The Top 5 Challenges for Digital Brands in 2012

Last week in a very thought provoking Tweetchat hosted by Lisa Petrilli, the discussion, though swirling around how an introvert uses social media, somehow segued into driving website traffic. So my first thought was a poll was in order. But then I started to think about 2012 and the challenges that most brands will face and thus the basis for this post was born: The challenges for a digital marketer or a digital brand in 2012. What are they specifically as it pertains to the web?

1) Driving traffic–  The challenge in 2011 is the same in 2012. In order for people to know that you are open for business you have to get them to your website, your blog, your Twitter account or your Facebook page, right? Whether you’re a click and mortar or a web based only company, either or requires  more than just a cursory amount of effort revolved around driving traffic. So you have to think about things like:

  • Site design that incorporates SEO
  • SEM to artificially drive traffic
  • Some type of lead generation
  • Social site design geared towards your target audience
  • Content creation

All with the premise of driving traffic. Eyeballs.

2) Engaging that traffic-You’ve got them to your site(s) now what are doing with them? In 2011, it was all about doing “something” with someone once they had visited your site, your blog or your Facebook page. Well that hasn’t changed. In 2012, it’s imperative that we determine what engagement looks like. What does it feel like, what does it smell like? Is it conversational? Interactive? Is it wrapped around gaming? You have to test, you have to experiment and you have to understand that you have about 20 seconds to get it right.

3) Keeping the traffic-The segue from the last sentence in #2 says it all. You have 20 seconds. For some of my friends, when they are telling me a long story and I start to lose interest, I tell them to quit circling the airport, land the plane and get to the point. Marketers and brands will need to land the plane in 2012. Remember when websites were stuffed with content because marketers and webmasters thought that’s what we wanted? Guess what? The challenge now is to do more with less and strike the balance of keeping your users happy, engaged and delivering exactly what it is that they are looking for. Keep your users focused in 2012. Be iconic, keep it simple.

4) Converting the traffic-This is the holy grail of web marketing and sales. Doing something with the people that have come to your site(s). From the dawn of the internet, the goal has always been to convert the people that come to your site into either a lead or a prospect or a sale-Either for your company or your partners. This has not changed. The challenge in 2012 will be to further understand how to utilize the social tools, sites and platforms that now exist in order to convert the passive visitor into something other than a mistaken click, a browser or a passerby. In 2012 social will continue to help deliver customers to websites, but it still falls back on you to deliver on the promise of a good  customer experience. The biggest issue? Brands and marketers doing everything to get to the prom but not getting the kiss at the end of the night. Why? It will always be about the customer experience. Don’t discount the importance of search in this equation.

5) Getting the traffic to return-Repeat business, Word of mouth and increased sales, this is what it’s all about. It’s why people go into business, it’s why companies sell stuff. What’s better? The one off or the repeat customer? Why will people keep coming back to a website? Because  of the initial experience. How many people give a crappy website a second chance? None. They come back to good sites that are  easy to navigate, easy to understand, simple to use, that are safe, secure and trusted and they can find and get exactly what they want without much more than 2 or 3 clicks.  Put yourself in the place of your customer. Search for your own product or company the way they do. Do you/they find what they are looking for? Can you be found through search and social? What is your perception of the branded web experience? What are your competitors doing? What are your favorite sites? What brands do you follow on Twitter and Facebook? There’s a reason you follow them. You need to take that mentality into 2012 when it comes to marketing and branding your web presence.

Meet your own expectations as a consumer and flip them into those of your customers.

We all need another set of eyes

As a business owner, at the end of the day, you’re in business to sell a product or service which means that you may know that product backwards and forwards, but does that mean you know how to market it? Maybe. Does it mean that you know digital marketing/ social media marketing? Does that mean you know e-commerce? Maybe not.

Some SMB’s prefer to do it all. Some can, some can’t. Some try, some fail. Enter the third party.

I’m having a conversation with a friend right at this moment in which he’s saying that the only thing constant in life is change. I agree, especially in social media. His point?  People who run companies cannot do it all. But they try, they struggle, they dabble, and thus think they have it under control. Perhaps everyone needs that extra set of eyes on some aspects of what they do. Business owners need to understand that having  another set of eyes is not necessarily a bad thing. The key is knowing when you need them and swallowing your pride to admit that you need them.

