Monday, August 17, 2015

Brands! Are you listening?

Would you spend money to ignore your customers? Would you spend time & effort to create an impression among your potential customers that you don't care about what they say? Obviously not. They why do it in Digital?

The other day I came across a sponsored post from a leading bank on LinkedIn where, in response, some readers had posted negative comments. That reminded me of the negative comments I have seen from unhappy customers on Facebook posts by a  leading airline. What was common in both the cases was that not once, had I seen any response from the company to these comments. So I checked and realized that these companies were present on different social channels, and were posting regularly. But they almost never responded to any comment negative or positive.

What does this mean? This means you put out a piece of communication that someone has read and responded to that but you ignored them. And lo! there comes another post after that. That too got some responses, some related, and maybe even some unrelated responses, but no one responded to that either! Over a period of time people realize that it's all a one way communication and stop even reading all the content you are regularly churning out. Followers drop, likes reduce and your effort slowly goes down the drain. Worse, people do not connect with your brand or company and hence stop buying from you or using your services as you have created the perception of being unapproachable and unmindful of their views.

Companies spend millions on Branding. They hire experts, create campaigns, and spend again to do brand surveys & gauge customer receptiveness to their brand. But then, they fail to even acknowledge a direct response to their presence?  Here is an opportunity to connect and engage with their current customers and to create an image in the minds of their potential customers and they ignore it? And worse - they don't realize that they are actually creating a negative impression and hurting the brand by their behavior?

Why does this happen? In some cases, it's because the 'job' of posting or churning out content is being handled by people,  or agencies not directly connected with the business, and they are doing just what they were told - to post.  In other cases it's because, people handling dissemination of the post or content do not know whom in the organisation to turn back to for answers to a comment or a query - the marketing department, the tech team, the product team, the CRM team, the CEO? or who? And in some cases it's because, well, they just don't know how to respond.

This is just one aspect of listening in Digital. There are tools out there that can help you listen in to your competitors posts, responses to those, your customers and potential customers posts, the influencer's posts and to responses to your own posts and that too in real time. But only a few companies or brand are using these tools. Listening can tell you so much about your business category, your competition, customer views and opinions, industry views etc. Listening can then help you plan products or services, or changes to the same, it can help you draw out new marketing strategies, it can help you target new customer segments you didn't know existed , it can help you serve your existing customers better, and so much more. And it can help you build a Brand.

Just as I had written in my Blog post titled "Are you listening" highlighting the benefits of listening for effective communication in general, similarly, listening is very important in today's live, always on, connected Digital world.

So are you listening?

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Should you move your Digital Marketing in-house?

An article in today's Mint caught my eye. Titled 'Why marketing is moving in-house' the article has been written by Mark W. Schaefer for the Harvard Business Review, and talks about how companies are moving their marketing in-house from agencies. He also explains why. While he has written it more from the perspective of overall marketing, I think the reasons are more to do with Digital.

As a Digital Strategy Consultant, depending on the client's target audience as well as their short term and long term goals, I many a times recommend them to handle digital marketing on their own. I have nothing against agencies and in fact some of the agencies out there do a really great job, and I recommend them too. They can really help companies who are just getting started in Digital as they have the expertise, tools and experience that companies don't.

Then why handle digital marketing in-house? Here's why:

1) Digital marketing almost always, is not a one time or periodic marketing activity. It is continuous and ever evolving, and needs live monitoring and changes on the fly. For something that's always on, alive and can always be continuously bettered on to improve ROI, would you leave that to an external party to handle? or manage it yourself?

2) Digital marketing is directly measurable and results have to be tested continuously, and campaigns tweaked or altered accordingly on an ongoing basis. Creatives, landing pages, content, choice of media all have to be tried, tested and changed all the time to get the desired results. Would you be willing to lose time and money going back & forth with an external party for the same?

3) Digital marketing is almost always a mix of - onsite marketing, content marketing, blogs, SEO, SEM, Social, Videos etc, and there needs to be a coordinated effort across these for best results. Do you think external resources in different teams, sitting under different silos with their own targets to achieve, would be able to do that?

4) Digital marketing is less about broadcast and more about engagement. Frankly a lot of marketing heads and agencies are still living in the broadcast age and hence their campaigns are all about push. Being an interactive medium, digital enables customers to share their experience with your service or brand to one and all and you need to be able to respond to that in real time and in fact, encourage and also channel the same for your benefit. Can an external agency handle customer engagement as efficiently and effectively as you can?

5) Data & Analytics is a big part of digital marketing. And a lot of it is in real time too. It needs to be implemented & used effectively, and not only helps in better marketing but can also be useful for future product development. Would you rather have this in-house or handled by an external party that itself may change tomorrow?

6) Last but not the least, in digital, your product team, technology team, HR team, CRM team, delivery team, all have to work together along with your marketing team for best results. And that can only be done if your marketing strategy as well as execution is in-house.

Can't agencies provide that? Yes and No. Depending on the stage of your business, your budgets, current expertise & your business focus, you may decide to go with an agency or multiple agencies, and at that time that may be the best solution for you. If your business is digital, or your target audience is on digital, or if you seriously want to use digital for long term, then in-house may be a better way to do it. You may still use an agency for a part or some parts of your digital marketing, however the strategy and the core activities may be better handled in-house. 

Yes you would need tools and people with expertise, and good people are hard to get. However if you consider the long term benefits of building a team and expertise, it would be worth it.

Like I said above, I am not in any way trying to discourage companies from using Digital Agencies. All am saying is, at every stage of your business evolution, think about your current and long term needs and then take a decision that is most suited for your business.

For those of you who would want to consider an agency here is a blog I had written sometime back on 'Selecting the right digital agency for your business'. Also read this very pertinent article by Mark Traphagen, from Stone Temple Consulting on 6 signs of a valuable digital marketing agency.

Agree? Disagree? Please feel free to comment below with your views & suggestions.