Are You Meeting Your Customers’ Mobile Needs?

Most of the U.S. population — 61 percent — say they use mobile phones for shopping activities, according to the 2017 Synchrony Financial Digital Study recently completed. But, what would resonate with them in terms of digital marketing and more importantly, what would drive their behavior?

Game Changing TechAs modern marketers, we put a lot of thought and effort into our digital marketing programs. The goals are to promote engagement with our brands, drive traffic to our website or encourage customers to walk into a store. Many times, the goal is all three.

Most of the U.S. population — 61 percent — say they use mobile phones for shopping activities, according to the 2017 Synchrony Financial Digital Study recently completed. But, what would resonate with them in terms of digital marketing and more importantly, what would drive their behavior? Based on the referenced survey, there are specific elements of mobile marketing that consumers tell they are interested in.

Significantly, 50 percent of consumers said if their favorite retailer sent offers to their mobile devices, they would shop there more often. Mobile marketing can include in-app messages, push notifications, beacon / location based offers, SMS messages and voice recognition.

Given this consumer interest, how many companies are investing in mobile technology? The answer is, it depends. According to “The State Of Digital: A Mobile Commerce Perspective: Forrester’s H2 2016 Global Mobile Executive Online Survey” by Forrester, nearly 70 percent of marketers say they are regularly using responsive Web design and mobile optimized websites. It seems that most companies have the basics of mobile user experience down pat. But fewer companies are actively marketing via mobile. Only about 40 percent regularly use SMS messaging or push notifications, and only one in three use in-app messages.

Another element of mobile marketing that consumers express interest in is location-based marketing. Almost half (46 percent) of all consumers said they would like to get relevant offers based on their location. This is overwhelmingly driven by millennials. For instance, 61 percent of those ages 18 to 25 would like location-based offers, steadily declining for each age group (only about a quarter of those 66 or over said this is the case).

But only 37 percent of marketers are using push notifications and an even smaller percentage (only 12 percent) are regularly using beacon/location support on mobile phones, according to the same Forrester study referenced above. There are certainly restrictions on SMS marketing (consult your legal advisor as to the permissions required), but some companies are still planning to implement these programs — about a quarter are planning to pilot/test SMS messaging, and 35 percent are planning to pilot/test push notifications in the future.

Mobile marketing is clearly an imperative for companies with large numbers of millennials in their current or target consumer base. And remember, Gen Z’s, the true mobile natives, are fast approaching behind the millennial population. They may be even more comfortable with mobile marketing than their millennial older siblings. Investments in mobile technology will certainly be crucial for many more marketers as these populations expect more from their favorite brands.

With the constantly evolving field of smartphone technology, people become more and more enamored of using their phone for anything and everything. Digital marketers are challenged to provide “delighters” to attract and engage the population that is most interested in using this technology. Successful digital marketing programs listen to the customer and proactively engage them, whenever and wherever they happen to be.

Note: The views expressed in this blog are those of the blogger and not necessarily of Synchrony Financial. All references to consumers and population refer to the survey respondents from the Synchrony Financial 2017 Digital Study unless otherwise noted.

Making Digital Marketing and IT Work Together

If your IT department has the lead role in your digital marketing, expect many agencies to politely decline the opportunity to work with you. Such an arrangement is a big red flag to most of us. That doesn’t mean we, as digital marketing pros, put technology in the back seat. But we’ve found that when IT is leading the charge, success is more difficult to achieve.

If your IT department has the lead role in your digital marketing, expect many agencies to politely decline the opportunity to work with you. Such an arrangement is a big red flag to most of us.

That doesn’t mean we, as digital marketing pros, put technology in the back seat. Quite the opposite is true — we are, after all, digital marketers.

But we’ve found that when IT is leading the charge, success is more difficult to achieve. It’s not much easier if technology has no seat at the table, either. A healthy balance is your best bet.

Balancing Competing Concerns

Balancing concerns across the board will allow marketing goals to drive the process, with technology being implemented to help achieve those goals.

