Why digital marketing is a tactic, not a strategy

by Richard Fouts

I continue to see job openings for head of digital strategy; I get calls from clients inquiring “what should my digital strategy be?” I see piece after piece talking about digital strategy, social media strategy, mobile strategy. Folks, I’m here to tell you digital marketing is a tactic. Social media is a tactic. Mobile is a tactic.

You already have a marketing strategy. How can you extend its intent, its goals, its objectives with the unique attributes of a digital technique? I don’t mean to split hairs, but crafting strategies around tactical tools is exactly what gets marketing executives into trouble. It’s the type of thinking that leads to silos. It’s the type of thinking that leads to dashboard reports that show email marketing is the cheapest tactic of all, causing your CEO to say, “well …let’s just move everything to email.”

Let’s look at some examples. You might have a sales goal, driven by marketing to reduce the length of your sales cycle. How can digital can tactically help you do that? Advocacy marketing for one. With the social web, you can find your advocates online and leverage them in your marketing campaigns. Research shows the advocacy of another customer can bring a sales cycle to a halt faster than anything else. Now when you report up to the CEO, you show how sales cycle time has been reduced, something that helps both revenue and cash flow. How did you do it? Who cares? It worked (if he’s really interested I’m sure you’ll tell him).

Or,  you have a marketing goal of improving brand awareness. So you use digitally-enabled word-of-mouth marketing to help you do that, through viral campaigning, customer advocacy platforms or with Youtube. Or you get involved on leading blogs in your space to spur inbound inquiries (the type of leads that tend to be more qualified than other types of leads); hence you used social media as a tactic to help you improve lead quality. Make sense? Get the picture?

CEOs can relate with these types of scenarios. What they can’t relate with are deep dive discussion into digital marketing strategies, that talk more about how digital works, that how it helps you achieve results.

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