At the end of the day, you need to do what you do best. If you’re a doctor, asking you to market your product was not part of what you learned in medical school.

Social changes every day, so being an expert is a tall task. Being an expert in what you do takes time, takes effort and takes commitment. Can you be an expert in everything that you do in your business? For digital marketers, being connected to your network at least allows you stay abreast of what changes daily in the space. You take what you learn daily everywhere you go. Translation-How can you run your business and being effective with digital marketing? Especially if you’re a click and mortar business.

Beyond  digital and social media and taking a broad lens approach to life, and knowing that we are all in some sort of bubble begs the question. Doesn’t having another set of eyes help you? Well there ya go…

Moving without the ball: On Basketball and Digital Marketing

In the game of basketball there’s something that really can separate the good players from the average players. A lot of  players do not do it and yet they would be better served and more successful if they did do it. It’s fundamental to the game and yet a lot of coaches do not coach it or preach it. I’m not going to tell you what it is yet.

In digital marketing, social media marketing and any type of integrated marketing communications plan, we can create a strategy, design the tactics to use for that strategy and then we can implement. Then we wait. We measure. We tweak and we rework, redesign and we retrench if necessary. But if instead of waiting for things to happen. What if we made things happen? What if we created opportunities for ourselves?

Remember the movie Field of Dreams and the famous line, “If you build it, they will come”? In marketing, especially in the web world, there’s a sense that all we have to do is create a website, add that transactional back-end, create a Facebook page, a Twitter handle, and a blog site-and they will come. When what is really necessary is a lot of OFF page SEO work, a lot of content creation, content curation, and content consumption and commenting. You have to be proactive in this new digital paradigm. You can’t wait for it to happen or you’re done.

Back to the hoops analogy

In basketball, the more you stand around and watch, the less you are part of the action and the game. If you expect to get the ball passed to you on the wing just because you happen to be standing there, well it’s not going to happen. The defender is not fooled and you’re less of a threat because he doesn’t have to worry about you, he can see you. He can literally defend the basket and you at the same time because you’re not doing anything.

If you move without the ball, then you create more opportunities for you to get the ball, to score and to win. If no one moves-you don’t win. Simple as that. In digital, if you want to just build stuff and wait for people to find you-you won’t win. Simple as that.

Why Digital Strategies Fail.

The easy answer on why digital strategies fail is that technology is changing so quickly that once an organization has decided to implement one strategy, it’s time to alter course and develop a new one. And to a certain extent that’s partly true.  It is very difficult to stay ahead of the curve, especially now.

But the real reason a  lot of digital strategies fail isn’t because of a dearth of good ideas or talent, it’s because of 5 things inherent in a lot of organizations. They are in descending order of importance.

5. Turnover coupled with leadership vacuum.

4. Red Tape/Politics/Hidden agendas

3. Lack of belief or Buy in from Leadership

2. Poor planning and Bad execution

1. Culture

I suppose that we could easily expand this discussion to include other aspects of a business that fail instead of  just digital strategies because of the above mentioned bullet points, but these 5 seem to occur moreso than most around aspects of digital.

For example, if we’re to believe the Gartner Hype Cycle, which I do, we’re approximately 2-5 years away from mainstream adoption of social analytics. That’s measuring and monitoring and analyzing the biggest technological and cultuural phenomenon to hit the globe since the internet first came on the scene, and we’re 2-5 years from mainstream adoption. It’s not a technology problem.

It’s tough to stay ahead of the curve when some struggle to just get on the curve. Why is that? Your number one answer? Culture. We have to get out of our own way.

On hardwork, Shorts Cuts and Aggregating in Digital

 

Do you ever hear anyone after a huge win, a major client victory or a momentous occasion within an organization say the following? “Without the short cuts and the corners we cut, we would have never made it…”

In the world of digital, there exists the potential to aggregate your activities and consolidate your digital streams so as not to duplicate work. That’s not really a short cut. THAT is much different than buying followers on Twitter. Additionally, creating an editorial calendar for when you are going to blog and what your topics will be and what the content might be is a lot different than paying someone to load you up with bland, link baited  light on content,articles to fill your blog with.

Furthermore, taking the time to develop a database of customers that you curate and nurture along and turn into brand advocates that you can send targeted emails and Facebook offers and coupons to, does not resemble buying a used, stepped on, non-qualified list of names that you can email blast to without permission.