Take, for example, CRM integration. IT shouldn’t select your CRM, set it up, and hand it off to marketing. They simply aren’t going to have the marketing (and, we hope, sales) perspective to make the best choices along the way.

Neither should your marketing department select the CRM and hand it off to IT with implementation orders. You probably don’t have all the information you need surrounding issues of security and interoperability.

Instead, marketing and IT should work together, with Marketing defining what it needs, scouting potential solutions, working with IT to vet those solutions, and testing IT’s implementation.

Create a Cross-Functional Digital Marketing Team

This works best when there is an IT staffer with at least an interest in marketing who can become the bridge between the two departments and perhaps even move toward becoming a full-fledged marketing technologist.

The person in that role can prioritize amongst the issues most likely to be at top of everyone’s list.

  1. Generating high-quality leads
  2. Tracking generated leads
  3. Tracking content consumption
  4. Maintaining appropriate security for your industry and implementation
  5. Increasing administrative efficiency

Be Pro-active

So unless your team already includes a marketing technologist and a strong working relationship with IT, drafting an IT staffer will help you better match your needs with the available software tools best fit for the systems already in place.

And a pro-active approach may also help keep the IT/marketing relationship on productive terms.

Advice for the Digital Marketing Industry, Perhaps Too Late

I was recently asked what advice I would give my younger self to succeed in the digital marketing industry. The question, of course, is nonsense: No one has a time machine or could recreate the unique circumstances of these past decades.

I was recently asked what advice I would give my younger self to succeed in the digital marketing industry. The question, of course is nonsense: No one has a time machine or could recreate the unique circumstances of these past decades.

We now possess almost perfect information about the technology, business environment and leaps of faith and brilliance that created our digital world and a brand new industry — but we did not have that guidance back then. Still, after over 20 years in this “new” industry of online marketing it might be time to reflect on some of the challenges and choices that have shaped our current state.

Advice for the Industry: 20 Years Too Late

Stop being so defensive. It’s hard to imagine now but in the mid 90’s many were still calling the Internet a fad and were waiting for it to go away so they could return to “business as usual.” At that point many (even large) companies were still busy debating whether they even needed a website, some agencies and marketers were slow to learn or adopt digital skills and our educational institutions lagged behind in teaching students what they sorely needed to succeed. Much of this was pure defensiveness and a stubborn refusal to accept that the world was changing.

Stop creating buzzwords. We lacked the language or imagination to describe new concepts and capabilities effectively and the new buzzwords did nothing to add to our credibility. Buzzily named products, companies or approaches quickly became synonymous with something fleeting. They didn’t earn a place of respect even if the product deserved it.

Focus on the stuff that matters. Early technologies and efforts were often about what we could do and not what we should do. As the better technologists matured into businessmen and women who valued the metrics and results that mattered to a sustainable business and industry our bubbles were replaced with platforms and channels that have rewritten our world. Still, we suffered through too many shiny objects and useless toys that didn’t help the early credibility of the Internet as a business environment.

Make inclusiveness a priority. Make sure everybody and especially every young person in every neighborhood has access to the tools and training that will help them succeed. Expensive technology and slow moving infrastructure unfairly handicapped some populations in joining the web revolution. That slowed us down and limited our success as a whole.

Help industries and professions to evolve. Many found their jobs changing or disappearing (hello travel agents?) with no idea how to pivot their skills and services to stay relevant and effective. Disintermediation was a real thing. Some jobs and vocations became irrelevant or unrecognizable overnight and those affected were left to fend for themselves. We should be better than that.

Commit to standards that help everyone. Put a premium on cooperation over competition to set and keep common standards in data, ads and other elements. That consistency would have reduced a lot of the pain points and smoothed the learning and success curves for users all along the spectrum. Monopoly or first-to-market businesses, governing bodies and associations of professionals with vested interests kept us in chaos for far too long.

