Marketing Has Changed Forever — If You Blinked You May Have Missed It

by David Cumings and John M. Zindar for The Imaging Channel

There is good news: the digital age affords the opportunity to exponentially raise ROI on marketing expenditures and to deliver unheard of revenue and growth. Although most firms are slow to embrace the opportunity, big gains are available for the early adopters of new thinking in digital marketing.

Wait — aren’t most firms already heavily engaged in the digital world? Most spend money on sophisticated websites, e-commerce, online advertising and SEO, as well as the many other specialisms of new marketing. Social media icons are proudly lined up on business cards — a lens, an “F,” a tube, a tiny blue bird.

All the tools are there, but the bad news is, unless they are coordinated into a logical and transparent process that is focused on tracking progress toward stated goals, the digital opportunity is lost and confusion can reign.

What, Still No ROI?

What does all this engagement do for firms? How do they track their spend performance — their ROI — on dedicated capital and labor? The answer is the same as it was before anybody knew what a Google Adword was — nobody really knows. The famous lament of Viscount Leverhulme more than a century ago resounds even louder since the advent of digital:

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, and the trouble is I don’t know which half!”

The co-founder of Unilever would be appalled at the state of marketing today. He would see even more resources being shoved through even more disparate channels. There is little focus in the new, highly variegated digital landscape; rather, the goal is to cover as many bases as a budget will allow — a form of “spray and pray” for the 21st century.

Despite the many processes in place, ROI generally remains unknown and its potential is untapped. This shortchanging is especially burdensome for small and medium-sized firms that struggle to remain relevant with each new trend in social media or big data dump. In this crowded barnyard environment, chickens without heads come to mind.

Does Anybody Really See You?

So how does a firm, especially one that can’t lavish money on an army of marketers spraying and praying across fast-moving digital targets, deal with the traditional black hole of marketing, now deeper and more mysterious than ever?

You might be thinking, “but I already have an SEO program in place and now I just have to keep building a better website.” But if SEO delivers traffic that bounces or fails to engage, then it either delivers the wrong audience to your site — or delivers the wrong presentation to the right audience.

Your potential customer is not on your website right now, and the chances of them being there any time soon is remote unless you build a strategy to make yourself visible to your target audience in the places where they are right now.

Why is all of that money spent on flashy websites when it is the last place that these people are likely to encounter your offerings? The truth, as it often does, hurts. An expensive website is like a billboard on the long desert stretch between Vegas and L.A. — destined to be ignored at high speed.

Happily, with the correct focus, firms can turn processes with unknown outputs into a sleek approach that increases revenue flows while validating the marketing efforts behind the surge.

Visibility First — Inbound Marketing on Steroids

To deliver sales, offerings must be visible to the target audience and presented in a manner they find compelling. The greater the visibility, the greater the sales. Accordingly, the corporate culture needs a new mantra — visibility first, moving the culture beyond obsessions with websites and the tiny blue birds of the outbound world.

We start with a basic fact: People exist right now who want what you have to offer. These people could be down the street, or on the other side of the globe. But they really do want your product or service right now.

The problem is that these people have never heard of you. It is your task to make yourself and your offer compellingly visible to these people. Make yourself visible to the right people, and your revenue will naturally increase.

Hence, relevant visibility is directly proportional to revenue.

Visibility is the core of inbound marketing; be found by your customers rather than spending lots of money and effort trying to find them, the marker of traditional outbound marketing,

Firms need to set up the framework to be found by their customers. By adopting a visibility first approach, they can do this in ways that deliver both revenue and meaningful ROI.

The Visibility-First Strategy

So, how to adopt a visibility-first approach to marketing?

It begins with setting some objectives. How much money do you actually want to earn this quarter? Get these financial objectives written down and nailed to the wall for everyone to understand.

And who is going to put that money in your bank account? This requires a process of detailed audience segmentation and the creation of some workable buyer personas. This will start to tell you about the things that keep your customers awake at night. You need to understand their emotional pains. And even more important, you need to understand how your product or service will solve those pains.

