The story of digital marketing and its transformation

Let me tell you a short tale about digital marketing. Though a true story, the brands, dates and details have been removed in place of making extremely important points about how brands large and small shoot their own feet and step on their own toes.

Once upon a time there was a world of push marketing. A world where your mailbox was continually stuffed full of paper, cold advertising pieces. Based on numbers and highly non-targeted methods, marketers played Russian roulette with advertising dollars that leveraged volume over data and creative over sustainable relationships. The market matured, became more saturated and competition invaded faster and with less expense.

Enter digital marketing…

The advent of the internet brought high hopes for real data, targeting and measurable, scalable results. Coupling email marketing with websites gave adventurous brands both relationship, targeting and property components to their efforts that began realizing a marketing utopia to those that invested early. The market matured, became more saturated and competition invaded faster and with less expense.

Enter social media marketing…

As social networks begin to see adoption by substantial numbers of users, we saw the advent of what we now call social media. Consumers finally wielded control over their brand choice destiny, while early brands and marketers realized marketing integration beyond their wildest dreams. Consumers were able to self-identify their interest in products and services and brands could connect, converse and scale traffic both short and long-term. The market matured, became more saturated and competition invaded faster and with less expense.

Enter content marketing… 

As digital marketing became more and more sophisticated, internet and social network users became like a dog that sees a squirrel out of the corner of their eye while intently investigating a newly dug whole. Distractions gave rise to the need for ever-increasing quantity and quality of engaging and branded content. The appetite for chasing, yet not eating squirrels had risen to unprecedented levels, which led to the most talented writers, brands and marketers, with the largest budgets to reign supreme. The market matured, became more saturated and competition invaded faster and with less expense.

Enter inbound marketing…

Frustrated CEO’s expecting to see some kind of return on their investment in integrated digital marketing, began to ask for numbers. They wanted to see revenue minus expenses that would justify the money being poured into their growing followings, likes and subscriptions. Innovative early marketers and brands began to measure traffic, content, pages and develop lead generation and sales funnels that could turn vanity metrics into actual measurable results. The market matured, became more saturated and competition invaded faster and with less expense.

Enter the shortcuts…

As markets mature and become more saturated late adopters tend to jump in and cut corners in order to “catch up”. We saw this with email marketing spam, social media like and follower purchasing, but the list on this is really very long. Rather than learning best practices and digital marketing disciplines and hiring highly experienced talent, some brands and marketers take shortcuts.

I recently received an inbound email from an inbound lead form on our website. Though not the first of its kind, it was nonetheless the most recent. The email went something like, we thought you might be interested in our new content, graphic, article, etc. and would like to write about it and link to it. Have you experienced these?

The intrusive promotional spam was sent by a company that has never once had any conversation with me and had not invested anything into earning a relationship that would result in their right to make such a request. A highly abhorred practice by many and a practice that has no longevity or interest in being so.

To make a long story short, it ended up being a lengthy DM conversation with the company CEO who proceeded to insult me, call me “not a top-tier influencer” all as justification for the repeated practice. I will leave out the brand and the additional details, but want you to understand that not unlike others online, I receive about 20 of these per month, literally thousands of social media tag spam and hundreds of other spam requests to share, link or write about their brand. Not only do I not indulge them with their request, I usually unfollow, block and/or report their spam efforts, let alone ever have any interest in their products or service.

I decided to conduct a non-scientific pole on Twitter about the issue. I asked people of they considered this practice spamming or ok.

Knowing that many industry professionals already know damn well that this is spam, I still wanted to get input and also posted about it on my personal Facebook page. Things on Facebook got much more intense and detailed. Have a look at the comments within the thread.

SpammingQuestionFacebook

The results are likely what any experienced professional would expect. Social media, content and integrated digital marketing should have an element of relationship to it. Outside of that brands and marketers may see some limited short-term successes with traffic and clicks, but in the long run they will leave a wake of people who will never do business with them or support their brand efforts.

The story will never end…

There are a few main points I want to get across to you in this post.

1- Expect Continual Change: Digital marketing is continually changing. It requires a constant focus on measuring and testing, then adapting and rethinking what you thought you already knew. Just as I outlined simply in our tale above, there will always be new channels and components that we didn’t expect. Having a commitment to adaptation, education and execution is the only way your brand can succeed online. Don’t kid yourself that you will be able to cut corners later.

2- There Are Consequences: Finally, there are consequences to not adapting within the digital climate. Remember Hollywood Video and Blockbuster? They ignored the flashing signs of change and failed to adapt in time. They also attempted numerous shortcuts in the end and it proved to be their downfall.

Not every company, B2B brand or retail business is liken to Blockbuster, however the smaller and more niche your business is, the shorter the runway you have to take off digitally. That has its upsides, but more importantly the downside repercussions of not adequately adapting in the content, social, search and inbound marketing world will kill your brand just as easily as poor cash flow. In fact, they may just both hit you at once.

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