There are also a few things I wish I personally had known way back when that could have informed my own choices.

Advice for Myself: 20 Years Too Late

Get comfortable with change. Our industry is relentlessly dynamic. Get used to change as a constant and get prepared by committing early on to frameworks and processes that can absorb and integrate new approaches and opportunities without sacrificing the strategic core.

Get data smart. Marketers who understand how to collect and apply data are miles ahead of those who don’t in this day and age.

Write — a lot. Communications skills, especially written words, are at a premium as every person and business requires thoughtful content regularly generated in many formats. Strong and strategic writers, designers and communicators are critical in the digital economy.

And, just for good measure … find an exercise you love, stick to your diet, travel more and buy Apple stock.

Perhaps we can learn from our past to help us enrich our collective future.

What good advice would you give your past self?

What You Must Know About the New Google AdWords Redesign

If you don’t log into AdWords often, then you may be surprised when you do. Google is completely revamping its advertising platform’s user interface (UI) in an effort to streamline features while optimizing for smartphones. After announcing the new interface last spring, Google started rolling it out to advertisers in August — ahead of schedule — with the goal of being fully rolled out by the end of 2017.

google adwordsIf you don’t log into AdWords often, then you may be surprised when you do. Google is completely revamping its advertising platform’s user interface (UI) in an effort to streamline features while optimizing for smartphones. After announcing the new interface last spring, Google started rolling it out to advertisers in August — ahead of schedule — with the goal of being fully rolled out by the end of 2017.

Why did Google feel the need to change the UI? For starters, the last major redesign was back in 2008, when more people still used desktops and laptops. Smartphones were popular, but market penetration wasn’t what it is today. Marketers interacted with AdWords differently, while also taking completely different approaches to their campaigns. Meanwhile, Google was expanding AdWords by hundreds of features per year without UI changes to make those features more intuitive. AdWords was easy enough to use in its most basic form, but unlocking the platform’s true potential wasn’t nearly as efficient.

3 Goals for the Redesign

News of the redesign caused quite a stir after being unveiled last spring. Samantha Lemonnier, Google’s Director of Engineering for the AdWords Platform, outlined the purpose of the overhaul during the company’s May 2016 summit. She highlighted three goals specifically:

  1. The data that business owners and marketers need must be immediately accessible. Under the old UI, too much of that data was buried under layers of screens.
  1. AdWords campaigns must be easier to optimize. It needs to be about advertisers’ businesses, without Google’s products getting in the way.
  1. The old UI was too cluttered. The new UI is designed to be more simple and intuitive.

In a nutshell, Google set out to make AdWords leaner, more intuitive and more efficient. The previous UI was none of these things. The old Campaigns tab had a sidebar navigation with sub menus, a top menu, menu tabs with subtabs and a host of other clickable links — all of which culminated in a nightmarish mobile experience, especially on a tiny smartphone screen. Meanwhile, the most easily accessible campaign data (after clicking on the Campaigns tab) included impressions, CTR, CPCs, costs and other superficial metrics. These metrics are important, but they don’t truly reveal how campaigns are performing, especially given today’s mobile marketplace.

A Simple, Smarter User Interface

Log into AdWords now. If you’re looking at the new interface, you see the changes are night-and-day. Gone are the stark greens, the confusing menus and the graphs of costs, traffic spikes and clickthrough data. The new interface is much cleaner and far simpler, almost minimalistic by comparison.

The top-level account home page has been completely revamped. Right away, you see important insights about your top-performing campaigns. These insights include conversions and costs as well as whether your campaigns are performing best on smartphones, tablets or desktops. You also see which times of day your campaigns get the most traffic. And that’s pretty much it.

But what’s more striking than the data itself is its presentation. Gone are the tables and numerous clickable links and tabs. Rather than overwhelm with numbers, the new UI presents a simplified focus on graphs and charts using soft-yet-discernable reds, blues and yellows.

