Looking to get ahead in the digital marketing space? Then be prepared to sharpen up your storytelling skills. By Kevin Kevany
If you are talking ‘digital marketing’ as the way forward for your business in the next five years, Justin Flitter, who has helped create digital marketing strategies and social marketing programmes with more than 100 companies around the world would ask you: “How good are you at telling stories?”
No, not those kinds of stories. In fact, he’ll go so far as to say that “Kiwi businesses must change to succeed in a time when stories are more powerful than sales” and that “storytelling will be the biggest business skill of the next five years”.
Got you thinking? But hang about: storytelling has been a feature since advertising began. Content marketing is nothing new either. He believes what has changed is the pace at which stories are distributed and the visibility of customer comments and opinions. Everything is public, every experience is sharable.
“No one cares about your marketing goals,” Flitter says, “but everyone likes a good story. The businesses that can tell good ones will have the advantage. This is largely because social media has made us comfortable having conversations with brands.
“Businesses, including many SMEs, are posting more and more content in our Facebook ‘streams’, next to pictures of our family and story links from local media. New Zealand businesses have been notoriously bad at talking about themselves.
“But creating stories and content about your business is not a case of: ‘Look at me and how awesome I am’. It’s about connecting the value your business offers customers and how that enriches their lives, makes things easier, better, faster, more efficient,” says Flitter.
“Brands must find their own ways to educate and entertain their consumers. Business owners should be constantly reviewing how they add value to their customer experience, because if the customer isn’t having fun with you they’ll be having it somewhere else.”
‘Trust’ is the word marketers we spoke to keep coming back to, and the man behind PagePost.co.nz is no exception.
“Stories help shape your brand,” says Flitter. “People like doing business with people they trust. Over time, if you publish stories and content which are clearly useful, interesting, and entertaining, those consumers will trust, remember and share your brand in preference to your competitors.”
His advice: rather than ‘doing what we’ve always done’ (sending out press releases; buying TV spots and print ads) content marketing allows brands to create value by publishing material which solves problems their customers have.
“The result is an audience of targeted consumers who trust and talk about the brand.”
But that is only if you are creative.
Flitter again: “It’s not sufficient to grab a Google Image everyone has seen before, post that to Facebook and think that’s ‘Content Marketing’. Smart publishing is not just words on a page or photos in a newsfeed. Stories must be relevant, appropriate to the channel they’re being published on and the audience there.
Pervasive, interactive marketing
Smart marketing guru, Nicole Crump confirms “communicating in the personal space is one of the best ways for brands to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of the customer; show that they too share that space or that interest; demonstrate a more personal and sometimes irreverent side to their business; and engage on the same level as the customer.
“This may not always generate sales,” explains Crump, “but it is a key in developing relationships. Companies are becoming increasingly aware relationships with customers must be built and developed to be top of mind and to increase the opportunity to sell.
“Unlike traditional marketing, where spend and placement have the power to rule supreme, this brand of more pervasive and interactive marketing is no longer about buying the medium – but about creating it.
“Consumers no longer want brands to be pushed on them for no return. They want to be engaged, interacted with, rewarded and included in both the process and the result,” she says.
Crump, who heads up Tactix Marketing, reckons brands looking to differentiate themselves from competitors may wish to investigate:
• Geolocation-based communication – most smartphones these days are GPS enabled, allowing them to share geolocation-based communication with the connected world around them. Savvy businesses are now taking advantage of this, pushing out what is known as ‘digital signage’ from store-fronts to nearby customers who choose to receive this information.
• Augmented Reality – Augmented Reality (AR) is the next step in connecting customers to brands where marketing comes to life, and has endless possibilities for businesses brave enough to take it on. AR is generated by apps or software which overlay computer imagery from your smartphone, computer or tablet over video of real life environments.
A fantastic example was Wimbledon, where people could point their pre-downloaded smartphone at queues and stalls and see real-time overlaid information, including the number of people waiting in line, products available at that stall and prices,” says Crump.
Make friends with review sites
According to the experts we interviewed, websites and directories which allow people to review businesses are on the rise and affect all size businesses. Some of the more established, such as menus.co.nz and Trip Advisor, are in the tourism and hospitality sectors.
The trend is turbocharged and all part of growing interaction. Directories and digital marketing firm Yellow recently launched ratings and reviews for its website and new mobile app. In a matter of months, Yellow had more than 12,000 reviews posted and 2,500 pictures uploaded.
“For people searching for a business,” says Philip Coop, head of innovation and digital at Yellow, “it can help them make a decision about which mechanic, plumber or accountant to call, or even where to go for a good steak.
He believes business owners should treat review sites like their new best friend.
“Quite simply because it’s a fantastic, free, marketing tool. Our customers tell us that they rely on word of mouth and customer feedback, and this is just an online version of that. And just like you’d talk to a customer on the phone or in your shop, office or workshop, it’s important to acknowledge feedback online.
“Feedback from your customers, good and bad, is important for you to learn what you need to keep doing, what you can improve and to even get new ideas. It’s a great way to get insights into what your customers think, to improve your business.”
Getting content marketing right
Pure SEO (cover story, NZBusiness December 2013) CEO, Richard Conway has been to the ‘Googleplex’ in San Francisco, to get an exclusive Kiwi insight into what Google have coming up. He cautions that many SMEs are getting content marketing wrong. “They are just producing reams and reams of spurious content, with little to no value. It is always best to focus on quality, customer-centric content to get the best results.”
As to other online marketing trends, Conway, with his Google insight, came up with the following:
• YouTube – Video will continue to be an important part of a company’s strategy in 2014. More and more people are using video as a reference for reviews on products, destinations or as instructional reference points. This is highlighted by the number of unboxing videos (where people actually video themselves ‘unboxing’ a product); DIY videos; and promotional videos.
