Before identifying our current problem when it comes to how we approach digital marketing, it will be useful to point out what is not a problem.
The issue with digital marketing is no longer that businesses undermine its power in the changing digital landscape, or are allocating insufficient time or budget to it in their sales model. Companies have caught on and millions of dollars are being injected into ads run across Google and Facebook by small and big businesses alike. Similarly, search engine optimization is now extensively used as well; however, more often than not, the problem is not in the SEO.
Perhaps the biggest faux pas a company can make is to stagnate, even momentarily, their digital marketing strategies.
With the constantly evolving digital ecosystem, which mirrors changes in the global economy, there is a need for a flexible digital strategy to accommodate any change in consumer behavior. A golden rule to remember is that people are no longer interested in availing products or services. They are now looking to invest in a better version of themselves.
Companies like Apple understand this very well and use it as a core part of their advertising strategies. Apple has garnered a loyal base of supporters who eagerly await each product they come out with. Why? Because they are convinced that Apple products will help them be a cooler, better, more efficient version of themselves. This strategy works out perfectly for the company: a large part of their advertising is done by their target audience themselves, who have metamorphosed into brand ambassadors in their own individual circles.
According to statistics, 92% of consumers trust recommendations they get from friends and family, which brings us to our first key strategy: let your target audience market for you.
In Apple’s case, some tried-and-tested strategies include free trials and positive testimonials. The general idea is, “Check out this product. A girl your age tried it and loved it, so you’ll probably love it too.”
This strategy works great in boosting legitimacy and trust in the eyes of a consumer base wary of gimmicks and paid endorsements. There’s a number of ways you can integrate this into your business. Get in touch with your customers after they have had a chance to use your product and ask them for a review. You can publish this review on your website, making sure to include an avatar and/or name, as well as a link to the person’s website if they have one. This approach works for companies who are unwilling to spend large sums of cash on paid influencer endorsements and are confident enough in the unique value proposition of their product/brand to rely on the inevitable, but prompted, positive reviews.
However, this is not to say that the impact of the influencer should be taken lightly. Influencers have been around since the beginning of time. In Ancient Greece, Olympians promoted a variety of goods to their literal audiences in arenas, such as olive oil or herbal concoctions. And today, the power of the influencer has reached gargantuan heights. High-profile celebrities, including Victoria’s Secret models and the KarJenner clan, frequently make upwards of US$500,000 per Instagram post. Paid sponsorships are not just limited to the cheque-and-post strategy. Thousands of dollars’ worth of products are sent out to influencers (particularly those with popular YouTube channels) in the hope that they will try out the product in a video and promote it to their millions of viewers. Affiliate links have become widely used, with influencers enticing customers to use a code to avail a discount on a product in exchange for revenue from the sales made using the code in question.
However, not everyone has the kind of mammoth budget to pay the cheques which these high-profile endorsements entail. But this may work in your favor. The downside of major influencers who extensively advertise is the consequent distrust that grows among buyers. Alternatively, a micro-influencer with a more niche following is likely to be better connected to their audience and will have a more authentic and hence effective impact on potential buyers in their following.
Another strategy to focus on derives from the fact that artificial intelligence is gaining traction in all spheres of the digital world, and companies which invest in it are likely to cash in on a more efficient and effective marketing model. Chat bots can dramatically increase the number of requests, complaints or comments which have been responded to, and this kind of customer engagement is vital in building a strong online presence. Where it is not humanly possible to manually respond to every request, a well-coded AI system will bypass this problem. Other tools like sentiment analysis will also be a game-changer for product litmus tests, reading customer behavior and hence shaping your marketing strategies accordingly. In the future, the use of artificial intelligence for online maps and GPS linking, as well as Voice Search, will replace traditional approaches in SEO.
Last but not least, make sure to sell the story, not the product. For all the conjecture about the cost of the Kardashian post, there are plenty of lessons which can be learnt from some of the astute business strategies they have employed in their many product launches.
A relatively recent but excellent example is Kim Kardashian West’s new shapewear line, SKIMS Solutionwear.
Although some early controversy delayed the launch, Kardashian West has more than taken this into her stride and is now embarking upon an impressively visualized advertising campaign. The modern consumer, as Mrs. West no doubt realizes, wants more from a product than just an item to aggrandize their lifestyle.
Now, spinning a story is more pertinent than ever in a competitive economy where the only way to choose between two products is whichever speaks to you more. This emotional appeal has been used by companies which promise to donate a portion of their sales to a pressing cause or charity, so the customer feels the added satisfaction of having “made a difference” even while making a purchase for themselves.
A similar approach has been taken by business owners like Kim Kardashian, who have aligned their company’s image to current public values and sociopolitical movements. In the case of SKIMS, marketed as a body-positive, inclusive shapewear line, traditional models have been abandoned for the campaign shoots in favor of ”real women with real stories”, including the fascinating choice of Alice Marie-Johnson, a woman who Kardashian West helped to gain clemency.
The most important takeaway, therefore, should be that there really are no rigid rules which a company must follow to have an effective digital marketing model.
What works for one brand may not necessarily apply to everyone, and hence it is important to find the combination of strategies that works for your company, and more importantly, for your target consumers.