Seven habits of highly effective digital marketers

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Sean Singleton, managing director of Digital Annexe.

Recently I presented at DA University 2014, a digital marketing conference organized by Digital Annexe, which looked at what the next five years held for the digital marketing sector.

During the day I offered some thoughts on what habits will ultimately make a ‘digital marketer’ highly effective in the years ahead.

1. Be strategic

Everyone talks about the need to be strategic but, in reality, there is widespread confusion about what this actually means. In simple terms, strategic thinking is thinking about the future. The biggest strategic challenge is to balance the long term/important interests with the short term/urgent ones.

A good measure to improve your strategic thinking is to consider an ‘80/20 split’. It is likely that in many industries and companies that 20 per cent of your actions (and 20 per cent of your customers) will provide 80 per cent of your revenue. Strategically, therefore, identifying that 20 per cent is and increasing your focus upon them is crucial to your future success.

Many marketers focus their attention at driving more traffic to their website but then fail to engage customers with the correct approaches to increase site conversion. This is akin to mindlessly pouring more water into a leaky bucket, when a more constructive use of resource would be to focus on plugging the holes.

2. Get the right data

The most common problem we find when we carry out an Analytics Audit for new clients is that they are collecting the wrong and/or incomplete data.

Incorrect tagging on software packages like Google Analytics (especially with the introduction of Universal Analytics) is surprisingly common. Data is the foundation of marketing and you need to make sure your foundations are strong and secure. If your data is wrong, how can you expect to make the right decisions for your business?

The second issue is companies not making enough out of their analytics toolkit. Google Analytics, for example, is a very powerful tool kit, which is constantly being improved. In practice, very few users are getting the most out of it, in terms of all the business and marketing potential it possesses.

3. The user comes first

All companies talk a good game about being customer-centric, but very few “walk the talk”.

A typical example is how companies structure their communications around their internal needs and legacy systems rather than the needs of their customers. I worked with a large financial company a few years ago and their different business units would each send marketing emails to some their customers every day. That’s not marketing, it’s cyber-stalking!

These companies often employ legacy systems to conduct their communications and it is these systems which need to be reoriented and based around the needs of their customers. Otherwise, it’s a clear case of the tail wagging the dog.

Another example of not being customer-centric is a poor approach the mobile web. Incredibly, 36% of the top brand sites in the UK are not yet mobile-optimised. Also I heard this week that 70% of Wallmart.com traffic over the recent holiday was from a “mobile device”.

In 2014, not having a mobile-optimized site is like having a retail shop that does not open at weekends.

4. Move faster

It could be argued that the current digital revolution is the mother of all revolutions in terms of its global impact. At the same time, more and more ‘digital natives’ are becoming our customers and this has a massive influence on marcoms activity.

The speed of change is accelerating and it’s important that businesses become more nimble in their actions and reactions.

It’s really useful to have a start-up mentally. Lots of big businesses are now trying to think and act like small, nimble, fast-moving start-ups to get in step with the continuously evolving digital marketplace.

5. Long live video!

Video is already massive but unbelievably it will become even bigger and even more important in the next few years. It’s predicted by Cisco that by 2017, video will account for 69% of all consumer Internet traffic. Nielson claims that 64% of marketers expect video to dominate their strategies in the near future.

Video is powerful because it’s great at creating emotional connections. A moving image combined with sound is the closest thing to experiencing something in real life, which explains why TV advertising has been so dominant in marketing over the last 40 years.

At Digital Annexe, we believe a really big area of opportunity is the relationship between video and the sales process, i.e. conversion. For example, in a recent survey by Invodo, 57% of consumers said that watching product videos makes them more confident in online purchase decisions.

6. Joined-up marketing

In many companies, especially big companies, people work in silos. This creates politics, turf wars and in-fighting. To get around this, it’s key that a clear brand vision and objectives are created that all the business stakeholders buy into.

This also includes the different types of agencies involved in client work. It’s important to ensure that all the agencies involved “play nice” and are not putting their own agendas above your customers. In my opinion, it is important for the client to set the rules of engagement and take a lead in this area.

One way to developed joined-up approach to marketing is to agree the key metrics across the company and then to develop integrated dashboards that can help everybody keep a real-time eye on the progress being made towards achieving these goals.

7. Create a culture of experimentation

David Bailsford is a person most marketers could learn from. He was in charge of the British Olympic cycling team for the last two Games. David’s big thing is to focus on Continuous Marginal Improvement. He focused on hundreds of small things that collectively delivered big results: i.e. eight gold medals in the last two Olympics.

Start-up culture is obsessed with continual optimisation of all stages of the marketing process (from awareness, interest, acquisition and conversion). Focusing on lots of small things that deliver big results, hence the term ‘Growth Hacking’.

Here’s to a fantastic and highly effective 2015!!

Sean Singleton is the managing director of Digital Annexe.

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