Just how serious is your business about the digital channels?
Any other year, I may have used the words "online channels" instead of "digital channels," but 2010 tilted the marketing world a whole lot more. We can't just talk about world-class websites and getting found on the search engines anymore. The pervasiveness of mobile smartphones (iPhone, Android, BlackBerry), tablets (iPad, Samsung, Dell) and the entire app economy that surrounds it is quickly becoming a dominant business force.
We also can't ignore the powering growth of Facebook.
Over the holiday break, Facebook was named the most visited site in 2010... beating out Google (according to Experian Hitwise)! And we're not just talking about big business, either. Groupon - which enables local businesses to offer a unique discount once a pre-determined amount of people commit to purchasing the deal - turned down a six billion dollar acquisition attempt by Google, which validated that hyper-local has finally arrived. Small businesses can now effectively leverage the digital marketing channels in a cost-effective way. If brands were feeling a tad intimidated about leveraging all of these channels before, I hazard to guess at how overwhelmed they're feeling right now (but the word "dizzy" does come to mind). It's the beginning of January, so before things start to pick up and all of your New Year's Resolutions for 2011 become things you'll think about (once again) this coming December, why not commit to a Digital Marketing Reboot?
Here are the 6 questions you should answer and then act on as soon as possible:
- Are you committed to a real strategy? Sadly, most businesses get tactical and caught in the weeds. They hop on Twitter because their competitors are there, but they have no strategy in place. Think about why you need the digital channels, and develop a holistic view of the digital marketing landscape. Figure out how the digital channels can best serve your brand. The net result should be a focused strategy that is based on your overall business objectives, economic value to the organization and a tactical plan.
- Do you own your brand online? Make sure you own all of the right domain names for your business (and renew the ones that you currently have). This should include all .com and country-specific iterations (I'm less concerned about .net and some of the other ones, but feel free to grab them if you can). Make sure to also protect domain names for your products and services as well as your key management people (buying the misspellings of your keywords is a great idea too). Don't forget about the social media spaces: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc... all allow you to customize your direct URL for these spaces (i.e. I try to secure "mitchjoel" and "twistimage" anywhere and everywhere possible, so if someone is on Twitter, usually www.twitter.com/mitchjoel will get you to me). Regardless of whether or not you're active there, it is better to be safe (and have the names) than to be sorry (should you ever need them).
- Does your website suck? Avinash Kaushik, the analytics evangelist for Google and the bestselling author of Web Analytics - An Hour A Day and Web Analytics 2.0 says, "don't write cheques with Social Media that your websites can't cash." There has been such a focus on Social Media that many business websites look tired, out-of-date and lack many of the baseline functionality that consumers now expect. It may very well be time for a refresh or a complete overhaul of your website.
- Is your content up-to-date? Is your content representative of where your business is at in 2011? Is it filled with industry jargon that only your competitors will understand? Do you have a news section? How up-to-date is it? Does it have a RSS feed? Now quickly review your "about us" and "management" sections... are they fresh? Do they allow your consumers (and potential ones) to truly connect to you? What about your more visible profiles in places like LinkedIn, Facebook and Wikipedia? Update your content. If you don't have profiles in some of the more popular online social networks, you should get started on populating your content there as well (it bodes well for making your business more findable).
- Is your website mobile? More and more people are doing searches and navigating the Internet via their smartphone or tablet. If your website does not automatically redirect these people to a mobile version of your online experience, there's a high probability that these people are having a bad brand experience. Pay heed to this: the mobile web is where the desktop browser was in the mid-nineties. Mobile will quickly become more important than the Internet as we've known it to date.
- Are you findable? Are you shareable? If someone searches for your business, brands, management people or the industry you serve in the major search engines, where do you show up (in both the organic and paid listing)? What about if someone does a search for you on YouTube or asks about you on Twitter? Are you listening? Are you responding? Do you allow the content on your websites, Blogs, etc... to be shared in places like Facebook and Twitter with ease? Do you respond to the conversations about your brands and the industry you serve? While all of this should be defined in your strategy, it's still important to know that in 2011, the consumer has an expectation. If you don't offer the same type of functionality that consumers have come to expect in their daily digital interactions, it's not that you will be perceived as old or traditional, it's that you are not meeting the bare expectations that they have.
There's no denying that a Digital Marketing Reboot will take a lot of work. Does your business have what it takes?
The above posting is my twice-monthly column for the Montreal Gazette and Vancouver Sun newspapers called, New Business - Six Pixels of Separation. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original versions online here:
- Montreal Gazette - Commit to digital marketing reboot or get left behind.
- Vancouver Sun - A 2011 digital marketing reboot.