First of all, let’s remind ourselves what marketing actually means:
Marketing is about identifying and meeting human and social needs. One of the shortest definitions, from Kotler, is “meeting needs profitably.” But that’s a bit boring. How about…? “Telling such a good story that your customers forget about how much they are paying you”.
Just about everything you do in digital marketing is communication. Communicating the right message at the right time in the right place to the right person. Everything else you do is in support of these activities. These can include gathering information, asking questions, reporting, forecasting, playing around with software, doing spreadsheets etc.
In fact, there are roughly a million different things you can do in digital marketing. You can create websites, send emails, create display ads, post on Instagram, tweet, write blog posts, pay for listings on other websites, and create landing pages and snazzy lead generation forms. A digital marketer can quite happily fill their days being extremely busy. But all of this activity costs time, and therefore money. Any time you spend time or money, you only get to spend it once, and you need to be fairly sure it’s the best thing you can be spending it on. So we must prioritise.
Prioritising Marketing Tasks
Ask yourself “What is the most important thing I could be doing right now?”. Quite often, the answer is “I don’t know”. That’s OK. That just means that the most important thing to do is to work out what the most important thing to do is. We start this exercise by writing down all the digital marketing things we could be doing right now. Then sort them with the most important at the top. These should be things like “Set goals for our marketing” or “Decide on a budget for our marketing” or “Talk to an expert about our digital marketing”.
Maybe you’ve ended up with something at the top like “Send an email to all our friends and family about our idea”.
Just remember that nearly every time you do something in digital marketing, you need to do about 3 or 4 things beforehand to get the best bang for your buck from it.
A conversation with the god of digital marketing
Imagine there is a god of digital marketing. A conversation might go like this.
You: I’ve started a new business and I want to send an email to all my friends and family about it. What do you think, God of Digital Marketing? Awesome idea, eh?
GODM: Great idea – email is a cheap, popular way of getting someone’s attention. Of course, you want them to do something when they read it, right? Maybe click through to your website. Have you got a website to show them?
You: Not yet.
GODM: OK. You need to create a website.
You: OK (sigh). I’ll create a website.
Two days later…
GODM: Has it got a good domain name?
You: Yes, It’s called www.free-internet-secrets-for-dummies.biz
GODM: Hmmm. You should probably register a better domain name than that.
You: OK (sigh). I’ll get a better domain name.
GODM: Has the website got a nice logo and a good value proposition that your visitors can understand straight away?
You: I don’t really understand the question. Look, the website’s an off-the-shelf job. Cheap as chips, but it will do.
GODM: OK, you need to get a logo designed and formulate a succinct way of describing what you do, who you do it for, and why they should buy it from you. In order to do this, you need a clear idea of who your customers are, what problems you’re solving for them, and what makes you so special.
You: Oh come on! I just want to send an email to my friends and family, not do some massive brand and marketing strategy exercise!
GODM: Good luck with that… (sigh)
Two days later…
You: OK I sent the email. But no-one replied to it and I don’t even know if they clicked through to the website. Maybe no-one received it. Maybe it went into their spam folder. I better send another email with a limited time offer and a discount.
GODM: That’s mental. I’m glad I don’t actually exist…
I hope you get the gist of this lame story. It’s all good to ‘move fast and break things’ and be ‘agile’ and make it up as you go along, but it also pays to focus on what’s important. The whole purpose of agile is to ensure that at any given moment, you are working on the most important thing that will deliver the most value. The beauty of spending time and money upfront on strategy and planning is that once you have done it, all the other little things like writing emails, creating ads, and making logos become easy. You just refer back to your initial strategy notes and check things like “Who are we trying to talk to here?”, “What are we trying to tell them?”, and “What do we want them to do”?
For example, you want to have a go at Google Ads. Great. What should you write in the ad copy? It’s not hard. I bet it’s something like ‘Product X – the new solution for Customer Y – are you always getting Problem Z? Try the new Product X and save time and money today. Finance and free delivery around NZ. Visit website W now for a free quote/sample/whatever.’
Wow, good ad. Where does all this stuff come from? It comes from a very simple process. I’m not sure it has a name. I just call it a marketing matrix.
- You list all the main things you want to sell.
- Next to each one you write down who is the best customer for each thing.
- Then you write down what their needs/wants are.
- Then you write down how your thing solves their problems.
- Then you write down what makes you and your thing so special.
- Then you write down the words that the customer would use for your thing.
- Then you write down what you want them to do.
And WHAM! There are your Google Ads, pretty much ready to go. All you have to do is plug the copy you’ve written into the right places in the ads.
But wait a minute… that seems too easy. How do we know it’s going to work? Well, we don’t, but it’s the best guess we have right now.
Actually, while we’re at it, this matrix contains a lot of the stuff that should be on our website, and in our email newsletters, and on our Facebook page, and in our blog posts… and it only took us about an hour to do it… This is amazing!
Yeah, it’s amazing what a bit of structured planning can do to make things a lot easier.
There are some good ways of thinking about digital marketing that I have seen and used over the years.
You can use the concepts of MVP (minimum viable product) and MVA (minimum viable audience) to stay focused on delivering value cost-effectively to the customers who are going to benefit from it the most.
Another one is the 80/20 rule, sometimes known as the Pareto Principle. It appears in a lot of fields. You might have heard of it e.g.:
- 20% of children in a class take up 80% of the teacher’s time
- 80% of crime is committed by 20% of criminals
- 20% of your clients are responsible for 80% of your profit
- 80% of a country’s wealth is owned by 20% of its population
In digital marketing I reckon it’s likely that 20% of your budget produces 80% of your results. E.g. if your annual budget is $100,000 and you get $10,000,000 of sales from it, you could have spent only $20,000 and still done $8 million in sales – if you knew where you should have focused your time and money.
And that’s where planning and prioritisation come in. A cliche you’ve probably heard is ‘low-hanging fruit’. When you go into an orchard, the best way to get as much fruit as possible as quickly (i.e.cheaply) as possible is to run around the orchard and grab all the stuff that’s within easy reach. Maybe you could grab 80% of the fruit in the first 20% of the time it takes to grab all the fruit. Don’t bother climbing a ladder until all the easy stuff is gone. Then get your ladder out – if you can still be bothered.
If I were to prioritise some common digital marketing tasks in order from low-hanging fruit to top-of-the-tree break-your-neck-if-you-fall-off really high fruit, it might look like this:
- Market research – i.e. asking your customers questions and actually listening to them
- Competitor research – i.e. looking at their websites
- Rapid prototyping of new ideas/products
- Formulating a strong value proposition
- Goal setting and budget allocation
- Brand design
- Website design
- Lead generation funnel, i.e. capturing your prospects’ contact details
- Google Ads
- Email marketing
- On-site SEO
- Customer surveys
- Gathering customer testimonials
- Social media activity
- Professional photos and video
- Professional content creation
- Marketing automation
- Creating a mobile app
That’s just a very rough list, but it should hopefully get you going. Don’t invest serious money in the ones down the bottom of the list until you have nailed the things at the top.
And of course, you can always talk to an expert. Maybe us. We love this sort of thing.