Top digital marketing challenges for 2011
Customers expect ever-greater sophistication when they engage with digital content, meaning that online marketing content has to be not only highly relevant but also highly personalised and even geographically segmented, according to Nicola Meinders, EMEA marketing director for SDL Web Content Management Solutions, who answers the key digital marketing problems for 2011 and beyond.
Bombarded with huge amounts of information, customers respond by automatically filtering it. Marketers therefore need to help them make sense of this information overload so that they can easily identify what is relevant to them - and what is not. But the problem is not simply about the quantity of information; it is also geographical. Companies must be able to change or update their local and international content quickly in response to rapid market changes.
These, then, are the key challenges facing digital marketers, and the answers to each:
- Channel sophistication Audiences can select from more content channels than ever before. Establish which channels different audiences use and what they use them for to ensure that you deliver the right content to the right channel. For example, mobile can be used for geo-location or bookings; comparison sites, for selection; websites, for more detailed information; and social media, for peer reviews. Whatever channels you use, provide a coordinated offering tailored to your target audience.
- Engage with video The huge increase in online video enhances customer contact. Viral marketing trends and peer-to-peer distribution reinforce brand awareness in a way that text can never achieve. Before developing video, you must fully understand your target audience to provide content and visual presentations that draw them into the story and message. High-quality production is essential, so budget accordingly - a cheap-looking video damages brand. Whatever you do, keep the content engaging and relevant, and consider video length and user controls.
- Go graphical Customers don't like reading too much text, so try and use another media to get the point across. Help them process text overload by condensing this information in more creative and graphic ways. After all, a picture says more than a thousand words.
- Brevity is key Say less and employ well-crafted images, rather than text. Use visual information and infographics to make your information immediately accessible.
- Get endorsements People are increasingly suspicious of your claims if you don't have customer endorsements. It should be easy to achieve plaudits for a good product - so why don't you have them? Use your customers as highly effective advocates. People trust their peers much more than corporate messages. To enhance online engagement, create blogs that allow commenting and integrate the resulting customer endorsements into your marketing strategy. Be bold. Carefully plan these activities and you'll enjoy the rewards of a highly cost-effective, customer conversion strategy.
- Instant sharing Remember, most publicity is essentially positive for a brand and even negative publicity on the web is usually soon forgotten. Encourage customers to share your content with their peers with a mouse click. Ensure that customers can identify, react to and share offers quickly - this can be the difference between an offer for just one person or for many. But, at the same time, be sure that a great offer designed for a few good customers doesn't get out of hand and become a cash-draining monster.
- Search engine optimisation (SEO) Every marketer knows that search rankings have a big impact on the sites that visitors go to. You therefore need to maximize your exposure to the marketplace by appearing at the top of that coveted first page of search results. To get the most out of your SEO efforts, start by identifying customer care words - the very lingo that your potential customers use. Outside of the desire to purchase, factors such as location, seasonality, demographics and cultural background all impact on the way online users "talk" through search queries.
One of the biggest challenges that marketers face is narrowing down the terminology so that it is effective, manageable and produces results. Every new product can easily turn into hundreds of search terms. As a result, focus on key target audiences, their characteristics and preferences. Terms change with passing fads, user-generated content, changes in the market and new products, so it pays to stay on top of the terminology used. The ability to apply translated and localised terms to content reinforces the global impact of your SEO effort. Copywriters, editors and functionality experts need to be aware of terminology, usability and strategy. Structured web content can help these contributors to add the right terminology easily by providing the means to continuously analyse and optimise the content.
In addition to the content itself, factors such as friendly URLs, navigation, accessibility and language all effect on whether a link falls on the first or third page of search results. Simple, clear and relevant URLs, 'breadcrumbs', and sitemaps all make it easy for search engines to enter the navigation structure. Of course, your content authors should not ideally be burdened with these technicalities, so the usage of an intelligent content management system (CMS) can make it simpler to manage, modify and translate the site structure as needed.
The conclusion is that marketers must continue to make it ever-easier for customers to find what they want in the digital world through relevant, personalised, engaging messages as well as creative visual design.