Go beyond the pretty visuals and simple navigation, and you’ll find all-new campaign creation tools that can better help you meet specific marketing objectives. Do you want visitors to convert by calling your business, signing up for emails, making a purchase or downloading an app?

If you’re like me, then you’re likely freaking out about losing the numerous tools available in the old AdWords interface.  Well don’t worry — you can still use them. They’re all still there, but you’ll have to relearn how to get to them. For example, you’re always just a single click away from your ad scheduling and device/location targeting settings.

Conclusion

Google AdWords will look significantly different than it did a year ago, but you know what they say — the more things change, the more they stay the same. In many ways, this is true with AdWords, despite the new UI. Google’s ad platform is going to be cleaner and (hopefully) easier to use, but most of what changed is ultimately cosmetic. The core functionality of AdWords remains unchanged.

Want to learn more about how to improve your Google AdWords campaign performance?  Click here to grab your copy of our Ultimate Google AdWords Checklist.

4 Digital Marketing Resolutions for the New Year

At the risk of damning these ideas by calling them resolutions — which means we’ll swear we’re going to do them, but they never get done — here are four ideas worth adding to your plans for 2017.

Digital marketingAt the risk of damning these ideas by calling them resolutions – which means we’ll swear we’re going to do them, but they never get done – here are four ideas worth adding to your plans for 2017. (That’s a very manageable one per quarter for the whole year, so no excuses!)

Marketing Automation

For anyone working at anything smaller than enterprise level, marketing automation sounds scary – and unattainable – because of the expense. That’s not the case.

Yes, you can implement tools with some astronomical seat license fees, but without an enterprise-sized audience, you’re not going to reap a reasonable return. Instead, build (or upgrade) your website so that it’s focused on conversion. That means

  • Publishing content that generates interest
  • Developing calls to action to build your list
  • Automating your email for drip marketing

You can get fancier later with behavior-based triggers and other kinds of automation, but keep it simple to get started. Once you see results, you’ll be able to gauge how much of an investment makes sense.

Video Implementation

Another to-do list item that seems daunting and expensive. It doesn’t have to be. Even if you invest in full professional scripting, production and on-screen talent, video is useful in so many ways that you’ll be able to make your investment more than a one-shot deal.

One idea is to book your crew for a half-day shoot and prepare 5 or 6 – or more – pieces. If all but one of your pieces are evergreen, you can roll them out over the following few quarters as part of drip marketing campaign. Or you can shoot clips that will work as part of the time-based automation you have already put in place. (See above.)

Influencer Marketing

It’s not just in politics that we’re living in a “post-truth” world. It’s hard to believe anything you read anymore on just about any topic. Your prospects are skeptics, too. Which is why trusted sources become so valuable.

Organic or paid, connecting with influencers can be an incredibly productive way to increase your reach and your standing in the market place. Social media makes it easier than ever for you to reach the influencers. (And, in turn, for them to to have the incredible reach that you’re trying to leverage.)

The key is in finding influencers whose audiences overlap with your target audience, and whose services are complementary to yours.

Marketing Partnerships

Partnering with colleagues is almost 3a rather than 4, but since this is your resolution for the 4th quarter, we want to make it easy. (We all know how insane the 4th quarter can be …)

Again, the goal is to find colleagues whose audience overlaps with yours but whose services do not. The difference here is that you can frequently go one step further – or a step in a different direction – than you would with influence marketers by creating joint efforts to market around. (A wine shop and a restaurant can host wine-tasting dinners, a market research consultant and a digital marketer can create a consulting package, and so on.)

The four ideas above shouldn’t be an overwhelming amount of work for the new year – and they should provide you with a great return on the time and money you invest in them.

What Makes ‘Digital Sense’?

Have you ever looked at an online marketing success story, and come away with no idea how they did that? What’s the difference? Then it’s time to think seriously about what really makes digital sense. Here’s a good place to start.

Have you ever looked at an online marketing success story, and come away with no idea how they did that? Then it’s time to think seriously about what really makes digital sense.