“Just” throwing up a website pales in comparison to taking the time to find out from your audience what they want and making sure that what you sell or offer online is meeting the needs and expectations of your buyers, customers and prospects. We don’t live in a brochure-ware web world any longer.

Last point. Don’t discount new technologies because you don’t understand them and because you don’t want to take the time to understand them. That’s not hard work. That’s saying, “It’s too hard for me to understand and it probably won’t benefit me…”

You need to know that there are basic steps here in every digital channel that you need to do and do right if you want to be here next year. At every digital juncture you have the potential to make a choice. A short cut or hard work? Believe it or not, your audience knows the difference.

 

The Consistency of Being Inconsistent in Digital

The only constant in life is change-François de la Rochefoucauld

Sometimes I think the toughest part of my job is trying to stay current.  And I’m supposed to be a thought leader? Ha! So if I’m thinking that, what does that mean for you or the CMO, the CTO or the Director of social, or digital marketing or marketing? It means we’re all in the same boat. It means we don’t have a lot of time to learn something, prove something, sell something, justify something and then run it up the food chain to the C-suite and back then back down. What’s more, let’s add the pressure of 3 concrete tenets in the digital space:

  1. Is what you’re doing making the company money?
  2. Is what you’re doing saving the company money?
  3. Is what you’re doing driving or building equity for the company?

If what you’re doing, does not concretely answer in the positive one of the above 3 questions, the clock is ticking. Digital is moving so fast, that it is really hard for a lot of digital leaders, or social media managers to show the results that are required from their C-suite counterparts.

Therefore, the one way to break through the light speed pace of digital is to know these five thnigs.

  1. Anticipate that things will change
  2. Be agile enough to change
  3. Be open to change
  4. Be inclusive
  5. You can’t manage digital if you don’t measure digital-but know what metrics matter.

Some things do remain constant besides change in digital though. It’s up to you to figure out what works for your organization and to build out from there, but always keeping an eye on what’s next. Be agile.

What Can P90X Teach Us About Social Digital Principles?

In case you may be living under a rock and do not know what P90X is, it’s currently the media darling of the fitness world. It’s a fitness program encapsulated on DVD in which it stresses 3 simple core principles into it’s workout regime. The core principles are grounded in intensity, variety and consistency.

So I thought, can we make a correlation between P90X and social? Or marketing either online or offline?

The answer is absolutely. Let’s take a quick look.

First, I did a search on Intensity and pulled these colloquial terms:

All of them make sense, but when I think of intensity in digital/social media marketing, I think of focus.

Next up is Variety, which would seemingly fly in the face of focus, but not necessarily. To me, variety means keeping things fresh, not only from a marketing standpoint but also from the standpoint of giving you and your employees and your customers, a reason to come to work, do the work and buy the work. Variety is a two way street.

Lastly we have one of the four pillars of life in my opinion. Consistency. Do you want to succeed? Do you want to win? Do you want to overcome? It’s all about reps. Being consistent with your routine, with your messaging, with your offers, with your conversations, with your content, with your employees and most importantly with your customers. In sports, we marvel at how good it appears that some athletes are-we don’t realize how hard they practiced and worked in order to be consistent.

What principles guide you?

Anger, Denial, Acceptance in a Digital Agency

I’m so thematic. The flow of my blog posts have gone from one extreme to another. But for good reason… Anger at clients for parting ways with me. Denial of the fact that clients are not paying me and now acceptance. Acceptance that though I indeed love what I do and know how to do it well, it may be time to do it for someone else. Though having your own digital agency is cool and fun and certainly sexy, it also presents its own set of unique challenges.

In fact, there have been instances over the past 2 1/2 months or so where I have gone through every stage on this graphic.

It goes something like this:

