Takeaways from the CIM’s Digital Marketing Summit

Last week, we joined senior marketers from around the country at the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s Digital Summit.  Here we share some of the digital marketing headlines, facts and forecasts we came away with.

The Summit examined the latest best practice in marketing, customer engagement and buyer behaviour through digital channels as well as measurement.  It also gave sneak peeks and forecasts of what’s to come.

To be honest, the sheer volume of ideas and digital marketing practices shared was mind-blowing and exciting.  We’ve now gathered our thoughts together to share those ‘takeaways’ from the Summit, which we feel were particularly relevant to SMEs in the Business to Business sector and their marketing.

 

More informed and discerning buyers

Many buyers now reference a number of different marketing sources before approaching a company with a view to purchasing a product or service. These sources can include website, social media, review sites, word of mouth.

To encourage buyers to continue to opt for your company, you have to create ‘meaningful’ or valuable connections at each of these points.  Companies need to be better prepared for customers who are more informed about the product/service they want when they get in touch.  Those who embrace this and adjust their marketing and sales approach will convert more enquiries into sales.

Think in terms of what additional insight and value you can introduce to the customer at each point by identifying what questions they have then. Don’t simply regurgitate stuff they’ve already found out.

 

Getting your marketing message heard

The smartphone has brought unprecedented levels of online browsing and activity – both in B2B and B2C sectors – and this will continue to rise.  At the same time, the ease of posting and publishing on-line means the level and pace of noise consumers and B2B buyers have to deal with is phenomenal. Be prepared for this to intensify and for it to be harder to get marketing messages heard. Also, more people (particularly the younger and older generations) are now using ad blockers.  For some solutions see the Don’t Panic paragraph at the end.

 

Pace of change

Social media channels are continually evolving – in the first half of 2016, there were 600 interface/functionality changes across the major social media platforms.  If you’re using these in your marketing, set regular time aside to adapt to changes so you can continue to make the most of your presence on these channels.

 

Creating a company-wide digital culture

Digital sources (website, social media, online reviews etc) are now a major reference point for buyers, with many using them to research and communicate to suppliers.  The Summit proposed that a digital focus needs to broaden out in a business and not be the sole remit of the marketing team.  Customer service, sales, IT and other customer-facing areas of the business all have a part to play in a company’s digital presence and online customer experience.

Only then can a company ensure it keeps up with the pace of dialogue and interest in its markets and, more importantly, is able respond immediately to customer/stakeholder comments, feedback and sales enquiries as they come in.  If there’s a delay a brand/company’s reputation can be damaged and customer loyalty lost.

 

Algorithm sophistication

Ongoing changes to algorithms means it is getting harder for people who have ‘liked’ or ‘follow you’ to see your posts.  Social media platforms – particularly facebook (but we think LinkedIn may be doing this too) are taking decisions on what they think is ‘good’ content and may not serve your updates to all your followers. Creating engaging content and integrating it with other communications channels in your marketing plan will help you gain more resonance, visibility and traction.

 

Sales from Social Media?

Social media is driving eCommerce sales in cases where the user is then directed to content/offers relevant to the topic they were engaging with. Also, social media’s integration with other marketing activities is key to achieving a good return on investment. For example, TopShop’s digital and outdoor campaigns around this year’s London Fashion Week generated a 75% uplift in sales on featured products.

 

Images over words

Videos and images are creating greater engagement on social media than text.  On Twitter, there has been a 150% video view growth in the last 12 months. Jeremy Waite from IBM predicted that by next year 80% of photos taken on a smartphone will be searchable.  He also stressed we now have to create marketing messages and content which can be grasped ‘in a swipe’.  People’s decisions on whether to engage with content are made in a matter of seconds, if that. Images and videos clearly help to prolong engagement.  Text puts people off.

 

Analytics for anything and everything

Analytics to measure any aspect of the marketing, sales, customer journey, loyalty (the list is endless) are now widely available.  Saying that it’s important to know precisely what you want to measure before embarking on your analysis.  Your question/objective needs total clarity in order to gather the right data and in the right way to answer it correctly.  Also, beware that traditional analytics for websites and social media don’t necessarily give the picture you’d expect. Bot activity is buried in with the stats and your headline numbers will not completely reflect real people and their engagement levels.

 

Don’t Panic!

Reassuringly, despite all the technological changes and more informed and selective buyers, engaging and interesting marketing content still wins on digital channels.  If you can develop content that engages and resonates with your customers and stakeholders, it will capture their interest, generate engagement and get shared.  This alone will help propel your business above the noise.

In planning your content think about the outcomes people get from using you – use their language, find out how they use your products and services and show them how to achieve more. People engage with content and marketing if it:

  • Has a relevance to a specific interest they have
  • Is timely for that interest, issue, need or requirement
  • Is enjoyable to engage with

What’s rewarding and enjoyable still gains customer attention.