Tactical is a great word…if you are in law enforcement or the military. As a digital marketer, however, tactical has come to imply – fairly or unfairly – a lack of strategy, creativity and inability to grasp how day-to-day activities fit into the bigger picture.
In the recent Forrester report, “2015: The Year of the Big Digital Shift,” more than half of marketers admitted their digital marketing is more tactical than strategic. While a number of factors may explain this, digital marketers are a victim of their own excess: Forrester reported that investments in marketing technology grew 3.4 percent in 2014 and is projected to rise another 4 percent this year.
Marketers looking to spend their growing budgets will find an ever-expanding landscape of digital marketing tools at their disposal. Ask peers for recommendations on tools for content marketing, marketing automation, mobile marketing, SEO, and social media monitoring and you will likely get dozens of answers. It reminds me of the viral marketing videos from Blendtec’s, “Will It Blend” campaign, whereby items ranging from iPhones to baseballs are placed in a Blendtec blender to see if, in fact, they will blend. Throwing a bunch of digital marketing tools into a blender and just hoping they will “blend” together into a coherent strategy doesn’t work.
To ensure digital tools enhance rather than complicate your broader marketing strategy, consider the following:
Conduct gap analysis
Marketers must draw a definitive line between nice to have and need to have digital tools. In my recent column for PR Week The Hub Comms, I reviewed a new gap analysis tool from SAP that asks the marketer a series of questions about their organizational profile, marketing programs, current systems and processes. Based on the answers, the tool makes personalized recommendations on focus areas for marketing investment to address existing gaps. Marketers should not make tool investment decisions before having a firm grasp of existing gaps, and then evaluating which tools can plug them.
Avoid tool redundancy
There are purpose-built digital marketing tools designed to address a single pain point, such as SEO or content marketing. But it is more common today to find tools that try and do multiple things. For example, one tool might be capable of social media management, PR media measurement and reporting, while another might include a PR media database and some social media management capabilities. Many of these tools don’t run cheap, which means you do not want to be paying multiple vendors for essentially the same service.
Don’t repeat the same mistakes
The path of least resistance is continuing to use the same tools year after year. It is certainly possible that a small handful prove invaluable and are worthy of your loyalty, but the fact is that marketing needs evolve over time and your marketing strategy must adapt accordingly. The key point is that your digital marketing strategy should drive the tools you use, not vice versa. Purchasing a tool or tools and then building a marketing strategy around the tool’s capabilities is a backwards approach that will leady to tactical, rather than strategic decisions. Evaluate what worked last year and evaluate tools that will help you achieve objectives in 2015.
Don’t buy tools in a vacuum
Marketers, particularly those in the technology industry, often talk about how their company or client solutions break down silos and allow for information to be more easily shared. We see that playing out across agencies as far as a need to integrate digital marketing tools with other areas of the business. Burson-Marsteller recently unveiled a new approach aiming to combine its data analytics and Web data tools with creative and production capabilities, indicative of efforts industry-wide to cast the benefits of analysis, data and measurement organization-wide.