringing these two marketing approaches together to work in synergy is the challenge many marketers face and will continue to face into 2017. Especially, in startups where out-of-pocket cost is a huge factor and content creation and social campaigns tend to be the first place they go for user acquisition, throwing anything low cost against the wall to see if they can get traction. A startup brand can quickly shift into feeling disjointed to their customers, clients, and investors if they don’t get a handle on how their tactics work together.”
According to Lula McKee, Vice President of Marketing at SkinCareConsumers.com, “I’ve seen far too many digital marketing professionals make the mistake of focusing too much on the metrics, the numbers and the technology on the back end. But the numbers alone won’t drive success, and there are a lot of very underhanded ways marketing consultants give you impressive numbers that nonetheless won’t result in conversions. Digital marketing is not an automated function. It still requires a high degree of hands-on creativity, personalization and a deep understanding of your consumers.”