6 min read September 20, 2018 Simon Hall Digital Marketing: What’s Driving Best Practices?Like any industry, digital marketing comes with its own set of policies and best practices aimed at helping customers create value, streamlining processes, and enabling them to execute a more effective online marketing strategy. But what are the drivers behind those practices? What are some of the elements they share that make them effective? Leveraging insights garnered from our own industry experts, we took a look at some of the practices and protocols that have led to the best results for digital marketing campaigns, while also examining how those practices have changed over time. 1. Be In the KnowAmong other things, that means knowing your company, your industry, your competition, your customer and your products and services. Many companies either lack this fundamental data or focus on simply pumping out copious information without context, so knowing whether that information has value for your customers is critical to the overall success of your campaign and digital marketing strategy in general. Deep knowledge of the market, industry and digital trends will help you focus and refine your message and better target your audience, while positioning you as an industry thought leader, equipped with the foresight to take your campaign to the next level.2. Know Your ROIAs many marketing executives can attest, the return on investment for your marketing budget can be difficult to prove – in general, around 60 percent of small businesses have difficulty proving the value of their social media marketing efforts. That said, marketers who can prove the ROI resulting from their decisions are 1.6 times more likely to see a budget increase. Though it might take some systemic changes to your analysis processes, tracking and calculating the ROI of your digital marketing activities can deliver stronger results by shining a light on what works best for your business, while providing tangible proof to your superiors that your efforts are contributing to the bottom line and creating value for the organization.3. Keep It SuccinctNobody likes rambling, long-winded jokes that fall flat at the punchline. Your digital marketing strategy should take the same approach. It’s likely not surprising that these days, the average person has around an 8-second attention span. That means your marketing message needs to grab the viewer’s attention immediately while also packing a lot of insightful and relevant information in a very short span of time.4. Have a PlanIt might sound simple, but because many aspects of digital marketing are complex and easily misunderstood, many businesses simply toss money at marketing challenges rather than taking the time to truly understand what those challenges are and how to change their outcomes for the better. Thus, it’s often difficult for business executives to improve their results, gain insight into where their strategy is lacking or why their current approaches aren’t effective. By having a solid grasp of the forces that drive the results, you can develop a better plan to take advantage of success metrics or improve areas where the results are poor.5. Be FocusedNot that long ago, a business tried to broaden itself to reach as many prospective customers as possible. Today, that means reaching somewhere in the area of 1.8 billion people who are expected to do business online. With a population of potential customers that large, it’s vital to shift that focus from reaching as many customers as possible to reaching the right customers. By focusing your digital marketing on the most profitable customer demographic for your business, you’ll see better profitability with less work.6. Remember Big Data is KingAnalytics are often implemented to help improve machine learning and attain insightful information about industry trends, your activities and your website. However, those statistics are only as good as the data you provide. Getting bad data because you have a conversion pixel in the wrong location can skew your projections, analysis and insights, while also causing you to misinterpret the information and pour more money into an aspect of your marketing that isn’t as profitable as you think it is.7. Track Your LeadsYour website visits, Facebook likes and conversions are only part of the picture. To fully understand how to optimize the process of moving prospects to sales, you need to take the time and have the tools in place to follow your leads through the entire customer journey – from initial contact to after-sale follow up. Avid attention throughout the entire process is critical – especially for real-time analysis and pivoting in response to unanticipated challenges. If, for example, you find that you’re losing half of your leads at a particular point in the process, you then have the ability to change the course at that point to see if you can improve the outcomes from that part of the funnel on.8. Update Your Website When you’re spending an exorbitant amount of your marketing time on your blog, analytics and social media sites, it can be easy to forget to update your website regularly. However, while you might get significant traffic to your website from your other activities, it might not be from sales. Take the time to regularly review your website and update it to provide a better overall user experience and information that is up to date with your company’s current activities and offerings.9. Don’t Forget Mobile! Sure, you know that almost everyone has a smartphone, but does that really impact your business’ bottom line? In short, absolutely! In 2015, Google announced that mobile searches had passed traditional desktop searches for the first time, and that change has accelerated over the past few years. Thus, it’s imperative that mobile is strongly considered when devising your marketing plans and strategy, including ensuring that both the content you create and your website are mobile-friendly, in order to retain visitors and improve the overall customer experience.10. Digitization Means AgilityAmong the changes that digitization and disruption have brought to the market is the need for businesses to remain agile in their operations, including marketing. The market is shifting faster than ever before and your business needs to be able to move quickly to meet that challenge. Make sure that your marketing plan allows flexibility so that you can respond quickly to these changes and take advantage of changing market conditions the way that newer businesses like Airbnb, Uber and other market disruptors have done.11. Get PersonalIt’s easy to simply turn on a conversation bot and pre-plan your social media posts for the next month, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore your social media in the meantime. When a customer has an issue and tries to resolve it via social media, your company could look impervious to the needs of its customers if the post is ignored. Check all your social media accounts on a daily basis to make sure that any prospective smoldering PR fires don’t turn into a blaze. Taking the time to provide personalized attention to your customers could make the difference between a customer who is thrilled with the service they received and one who will leave terrible reviews.12. Make it AI CompatibleWith the sharp rise of people asking Google, Siri and Alexa for information, you need to make sure that your information is available in a way that Google, Apple and Amazon AIs can find, as well as understand and deliver to new prospects. Keep the information in short segments – for example, a five minute podcast discussing industry issues on a daily or weekly basis that people can listen to while getting dressed for work, sitting at their kids’ soccer practice or making dinner. This ultimately will allow you to grow your business without a lot of extra work and expense.13. Leverage Influencer MarketingEveryone wants a renowned thought leader in their industry to talk about their products, services or business. But beyond that, influencer marketing can have a strong impact on your company’s reach in the digital world. In an environment where millions of updates, tweets and blog posts are published every minute, consumers are turning to influencers to get a vetted perspective on the best possible products, brands and services. By using an influencer to push your product, you’re not only getting their followers to notice you, you’re getting their stamp of approval on your product, which goes a long way to improving customer trust and increasing brand loyalty. 14. Mix Up Content Length Though people have shorter attention spans these days, longer pieces of content are still ranking highest among Google searches simply because they provide depth of information that shorter pieces can’t. How do you decide whether to use short-form or long-form content? The simple answer is that you don’t. Use a combination of both, from an every-character-counts tweet to a free, gated ebook aimed at generating leads. By varying content length and style, you can reach your customers at every point in their daily life, whether they’re taking a few seconds to catch up on Twitter or settling down for a few hours’ of reading time.In ConclusionBy maintaining a solid grasp of the current best practices, while understanding why they are important, you’ll be able to better focus your digital marketing efforts and budget where they’ll have the biggest impact in your company. What’s more, you’ll also be able to track progress and make better digital marketing decisions by having more insight into the drivers behind these changes.