What Is the Best Digital Marketing Strategy?

Paul Boag

The best digital marketing strategy is one that focuses on providing value to the consumer, not on promoting a product or service.

What is our best digital marketing strategy?” is a question most organisations are asking in one form or another. It is also an impossible question to answer in a blog post, as it is dependant on so many factors.

However, I can share with you the best digital marketing strategy I have observed over the years. It is a strategy that is still considered radical in some quarters. It is a strategy built around the user and not the product.

The Best Digital Marketing Strategy Starts with The User

I am not talking about market research here. Marketers have been doing that for years, and it is a critical component in even the most traditional approach to marketing.

However, the premise of market research is to understand the customer to persuade them better to buy an existing product. By contrast, user-centric digital marketing aims to understand the customer better so it can provide more value to them and meet their needs. A value that comes not just from the product, but also from the marketing itself.

Take, for example, this post, which is a form of advertising for my services and in particular my training around digital marketing.

I believe that my services provide value, but that is not enough. This article needs to provide you with value too. My marketing has to provide value to attract attention and encourage people to share it with others.

Of course, what I am describing is a lot like content marketing, and indeed, when we do content marketing well, it is user-centric. However, all too often, content marketing fails because it is not user-centric.

Example press release.
Users don’t care about news and press releases. They want content that helps meet their needs.

Too many content marketing efforts fail to provide value because they are ultimately product and company-centric, rather than focused on user needs. They are so concerned with trumpeting the benefits of the companies products and services to help people. Ultimately, nobody cares about your company news!

In short, traditional marketing focuses on the product, but the best digital marketing strategy focuses on the customer and providing them with value.

Why Start with The User?

The reason that the best digital marketing strategy starts with the user is that the consumer has all of the power. Where once it was the company with their massive marketing budgets who had the power, today, digital has shifted that power into the hands of the consumer.

Digital gives the consumer instant access to near unlimited choice, and that amount of choice makes them extremely demanding and selective. On top of that, digital has also given users a voice to complain if they are unhappy and most now realise they have real power to damage a brand.

Infographic showing the shift in power from company to consumer.
There has been a profound shift in power from the company to the consumer.

In this brave new world, it is about more than who shouts the loudest. It is about who provides the most value and best experience to the consumer and to do that we need to understand what the user values.

How to Start with The User

Traditional market research focuses on the consumer’s demographic information and their tastes, to understand how we might influence them. However, the best digital marketing strategies focus on the user’s needs.

  • What questions do they have?
  • What pain points do they struggle with?
  • What are they trying to achieve?

That has led to more progressive digital marketers adopting many of the tools from user experience design — tools like empathy mapping and customer journey mapping.

The best digital marketing strategy makes use of customer journey maps.
Customer Journey Maps have become a valuable tool for marketers seeking to understand how they can bring value to consumers.

They have also adopted some of the working methodologies from user experience design as well.

Although the best digital marketing strategies still rely heavily on data gathering and quantitive research, they also have a healthy dose of qualitative techniques too, including things like field studies and interviews.

The best digital marketers realise that it is only by having regular content with their audience will they understand how to provide value to users in their communications.

This kind of interaction with the user doesn’t just shape the communications with the customer, it can also start shaping the product itself.

While traditional marketing was about persuading the customer to buy the product, the best digital marketing strategy is as much about persuading the business to adapt the product to the customer.

But the best digital marketing strategies do not just limit the customer’s involvement to a discovery phase upfront. They also involve the user in the creation process of the individual marketing campaigns.

The Best Digital Marketing Strategy Involves the User in Creation

In my experience, too many marketing campaigns begin and end with somebody’s bright idea that they believe will resonate with the audience. Rarely is that hypothesis tested or the campaign adapted based on user feedback.

Example of poorly run digital marketing strategy.
Most digital marketing campaigns tend to be driven by one persons unformed idea.

The best digital marketing campaigns are those who involve the user in their creation in some way. That may be through prototyping campaigns and testing them with users, as user experience designers have been doing for years. However, it could also be encouraging users to contribute content to a campaign via social media or community engagement.

At the very least, you should be asking users what content you should be producing and for their opinions on how you should address the topic. The best digital marketing campaigns are a two-way dialogue, not only a broadcast.

But that two way dialogue isn’t just about listening to users, it is about observing them too.

The Best Digital Marketing Strategy Adapts to The User

It should go without saying that the best digital marketing strategy is one built on monitoring and adapting to how users respond to the content we release.

However, although we all know this in theory, often the reality is different. It is easy to skip A/B testing to get a campaign out of the door or to ignore the analytics from a campaign because we are already focusing on the next one. A surprising number of companies seem more focused on the quantity of marketing material than its effectiveness.

The only way to avoid this problem is to ensure our digital marketing strategy establishes a campaign cycle that leaves time for review and adaptation.

We need to stop thinking that we will hit gold when we launch a new piece of content or campaign. Instead, we should have the opportunity to monitor that campaign and refine it over time.

This approach applies whether you are talking about a website, Facebook ads or even an email campaign. Always launch, monitor and refine.

We should always monitor and refine campaigns post launch.

The Best Digital Marketing Strategy Adopts New Thinking, Not Just New Channels

The danger with our digital marketing strategy is that we adopt digital channels while keeping our old marketing thinking.

We cannot simply swap a billboard ad for a Facebook ad or TV advertising for Youtube. Neither is a website is not just an online brochure.

The best digital marketing strategies are those who understand that the world has fundamentally changed and so the way we approach marketing has to radically change too. We now live in a world where we need user experience marketers as much as we need user experience designers.

Stock Photos from buffaloboy/Shutterstock

Stock Photos from SvetaZi/Shutterstock

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