Maybe it’s a company doing all of its marketing on social media. (And you can’t figure out how to make a single sale on social.)

Maybe it’s a company that’s whipped their fan base into a free marketing army, “evangelists,” zealots! (And you have to bribe your best customers to talk you up on Yelp.)

Maybe it’s a company that’s released one product that redfined its industry and made the Uber of its own niche. (And you can’t even get people to read the improvement specs on your latest upgrade.)

A Tale of Two Marketings

Covering marketing sometimes feels like covering two worlds. I see very successful, established companies where it’s all they can do to avoid a social media scandal each month. Then there are companies that seem to effortlessly move masses to both buy and evangelize them — their tactics look so easy, you’d be a fool not to be doing them.

But when the former try the latter’s tactics, it doesn’t work the same way at all. It’s doesn’t just look clumsy, it looks unfair, like the Internet decided it doesn’t like your face.

It’s like watching a sumo figure skate.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGjIW6XQnKo

What’s the difference? Layers of fat? Probably, in a metaphorical way, yes. But there’s more to it than that.

Travis Wright and Chris J. Snook have set out to give you an answer in their new book “Digital Sense.”

The heart of a great customer experience is that it feels human and reminds us that there are still other humans on the other side of our transactions, regardless of the interface by which we executed the transaction or query.

I wouldn’t call this a marketing book, although everything it deals with is essential to marketing today.

It’s more a way of looking at your company, your product, and your customers that aligns your organization around what they call “The Experience Marketing Framework” and makes digital marketing figure skating possible.

How big of a change is that? At times it sounds like the aphorisms of an AA meeting:

As we introduce the EMF (Experience Marketing Framework), please repeat the following three agreements to yourself daily for context and consider posting this prominently in full view in your workspace.

3 Agreements to Customer-Centric Accountability Cultures
1. I admit that I am powerless over the demands of always-on marketing.
2. The power (our customer) that is greater than our organization gives me the singular focus necessary to restore my sanity and find focus.
3. I will take a fearless inventory of our insights, vision, and execution annually and score them with brutal honesty against the customer needs, competitors’ strength, and external forces that threaten our existence.

But if transformation is what you need, then that’s where you need to begin.

In fact, Digital Sense cuts even deeper, aiming at personnel within your organization and how to treat “Influencers,” “Amplifiers,” “Motivators” and “Zombies.” (Spoiler alert: You shoot the zombies.)

The Experience Marketing Framework

The Experience Marketing Framework laid our by Travis Wright and Chris J. Snook in "Digital Sense."
The Experience Marketing Framework laid our by Travis Wright and Chris J. Snook in “Digital Sense.”

The core idea of the experience marketing framework is to focus the company on optimizing and smoothing the customer experience.

By doing that, internally you create a culture that understands and is responsive to the customer. When everyone understands your customers and products well enough that they instinctively do the right things for them, that enables innovation from product development all the way to social media.

This impacts everything, and is the core of what allows socially savvy companies skate rings around non-savvy competitors like we discussed in the opening.

Externally, this alignment delivers reliably excellent customer experiences. That doesn’t just mean they got their stuff from you, but that the stuff they got was exactly what they needed, and the process of getting it and interacting with you afterward was a pleasure.

This is what Denny hatch would have called Customer Relationship Magic, reimagined and applied at a scale and speed never possible before.

Does ‘Digital Sense’ Make Sense for You?

This book is a plan for change, from the C-suite on down. If you’re looking for a few new tools to add to your marketing toolbox, look elsewhere.

On the other hand, if you see the world changing around you and wonder why these other companies are landing triple lutzes while your team is doing the Flying Dutchman in a diaper — slowly — “Digital Sense” is definitely worth checking out.

5 Effective Audience Segments for Digital Marketing

Too often, we talk to marketers whose idea of audience segmentation is not just limited, but terribly egocentric. You are, I’m sure, at least a few steps ahead of the worst offenders, but you may still be leaving opportunities unaddressed. Here are some new ways to think about your audience.

