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A walk around the digital marketing block

I was early to the event, so I chose to walk around my old neighborhood, south of Washington Square Park in New York City. I feared the neighborhood when I first moved in almost 29 years ago, viewed it as unmanageable, but it now seemed open, welcoming, and easy to navigate. How unfortunate that what I know now, I didn’t know then. I could have taken advantage of so many things. I liken that experience to how many marketing managers of small, medium, and even large businesses view the Internet today. What they see as frightening, unfamiliar, and unmanageable could be a welcoming, easily-navigated direct link to their existing and new customers.

If those business leaders had attended the event that I was headed to, it could have helped them to see what they’re missing. As I walked the neighborhood, I was on my way to half-day conference this past Friday by the Internet Strategy Forum of NYC. (ISF is a global peer networking group for Internet strategy managers.)
Fearful marketers needed to attend the ISF’s panel discussion with digital marketing industry leaders on “Making the Right Moves for Digital Growth in Turbulent Times” (follow some of the Twitter tweets tagged #ISFJune19), I attended through the courtesy of Mike Moran and the ISF. (Mike tweeted that the ISF would give free admission to the first to tweet him back, and I was the first.) I have to say, fellow “tweeple,” I was glad I was there and if you weren’t, you really missed out on a great event.
Moderator Lee Huang, the Director of Digital Strategy at NBC Universal, kept the group of panelists engaged with the audience through thought-provoking questions and personal examples. The panel included Patrick Adams, SVP and CMO for Victoria’s Secret Direct, Kip Morgan, CMO of eMusic, Chris Johnson, VP of Content & Business Development at Hearst Digital, and Michael Levin, Director of Product Development with NBC Universal. They speculated on candidates for the digital focus in this current economy, both short- and long-term, how to really understand the customer (what they want and how they want it), how to prioritize and monetize new ideas, and how to handle the competitive environment. They also openly discussed how they are handling emerging platforms such as mobile, gaming, and immersive sites.
If you’re a marketer and view the Internet as uncharted territory, and your strategic plan is not quite ready for prime-time digital, then rethink that plan. If you wait until the Web becomes commonplace for every business, you’ll waste the opportunity to be unique, an early adopter, and a trend setter.
For new and innovative digital ideas, take the crawl-walk-run approach, endorsed by Kip Morgan. Or jump right in and develop something unique and fun, like “Quidgits,” a combination of a quiz and widget, which Mike Levin shared that NBC Universal has developed to push users to their learning sites. Patrick Adams, who manages every Victoria Direct marketing function under one roof, says this makes it easier to take on seasonal marketing planning, integrating the traditional with digital, email, stores, music, and Web cohesively and improves ease of execution. I especially liked what Chris Johnson shared, to shift from a brand-focused to a trust-focused strategy.
Regarding that trust, your biggest competitors might not be the known organizations with similar or approaching market share, but young, innovative, and fast-moving companies under your radar, establishing digital trust with your existing customer base. For every hundred of these, one might take off and take off big, because of their agility on the Web. Beating them now at the game will be less expensive than an acquisition later.
Walk around your own neighborhood, as Patrick Adams said, and shop your competitor. With your finger on the digital pulse of your industry, coupled with strong knowledge of your market, you can gain traction with innovative digital ideas appropriate to your marketing plan. Don’t wait 29 years for the landscape to change so much that it becomes a different place, lamenting that you didn’t take advantage early on of everything offered to you.

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