Seven Habits of Highly Effective Digital Marketers

While not an incredibly original post (or title), I believe marketing to be such a subjectively defined and rapidly evolving field that all takes on marketing and what it takes to operate it effectively are original. Of all the tips, tricks and intrinsic qualities needed to manage an optimized digital approach that I’ve seen, I’ve found some to be good, some to the great, others to be poor and a select some to be essential.

“Habit” is, in most contexts, used as a negative word to define the ritualistic activity performed regularly by people that cause some sort of overall damaging outcome; like smoking, overeating, excessive shopping. The word, I fee,l is not used enough as a positive – as by Stephen Covey in his “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” – to describe habitual activity that causes positive effects. Good habits are what digital-focused marketers want to uncover and saturate their strategy in to promote a fully optimized approach. Here are some I feel should be included in that:

Knowing thy goals

Any project in any job in any function of any business should always start with the question of goals. What are they!? To make an accomplishment, a finish line must be determined. A goal and timeline for completion helps marketers back up into a process that then determines the strategy.

A goal is difficult to reach if it is undefined or vague. Knowing where you’d like to end helps to determine the best course to get there and then where to start, along with the different nuances, tools and people that will support getting there.

A great way to look at projects is to visualize a house; If you know the goal is a house with specific features, you could decide the process to establish those features, then decide where to start to set the stage to bring them to life, like a foundation, a frame and other infrastructure. This is needed before other additional pieces, like decorating the interior design. In marketing, that infrastructure includes a goal, a strategy to reach that goal and the different  variables that will support it. As things flesh out, bare bones turns to a complete whole with all the bells and whistles that are all supported by the initial framework and eventually reaches the goal.

Always be learning

Everything in life is a learning experience. Even challenges and failures help to enrich the knowledge and skills of those who face it. The more marketers pay attention to fine details and new developments, the more they will learn to optimize their approach to full efficiency.

The ground beneath marketing is shifting. Strictly traditional marketing technique is not delivering the provable impactful results that the C-level is now demanding to turn their marketing departments from a mysterious cost center to a more organized and transparent revenue source. Those who have embraced this change and learned how to leverage digital technology and progressive technique to develop a business are being noticed and demanded as the new leaders of the new age of marketing. The landscape of marketing technology is vast, and growing rapidly every day to enhance this shift taking place. Keeping abreast of these new technologies, how they work, and if they could add value in your efforts is a tremendous learning experience that will enrich a career.

There are tons of other great ways to learn as a marketer, like taking notice of great leaders and emulating the traits and skills that make them successful, gaining subject matter expertise in a given industry, and more. Each learning experience requires an open mind and special attention to details. The desire to always be improving will help a marketer’s mind soak up all of the great information that could boost their performance and value significantly.

Beautiful mind-ing” your data

If you’ve seen Russell Crowe’s depiction of Jon Nash in the film A Beautiful Mind, you may already know where I’m headed. If that’s the case, you may already be a master of this habit.

A truly valuable marketer sees opportunity everywhere. John Nash’s character early in the film was able to view a schema of seemingly arbitrary data and visualize patterns, ultimately cracking hidden codes. A digital marketing talent (perhaps on a more basic scale) could view campaign results, analytics, contact databases and other sources and detect interesting behavioral patterns.

For instance, if consumers are displaying consistent behavior in recent time, clicking on links, viewing webpages, sharing social media posts, all that relate to a particular less-highlighted product, the modern marketer would pick up on this pattern and recommend a strategy to enhance the efforts around that product. The market seems to be demanding that particular product even without saying a word, and the analytical marketer could read between the lines and use that insight to improve strategy and boost business.

Although it might seem to be the case, you don’t need to have extraordinary analysis or wizardry skill to accomplish this Nash-like performance indication. Some people are born with great innate skill that supports this while others spend time learning how to measure data, learning about patterns to look for and how to interpret them, understanding those patterns and what it means for the business and how to take that understanding and implement it into strategy that will have a significant impact in optimizing marketing effort.

Funnel Visioning

Every great, modern marketer that I’ve met has a different focus and approach to marketing. However, all also bear some similarities. The digital masterminds with focus on the end result of revenue growth all tend to see the world through the scope of the marketing funnel.

