Technology is great. I have nothing against it. In fact, digital technologies are kind of like Christmas come early. For early adopters, there is never any shortage of new toys and gadgets to play with. Sure, every once in a while, we open a new box with socks inside, but more often than not, we don’t have to look far to find something new to play with.
However, this is as much to our detriment as digital marketers as it is to our advantage. Many agencies and clients are just beginning to scratch the surface of what’s possible. And we’re eager to put our play into practice. Over the last year, I’ve been a part of many conferences, gatherings and meet ups devoted to digital technology and marketing. Each one takes on important topics: brand building, increased customer loyalty, improving conversion rates – you’re probably just as familiar with the drill. Yet, each time, the conversation devolves along the same lines. Where can we use Facebook? How can we sell Twitter? While these events aim to accomplish worthwhile goals, they end up being about nothing more than the new cool toys and gadgets we should be employing.
What’s the divide, and where’s the problem?
We’re selling solutions. And that’s the problem.
As marketers, our job should revolve around selling solutions. We sell. However, the technologies we are selling as solutions are not grounded in problems they are addressing. Therefore, we need to take a step back and make sure we are building this from the ground up – on a solid proposition. To do this, we need to take care of the basics: build understanding and demonstrate accountability.
Perhaps the most overlooked aspect of selling digital technologies is establishing a solid understanding of the problems at hand. One of the greatest marketing problems of our age is the fragmentation of media. Yet, I hear relatively little about how digital technology addresses fragmentation. Mass audiences are moving from the major television networks to thousands of small, focused tribes (to use Seth Godin’s term). We’ve become a nichy society.
Presenting technologies only addresses the where. Adding Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, YouTube, Flickr and (your favorite technology here) to the marketing mix extends the reach of a brand. We should be focusing more on why these are relevant. As we know from years in technology, these current players will eventually fade away. Something new is sure to come along. What then? Add that to the mix. Of course. But only so long as it fits the problems.
Putting brands on Facebook does nothing for either the brand or those that want to connect. The true purpose of Facebook is to connect and interact. There must be action to make an impact. Relevance has been key lately. The simple addition of relevant information on the Facebook page will increase its performance. Yet, we often sell Facebook when we should be selling relevance. We sell mobile solutions when we should be selling location. After all, what good is a mobile solution when it doesn’t serve a mobile need?
Understanding is not built on technologies or how they work. It’s not even built on how they’re used by consumers. Understanding is only built on needs and wants. It is the problems that define the solution, not the technology. While media is changing rapidly and splitting into thousands of directions, the problems marketers have been aiming to solve have not. If we remember this and appreciate the fact that we have new tools to solve those problems, we’ll all be a lot better off.
This is not a four letter word. Further, accountability is not something that will happen down the line if we’re just given some trust. Accountability is built on understanding. We must hold ourselves to measurable objectives. Clearly, little exists, and herein lies much of the challenge today. How can you sell something with little historical value?
We already have solutions that are working. To what extent is debatable. We are constantly looking to improve and grow our solutions. Digital technologies are adept at building incremental growth. One of the major advantages is how they do not provide an either/or approach. We can build.
Accountability is best displayed by adding new technologies to established solutions. In this way, we can demonstrate improvement and further refine our approaches.
The key to adopting and succeeding with digital technologies is to build a solid understanding of the problems at hand, using the available tools to meet these objectives and to demonstrate success incrementally through trial and error. Only this will build the trust and data necessary to defend what we’ve been saying all along – these technologies work. Not because of the tool, but because of the marketing.