Marketers to Experience Makers—Marketing Grows Up in the Digital World
Before the Internet, conventional marketing wisdom suggested that the company that spent the most marketing dollars won the hearts and minds of consumers. For the most part, this was true. And it was pretty much only the big-name companies that could saturate the market with TV, radio and print ads—it was the days of “one size fits all” marketing strategies. Who could forget the iconic Sears Christmas Book that would show up in our mailbox every holiday season? I know it made me want to run out and shop at the once largest retailer in the U.S. (Hey, whatever happened to Sears?) I liken this pre-Internet era as the time when consumers had few choices and companies held all the power.
Flash forward to 1991 when the World Wide Web went live. Just six years later, the first recognizable social media platform appeared, with blogs and smartphones following shortly after. From a business standpoint, everything changed.
Our new digital economy leveled the playing field. Suddenly, smaller companies could reach out and speak with consumers, and big companies had to earn the loyalty of customers—what a concept! It was new ground for everyone and that meant Marketing had to evolve, or as I like to say: we had to grow up.
Ushered in was a new way of marketing where strategies are customized and customers are segmented using technology. We call this digital marketing and it describes all our online marketing efforts: essentially everything consumed online by a customer or potential customer. Think Google search, company websites, smartphone apps, social media, email, etc. And the importance of an effective and evolving digital marketing strategy cannot be overstated considering adults in the U.S. spend 12 hours and 7 minutes online each day (spoiler alert: that amount of time is growing!) This means traditional marketing on its own is no longer effective.
Let's explore the evolution of Marketers or as I like to call us: experience makers!
We’re Marketing Experiences, Not Products
If traditional marketing was about selling a product or service, I’d say digital marketing is about selling an experience. And there are remarkable differences between each approach.
Consider Disney: Every U.S. state has its share of amusement parks, yet it’s Disney World in Florida that boasts the most impressive attendance records. In 2016, 20.4 million visitors descended on the Magic Kingdom, 11.7 million strolled through the countries at Epcot, and 10.8 million visitors explored Animal Kingdom. That’s a lot of people. And Disney isn’t cheap. A modest estimate suggests a family of four should budget about $6,000 for a four-night stay. People aren’t flying to Florida for the rides, and they certainly aren’t going for the food. They’re going for the experience and no one delivers that better than Disney.
McKinsey & Co. described successful digital marketing as having five components: customer insights; KPIs and measurement; customer experience; marketing technology infrastructure; and process and governance. Disney’s strategy is to incorporate all five in unison every single day. From listening posts set up to get guest feedback on needs, wants and expectations, and leveraging technology to personalize, streamline and elevate the park and hotel experiences, to building an internal culture in which every employee lives the company’s core values, Disney has successfully differentiated itself from the competition. So much so that whenever I ask a friend or family member how their trip to Disney was, they reply, “It was magical.” They’re literally reciting Disney’s brand to me! Now THAT’S magical.
Today’s “experience makers” must be obsessed with the customer during every part of their buying journey (and that journey begins before they become customers). Being obsessed means being authentic, available, ready to listen, interesting and unique (and all your content had better follow suit).
I’m a self-described data beast so there’s no way we aren’t going to touch on the importance of analytics. Believe me, there’s no better way to ensure your marketing campaigns achieve a strong return on investment than to study the data. Think about it, technology today provides access to more information regarding our customers than ever before, including data like gender, age and geographical location. This allows us to derive greater insights regarding their behavior, buying patterns and preferences. And when you have this, you can tailor experiences that make customers feel a personal connection to your company, which in turn earns you their loyalty. To understand a campaign’s impact, identify the KPIs most impactful to your business, then adjust as you must. Seriously. Don’t be afraid to change course. If a campaign isn’t achieving the right results, respond strategically and adapt quickly.
Take advantage of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which enables customers to see you. Remember, customers aren’t visiting libraries or flipping through hard copy magazines and newspapers to learn about your company or products. They’re surfing the net where information is a click or two away. Help them find you quickly by using the right key words in the right places and always drive them back to your website where a creative, engaging, unique, and meaningful experience awaits them. This is key!
Finally, leverage technology in ways that help you connect and converse with customers. Leave no stone unturned online either. Remember, it’s a multi-channel world and every customer in every demographic has preferences for how, when and where they want to be reached. Go where they go. It’s our job as experience makers to be available at every turn, analyzing data and anticipating every need to deliver or strengthen a superior customer experience. You’ve heard the single most important trait needed in business today is a propensity for learning, right? Well, marketers today also need to develop a propensity for listening so we can understand deeply every whim, need, want and desire of our customers, long before they know it themselves. And the technology is there to help us do just that. This is grown-up Marketing for a digital economy … welcome to it!