The funnel is tied to the buyers lifecycle, which traditionally has been going from ignorance of a product, service or brand, to Awareness of its existence, to Interest in consuming it, to Desire to consume it, to Action toward purchasing (see AIDA model). A marketing function’s responsibility in this lies in guiding the market from stage to stage successfully.

The marketing funnel helps marketers to navigate this motion from Top of the Funnel (TOFU) where the Awareness starts to the Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU) where the action takes place, and to know where each potential customer sits in it. The stage in the funnel helps to determine strategy; i.e. customers at the TOFU or Awareness stage wouldn’t be a fit to receive a hard sales pitch yet as they’re still nurturing; and conversely someone at the bottom, ready-to-buy stage shouldn’t get introductory content describing the general business and their offerings, as they already know if they’re in this stage.

Marketers with focus on results for the overall business are often the most valued, and many of those in that category view everything via funnel-vision. Each piece of content, each inbound or outbound communication, each idea, etc are all visualized as where they would fit in with the funnel structure and how they would support each stage. If all focus includes the funnel, then all focus includes overall revenue goals in mind. Attention to this mindset is what helps marketers connect with sales, and blurs the lines a bit between the two functions to promote synergy.

Thinking a few steps ahead

Living in the here and now is important in some cases. Letting things ride spontaneously is a fun and adventurous way to live; however, in marketing, there almost always needs a focus on proactive strategy as well.

Great marketers learn from their experiences. They also know their market well and how it might react to different strategy. So, instead of knee-jerk marketing, viewing things in the big picture is vital, which also requires to attempt predicting the future. If a communication takes place, its recipients land into the funnel. How are they approached then? What about after that? Viewing ahead gives a birds-eye-view of the approach and helps marketers to sync their different efforts together and avoid ad hock marketing – performing tasks as needs arise instead of already proactively fulfilling those needs with overall broader efforts.

Test, measure, understand, optimize

In the past, I’ve sometimes described marketing operations as orchestra conducting. A conductor organizes orchestra members, the instruments involved, the placement of each and then begins to teach. At first, the symphony will not be perfect, no matter how talented the members. The conductor will continue to tweak components, make improvements, detect flat notes, and tighten up the overall process to improved result. Using his or her ears as their tool, the conductor tests the performance, understands if it is adequate or what improvements could be made, and then determines how to fix flaws if they exist to optimize the result a bit closer to perfect.

In marketing, it’s a similar structure to promote peak performance. A symphony of data, content, technology and strategy that all must work together in such a way that performs actions that lead to goals. Performance will rarely be perfect at first – open rates may be lower than ideal, CTRs, site traffic, response rates and overall revenue beneath goal benchmarks – however, through scrutiny, testing with innovative technology tools, understanding the flaws, fixing them and improving the process gets things a bit closer to perfection. This cycle for improvement is never ending.

Split testing content in email and landing pages, A/B testing email subject lines and social media posts is just one great technique to tighten up the process through measurement and understanding. The more you test, the more you understand about your audience and your overall strategy.

Integrate everything

We exist in a fascinating age of digital marketing. Over the years, tech tools that support the marketing and sales process have surfaced, developed and continue to grow. As is inevitable in such evolution, ultimately many of the fragmented technology tools peppered throughout the landscape began to see value in leaning on each other, and thus many have develop ability through API and other means to talk to each other. Just as an iPhone syncing with your car stereo provides and convenience and service to consumers, as does a CRM integrating with an Automation tool, or a social media management tool syncing with a CMS, etc.

Since the ability to leverage is there and increasingly available as this trend continues, marketers must look to use it to their advantage. Marketing functions should no longer settle with use of a number of standalone tools or marketing channels, but rather look to tie them together and create a cross-functional ecosystem. Tools exchanging data with other tools, marketing channels like a website exchanging customer navigation flow to other channels like social media pages. Once a system is created, customer data flows smoothly to each component like cells through veins, which expands and enriches overall market interaction with a business’s branding.

Other habits of ultramodern digital-focused marketers may certainly apply and, for some businesses and industries, perhaps even more so than those listed above. I’d love to hear your feedback and what you believe are key behavior patterns of top digital performers. Contact me here or on Twitter @Vince_Tech.

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