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Don’t Be A Broadcast Marketer (Part 1 of 2)

Jason ThibeaultBy Jason Thibeault, Senior Director of Marketing Strategy, Limelight Networks

You might still be one of them. Broadcast marketers. The digital world was like a candy store for them — more ways to distribute more messages, faster. It didn’t take long, though, for those marketers to fill the digital world with a level of noise that has jaded customers to any sort of digital marketing.

In fact, most of the time, customers just ignore whatever messages are getting blasted at them. But that’s not good for marketing and that’s why there is a subtle evolution going on in the hallowed halls of businesses around the world, an evolution that is transforming broadcast marketing to something that doesn’t just utilize digital technologies to facilitate old habits; rather, it takes advantage of how the digital world facilitates a marketer’s ability to connect directly to the end user, in real time, for the first time. Ever.

Is Advertising Dead?

The idea of advertising is simple — get your product-focused message out to enough channels, with enough volume, and you will increase your chance to convince a customer to make a purchase. Of course, that definition works great when the number of channels is limited. Print. TV. Radio. Because consumption is minimal, the message has more impact. But digital destroyed that simple idea by providing too many opportunities for distributing that message at a cheap cost, by combining those channels into one. TV (video) became integrated with print (web). Everything got connected together and it became mass bombardment of messaging. And, as a result, consumers stopped paying attention. Sure there are exceptions to this case, but for most marketers they are simply trying to be heard. And what do you do when you don’t feel people are hearing you? You speak louder. And louder. In digital marketing speak, that’s more ad spend across more channels.

The issue has significant ramifications. Although more companies are committing marketing dollars to digital they are expecting more immediate returns. Increased pipeline. More sales. It goes hand-in-hand with the picture just painted. If advertising is all about gaining mindshare through message volume and digital provides volume like never before there should be more sales, correct? Only when the CEO (and sometimes the CMO) doesn’t understand the general erosion of advertising resulting from mass broadcast messaging there are unrealistic expectations for the long (and short) term gain of digital marketing efforts.

The result? Marketers lose their jobs. CEOs become disenchanted with social media and other digital marketing efforts. And the whole thing falls apart.

New Rules For A New Age

Successful companies today don’t rely on broadcast messaging. They understand that there is a new set of rules that come with the fast-paced, bi-directional digital world. Getting people to buy a product or subscribe to a service isn’t about telling them about it so much as it’s about engaging with them about it.

For the first time in history, marketing-based interaction with users is two-way. With digital, it’s really built into the very fabric of how marketers disseminate their messaging. Facebook. Twitter. Blogs. Video. Every digital channel has the opportunity to provide synchronous and asynchronous interaction between marketer and audience (i.e., comments).

The problem is that engagement doesn’t have the sales focus of traditional broadcast messaging. Engagement is all about generating long-term relationships with customers. Sure some customers will engage and purchase immediately. But for the most part, engaging with customers is about cultivating a relationship that leads not only to incremental sales but also expanded reach as engaged consumers tell others about your brand and product.

According to a recent study by IBM of 500 CMOs across 15 different industries, this was the No. 1 challenge — customer acquisition and growth. That can only happen through engaging content/digital experiences. The second key challenge? Generating loyalty. And that’s hard to do if the focus of the messaging is all about conversion. It has to be engagement.

Why Storytelling Is Reshaping Marketing

Talking about a product isn’t going to get customers engage with your message. In fact, it’s kind of hard to make product-focused content relevant at all. It’s pretty much the same for everyone—features and benefits. That’s why marketers are turning to storytelling. Look at what Coca-Cola has done to their corporate website? They completely revamped it (and committed tens of millions of dollars over the next few years) to focus on stories about their customers and about the topics that concern them. Health. Environmentalism. Lifestyle. By doing so, Coca-Cola is establishing an emotional connection with their audience and facilitating deeper relationships.

The Key? Understanding Digital Relationships.

It’s clear there are opportunities in this new digital world. The obvious? Establishing deeper relationships leads to a better chance of conversion. But the relationships in the digital world aren’t the same. At least not between marketer and audience. That’s what we’ll explore in Part 2 — and how understanding the way relationships have changed in the digital world is the lynchpin to successful marketing.

Jason Thibeault is Senior Director of Marketing Strategy for Limelight Networks, a provider of cloud-based SaaS applications for digital presence management.

Read Part 2 of "Don't Be A Broadcast Marketer."