4 Things That History Taught Me about Digital Marketing

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of research on digital marketing. During my research, I came upon a rather interesting thought from Ethan Decker, VP of Insight & Strategy at The Integer Group, one of the largest retail, promotion & shopper marketing agencies in the world. He states that marketing is going backwards in a sense. That instead unlike radio and TV ads that could convince people to purchase items or services, that the digital world has re-instated the ways of community advertising. Meaning that people are asking each other where the best restaurant is or who the best hair stylist is, and they are doing it all online.

While I knew this, it took a pretty big hit on me when he said we were going backwards. What could I do to learn from the times before radio and TV and how could I apply what I learned into the digital world?

I developed a list of four things I’ve learned from history, and how it can be applied today:

1. It’s all about word of mouth… again.

A lot of marketing was done just by talking. Many companies use to travel around and hand out flyers to people. Even in my own profession, I’ve discovered a “mobile City Hall” that brought City Hall to the people.

If you were to bring your goods and services to the people, instead of the people coming to you, you can stir up conversation. But unlike the days in the past, you have the advantage of getting people not only to talk to you face-to-face, but also for them to talk about their encounter with you on their personal social media. What kind of things can you do to have someone post about your product or service on social media when hosting events? Props? Backdrops? Be mindful of how to generate conversations, and don’t be a hard-seller. People want to hear about stories and what you company does for the greater good, not just what product or service you are selling.

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2. Be Open and Tell The Truth

People didn’t go to the drunkard blacksmith for horseshoes. They went to the blacksmith everyone in town trusted. Simple PR rules you should already know, but sometimes the basic rules get covered up with the loads of information you are already receiving. Never, ever lie about your product or service.

In the age of the digital world it only takes 2 seconds for your reputation to be ruined. A simple post on twitter and a negative hashtag with your company name on it appears in the ‘trending’ section. Stay away from those kind of actions by being open and honest with your customers.

People want to know they can trust you as a brand. Follow conversations about your brand online. (Google is a great place to start.) Read your reviews on Google, Facebook, Yelp, etc. and be responsive. If someone has an issue with you, reply to them. When other people see you’re working on providing better customer service, they will be more likely to use you.

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3. K.I.S.S.

One of my favorite acronyms (and you’ll have to forgive me for this) is K.I.S.S. – Keep It Simple, Stupid. It was reportedly coined by Kelly Johnson, lead engineer at the Lockheed Skunk Works, and was a design principle noted by the U.S. Navy in the 60s.

When we think back in history, they didn’t have the same technologies we have to create things with 5,000 fonts, millions of images and things that pop out at you. It was simple creative work and messaging that got the job done. While I could argue that sometimes you need to create “loud” advertising, there is some key things we could learn about keeping things simple.

  1. Consumers are already inundated with thousands of messages. The more complex of a message, the more likely someone will not be interested or forget it.
  2. Simple designs are easier to see and may stand out more. The heavier of stuff on a design, the harder it is to get the message behind it.
  3. Keep your responses simple. Don’t confuse people with jargon. Keep things light and simple.

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4. Don’t Let Technology Ruin Customer Experience

While we all love the (most of the time) ease of technology, many people can get frustrated when they aren’t speaking with a live person. Having a more personal experience can really benefit your brand… just look at Chick-Fil-A!

One great example of a horrible technology experience is my post office experience. While moving into my new house, I discovered my mail gets delivered to a cluster mailbox. So I went online to try to discover how to get the key to my mailbox and found a tip from a lady saying she went to three different post offices before she found the one with her key.  Worried that my nearest post office, which is located in a different city than my address, wouldn’t have my key, I tried to call up there. First of all, they don’t have a personal phone number for that store. (Which, okay, I understand that they don’t want to be inundated with calls, but I really needed to talk to that particular office.) Then when I did call, I talked to a robot the entire time. It sent me through several menus, which I kept having to go back to the main menu to try and figure out how to navigate their system. It was really frustrating and I eventually hung up and just drove up there.

If I didn’t have to use the post office, I wouldn’t. That experience really drove me nuts!

So sometimes using the “old school” method of paying a person a salary to be the voice on the other end of the line is a lot better than using technology. While technology is improving a lot, there are somethings you need to consider: Is the technology fulfilling your customers needs? Or is it leaving them with a bad experience? What’s the cost benefit of using technology to help customers vs. using people to help customers?

Keep it simple!

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