Hitting the Target Audience SegmentToo often, we talk to marketers whose idea of audience segmentation is not just limited, but terribly egocentric. By egocentric, I mean that they view their audience segments in terms of their own product or service lines: Segment 1 is the folks we sell this service to. Segment 2 is the folks we sell that service to.

You are, I’m sure, at least a few steps ahead of the worst offenders, but you may still be leaving opportunities unaddressed. Here are some new ways to think about your audience.

1. Industry

Industry considerations are probably the grand-daddy of all segmentation. Even folks who think egocentrically about their audience are smart enough to realize that their products are likely to be appealing in different ways to different audiences. The features are the same, but the benefits change depending on the industry’s needs.

You can capitalize on this by creating content that is industry-specific and highlights the benefits that are most pertinent to that industry’s most common needs. As with all of the segmentation examples we’re discussing, this can be implemented in some combination of your website landing pages, email marketing subscriptions and even speaking engagements, among other things.

2. Company Size

Just as different industries will have different needs, so will organizations of varying sizes. Again, you’ll want to focus on differentiation of benefits of your product or service. For example, your product’s ability to eliminate the need for more staff as business grows is likely to be more valuable to a large organization than a small one — saving a few hours a week isn’t going to change the head count in an organization where those savings are multiplied by only one employee. But if the multiplier is dozens of employees, that’s a different story.

3. Role

The CFO may be the decider-in-chief when it comes to adding products or services for accounting and compliance teams, but her interests will be quite different from those of an in-the-trenches accountant in the same organization. If she’s smart, she’ll let those accountants have their say in what tools they get to use for their tasks. If you’re smart, you’ll position your solutions differently to each role. For one group you might want to highlight how your solution makes their lives easier day-to-day. For the other, cost savings or consistency across the organization might be the pain point to address.

4. Past Purchase Behavior

You don’t interact with your close friends the same way you do with acquaintances or complete strangers, do you? So why wouldn’t you differentiate your marketing for new prospects, lapsed customers and key accounts?

Technology is getting all the press these days, but good solid relationships matter, too. Talking to your customers can help you understand typical paths as companies grow (or contract) and mature or morph into new businesses. With that understanding, you can pro-actively engage with customers who are starting down similar paths. There’s real magic in knowing what a client will need before he does!

5. Content Consumption Behavior

Technology again gets a starring role in the realm of content consumption behavior. Tracking what content is most popular in aggregate is fantastic; it guides you to create more content like it. But tracking individual preferences is powerful, too, since it can help you make content recommendations that are most relevant to that prospect’s needs — and most useful to you in helping them through the buyer’s journey.

Not all of these segmentation approaches will make sense for your business, but technology continues to make tracking behavior and segmentation easier than ever, so you should be revisiting these concepts on at least an annual basis. As your business changes so might the ways you drill down into your funnel to best meet your prospects’ needs.

Digital Marketing: It’s Not About You

Your prospects don’t care about you. They don’t care about what you do. What they care about is what you can do for them.

It feels appropriate to kick off this new column with that cold, hard truth because it’s how I start just about every presentation I give these days. The ideas captured in that assertion are the foundation for just about everything we’ll cover in this column: websites, content marketing and digital marketing.

digital guyYour prospects don’t care about you. They don’t care about what you do. What they care about is what you can do for them.

It feels appropriate to kick off this new column with that cold, hard truth because it’s how I start just about every presentation I give these days. The ideas captured in that assertion are the foundation for just about everything we’ll cover in this column: websites, content marketing and digital marketing.

The key notion here is that your marketing can’t be about you. This, of course, is no revelation. It’s been a basic tenet of marketing since marketing’s existence. Think of all the times you’ve been advised to talk about “benefits, not features” or to focus on your prospects’ pain points.

With the persistent encouragement to apply these techniques, it’s shocking how many corporate websites take exactly the opposite approach — it’s all about them and their products and why they are better than the rest. Remarkable, isn’t it, how every company is above average?

