History has been recorded in relation to technology. Periods in time have been named and classified based on the dominant technology of the time.
The word, technology immediately conjures many images—a space flight, a first heart transplant, or even seemingly unending lines of code—but certainly not a flint stone that chipped away at hard rock to make an arrowhead for our prehistoric ancestors. For those in the Stone Age, though, this was literally "cutting-edge" technology.
With the help of technology, the 21st century ushered in an era that was a shift from the existing industrial age. An era made not of nuts and bolts but of ones and zeros. This revolutionary era has affected all aspects of society, culture, the economy, and, of course, marketing. Welcome to the digital age.
Marketing has been around since humans have wanted to engage in the exchange of ideas and articles, but what has changed since the dawn of the digital age, and should we take the digital wave seriously? These are valid questions.
Let's address the second question first. At the time of writing this post, eMarketer predicts that in 2019, advertisers will spend $20 billion more on digital channels globally than traditional channels like print and TV. This number is only predicted to increase along with the number of users on the internet.
This is not just about marketing directly to the consumer. eMarketer's list of growing channels puts Microsoft LinkedIn in fourth place. The digital age is also shaping how we look at business-to-business marketing too! Ignoring digital marketing channels would mean cutting out a huge chunk of future customers.
Coming back to the first question, for any business—and that includes specialized firms like tech consulting firms—what has changed is that the primary platform for interaction with a customer or potential lead has become the internet. This means that a business' web address by default becomes its storefront.
This article is a qualitative approach to help businesses think about digital marketing now and in the future. We are aware that this article may not be wholly relevant for Partners who already are adept at digital marketing, but would offer a starting point and a structural way to think about digital marketing for those who haven't yet.
We are also aware of the flip side of the push for digital—it would be a miracle if a casual reader has not been presented with a listicle on "10 ways to approach digital marketing." But it's unlikely that 10 ways would be suitable for every organization. It could lead to homogeneity in a market where the idea is to stand out.
Data is the marketer's new best friend
Unlike in traditional outbound marketing, almost everything on the internet can be tracked—website visits (traffic), user sessions, bounce rates, keyword analysis, content analysis, social media engagement, and a whole lot more. Digital marketing is now more deeply coupled with the growth of an organization than ever before.
Analysis of this data provides immediate feedback on how well a marketing campaign is working. This provides space to experiment with new formats, as every one of them can be tracked and analyzed from a micro level, and success and growth is no longer an abstract concept, but is instead tangible. Data also acts as an eliminator—if something doesn't work, course correction can be swift, and spending can be more prudential.
This is the fundamental shift that has happened in marketing—a shift towards data, measurement, and accountability. A shift that now makes marketers use both the left and right side of the brain equally.
Metrics-It can be overwhelming at first, but the key to successfully swimming in a sea of data is to know what is key for your business and what needs to be measured.
A good place to start would be what John Doerr, the successful venture capitalist behind Amazon and Google, calls OKRs, or Objectives and Key Results. This means taking a single metric, analyzing its implications, and setting targets. Then you're on your way.
Content is the constant customer magnet
We did a small study of the websites of the coveted consulting Big Four and found that content creation for a consulting firm is not a mere exercise. Instead, it's the foundation of how they interact with their current and future customers.
The best way to showcase expertise, which is the mainstay fo a consultant is to build trust is through content. If you look at the aforementioned consulting firm websites, their content varies in form—long articles, industry reports, videos, and testimonials.
Here we see a shift in the way organizations do content marketing. It isn't so much about capturing attention—it's more about establishing trust. Thus the content created must be useful.
What hasn't changed?
Channels may come and go, but what never changes in the customer centricity of marketing. With the customer firmly affixed at the center, we can begin to propose a digital marketing framework, a simple one at that.
Let's call it PACT, and we hope it will positively impact all your digital marketing initiatives, regardless of the channel.
Profile or know your customer
Figuring out who your customer is would depend on multiple factors. Chances are there might not be just one customer persona for the services your firm offers.
Using research to define your customer through attributes, interests, background, digital awareness, and goals is the ideal first step. A typical customer profile would look something like this.
While the above is just an initial persona, a more detailed customer persona would have richer data to analyze. But this data leads us directly to our next step, which is figuring out what digital channel would suit this customer and what content would appeal to the persona.
For our Mr. Adams, it could be a long article in Classic Car Magazine, answering related queries in car forums, or even a contextual ad in an automobile newsletter.
While many people might start creating content right away, our approach involves holding off on content creation until we are aware of our future customers, their attributes, and how to reach them. At this stage we are also contextually ready because we know the customer enough to determine the tone of the content that is created and the channels to distribute in.
We've built this framework on the fundamental difference that comes with digital marketing—the ability to track a large amount of data, draw meaningful analysis from it, and scale your campaigns.
The PACT framework is not a linear model but a reinforcing loop that can be scaled for any of the in-vogue digital marketing channels. While it is universal, when applied in the context of the business, it is bound to provide unique results.
With a framework in place, digital marketing is no longer an activity that just "needs to be done"—now it's a strategic advantage.
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Do feel free to let us know your thoughts on this post or how you approach digital marketing in your organization in the comments below and for more information write to us at email@example.com