July 23, 2019

Q: Which Comes First, Digital Marketing Strategy or Technology? A: Neither

Steve Kellogg

Steve Kellogg
VP Marketing Automation/UBM/Informa

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Each day our inboxes include new announcements of digital marketing technologies and strategies. Software vendors show off their latest technologies. We get offers for white papers, webinars and case studies,  all highlighting strategies. And many of them sound really promising. But at some point you begin to wonder if it's better to focus on strategy first, then the technology or visa Versa. Does strategy drive your choice of technology or does technology influence your strategy? Which comes first, strategy or technology?

The answer is neither. This isn't really a chicken or egg scenario. In fact, focusing on which of these to start with can actually stall the implementation and even hinder the success of lead gen efforts.  So what should you focus on?  Fish.

About 10 years ago I bought an ocean fishing boat. Living in San Diego, it seemed like a great way to enjoy the ocean with family and friends, see nature in action and have a continuous source of fresh fish on hand. At the time I knew absolutely nothing about ocean fishing or boating.

Since I would never get to any fish without a boat, that's where I started, with the technology. I read up on what features an offshore fishing boat should have, which brands made sense in my price range, which navigation system to get, what radio to buy, etc. Then I focused on which combination of fishing rods and reels I should get, what kind of bait and tackle to use, the list goes on and on.

Next, I studied the strategies specific to all the equipment I bought. How to launch the boat, drive the boat, dock the boat, use the radio and the nav, how to use trolling rods, how to keep live bait, which lures to buy, boating rules and regulations, what to do in case of emergencies, etc.

Soon I had mastered the strategies that made the best use of the technologies I invested in. I ended up feeling very confident about my technology choices and the strategies I learned for deploying them. Turns out I was forgetting about one little thing. The fish. I wasn’t actually catching any. Ever.

Had I focused on the fish first, I would have made completely different choices. I would have started by knowing where they live, what patterns of behaviors they exhibit, where they eat, what they eat, when they eat and how much they eat. I wouldn’t have had to purchase equipment for every fishing scenario, just those that supported the actual fish I was trying to catch. And I would have focused on strategies that supported the technology investments related only to my target fish. In the end, I could have cut my investment in technologies by at least one-third. And cut my time researching strategies by half.

So to answer the question, “Should I start with Technology or Strategy?" The answer is neither. Start with the fish (the customer).

When you focus on the customer first, lead gen strategies and technologies become more aligned, more focused and more effective. In fact, the good news is that your best customers have already defined your company’s lead gen road map for you! Your first step is to simply discover where they live, where they go, what they consume, how much they consume and how often they consume it (content).

I know, easier said than done. But, now that I’ve started down this ‘fish' hole, let's continue with the "focus on the fish, first" analogy.

Inbound Lead Generation
You've just been promoted to captain of the U.S.S. Inbound Lead Gen, and you're anxious to catch LOTS of fish. Here's your recommended support crew:

Marine (Lead) Biologist: Conducts the scientific study of target species (leads) and how they interact within their preferred natural environments.  Analyze patterns of behavior and consumption, preferences and habits. This provides both the framework and focuses for lead gen strategy, technology, and continuous improvements.

Bait-Master (Content Manager): Works with the Lead Biologist to formulate the best types of bait to offer a given species, depending on buyer stage, environment, demonstrated interest and behaviors.

Fish School Behavioral Expert (Social Media): Discovers areas where the largest target fish schools congregate, their patterns of activity and who their influencers are. Works with the Bait-Master in serving up effective invitations to the fish hatchery.

Fish Hatchery Manager (Website Manager): Manages the care and feeding of both new and existing leads as they grow and mature through the buyer journey. Works with the crew members above to deliver the most effective nourishment at any given time.

Radar/Sonar Operator (PPC, SEM, SEO, Retargeting, Predictive Look-alike Modeling): Leverages technologies that explore larger areas of ocean in search of lead outliers. Works with the Bait-Master in providing incentives to join the hatchery.

So whether you are evaluating potential inbound technologies, reevaluating the effectiveness of your existing technologies or reviewing your inbound marketing strategies to better align with current business objectives, the moral of my fish story is to start with an in-depth understanding of your favorite fish, then leverage your support crew to overlay the strategies and technologies that are the most effective in finding, capturing, nurturing and growing as many of the same species as possible.

BTW: I sold the fishing boat about 4 years ago to a guy in Australia. I hope he focused on the fish first. Otherwise, his shipping costs alone may not have been worth it!

Steve Kellogg

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