Just how serious is your business about the digital channels?
Any other year, I may have used the words “online channels” instead of “digital channels,” but 2010 tilted the marketing world a whole lot more. We can’t just talk about world-class websites and getting found on the search engines anymore. The pervasiveness of mobile smartphones (iPhone, Android, BlackBerry), tablets (iPad, Samsung, Dell) and the entire app economy that surrounds it is quickly becoming a dominant business force.
We also can’t ignore the powering growth of Facebook.
Over the holiday break, Facebook was named the most visited site in 2010… beating out Google (according to Experian Hitwise)! And we’re not just talking about big business, either. Groupon – which enables local businesses to offer a unique discount once a pre-determined amount of people commit to purchasing the deal – turned down a six billion dollar acquisition attempt by Google, which validated that hyper-local has finally arrived. Small businesses can now effectively leverage the digital marketing channels in a cost-effective way. If brands were feeling a tad intimidated about leveraging all of these channels before, I hazard to guess at how overwhelmed they’re feeling right now (but the word “dizzy” does come to mind). It’s the beginning of January, so before things start to pick up and all of your New Year’s Resolutions for 2011 become things you’ll think about (once again) this coming December, why not commit to a Digital Marketing Reboot?
Here are the 6 questions you should answer and then act on as soon as possible:
- Are you committed to a real strategy? Sadly, most businesses get tactical and caught in the weeds. They hop on Twitter because their competitors are there, but they have no strategy in place. Think about why you need the digital channels, and develop a holistic view of the digital marketing landscape. Figure out how the digital channels can best serve your brand. The net result should be a focused strategy that is based on your overall business objectives, economic value to the organization and a tactical plan.
- Do you own your brand online? Make sure you own all of the right domain names for your business (and renew the ones that you currently have). This should include all .com and country-specific iterations (I’m less concerned about .net and some of the other ones, but feel free to grab them if you can). Make sure to also protect domain names for your products and services as well as your key management people (buying the misspellings of your keywords is a great idea too). Don’t forget about the social media spaces: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc… all allow you to customize your direct URL for these spaces (i.e. I try to secure “mitchjoel” and “twistimage” anywhere and everywhere possible, so if someone is on Twitter, usually www.twitter.com/mitchjoel will get you to me). Regardless of whether or not you’re active there, it is better to be safe (and have the names) than to be sorry (should you ever need them).
- Does your website suck? Avinash Kaushik, the analytics evangelist for Google and the bestselling author of Web Analytics – An Hour A Day and Web Analytics 2.0 says, “don’t write cheques with Social Media that your websites can’t cash.” There has been such a focus on Social Media that many business websites look tired, out-of-date and lack many of the baseline functionality that consumers now expect. It may very well be time for a refresh or a complete overhaul of your website.
- Is your content up-to-date? Is your content representative of where your business is at in 2011? Is it filled with industry jargon that only your competitors will understand? Do you have a news section? How up-to-date is it? Does it have a RSS feed? Now quickly review your “about us” and “management” sections… are they fresh? Do they allow your consumers (and potential ones) to truly connect to you? What about your more visible profiles in places like LinkedIn, Facebook and Wikipedia? Update your content. If you don’t have profiles in some of the more popular online social networks, you should get started on populating your content there as well (it bodes well for making your business more findable).
- Is your website mobile? More and more people are doing searches and navigating the Internet via their smartphone or tablet. If your website does not automatically redirect these people to a mobile version of your online experience, there’s a high probability that these people are having a bad brand experience. Pay heed to this: the mobile web is where the desktop browser was in the mid-nineties. Mobile will quickly become more important than the Internet as we’ve known it to date.
- Are you findable? Are you shareable? If someone searches for your business, brands, management people or the industry you serve in the major search engines, where do you show up (in both the organic and paid listing)? What about if someone does a search for you on YouTube or asks about you on Twitter? Are you listening? Are you responding? Do you allow the content on your websites, Blogs, etc… to be shared in places like Facebook and Twitter with ease? Do you respond to the conversations about your brands and the industry you serve? While all of this should be defined in your strategy, it’s still important to know that in 2011, the consumer has an expectation. If you don’t offer the same type of functionality that consumers have come to expect in their daily digital interactions, it’s not that you will be perceived as old or traditional, it’s that you are not meeting the bare expectations that they have.
There’s no denying that a Digital Marketing Reboot will take a lot of work. Does your business have what it takes?
The above posting is my twice-monthly column for the Montreal Gazette and Vancouver Sun newspapers called, New Business – Six Pixels of Separation. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original versions online here:
Thanks for the fresh advices and Happy New Year!