The visibility-first strategy is based on an inbound content approach. This uses influencers to place relevant and compelling content in front of your target audience where they already are looking. This is not advertising. You are not selling anything in this approach! Rather, you are offering up content that helps the audience understand and solve their pains.

This only works if one teaches, not sells. If you do, customers will find you. Outcomes can be astonishing. Most importantly, the effectiveness of the inbound approach can be measured in ways that outbound advertising and publicity can never be — revealing an ROI on your expenditures that is both very efficient and pleasing.

This is why a visibility-first approach makes sense. Thinking in visibility terms broadens horizons, taking the business on a journey outwards from its website and penetrating the digital geography of its customers, where their pains and desires reside.

And you must be visible there, where they are. That is where your customers’ critical aspirations are revealed. Visibility allows a better understanding of a target audience that now has no idea who you are or what you have to offer.

Get Your Business to the Gym

Once a firm commits to a visibility-first approach, it needs to be visibly fit. It’s time to take the business (or at least the sales and marketing team) to the gym on a regular basis to check the fitness of the processes that contribute to visibility. It can be a long, detailed process — but here are the highlights of the simple questions sales and marketing need to answer:

Building a hard body of factual objectives

Do you have documented business and sales objectives, and if so, what is the end-to-end process by which these objectives are to be achieved? How does each pot of marketing expenditure fit in this objective-focused process and what is the ROI that you need to deliver?

Accumulating customer knowledge

Who are these people and what do you know about them? Do you have buyer personas for them? Have you conducted a detailed audience segmentation? Specifically, how does your product or service speak to what keeps them awake at night? Does your offer really solve their pains? And what about their goals and aspirations? Are you communicating how you’re going to help deliver them?

Educating and entertaining to be compelling

Are compelling propositions being created that speak directly to the emotional needs of the customer? Create the right content and your offerings will start to walk out of the door as your new customers are pounding at it. Is content being created that carry these propositions to the target audiences? Are you thinking like a publisher and creating content that truly helps your customers? Are you teaching, not selling? As inbound thought leader Seth Godin says, “content marketing is the only marketing left.”

Harnessing influencers to engage customers

Are there mechanisms to get your content to the places where your customers spend their time? Are you finding and befriending the people who already have the eyes of your customers? Are you amplifying your content by harnessing the power of those influencers to take your message directly to your target audiences? Are you prepared to deal with any organizational pushback on giving all of this content away for free?

This last question bears special attention — the correct answer is critical to making the transition from old to new marketing. The purpose of putting out content for free is to capture leads. Again, this is not about traditional sales. Leads are generated when you have taught, not sold something. You have gained the audience’s trust and respect for your expertise. It is sales without selling.

Making your digital infrastructure fit as well

Is your digital infrastructure capable of doing that? It is an essential part of being visibility fit — is it? Can you capture leads? As leads flow in, are you adopting an inbound sales process to score, qualify, validate and then nurture them?

Setting metrics and calculating ROI — no excuses here!

Are you setting and constantly recalibrating metrics that facilitate measuring and reporting? Can you observe the direct proportional relationship between visibility and revenue, where the ROI comes from? Have you stopped spraying and praying?

When all the questions are answered correctly, the firm is visibility fit — and a revamped marketing process is ready to be implemented.

Campaign-Led Implementation

Finally, it’s time to become visibility focused. This involves taking a campaign-based approach to amplifying the visibility that has been created. It’s creating new content each month according to objectives suited to individual customer segments. And it’s releasing that content in conjunction with the power of influencers. This disciplined, ongoing approach creates a feedback loop that continues to validate and deliver traffic, leads and revenue.

It’s a Process

So marketing has changed forever, and so have the business processes needed for ambitious firms to deliver revenue and growth.

To deliver excellence, businesses need to be rewired to focus on how visible they are to their natural audiences. Doing so can deliver hitherto unseen market value in contrast to the old way of doing things. It is a very cost-effective process, especially for the small and medium-sized firm. As explained in some detail above, the process can be summarized in just six words: visibility first, visibility fit, visibility focused.

Contributors: David Cumings, VisibilityCorps Ltd.; John Zindar, Integral Board Group, Inc.

This article originally appeared in the June 2016 issue of The Imaging Channel.