The Five Principles That Should Drive Your Digital Efforts

By David Lazarenko written about 2 months ago

If you're like me, you see the world of digital marketing and communications as a highly complex and inherently complicated one. It's a world fraught with choices, challenges and change, and one that seemingly moves at a speed greater than business itself. Fortunately, it is also a world that, given the right strategy, can deliver results that make navigating the complexities and complications more than worthwhile. And it is also a world that, given the right mindset, can become a relatively seamless function of your business.

From my experience, this "right mindset" is reflected in how you approach digital. As important as it is to define your why (i.e. your digital goals and objectives) and your what (i.e. your digital channels, tools and budgets), to achieve sustainable success, your digital efforts also need to consider your how. While often overlooked, your how will ultimately define not only your digital mindset but also the accessibility and authenticity of your digital presence.

To better understand this, let's explore the five principles that define how successful marketers approach digital:

1. Leads Over Likes

I can confess that Think Shift, like many other agencies, first approached digital as a new canvas for creativity: to use our website and social channels to showcase all the cool things we could do with interaction and design. While this may have created some amusing experiences for visitors, could I ultimately say it generated business? Unfortunately, no.

If you are a for-profit organization (and, in many cases, a not-for-profit one), be assured that your digital presence is first and foremost a new business tool. As such, if you cannot firmly credit any sales leads (and, in turn, new business) to your digital channels, then you may be spending a good amount of time, effort and money on something that is technically providing no tangible ROI.

2. Function Over Form

This is something that user experience experts have been preaching to clients (and designers) for years. No matter how amazing a digital touchpoint may look and feel, if it isn't intuitive to the visitor while also leading them to the action you want them to take, it is technically "broken."

Today, this goes beyond the experiences on a single digital touchpoint (like an app or your Pinterest page) and should include considerations regarding which touchpoints you should use to begin with. As an example, many B2C organizations are still developing desktop websites when their audiences have expressed that their primary device for digital consumption is their smartphone. If these organizations truly put function before form, the majority of their time, effort and budget would be spent on mobile touchpoints with their desktop site being considered a secondary (or even tertiary) investment.

3. Engagement Over Awareness

Getting sucked into clicks and page views generated by your digital marketing is a recipe for false performance. Ultimately, it makes no difference how many times someone has seen your digital ads, clicked through to your homepage or even downloaded your app – if they haven’t engaged with your content, signed up as a contact or utilized your app, they are not performing the business function you desire. Setting conversion-based digital performance metrics that you can connect to your business' financial performance isn’t a nice-to-have, it’s a need-to-have.

4. Mattering Over Marketing

If this blog focused on Think Shift’s amazing service offerings, outstanding strategic knowledge and industry-leading digital solutions, how likely would you have been to engage with it? My guess is that it would have been so unlikely that even reading the sentence above felt awkward. That’s because consumers only consume what they like, and they don’t like a sales pitch.

Instead, digital marketers must focus on giving their audiences what they want to consume and building a relationship based on trust, value and authenticity. Even in e-commerce, where one would assume it is always about selling, providing the audience with factual product or service information (not jargon), unbiased reviews and access to educational content that can help them learn more, is critical to earning trust (and ultimately, the sale). While there are times and places for digital selling (Black Friday deals, for example), it can’t be all that you do.

5. Creation Over Convention

Possibly the most valuable benefit of digital is the fact that it can allow marketers to solve problems no other marketing tool could tackle before. One of the best examples of this is online/mobile banking. Prior to its invention, marketers for banks and financial institutions worked hard to generate a steady flow of customer traffic in hopes of maintaining and growing their business. This resulted in marketing efforts touting new benefits of the banks, such as longer hours, nicer environments and in some cases, even free giveaways like iPads.

Unfortunately, the problem wasn’t that customers didn’t like the hours, environments or the fact that they didn’t get iPads. The real problem was that customers didn’t like going to the bank, period. Fortunately, due to digital progressions, banks were finally able to move away from the conventional approach of marketing around the problem and instead created a real solution to the problem. This process of "questioning the problem" is critical to the digital mindset, as it forces today's marketers to pause and consider all types of solutions, not just marketing solutions.

Whether you have just started down the path of digital marketing and communications or you've been at it for some time, I encourage you to step back and assess your digital mindset and the how of your digital efforts. By simply tweaking your thinking, you may be able to achieve more of your why (your digital goals and objectives) without having to invest any more into your what (your digital channels, tools and budgets).

To learn more on how you can improve your digital efforts, take a look at our blog posts on Digital Best Practices and Social Media.