Monthly Archives: October 2018

3 Things you HAVE to know before choosing a Digital Marketing Firm.

BNBranding logoSurely you’ve seen some of the the online chatter about “digital marketing.” There are a million platforms, channels, systems, software programs and “strategies” that are guaranteed to make you a million bucks. And every month it’s something new.

You using Facebook Messenger yet?

If you’re a business owner you have better things to do than follow the scuttlebutt about the shifting landscape within different specialties that fall under the banner of marketing.

It’s just too much information.

So let me give you a quick piece of advice… If you’re choosing a digital marketing firm, or thinking of hiring a “digital marketing specialist” in-house, just read this post.

This is the absolute bare minimum that you need to know before choosing a digital marketing firm. You can’t manage their work effectively if you don’t know the basics:

Choose one main thing BNBranding1. Know the definition of a “Digital Marketing Firm.”

Here’s a definition, used by one of the big players in that business:

“Digital marketing is data driven and targeted brand promotion through technology.”

“Data Driven” and “Targeted” are popular buzzwords these days. But guess what… Marketing consultants, direct response agencies and market research firms have always been “data driven.”

Even Advertising Agencies… They use hard market research data to devise creative campaigns, and then they use sophisticated media targeting to deliver the message to the right people.

This is NOT a new concept in the marketing world.

The digital firms are just using new technology to do the work on a more granular level. And for the most part, it’s good, valuable work that should be part of every marketing plan.

Note the use of the word “promotion”.

By definition, promotions are transactional tactical tools that can boost short term sales, which is great. But they do not build brand loyalty. Don’t confuse promotional tactics with brand strategy.

And wait a minute. That same firm also claims: “We have the means to take over your marketing from top to bottom, evaluate your brand’s needs and develop a powerful strategy that maximizes profits.”

That’s where they begin to overpromise.

I don’t know of any digital firms that have account planners, market researchers or brand managers on staff who can help you with a brand strategy. Digital marketing guys are technology-minded specialists. They’re not trained — nor wired — to see the big picture.

For that, you need a marketing consultant or a strategic branding firm. Even an ad agency would be a better choice for strategy work than a digital marketing firm.

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1. Know where digital marketing firms fit into the overall marketing landscape.

These days, digital firms are constantly preaching their “digital is the future of marketing” sermon. And a lot of business owners are buying into the idea that a digital marketing firm is all they’ll ever need.

But the world’s greatest brands, and the fastest growing small businesses, recognize one old-fashioned business school fact: The best marketing is a MIX of things.

You need a MIX of marketing tactics.

A MIX of marketing talent and perspectives — both generalists and specialists.

A MIX of different media outlets to keep your brand visible and relevant. Not just social media posts or paid Instagram ads.

waste in advertising - BNBranding's Brand Insight BlogA healthy marketing mix means that some of your tactical marketing will be designed for a short-term bump in sales, while others will be designed for building long-term brand loyalty.

Some will be creative, design-oriented and “feel good” like what you get from design firms and ad agencies.

Some will be analytical and numbers-driven, like what you get from digital marketing firms.

And all those pieces should be aligned under one, coherent, overarching marketing strategy.

Strategy first. Tactics second. 

The old 4 P’s of Marketing still apply, and business owners need to pay attention to all four. Not just the one that’s covered by digital marketing firms.

There’s “Place” which has to do with distribution strategy.

There’s Pricing. 

There’s Product. (A great product makes all the other elements of marketing much easier.)

And finally, there’s “Promotions” which is a catch-all phrase that includes all advertising and  tactical marketing communications, including every specialized facet of Digital Marketing.

So you see, the tactical work that Digital Marketing firms do well — SEO, SEM, SMM, CPM and all those other confusing acronyms — is really just a small part of the overall tactical marketing picture.

Digital marketing firms like to compare themselves to “traditional advertising agencies” because the old, Mad Men model is an easy target.

But digital agencies are actually more similar to Direct Response agencies than they are to traditional ad agencies. Direct Response firms always have been driven by quantifiable data and measurable ROI.

I believe it won’t be long before the term “digital marketing” is dropped entirely from the industry jargon. Because everything’s digital these days. Even traditional old things like radio advertising and print are delivered digitally.

3.  Know the difference between marketing strategy and tactics.

Digital marketing firms will tell you how “strategic” their social media work is, and they’ll claim that everything they do is based on “strategic targeting.” That’s all good, but really, in the bigger scheme of things it’s just tactics. Do not expect marketing strategy from a digital marketing firm.