If you’re feeling brave, take a look at your own website right now. Does the me/we/our count outnumber the use of you/your? Is the first item on your main menu “About Us?” Does your home page copy talk about your decades of experience? If you said yes to any of these questions, you may have a problem.

You’re in luck, though. Solving these kinds of problems is exactly what we’ll devote this column to, along with:

  • Big picture strategy discussions
  • Tool recommendations
  • Implementation ideas for the Web, email marketing and social media
  • Integration recommendations for specific departments, including sales, customer service and product teams

Let’s get back to that home page of yours. In addition to checking whether the focus is on you or your customers, check if you’re committing any of the following deadly sins — we’ll lay them out here and dive into addressing them over the next few months.

Saying Too Much

One of the most common situations we find ourselves in when developing a new site is mediating between stakeholders in different parts of the company. They all believe their work is too important not to be featured on the home page. Of course, emphasizing everything means nothing stands out. You’ll be better served by editing ruthlessly and testing content to see what really performs best and deserves to be on your home page.

Saying Too Little

Currently there is a website trend of heavy imagery use paired with sparse copy. I’m sure the argument in favor of this practice centers on the emotional value of a powerful image packing the punch of a thousand words. But aside from looking like every other website out there, don’t you want to convey at least some basic sense of what you do and whom you can help? Don’t get me wrong — emotions matter in buying decisions. But it’s not all that matters.

Speaking to Everyone

Considering the topic of whom you can help, “everyone” is not a good answer. Even if your offerings really can help everyone, it would be foolish to believe you can stake out that territory successfully on a website home page. You need to pick your most important audience segments and speak to them. Yes, someone is likely to feel left out. The increased effectiveness you’ll have in your best segments, however, will more than compensate for losing out on a small number of less-than-ideal clients.

Making no Requests

Your website visitors will be more likely to take action if you suggest they do so. Having well-crafted offers and prominently featured calls to action are key to your website’s success. Now, that doesn’t mean asking for a credit card number after offering a prospect a small blurb of basic information. It might simply mean suggesting that they click through to another page that helps them get to know you better.

I look forward to getting to know you better over the coming months. Please reach out to let me know what digital marketing questions you’d like to see answered and I’ll include them in an upcoming column.

Who Holds the Keys to Your Marketing Kingdom?

Stop for just a minute and run a quick mental audit on the various stakeholders who keep your website alive and healthy. Can you name the company that hosts your website? Where is your domain registered? Do you have links to all of these sites and a list of all the log-in credentials for each of these pieces of the puzzle? I recently met a small business owner who had entrusted the design, build and maintenance of their company’s website to a small 2-man digital agency — and shared a horror story with me.

digital marketingWith our heavy dependence on websites for brand building, lead generation, new product launches and e-commerce, you’d think there would be a set of best practices for maintaining the keys to that kingdom.

If you’re reading this post, then stop for just a minute and run a quick mental audit on the various stakeholders who keep your website alive and healthy. Can you name the company that hosts your website? Where is your domain registered? Who is doing the website maintenance? Who handles your e-commerce payment gateway? Do you have links to all of these sites and a list of all the log-in credentials for each of these pieces of the puzzle?

I recently met a small business owner who had entrusted the design, build and maintenance of the company’s website to a small two-man digital agency — and shared a horror story with me.

It seems she left all the “details” up to the agency. She didn’t know how the website was built — whether it was template or custom code; she had no idea how or where or even who had registered the domain. She didn’t know the details of how the website was maintained — she knew who to call when she had a problem, but trusted that those she paid would take care of her needs. And then one day, that little agency, was gone.

No one answered the phone. No one returned her calls. No one answered her emails for help. She literally had no idea where to turn, and yet she needed her digital storefront maintained or she’d be out of business.

