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New Year’s resolutions for digital marketers

Since this is my first Biznology post of the year, it seemed appropriate to think about some New Year’s resolutions for digital marketers as you head into 2017. And there are five core areas that every digital marketer can use to set yourself up for a very successful year ahead. I’d also like to let you know that I’m presenting a Biznology webinar on January 10 on the digital marketing trends for this year. Update:  Video is here if you missed it.

Adopt a test and learn mindset

Do you know how the most successful marketers continually win online? They focus on testing. Everything. Constantly. They’re not driven solely by their gut—not that they don’t have great instincts. But they use data to inform and improve what their instincts suggest. They let the market tell them when they got it right. Whether it’s messaging, channels, calls-to-action or a whole host of other components in the customer journey, testing rocks.

At the end of 2016, a “test and learn” mindset is nothing new, trendy, or sexy. It’s simply the right thing to do, both for your customers and for your business. Why’s that? Well, for your customers, because it ensures you’re offering them the best possible experience as “voted” on by their peers. And, on the business side, “test and learn” is the right thing to do because it works.

Data + emotion = a winning formula

Of course, successful digital marketing isn’t only about data. To paraphrase Maya Angelou, customers will forget what you said and what you did, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel. Customer experience matters, even when you can’t measure it directly.

Wait? Isn’t that a direct contradiction of what I just said?

Nope.

A test and learn approach tells you when the customer experience works most effectively. Placing the customer and their experience throughout the customer journey tells you what to test. How can you help your customer feel better at every step? Have you viewed any of your brand’s ads or content? Clicked on any of the calls-to-action? Have you tried researching your product or service with “the beginner’s mind“—or better yet, watched actual customers do the same?

I’ve seen people—not customers, mind you, just plain ol’ folks who we had an opportunity to convert to customers—throw up their hands in frustration, squirm in discomfort, or express guilt for their inability to successfully complete tasks in user testing. They had no reason to feel bad. We did. We created a terrible experience and, amazingly, some customers thought they were to blame when they couldn’t accomplish a task. How do you think they felt? I know that my team and I felt far worse.

So, here’s a thought for next year: Don’t do that. Satisfy ‘em instead.

Get fast

One thing that never changes when it comes to digital is how quickly it introduces changes. Your customers now carry more computing power and access to information in their pocket than we’d even imagined possible just a few years ago. Companies that dominate the digital dialogue—Uber, Airbnb, Snapchat, Instagram—didn’t even exist a decade ago.

That won’t change.

The lesson: speed matters. One of the reasons test and learn represents such a successful approach in digital marketing is because it eliminates many wasted hours and days (and weeks and months) of debate and delay. Get your products and services and messages in market. Quickly. As a brilliant thinker once stated, “Do it wrong quickly“; that hasn’t changed. And, if anything, it will only accelerate in the coming years. You don’t have time to wait any longer. If your culture today favors deliberation and dithering, it’s time to change it. And fast.

Content: the painting, not the frame

During digital’s early days, we spent a lot of time worrying about the placement of buttons and navigation and forms to improve customer experience online. Given how little time most people spent online, it was a necessary and appropriate investment. The thing, though, is that it’s no longer the most important part of that experience. So what is the most important component? Your content.

Don’t get me wrong, you can’t have a great customer experience that makes people feel good with a terrible website or app. But, most people know how things should work these days. There’s a reason many sites have started to look so similar; customers now know how your site should look and feel. So, instead, how about we focus our efforts less on the frame and more on the picture we’re painting?

Your content exists to answer customer questions at every step in their journey. Or, it should anyway. But take a good look at where you’re investing your time, resources, budget. If you’re spending significantly more on usability, navigation, layout or design than on the content (ideally) highlighted within that design, you might want to rethink that allocation.

Remember, always, you can figure this out

There’s lots of change in digital every year and 2017 won’t be any different. Your customers will increasingly use mobile everywhere they go and will migrate away from desktops in droves. Self-driving cars, subscription services and speech-controlled bots might upend existing industries. Your competitors will ramp up their use of personalization and machine learning to better meet customer needs. And so on.

Don’t let that distract you. Getting sidetracked by what I call “OSS” (or “Ooh, Shiny! Syndrome”) has hurt many a marketer and many a company. So, y’know, don’t do that.

Instead, pay attention to your customer. Move quickly and confidently to test your hypotheses around what works best for their needs. Use the lessons you learn to improve your content and your customer’s experience. And focus on providing an emotionally satisfying experience every step of the customer journey. Keep this set of New Year’s resolutions for digital marketers in mind and at the end of this year, don’t be surprised if your resolutions for 2018 include “Make more time to celebrate all of the year’s successes.”

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Tim Peter

Tim Peter built his first website in 1995 and loves that he still gets to do that every day. Tim has spent almost two decades figuring out where customers are, how they interact with brands online, and delivering those customers to his clients’ front door. These efforts have generated billions of dollars in revenue and reduced costs. Tim works with client organizations to build effective teams focused on converting browsers to buyers and building their brand and business. He helps those companies discover how marketing, technology, and analytics tie together to drive business results. He doesn't get excited because of the toys or tech. He gets excited because of what it all means for the bottom line. An expert in e-commerce and digital marketing strategy, web development, search marketing, and analytics, Tim focuses on the growth of the social, local, mobile web and its impact on both consumer behavior and business results. He is a member of the Search Engine Marketers Professional Organization (SEMPO), HSMAI, and the Digital Analytics Association. Tim Peter’s recent client work covers a wide range of digital marketing activities including developing digital and mobile marketing strategies, creating digital product roadmaps, assessing organizational capabilities, and conducting vendor evaluations for diverse clients including major hospitality companies, real estate brands, SaaS providers, and marketing agencies. Prior to launching Tim Peter & Associates, LLC, a full-service e-commerce and internet marketing consulting firm in early 2011, he worked with the world’s largest hotel franchisor, the world’s premier independent luxury hotel representation firm, and a major financial services firm, developing various award-winning products and services for his customers. Tim can be reached at tim@timpeter.com or by phone at 201-305-0055.

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