Mark Ritson, a world renown brand strategist and Professor of Brand Management puts it bluntly: “‘Digital Strategy’ is a contradiction in terms. What’s happening all the time now is tactics are getting perverted into ‘strategies’. What you really need is a marketing strategy.”

Strategy first, THEN tactics.

I know it’s confusing. And don’t feel bad if all your efforts have been tactical. Ritson says that 80% of all British companies don’t have a coherent marketing strategy. Everyone’s fixated on tactics these days.

Here’s a good post where you can read more about the differences between marketing strategy and tactics. 

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4. Know who’s really doing the work.

The business model for many Digital Marketing Firms is pretty simple: Outsourcing. They exploit and monetize multiple sources of cheap labor. They use crowdsourcing websites, they hire freelancers from Upwork or firms from Asia to do the work, and then they mark it up. Dramatically.

Some consulting firms also do that. It’s a good business model for them, but it’s not designed with the best interest of the client at heart.

There’s no synergy to those efforts because every little marketing tactic is being executed by a different person who knows nothing about your business. Plus, in most cases there’s no strategy to guide the efforts.

So before choosing a digital marketing firm, just know that they cannot help you with the big picture strategy work that’ll build your brand in the long run.

So you have two choices… Become your own, best brand manager and get really good at strategy, OR hire a brand strategy consultant to map things out before you ever jump on board with a digital marketing firm.

Without it, your digital tactics will not be as effective as everyone would like.

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new approach to website design

Brand design with a bang – Visual cues and consistency across platforms

BNBranding logoA lot of people ask me about brand design and the graphics that accompany these blog posts.

They see the same visual cues on my website, in social media posts, in ads, on video and even on good, old-fashioned post cards, emails and invoices.

They comment about the work on LinkedIn and, yes, they respond to it. A few people have even said, “Wow, that’s really cool. Can you do something like that for my company?”

Of course.

Because the fact is, bold graphics such as these stop people in their tracks. As prospects are scrolling quickly through a Facebook feed, they breeze right over all the stuff that looks the same as everything else… Stock photos, charts and graphs, head shots.

They only pause when they see something that “Pops.”

The incongruity of the image or message, relative to everything else they see, creates natural human curiosity. It’s just the way our brains work.

a new approach to website design BNBrandingOn the other hand, we are wired to ignore the images, sounds and words that are familiar to us.

So familiar words, sounds and imagery do not belong in your advertising efforts.

Thanks to an increasingly fragmented marketing landscape, the need for consistently UNfamiliar visuals is on the rise. There are just so many different marketing tactics these days, it’s hard to get them all aligned into one, cohesive campaign. Most companies lose that “Pop” they could get by maintaining visual consistency across various platforms.

The same goes for sounds. The very best Radio, TV and video campaigns include unique sound cues that tie all the components of the campaign together. For instance, I wrote an award-winning radio campaign for a glass company, and the audio cue couldn’t have been more clear… the squeek of windex on a window.

It was an audible punctuation mark that proved very successful.

Visual punctuation marks, such as the images in our “Be” Campaign, can make small budgets look big. It’s one of the little things that small businesses can do to become iconic brands in their own, little spaces.

Brand design advice Tom PetersTom Peters, in his book The Little Big Things, says “design mindfulness, even design excellence, should be part of every company’s core values. Because the look IS the message. Because design is everything.”

Some people seem to think that “branding messages” do not belong on social media. And that you can’t design a “branding” website that also moves product.

That’s hogwash.

As Peters said, every message out there is branding. You can’t differentiate sales messages or social messages from brand messages. It’s all connected. You might as well make them look that way.

Consistent, unexpected brand design is the easiest way to improve the impact of your messages and leverage your marketing spend.

If you’re not thinking about branding and design aesthetics when posting something on LinkedIn or Instagram, you’re missing a huge opportunity. People will just scroll on by.

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If you’re not thinking about design when crafting headlines for your website, you’re not seeing the big picture. People will just click right out.

If you’re not thinking about your brand image when choosing a location or decorating your office space, you’re missing the boat.

Design is just one element of your overall branding efforts. But it’s an important one. Too important to ignore.Because every time you hammer home those visual cues, you move one little step closer to your objective.

If your business needs a stronger visual presence across all marketing channels, give us a call.

Or click here for an inexpensive yin/yang assessment of all your marketing efforts.

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Same with sounds.