Having typically inherited a brand with existing marketing efforts, building a digital footprint and then growing it is new territory for most CMOs. Let’s use an analogy for how to build a digital center of excellence in an existing company. The analogy is gardening. Yes, gardening because it has many of the same elements of growth and sustainability as digital marketing.
Here’s what you need for an excellent digital garden.
Soil: The business environment you operate in
Soil is the marketing elements and fundamentals plus the internal perception about them. You inherited a website that may be depleted of vital nutrients in the form of stale content or low repeat visitors. You may have rocks to dig out in the form of executives not fully on board with a push to digital. Or you may have some clay to break up in the form of skeptics who with a little more information can become a vital part of your digital soil. Take stock, note the nutrients you need to build a rich digital soil. Make a plan, work the plan.
Sunshine: The brand perception or range of actions you want to drive via digital
Sunshine varies by time of year, just like a brand perception changes through sales seasonality and product cycles. You need to understand the sunshine you are working with and how much sunshine your audiences want/need so you can plant content accordingly. Are you trying to really turn the tide and improve your brand value, then you need a lot of sunshine or a mix of broad and then audience-specifically deep digital engagement. Again, take stock and be specific. Digital allows you to mix a range of activities through very targeted efforts so use that to an advantage.
Plants: The content
Most people’s favorite part of gardening is selecting and planting the plants themselves. This is how your garden comes to life. Content is the planting of your digital garden. To have a year-round digital garden you need an editorial calendar that spans the seasons and is audience specific. Leave the air cover marketing to TV and perhaps the home page of your website. This is about being on the ground since air cover only works if it is tethered to something of value people can grab on to. That TV ad for beautiful roses doesn’t mean you can clip them now for a bouquet. So, what types of content and in what structure resonate most with your audience? Do they want roses to smell and give as a gift aka content to read and share? Or vegetables to eat aka downloadable content and resources? Perhaps they want both. Do the research, test, plan, execute, taste/measure, iterate.
Water: Marketing your digital presence
Water brings nourishment to plants much like the promotion of your digital efforts brings visitors, viewers, fans and advocates to your digital content. So Tweeting that your new thought leadership article is available for download brings water to those who may be thirsty for this information. Water often and in proportion to what the content needs. The delivery is also important – do you need a sprinkler like Twitter? Or a watering can like Facebook? Or a drip system like email, RSS and newsletter subscribers? Not all plants need the same amount of water just like all content doesn’t need the same type of promotion. Test, measure, tweak and help your plants / content grow.
Tending: Weeding out the bad and adding more of the good.
Yes, you’ll need to pull some weeds in your digital garden. Weeds in the form of negative feedback to manage with a little weed spray or plants that are being unruly and need to be pulled like content that isn’t performing as needed. You’ll also need to turn the soil a bit by keeping your internal stakeholders informed and measuring the nutrient level through a variety of metrics so your digital garden stays healthy and enjoyable for your audiences.
You can add digital gravitas to any brand, just like you can plant a garden. You just need to understand the soil, sunshine, plants, water and how to tend your garden so your audiences can enjoy it over and over. Happy gardening!