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Digital Summit Portland: Putting the customer first in your digital strategy
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Digital Summit Portland: Putting the customer first in your digital strategy

Paid Media & SEM

This summer, I had the opportunity to attend the Digital Summit in Portland to learn more about the latest trends in digital marketing. This two-day conference covered multiple topics including digital strategy optimization in general, digital content differentiation and personalization, and even the use of mobile and data to grow brand awareness. It was the perfect opportunity to take a step back from the work we do every day as marketers and gain new perspective. Here’s an overview of the key takeaways from my time in the City of Roses.


Pivoting your web strategy towards the customer

According to eMarketer, nearly 2.4 billion people around the world own a smartphone in 2017. With such a large volume of users with access to the Internet, the opportunity for companies to connect with people directly to win over new clients or retain existing ones is greater than ever. Unfortunately, many companies still aren’t taking full advantage of this direct link, and aren’t designing their digital strategies around the client.

Whether it’s by using formats designed for television for the web, banner ads with static, boring visuals, or by publishing generic and poorly adapted content, many companies seem to be unaware of the huge potential of the web, and above all of the effort required both in terms of creativity and originality to stand out from the competition in the digital world. If you want to stand out, it’s essential that you create experiences that people want to consume. What’s more, this doesn’t apply only to ad formats, but also to your user experience, and the messaging you send out by email.

There’s nothing more disappointing when you get to a website than being bombarded with multiple pop-ups asking you to sign up for a newsletter, like a Facebook page, and accept a promotional offer. Michael Barber, founder of barber&hewitt, said it best: “Customers want the least path to resistance with their online experience.” That’s why it’s better to turn your web strategy towards the client, rather than focusing on maximizing your leads without taking the customer experience into consideration. By connecting with our clients in a more deliberate way, we can engage them with our brand and it will be far easier to retain them.

Differentiating your content

Another important factor that allows you to differentiate yourself online is the creation of engaging, original and personalized content. Ann Handley, a well-known speaker and author, kicked off the first day of the conference with a sentence that perfectly summarizes the biggest problem with the approach so many companies take to content production: “The biggest missed opportunity in content marketing is playing it too safe.” Many companies prefer to play it safe with their content strategies and don’t dare wander off the beaten trail in either the form or the tone they use in their content. Unfortunately, this approach often results in less engaging content that doesn’t have much of an impact on consumer perception of your brand. Content is an excellent way to connect with people, and boldness, or the ability to go beyond the conventional limits established by the masses, becomes an excellent tool for maximizing your chances of connecting with your audience and engaging them with your brand.

However, this connection can only happen once you have a good understanding of who your audience is. So, by combining the data you collect with the feedback you receive on social media, you’ll eventually be able to optimize the quality of your content to better engage and connect with your target audience.

Another important element to consider is the tone employed in your content. Effectively, whether it’s a humorous tone that sparks laughter and amusement or a lyrical tone that puts the reader in a similar state of mind to the author, taking on a particular tone will result in content that’s far more engaging and that connects with people more successfully. Essentially, by adopting an empathetic tone and producing bold content, whatever type of content it is, you’ll be better able to create experiences that people want to consume and share.

Mobile and data

One of the most interesting sessions of the two days was “How to use mobile to build a brand customers love” by Robi Ganguly, co-founder and CEO of Apptentive, which specializes in the mobile consumer experience.

With our constant use of mobile devices, advertisers now enjoy a vast playing field from which to accumulate data and feedback relevant to the development of their brand and retention of their customers. With mobile, companies are now more connected to consumers than ever. This direct connection is becoming a supremely effective way of communicating with and collecting feedback from consumers about their experience with your company. The combination of data and feedback allows you to better understand what your clientele are experiencing and feeling when they do business with you. Because of this, optimizing the customer experience is faster, more organic and less rigid than the traditional focus groups once used by multitudes of companies to better understand consumer behaviour or collect information after the launch of a new product.

Once a customer makes a purchase, you can ask them whether they enjoyed their experience and what the company could have done to improve the experience, while at the same time thanking them. This makes the customer feel heard and cared about. You’ll increase your chances of retaining them by listening to them with empathy. In short, the collection, analysis and comprehension of data combined with listening to your customers, accompanied by a sound communications strategy remains one of the best ways to understand consumer behaviour. This form of marketing automation allows companies to optimize their digital strategy quickly and efficiently.

In conclusion, listening and showing empathy to consumers is an essential skill for companies to possess. The web is an easy way to reach your customers, but we sometimes have a tendency to not put enough effort into our communications strategies to be truly engaging. It’s now up to marketers and advertisers to double down on our efforts to create digital strategies that will allow us to stand out, and that starts by continually questioning consumers’ perceptions, while keeping them at the heart of our digital marketing initiatives. As the old saying goes, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”