user, context, results

Last week I was playing squash with a playing partner that I can confidently say was a complete beginner.

I would have thought squash was a logical sort of game. However, I found it very interesting how their common sense seemed to fail them at the idea of trying out this new sport. Although they were tennis players themselves they struggled to think through their racquet co-ordination, ball techniques and game play. I know that the style of play is different, but it intrigued me how lost they seemed to be. At one stage they even asked if you were allowed to move your arms during squash.

It was as if they suddenly thought that the principles of racquet sports did not apply here, that there was some secret magic to it that they were not privy to, and their capacity to rationalise froze because of this.

I find that many small businesses approach digital marketing strategy in much the same way. It is interesting how quickly the confusion kicks in. Sometimes it’s as if business professionals believe they are entering a world of Quantum Theory and Chaos, and the rules of engagement are some mysterious black art.

This should not be like this. Digital marketing is built on common sense.

Of course there are systems and principles in place to help us understand each area of digital marketing. In fact there are a large number of them, and in this rapidly developing field there are new tools and nuances being introduced all the time. Perhaps this is what can sometimes get confusing. We have to realise, though, that although the tools develop and change, their purpose remains pretty much the same.

it can all be quiet simple : think user, think context, think results

There are many other functions which carry the same process. Logistics would think user, think context, think results. Architects would do the same. Even parenting can use the same principles (this is an educated guess as I am not actually a parent!).

Understanding this does not make it any much easier to implement, but it does help us stop being too tunnel focused too soon.

For example, when we decide on a brief with our creatives the first thing they do is step away from the screen. Ultimately they will be using this, but they see it as a means to an end; a tool to help them achieve the end result. They first walk away and understand the user, the context, and the end result. By making sure they don’t get distracted with Pantones, Layers, and Lasso too soon they are keeping a bird’s eye view on where this should all be heading too. They define the story, the mood, the “Why” and everything else falls into place (ok so it does take longer than that but you get my drift).

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All too often digital marketing thinking starts with opening an Adwords account, setting up Social Advertising, creating new content, keyword research, and such like. If we were to ask to see a plan or direction of where this activity is taking us to we are often met with confused expressions.

There is nothing wrong with these channels. Each of them have their own merit, their own place to play within a digital marketing strategy. Each have their own important metrics and drive ROI in their own way. But if we don’t understand how the big machinery is supposed to deliver, how can we consider how effectively each of these cogs play a part in it.

Digital marketing strategy planning is full of “Acquire”, “Engage”, ”Retain”, “Convert”. This is right of course, but this thinking is very process and task driven. To be effective with these tasks we have to understand the user, the context and the desired results. Defining these will then influence the way in which we can acquire, engage, retain, and convert.

The first step, therefore, has to be drawing out the plan. What is the end goal we are trying to achieve, what resources are at our disposal, who is our audience, and what is our playing field.
Our resources then become our channels, primed to be the most effective in particular areas of the plan. We plan their route, and the best time to implement them for maximum effect.

We will know this because we understand the user, context and results – not just because of guesswork or gut feeling, but because we also consistently consult our analytics to add empirical evidence to what we believe we already know.

Francis has extensive experience in working on complex digital marketing strategies for ecommerce, B2B, communities, and more encompassing all digital marketing channels.

Francis Mac Aonghus