As she told me her story, I realized the same could be true for many other businesses. And, after asking around, it seems her story is not uncommon. When it comes to a website, many business owners entrust an employee, yet don’t ask for a list of service providers, links and log-in credentials so they can maintain a record as back-up. What would they do if one day that employee failed to show up for work?

With all of the digital security risks, it’s a good idea to change passwords regularly. Do you have a system to ensure you get the new password each time it gets reset by your internal or external team?

Don’t get held hostage by an outside partner or internal employee. Don’t risk your brand’s storefront. Stop reading this blog and get the keys to your marketing kingdom before this day is over. You can thank me later.

The New ‘New Media’ Is Coming

The first time I saw a 360-degree video on Facebook, I didn’t know what it was. It was an immersive WWII recreation with tanks and explosions and soldiers running past. I didn’t even realize I could turn my phone to change the view. I wondered why it seemed like everyone had run behind me, had no idea I was just pointing the wrong way.

The first time I saw a 360-degree video on Facebook, I didn’t know what it was. It was an immersive WWII recreation with tanks and explosions and soldiers running past. I didn’t even realize I could turn my phone to change the view. I wondered why it seemed like everyone ran behind me, had no idea I was just pointing the wrong way.

That was before I wrote this blog post about Megadeth turning their album into a virtual reality dystopia. Before I started seeing Liberty Mutual and The Jungle Book 360-degree video ads on Facebook that have to be viewed on a phone, tablet or 3d viewer (so this next video is to view on one of those, not your computer).

Before i went to Adobe Summit and saw a 360-degree camera sitting on the stage between Tom Middleditch and Steve Hammond during the “Sneaks.” Adobe gave Cardboard-style VR viewers to VIP attendees to check out the VR experience.

That’s just a few of the companies coming out strong behind virtual reality video (without even getting into the Oculus Rift, which is on sale now). But VR isn’t the only “new media” worth considering. Alone it’d just be another fad, there’s more.

TV-Digital Ad Spend, Emarketer, 2016For example, TV ad spending has begun to decline, and is being surpassed by online display spending. That’s hardly surprising, since TV viewership has also been on the decline, especially among under-50 viewers. At the same time, streaming video viewership is up, with half of Americans partaking.

That streaming viewership isn’t staying on the TV, either. Much of it is happening on personal devices. According to the “App Annie Index: Market Q1 2016” report, entertainment revenue from mobile apps such as Netflix and HBO Go more than doubled from Q1 2015 to Q1 2016.

And streaming video is gaining capabilities. Beyond 360 videos, which are interactive by necessity, Facebook has also introduce videos that are interactive on any device. That’s barely a video anymore, it’s more like a video game.

Gaming is also becoming a bigger part of the overall media picture. Nielsen reports that 50 percent of Americans 13 and over play games on mobile devices. That goes equally for men and women, and the average age of those gamers is 36. (It’s good to know my wife and I aren’t the only ones fiddling with mobile games while we watch TV on a random weeknight. But then the games we’re playing are both TV-related: Star Trek for me, and Simpsons and Family Guy for her.)

Over the past five years, the big shift in media has been to streaming entertainment and enabling streaming everywhere, from the living room TV to your train ride to work. Better mobile networks and bigger screen devices enabled the latter. A range of home media solutions — from smart TVs to video game consoles and dedicated streaming media devices — connected the former.

Now, the emerging new media are more intimate and individualized. VR viewers (many of which use your phone as the screen) don’t just bring the entertainment to you, they pull you away form your environment to put you into the immersive entertainment experience. Increasing use of streaming apps on mobile, especially paid streaming apps, brings you to exactly the media you want to watch. And that’s not a platform meant for sharing. Interactive video is not, by nature, “2-player co-op.”

This all reminds me of the Walkman effect in the 80s. Our shared media experience is quickly becoming the personal media experience.

So what will the new media advertising experience look like? These screens don’t have enormous side rails to fit ads, and interrupting ads will ruin the immersive experience. Where does that leave marketers?

I have no idea. But I know it’s coming.