Using Research to Guide Digital Strategy

Now that we have good understanding of how the online world works (Metcalfe’s and Moore’s Law, The Long Tail, etc) and what tools are available for identifying users’ habits and search motives, we can turn our focus to putting digital marketing to work to achieve business objectives.

The research piece now becomes invaluable for setting expectations with key stakeholders.

Armed with solid research, the digital marketer can identify opportunities and using tools like keyword search volume get a rough estimate for market demand. Real-time data like this can offer tremendous competitive advantages if woven into the strategy and execution tactics. If there is little search volume around possible topics and applications of a product or service, it is wise to check the assumption that there is a market to begin with. As we saw with Google’s research in the Zero Moment of Truth, almost every consumer today heads to a search engine following a stimulus.

Cross-referencing this keyword data with tools like Social Technographics, the opportunities come into sharper focus. If your target market does not show a high level of engagement, it can be quite frustrating to try and get users to submit content to your website or Facebook fan page. And management tends to zero in on the easy (and often misleading) metrics such as “Likes” or “Followers”.

Yet, when these metrics are the sole focus true business results tend to get overlooked. The digital marketer is left trying to get Facebook fans and yet not focusing on communicating the value around the business offering itself through the various digital channels – which will ultimately drive sales and propel the business enterprise forward.

Eventually, this myopic focus on junk metrics comes crashing down when the true return on investment (ROI) is pressed. “How much is a Facebook fan worth?” suddenly becomes a very important question when next year’s budget is discussed and the marketing investments to date have failed to drive additional revenue.

The challenge today with social media and the buzz around digital stems from a false belief that such applications create instant business value. Somehow the back-breaking work of building a powerful brand is quickly forgotten.

Neither Rome nor Apple was built in a day.

As we will see in this Strategy section, the reality of delivering true results for business within digital becomes much more nuanced than simply gaining more Twitter followers. For the right market audience and the right product such a network is invaluable and can indeed build tremendous value very quickly.

For many products or services, it can be a complete waste of time.

As we saw in the Foundations section with technology, the same challenges exist with adoption and leveraging networks that was present almost over a hundred years ago. Namely, how does one use these tools to achieve a business objective? The telephone was a marvelous invention and it greatly sped up the ability to do business once it was widely adopted.

The Strategy section will cover how to make sure solid objectives are defined first. This is critical for the digital marketer (or any marketer for that matter) to ensure they keep their job. Fluency with the business model and understanding how to drive revenue ensures a fluid Ready, Aim, Fire approach.

The digital marketer’s job is to take their understanding of the foundations of the online world, mix in research, and find a bridge between the current business reality and the desired future revenue goals.

Really, it’s that simple – and that hard.

Let’s get started with understanding what drives trust online  – for without trust all our efforts will be in vain.