Good luck also with your next podcast episode, haha! Hope to hear you back soon!
Thanks for the tips, Mitch.
I think that making the jump to a mobile-friendly website will be the big one on our do-to lists in 2011. With Google and Apple playing a figurative game of chicken with HTML5 vs Flash, no one is sure what standards to use for mobile sites. Our agency has a flash-based site, for example, but it will link to an html version if accessed by a mobile device.
With that in mind i’d like to add to Mitch’s points and say that this is something we should all be reviewing a few times per year. Technology changes, and as soon as a standard is chosen a lot of people will have to change their sites over for mobile devices.
Do yourselves a favour and review your online presence often.
Good list. My experience is that businesses must resonate with their customers so if a Berkshire Hathaway or Craiglist type of site fits, then wear it with pride.
Not all customers, interactions or transactions must be supported digitally either as it doesn’t fit with customer expectations or best practices or capability to deliver.
Keepin one eye on the customer and one eye on the prodcut should help determine where to go on the digital side, as long as they don’t go in opposite directions.
Nick Trendov @SpeedSynch
Solid advice Mitch!
I’ll be pulling some of this into my 2011 recommendations for clients this month.
This is a real load of brilliance here that I hope people listen to and take advantage of.
Regarding point number 1, the only other question I’d add to the mix there is, “Do you actually need to be there?” Even in 2011, there are still industries and niches where Social Media is not catching fire, and it kind of makes sense. There aren’t a whole lot of design engineers using Social Media for business, for example, because talking about complex engineering issues is not a great match for 140 characters. Proprietary information is also a huge concern. Don’t do things because they’re “hot.” That’s part of the strategy – do you need a strategy?
Great quote from Avinash as well. He’s a real hero of mine for so many reasons, not the least of which is that he has that innate gift to take an ocean of information and put it all in an easy-to-carry bucket.
Thanks for the info, Mitch, and Happy New Year!
“Small businesses can now effectively leverage the digital marketing channels in a cost-effective way.” Good news for small business owners.
This will definitely help and improve the backbone of our economy which are the small businesses. Because as of now, the person who leverages his or her home, credit cards and anything that they can possibly leverage in order to obtain capital to expand his or her own business. Now small business owners in America are the people who are creating two out of three jobs here in America. These are also the people especially in today’s economic environment that are being frowned upon by banks that originate traditional small business loans.
I sent this around my team and it seems to have lit a fire under them.
For what I’ve seen of most ‘traditional’ marketers, there has been a lot of uncertainty about what they are doing and perhaps what they should be doing in the digital space. As the ‘new-ness’ of these channels start to wear off and thanks to leaders such as yourself, they are finally starting to understand how we can leverage digital to better achieve marketing objectives.
The reboot is underway and I for one am excited about the possibilities in the year ahead!
If 2010 saw a boom of everything you talk about in this post, 2011 will see a dramatic increase in these trends.
Not following carefully the online evolution of your brand is at this point a crime without excuses, but it’s as bad as jumping in without a real clue of what to do or how to do it.
Strategies are sadly still underestimated, that’s what I hope will change during this new year. A better understanding of what *really* is behind the online presence of a brand.
Great set of questions! I think companies should audit themselves regularly. How clean/easy to navigate is their website? Is their content useful? Are they answering questions their consumers are asking? Are their Call To Actions clear?
Always revise and lead with content that answers people’s questions and solves their problems. Don’t lead with the product. That comes later. Firs they have to trust and connect with you.
Thankfully, Mark and I re-recorded it this week (and I think it came out even better), so you can take a listen to it at some point on Sunday.
Don’t forget about creating a native app as well. More and more people are doing searches in the app stores of their appropriate devices looking for content and value.
No doubt, everything comes from the strategy and research. So, if you’re in a position where the strategy doesn’t call for a more diverse marketing mix, then don’t mess with success.
Don’t forget to let your client know that they were my ideas… not yours 😉 LOL.
Happy New Year!
Just catching up on my reading, thanks for this post, I agree with Ricardo, you need to audit your site regularly and you’ve given us a Great Laundry List to get us working on for the New Year.
Too many small companies build a site and once they’re done move on to something else and 3 years later they wonder why their traffic is decreasing instead of increasing, Keeping it FRESH is paramount.
Good information that’s still relevant for 2012. Keeping your content up-to-date and relevant is a big key.
Great advice here, Mitch and it even applies in 2014. I’ve been watching my mobile traffic increase and it definitely did help when I switched to a mobile responsive theme.
Oh, and I so agree about having a strategy for the social media channels. Just winging it doesn’t get you very far.
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