Is digital capable of joining the direct dots? Ben Goodale thinks so.

One of the great debates in agency land is who owns digital, as it’s one of those little hot potatoes that everyone lays a claim to. After all, what exactly is digital anyway? Is it funny videos on YouTube, corporate image management via Facebook or Twitter, banner advertising on popular websites, eDM campaigns, viral content, websites, consumer content engagement, apps, Pinterest boards … the list is endless and seems to change nearly every day. 

But what’s interesting about this is the barrier to entry to create content and be a part of it is now down to the basic denominator of a person with access to technology. What differentiates content for brands is an overarching strategy that makes sense of it all and engages your customers relevantly in your marketing message so they buy more of whatever it is you are selling.

So how do you bring this together strategically? There are some key points to make here:

  • What are your customers most interested in?
  • What channels can you control best? Or if you lose control, can you deal with it?
  • What messages will your customers be most receptive to?
  • What channels will deliver the greatest ROI?
  • What are the strategic objectives of your brand/sales strategy and how do they align with the points above?

I would argue the problem with a lot of digital is that despite the fact it is supposedly two way, it tends to be treated as a series of one-off campaigns. It’s not always apparent if there is a long term sustainable result in all the excitement the campaign has delivered, albeit probably some fantastic short term sales growth. Given most marketing departments have limited budgets and time resource for their teams, ideally they should be channeling their energy into campaigns that come out top in the list of questions above and build towards sustainable sales.

So where does direct sit amongst all of this? The great news is now we can operate a CRM programme in the cloud and start to join the dots of all these disparate digital opportunities, bringing them together in one box—a data warehouse—where you can see what customers are doing and how they are interacting with you across both ‘traditional’ platforms like sales and eDM and newer platforms like Facebook, Foursquare and Pinterest. 

This effectively means you can leverage digital campaigns for the future by building either a database or, at the very least, a circle of ‘social acceptance’ so you can post on social sites to those who have engaged with you previously.

If someone likes us on Facebook, we can post to their page. If we connect them with our database, we could actually message them on Facebook from our database and go beyond the Facebook relationship to the wider customer relationship. We can record their interactions on Facebook relating to our brand (likes, posts, shares, check ins, etc), and score them accordingly in terms of their level of engagement with us. This provides a basis for segmentation and messaging.

 We can combine that with their open rates and clicks on the emails we send them, directly measure sales behaviour, partake in customer lifetime value modeling, and start to put a value on their engagement with us. And if they respond to a sales promotion and we connect them with that in the database, we know they are engaging that way too. 

It relies on acceptance and trust from the consumer. And at the heart of it is a data warehouse operating a CRM programme, which makes sense of it all because it’s getting harder and harder as media fragments faster and faster. But the result can be a set of indicators that show you the way a consumer is engaging and supporting across an amazingly wide spectrum of channels.

Author: Ben Goodale is Managing Director of justONE and a regular contributor to the NZ Marketing Magazine.