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Definition: The act of restructuring digital marketing tactics through a consumer-first,  strategically planned omnichannel approach. 

Marketing specialization is a lot like Agile development. It sounds great on paper but doesn’t work well in practice. As a result of its influence, the marketing industry is a hot mess express. In fact, it’s so fragmented that when we enter new client relationships and take inventory of their marketing efforts, it is often like looking at a million puzzle pieces that don’t fit together whatsoever. 

If we can help companies bring everything back to brand and understand the role of brand strategy, this fragmentation would gradually begin to right itself. Unfortunately, most businesses have become so focused on a ‘tactics-first’ approach to incremental change that they’ve completely forgotten the need for brand purpose to unify their messaging and give them meaningful differentiation in the category. Since the rise of digital marketing (circa 2008) brand strategy has taken a back seat to quick wins and performance-based marketing. 

But this industry-wide fragmentation is too big to tackle all at once, even in a multi-part series, so let’s start where the fragmentation began: digital. After spending 80% of my career in digital marketing, I see this aspect of marketing as a frenemy. True, it benefits me, my team and our clients, yet I harbor deep resentment toward digital. Why? Because the fragmentation of its landscape has created an entangled, inefficient mess. 

You might be asking, how are fragmentation and specialty related – and what is their specific impact on under-performing marketing. Great question. The quick answer is: Fragmentation has led to a surplus of digital specialists – with an unhealthy focus on ‘right now’ and a decided lack of interest or concern for big-picture strategy. This results in shiny object syndrome and a spray-and-pray approach to digital. So marketers find themselves in a never-ending cycle: Chase shiny objects, throw money at shiny objects, move dollars away from shiny objects not converting, rinse and repeat. This leads to inefficient spending, minimal gains and a limitation on what organizations might achieve.

Is it any wonder the typical conversion for digital to e-com is under 2%? Sure, it’s trackable. But it’s hard to get excited about what you’re tracking. Business leaders simply don’t understand what they’ve come to accept as ‘normal’ in terms of returns. If they did realize it, they’d be quick to demand a change.

In this four-part series, I’ll focus on the three most problematic areas in digital marketing and the key steps to disentangle from them. They are:

TACTICS FIRST:

When we hold a first client meeting, the intent is to collaboratively define digital goals, objectives and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) against our client’s larger brand strategy and business goals. Far too often, we’re met with a manic brain dump and list of demands like, “We need social media,” or “We need to put more money into PPC,” or “Our competitors are on all of these platforms, we should be too,” or “I know top-of-funnel is important, but we need to be feeding the bottom of the funnel as well,” or “I’ve been vetting <insert list of 20 different digital vendors> and we need to decide which ones to choose.”

Don’t worry, it’s not your fault. You’ve had demands coming from every department, and you’ve been thinking about everything you’re not doing, and you feel pressure to show immediate results. It’s okay, you’re not alone. But starting with tactical executions is not the answer. 

SPRAY-AND-PRAY:

There’s little merit in a spray-and-pray digital approach. Dr. Augustine Fou recently contributed an article in Forbes Magazine about this very topic. In his article, You’re Paying More for Digital Ads, You Just Don’t Know Yet, Dr. Fou stated, “Marketers and their media agencies are addicted to the large quantities and low prices of digital ads. They are buying programmatic ads as if they were shopping at Costco. But what works for toilet paper doesn’t work well for digital ads — that is, if you care about business outcomes and saving money.”

And I couldn’t agree more. In Part 3 we’ll talk about why this doesn’t work and how there’s a better approach to maximize your ROI. 

COMPETING & FOMO:

The last issue is the competition, or better yet, FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). Many marketers choose where to spend based on how their competition is spending. Don’t misinterpret what I’m saying — conducting a competitive analysis to see where and how your competitors are spending is a great way to start building your approach. The problem is when marketers believe their customers will be swept up by competitors if there’s no presence on that one channel. But what if I told you that doesn’t matter? Because we’re learning you can capture those same customers more efficiently. What If I told you they’ve found success with the wrong audience, and there’s a different audience waiting to be scooped up? 
In part 4, I’ll issue the following challenge: Stop. Competing. In my humble opinion, just “winning” means you’re competing, but in doing so, you’re stunting growth and preventing your company from reaching its full potential. Success lies within the data, which reveals your greatest opportunity areas. So how do you define your greatest opportunity areas? We’ll end this series by tackling that question, show you why it’s important, and set you on the path to winning category domination.