  • Shock stage: Initial paralysis at hearing that one of my best clients is tightening it’s belt and will no longer be utilizing my skills.
  • Denial stage: Trying to avoid the inevitable, I angle to salvage the deal by offering an alternative service/skill and the client agrees but at a rate that is substantially less than what I was charging.
  • Anger stage: Frustrated outpouring of bottled-up emotion. I’m now pissed that it has come to this and want to take it out on something, so what do I do? I write a blog post about it.
  • Bargaining stage: Seeking in vain for a way out, I work doubly hard with my other clients to make sure that they are happy and look for new business. I realize that times are tough and everyone thinks they can do what we do.
  • Depression stage:  My other large client has now missed 2 invoicing periods and now I have turned into a collection agency and have stopped work on their account. The final realization of the inevitable is starting to sink in. It might be the realization that maybe having a digital agency in Southwest Florida wasn’t such a good idea in such crappy economic times.. So to combat this bout of depression, I wrote a post about the situation. It seems to help some but offers little solace.
  • Testing stage:  I call this the looking for answers or seeking solutions stage. I have decided to use my network to see what else is out there, determined to make the best of a bad situation. I know the timing is not exactly the best right?  But sanity is important right now.
  • Acceptance stage: I’m realizing that it’s not only tough to run your own agency, but it’s also tough to do the majority of the work, job the rest out, manage it, find more clients, look for talented people, stay current, do proposals, write posts etc. etc., Knowing this and coming to grips with the situation  has allowed me to finally find the way forward, and realize that yes, I still love social media so much that I blogged about it. 🙂 but I can have more of an impact on a larger scale in another capacity. So though I will continue to consult in some capacity as I go forward, it’s time to see what else is out there as well.

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Why people are leaving Twitter

According to Nielsen last month, a full 60% of users who sign up to use Twitter fail to return the following month. And in the 12 months  before the “Oprah effect,”  retention rates were even lower: only 30% returned the next month.

I have a theory as to why that might be and it’s pretty simple.

Example #1

twit

It’s probably a given that most new users have heard about Twitter and want to try it out. But this homepage doesn’t do much to explain it. Does it? By the way, the home page? That’s pretty much the same one they have used from the get-go. Of course you may click on the watch a video link for a how-to, but me thinks most will just go ahead and sign up and jump right in. In which case you  get the following screen after you have registered.

twit2

Is this intuitive?  Don’t you think it’s time to at least re-do the UI/Homepage?

Content-what’s it worth?

nyt

I got an email from an outfit out of Atlanta that was pitching me on my thoughts of what a combination of advertising, micropayments and regular subscriptions would look like for all of the newspapers that are struggling to redefine themselves.

As luck would have it, I had been thinking about and was going to write about the state of newspapers and how they were going to evolve with the times.  More specifically, how were they going to make money and survive.

Here’s the easy answer. They’re not. Some variation of them might. But…

Newspapers as we know or knew them, will not exist in their current state within the next 5 years.

Mark it down.

The proof is there and it continues to rear its ugly head week after week after week. Newspapers are shutting down. Newspapers, some deemed iconic institutions, are shrinking and or closing their doors. Why? The cost to produce the papers are outpacing the consumption. Why? We’re a nation on the move. The people, Gen Y and even Gen X, who are slowly becoming, if not already, the dominant workforce, are content to get their news, information, and content,online. We are moving rapidly to a global, mobile, society where newspapers do not fit into the equation of our daily lives.

As well, the next 5 years will crank out college grads, a workforce, and individuals that have virtually zero affinity with newspapers. They will have zero need for newspapers and they will not clamor for their “Sunday paper”.

So where does this leave the readers of the Sunday New York Times? Look for that venerable paper to go to printing once a week, on Sundays. In fact look for the larger ones to follow suit as well. It’s the only way newspapers as you and I know them, can survive in some  fashion of its former self.

So where will the money come from? These organizations will focus on the advertisers as they normally did, but it will evolve into using search as a primary function and money maker- where these online publications tie in some type of Adwords function into their sites. Ad dollars will flow but in different forms.

News organizations and Media outlets that control these papers, cannot rely on subscriptions, simply because there are too many ways for their readers to get the content for free. The realize that.  No one and I repeat no one, is willing to pay for content that they can find elsewhere, for free. If I’m forced to say, “OK, maybe some will pay for content”. Riddle me this, who are those people and what are they willing to pay for? If you’re going to say premium content, please tell me what you are calling premium and why is it worth paying for?

I know some of you will fight this notion, but then again if I were to have told you 5 years ago that all of the auto-makers would be on life support right now fighting for their very existence, what would you have said? Impossible!? No way!?

Well there is no clear indicator on the horizon right now that says anything differently about the slow death demise of the newspaper. There is nothing to stop it; and there is no one currently in school or getting ready to go to school who relies as much on newspapers as the older generations did.

It’s as simple as this..

Is content still king then? You betcha. But I got news for ya, content is also free, and that’s whats killing the newspaper business.