Online marketing and the shakedown 2.0

It looks as if the financial services market is about to go through a major recession. But within every recession the seeds of recovery are always sown and the commercial realism for the economic failing is brought to light. The result is always a shakedown and a more realistic realignment of the industry.

For instance, it now seems patently obvious that house prices can’t indefinitely increase at 20-30 per cent a year.

You may remember going through a similar phenomenon in the dotcom crash. At the time we were all excited about the birth of a new economy that didn’t obey traditional financial rules. However, the hard logic of return on investment and profitability exposed the flaws in boo.com and the like. The shakedown came and the internet industry grew up and started to act like a proper business.

On a smaller scale there is a shakedown and realignment taking place in our internet marketing industry now.

For many years we have read about the impending demise of the advertising and marketing agencies, the decline of the newspaper and PR industries because of the new logic inherent in the internet as a communication channel.

The realignment and shakedown is actually coming for the online agencies who hold on to the illusion that the most valuable asset to their clients is website design and build. The real value to your customer lies – as it always has done – in the content and the people who understand how to use it to to influence and engage.

Advertisements

Why you don’t need a redesign

Its a very human trait to solve the problem you are comfortable and familiar with rather than the problem that really needs to be addressed.

In our industry you see this when someone looks at the web analytics and deduces that your website is not working and ipso facto you need a redesign.

The reality is that poor design is very rarely the source of the problem. In 9 times out of 10 the primary reason for the failure is poor content. Without a content strategy developed in line with business objectives and underpinned by content planning and publishing schedules even the best designed sites will eventually dry up and fail.

Gerry McGovern has written an excellent piece ‘Resist Redesign‘ exactly on this point – redesign fulfills an organisational/agency need to work on projects rather than a customers need to access valuable content.

Why you don’t need a redesign

Its a very human trait to solve the problem you are comfortable and familiar with rather than the problem that really needs to be addressed.

In our industry you see this when someone looks at the web analytics and deduces that your website is not working and ipso facto you need a redesign.

The reality is that poor design is very rarely the source of the problem. In 9 times out of 10 the primary reason for the failure is poor content. Without a content strategy developed in line with business objectives and underpinned by content planning and publishing schedules even the best designed sites will eventually dry up and fail.

Gerry McGovern has written an excellent piece ‘Resist Redesign‘ exactly on this point – redesign fulfills an organisational/agency need to work on projects rather than a customers need to access valuable content.

Seth Godin: ‘Ideas that spread, win’

The ever excellent TED Talks gives us this video of marketing guru Seth Godin holding forth on: “Sliced bread and other marketing delights”.

The key message is that interesting stuff grabs attention and conveys messages better than stuff which ain’t. (Oh and look out for the way that the TED video lets you skip to the sections you want rather than having to watch the whole thing. This gives a time-poor audience the ability to manipulate the content to make it more effective at reaching them. Smart.)

In a world of too many options and too little time, our obvious choice is to ignore the ordinary stuff. Marketing guru Seth Godin spells out why, when it comes getting our attention, bad or bizarre ideas are more successful than boring ones. And early adopters, not the mainstream’s bell curve, are the new sweet spot of the market.

Seth Godin: ‘Ideas that spread, win’

The ever excellent TED Talks gives us this video of marketing guru Seth Godin holding forth on: “Sliced bread and other marketing delights”.

The key message is that interesting stuff grabs attention and conveys messages better than stuff which ain’t. (Oh and look out for the way that the TED video lets you skip to the sections you want rather than having to watch the whole thing. This gives a time-poor audience the ability to manipulate the content to make it more effective at reaching them. Smart.)

In a world of too many options and too little time, our obvious choice is to ignore the ordinary stuff. Marketing guru Seth Godin spells out why, when it comes getting our attention, bad or bizarre ideas are more successful than boring ones. And early adopters, not the mainstream’s bell curve, are the new sweet spot of the market.

Content marketing: a visualisation exercise

Imagine you’re a marketeer who has gone through all the difficult work of getting your content online.

You will probably have done your audience segmentation and usability testing, designed your information architecture, created your taxonomies, produced creatives in line with corporate guidelines, selected your CMS, posted and reworked all those volumes of content and then gone through the agony of testing and change management.

Phew. Finally, it is accomplished. You have a site designed on sound principles compliant with all online standards. Surely such a well engineered solution must achieve the purpose it was set out to do. And to some extent it has – it has distributed your information in a structured format ready for your segmented audience to view.

Now how do you justify all that expenditure to senior management?

You supply monthly web statistics on page views, search terms and referring links – possibly, if you’re really sophisticated, broken down by audience segment.

And this is the evolutionary point where the best sites are today.

“So,” you may ask, “what is problem Mr Content Marketing?”

The answer is that after all this good work you need to start thinking about customer engagement and delivering value. In handling all those engineering and standard compliance problems, the actual marketing objective of engaging in a dialogue that delivers values got put to one side.

Why? Because it’s outside the expertise of many online agencies. And few agencies really want their performance tied to client business objectives. It’s far easier to deliver a website and job done.

Content marketing is the next step for anyone getting a message to an audience. It’s about putting the future of your site in the hands of marketers who think and act like publishers.

To illustrate this point: many health sector websites are the equivalent of a medical journal or text book. The information is well structured and all the information is there. But it’s static, sometimes hard to uncover and there is very little scope for change after publication. But if you marketed your organisation through online stories in a health, fitness and lifestyle magazine you would have something that was refreshed regularly and caught the attention and interest of your audience.

That’s content marketing.

Online: why the public sector wins

For eight years I plied my trade as an online journalist. My mission, should I have no choice but to accept it, was to attract readers to pages where adverts were served. For every 1,000 page impression a piece of content received we could expect something like £10 (plus any sponsorship for the relevant section).

That’s a lot of work to get a lot of traffic for not much cash. That’s a key problem for commercial publishers online. Another key problem is the way that online has moved in the past two years or so.

Thanks to the phenomenon known as Web 2.0, the focus has shifted to individual items of content not to where they are displayed. Blogs, RSS feeds, widgets, wikis, social network and umpteen other phenomena take content out of its context and share, manipulate and distribute it in more ways than seem possible. If the content is interesting enough, that is.

This presents a bijout problemette for commercial content producers. While it’s great to have lots of people reading their stories or watching their videos it’s hard to generate revenue unless you can drag those users under an advertising banner or beside a sponsor’s logo. This mission is not impossible but it is damn hard.

But this is all great news if your aim is not to make money from attracting people but to demonstrate value for money and getting the right message out there. And this is where the public sector wins big, especially when it comes to delivering public service messages.

Online is now about distribution and content. If you can embed your message in interesting content then the natural flow of the web will take it to the people for you.