The Integrated Approach to ‘Digital’

‘Digital’ is not about setting up social media presences, porting the links to the website and expecting the end consumer to have a ‘digital experience’. There’s a lot more that is involved in the process. As Steve Jobs would put it – “It’s about the whole widget”

Based on our interactions with clients across sectors, we’ve been able to see that clients who treat all online touchpoints as one and ensure that the online and offline flow seamlessly into each other reap the benefits of a coherent, consistent and customer focused strategy. These customers have higher engagement on their posts, higher responses to their calls to action and most importantly a more committed ‘tribe’ of followers online who engage with their posts beyond the usual ‘likes’.

Apart from the engagement ‘numbers’, the SEO is also more effective. AdWords, website content and social media all state the same thing. This gives the customer (and search engines) the best face of the brand for keywords. This lowers the cost per keyword, resulting in more cost effective campaigns on AdWords.

This begs the question : If it’s so simple, why do so many companies get this wrong so often?

The answer can be attributed to the level of maturity that an organisation shows towards Digital. Companies spend a lot of time and treasure on their offline marketing, but somehow expect Digital to be about a genie in a laptop that pops up and makes their customers beat their door down with calls and enquiries. When this does not happen in the time periods that are predefined and invariably benchmarked to already existing offline channels, patience wears thin and tempers run high. “Digital is not working” “If I had hired a sales guy he would be getting me leads now”, “I don’t think this will work for us”.

What could have prevented this downward slide? We believe it is an integrated approach that makes the difference between success and failure in all matters ‘digital’.

As Einstein put it : “Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.”

The common approach has to change for there to be any changes to occur ‘downstream’. For starters, digital needs to be treated as a channel and not as a destination or end in itself. Digital is just one more way of adding another touch-point for a customer to reach out to the brand.

What we have seen is that Brands who treat digital as a constantly evolving, living, organic and changing entity are far more agile in their ways of working and thinking. Their website, social media and community programs all run as one. Each one feeds into the other and feed off each other.

For example, new events would not only cause an event page creation on social media but also a landing page for the specific event on the website and a parallel outreach program by eMail and community posts. The landing page would then become a point for lead generation through email and contact detail ‘farming’. Offline staff would then call these individuals and make personal contact with them and feed their inputs back into the system. The result : a more tightly run event whose outcome is greater than the sum of its parts.

Another example is that of new lead generation themselves. Brands simply cannot wake up one morning and decide to throw money at an ad campaign when precious little has been done to boost interest (or even awareness in the offering, for that matter) for the target audience. Digital cannot become a genie brands let out of a bottle here. It can only be a facilitator to help speed things up a little bit.

‘Content’ is also something that takes a beating. Brands that understand that they are the main content generators and work in tandem with their digital marketing partners in ensuring relevant and timely content is provided to the end consumer will fare better than companies that think content is something that ‘we’ve hired an external agency to create and it’s their problem’. More on this in our next blog.

To achieve these outcomes however, there needs to be a certain diligence and discipline in the way the operations of the Brand are conducted – just like running any company, large or small. There needs to a be a commonly held view right from the very top that digital needs to be embedded onto the system at an employee level  and not looked at as a ‘bolt on’ sub-assembly that can be fixed and jettisoned at will.

This discipline towards providing the ‘whole widget’ for the consumer is what will drive positive outcomes for digital and needless to say, the Brand as a whole.

Engagement Depth versus Engagement Breadth

How often have you felt that a given solution does not really ‘solve’ your problem? Have you been faced with a situation where the solution does not ‘fit in’ with the way your business operates? Do you sometimes wish your solution provider had ‘thought things through’ rather than simply ‘solutioned’?

We ask these questions from ourselves and our solution providers day in and day out. Whether it’s in a corporate or startup environment. The solution to the problem is always tantalisingly close – but never in hand.

Why does this happen?

We believe it’s because problems can never be solved at the level at which it has been created. We must ‘zoom’ in and out of the problem zone to identify causative factors. It takes time, it takes energy and many trips back to the drawing board. Many late nights, lots of head scratching and scores of cups of coffee later, there’s an “Aha!” moment and the solution that finally addresses the issue presents itself.

Doing this seems counter-intuitive in the conventional business sense. It takes time, trouble and the ever present Damocles Sword of “Opportunity Cost”. It’s far easier (and more profitable) to provide a quick solution, execute and then ‘bill the client’. There’s less stress, less chances of disappointment and letting the client ‘deal with his own problems’ while we move on to acquiring the next client.

It’s a really convenient excuse. A service/solution provider can always shrug saying “Look! This problem lies outside my scope of work/expertise area.”, or “I can tell you, but then I’d have to bill you” or some such statement.

We’ve seen that this is not going to be a sustainable solution. Here’s why:

    1. The cause of the problem is never in plain sight. Looking for it actively will provide a lasting solution to a client. That helps build a lasting relationship with them. That’s bad business.
    2. Businesses now are built on trust. If you solve the real problems, you will get real business through referrals, increased reputation and massive amounts of learning – all of which stand us head and shoulders above the competition for the next client. You have her trust. Which is far more useful currency.
    3. “The reward for good work is more work. The reward for more work is better work”. This adage holds true in the world of business. Businesses must stop seeing themselves as “Vendors” or “Solution Providers”. They need to start seeing themselves as “Consultants” with a thirst for helping solve the problems of their clients rather than just stack up billing and invoices.

Over the next few posts, we’ll take you through some case studies where this approach has reaped rich dividends for us and for our clients.

Stay tuned for more from our blog.