• Viral Marketing – Making something viral is actually more science than luck. If you want to do something that stands out from the crowd, look into why and how people have made things catch on. “A great start would be reading Contagious by Jonah Berger, which looks at scientific research and great examples of why ideas actually catch on.”
• Local – More search is ‘getting local’. If you are a local business, it is going to become more and more important to stay ahead of the online game.
Digital marketing really took off with the advent of websites. So it’s appropriate we end there. No surprise then to find that trends are being played out on that evolving platform too.
“Targeting specific customers is becoming more important, with the focus on quality leads over quantity leads,” says Emily Wilson, marketing coordinator for Zeald. “This means Adwords, SEO, social media – done well – are the order of the day.
“Identifying your Unique Selling Point too is key to get ‘cut through’. It’s important to note that social media works well in conjunction with a website, which should be your sales and marketing hub.
“When it comes to email marketing, split your database and get specific with offers. Test, test, test – it’s the only way you’ll know if something is working,” says Wilson.
We asked one of Zeald’s expert designers, Loretta Jean, what 2014 will mean.
“Designs and functionality are getting more and more detailed, yet often look simple and clean. Already, this year, everything in a website is getting bigger. Big juicy images; big chunky font; and big white spaces that allow the content to breathe.”
She believes ‘responsive design’ will grow in popularity with more people choosing their phone after a long day sitting at a desktop. “Responsive design equals better results. It is often more minimal or slick in its design than other desktop websites. It is also more functional as loading time is optimised and the design does not include any non-mobile phone compatible effects.”
Jean believes that as well as having a great looking website, which produces results, it is important to make sure the website is unique. “Things have changed since content was merely text on a screen. Great imagery is the best way to get a message across. But don’t touch cliché stock photos, as they can look both contrived, and you run the risk of the image being on your competitor’s site too,” Jean says.
She predicts the Windows ‘grid look’ is one of the key trends for websites. This shows blocks with different content or links.
“The purpose of this design trend is to create a clean look which holds all the content in its own component. To the uninitiated, ‘simple’ can sometimes suggest a plain design. Plain is more often a lack of details on the website itself, leading to a boring end finish – a ‘white site’ with boring font and blocky images; an unmemorable site.
“In contrast, a simple design creates a user-friendly atmosphere, so the content can stand out,” Jean says.
Content is still Queen/King, it seems.
Kevin Kevany is an Auckland-based freelance writer.
Email [email protected]
App meets customer needs
House of Travel (HOT), with its 68 partner brick ‘n mortar outlets across New Zealand, preferred to leverage its unique intellectual property in those travel agencies and, at the same time, offer HOT customers the best in smartphone technology. Its new digital app meets customer needs too in what was traditionally ‘downtime’ between agents and travellers.
It is part of a multi-channel marketing strategy and completes the holiday purchase cycle to build even stronger relationships with clients.
“The new app, available on iPhone and Android, is the latest advance in an evolving digital commitment, giving our customers a great experience in-store and online,” says HOT’s strategy and digital director Niall White. “All destinations are different and our customers have a complete diversity of approaches as to how they go about researching where they want to go, what they want to do and which part of that process they want to interact with us on.
“We see our function as taking the guesswork out of the sometimes highly complicated process and providing the best solution as quickly as possible.
“So we have created an ‘Inspire Engine’ – loaded with our favourite content; all provided by our well-travelled and highly experienced consultants, product and content teams – presented in a Pinterest format to provide those early solutions they need, all in one place.”
White believes HOT is onto another winner in the app with a pass-coded ‘Locker’, the solution to nearly every foreign traveller’s offshore nightmares.
“We have a few features out there already and are rolling them out – some based on spontaneous customer feedback – as they become available.
“The app will provide live weather and currency conversions shortly and soon make the getting-there process a lot easier by delivering up-to-date trip information,” White says.
Don't be on social media if…
Rachel Goodchild is THE Marketing Company’s social media expert and has a unique and effective way of challenging marketing shibboleths. Don’t be on social media if you don’t want to:
1. Grow your business.
“That might be because it is growing quickly enough. Or you don’t have the systems in place to deal with it. Key personnel might be burnt out and in need of time to recover before committing. You might be unsure of the direction or the financial stability of your SME. Or you might be looking to close the business and retire.”
2. Expose the fact that there are some serious issues in the company right now.
“That might mean disagreements between principals, or just a difficult individual you need to manage out.”
3. Your branding is all over the place.
“It is all very well to use social media to test concepts, but don’t subject yourself to the kind of examination social media could give you, if you have not got an integrated marketing strategy and know where it would fit.”
4. Your customers and potential
customers don’t use it.
“THE Marketing Company often works in provincial New Zealand where more than 50 percent of companies aren’t on Facebook, or aren’t avid users of it.”
5. Your customers are only on
Linked-In, Twitter say.
“Again, you’d be wasting precious time putting equal effort into Facebook, Twitter and Linked-In if you aren’t getting returns. Monitor their changing usage pattern and adjust.”
6. Time is at a premium.
“This applies to all your digital marketing efforts. There is nothing worse than out-of-date material, indicating your lack of commitment. You must be prepared to invest a fixed amount of time daily to maintain your presence on all interactive media, or to outsource it.”
Making sense of sustainability
Adding Sustainable Value, developed by Otago Polytechnic and The Natural Step, is a 20-week applied work-on-the-business course to make sense of sustainability and align strategy to maximise opportunities. NZBusiness spoke to programme manager Simon Harvey about its benefits.