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The Digital Pivot: How to Master Doing Business Online

CARMA’s Account Director, Jennifer Sanchis, finds out more about the secrets of online marketing in her latest read “The Digital Pivot” by Eric Schwartzman

The concept of the “Digital Pivot” is essential to modern business survival. It refers to making the jump into online marketing. As Eric Schwartzman puts it, the author of the latest book I read, “the digital pivot is a journey from the old to the new way of doing business.”

Competition online gets stiffer every day, and digital marketing platforms are evolving at the speed of light. So where can you start your digital strategy? Or how do you improve it if you’ve already got one?

As PR practitioners and communicators, it is important to remind ourselves of the complexity of our environment. We need to be able to see the bigger picture to get a broader understanding of what it really takes to generate revenue online. Audiences now endorse brands with their wallets. For comms teams, revenue is an outcome metric that is often seen as a measure of success.

Getting ready to pivot, Schwartzman explains, will provide you with the fastest way to generate returns online.

As a PR measurement practitioner myself, I do see the value in the digital pivot and will certainly remain myself of these 6 core principles:

1. ROI shouldn’t be about the big numbers.

In the PR measurement world, we dread the so-called “vanity metrics”. These are metrics that provide substantial albeit relatively meaningless numbers such as impression figures and AVEs.

Thankfully, best practice has led the industry to focus on relevance instead – relevance of the audience, relevance of the message, relevance of the desired outcome.

Ultimately, effective digital marketing is all about targeting the right traffic and not all traffic. An effective strategy focuses on what/who actually matters.

2. It’s all about Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned (PESO) activities in the right order.

Order matters, Schwartzman says. And the right order to this sequential approach should be:

  1. Owned media: your website/app should come first;
  2. Shared media: then your social media accounts;
  3. Earned media: then third-party websites;
  4. Paid media: and finally online advertising should come last.

Of the four media types, owned media is the most misunderstood and overlooked. But it is the most important one because it sets up the digital pivot. Before you decide to promote your website to the world, your owned media presence must be on point.

Research plays an important part in the design of your owned media: “Owned media strategies are informed by concrete research that reveals why people come to you, where they come from, what they want,” the author explains.

I’ve lost count of how many times a social account redirected me to a crappy website.

If your website isn’t informative, memorable, persuasive and compelling, there is no point in trying to get traffic from social media platforms because you will not be ready to convert that engagement into purchase consideration (yet!).

“Engaging and building community on social is no substitute for a bad website, and there are more lousy websites out there than there are good social media marketers. Social media has its time and place. But until your website is where you convert leads to revenue.”

3. Outbound marketing is the past; inbound marketing is the future.

The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically redefined marketing as we knew it. Outbound marketing (e.g. cold calling, sending unsolicited emails and messaging on social) collapsed overnight while inbound marketing (e.g. getting found on Google, generating conversations on social media, generating back links on third party websites) flourished.

Inbound marketing was propelled to a whole new level through owned, shared and earned media.

Now, outbound sales focus more on the relationships that organisations have already formed with their audience. Inbound marketing actually places a lot of emphasis on the role of PR, because reputation matters more. Inbound marketing is about getting found by people who’ve never heard of you but who identify with your organisation’s purpose.

“Rather than distracting people with cold calls and cold emails, you attract people with problem-solution oriented content designed to be found by those in need. In outbound marketing, you search for customers. With inbound marketing, they search for you.”

4. The role of data and research is huge.

Effective PR and marketing are based on the perfect combination between creativity and data, with the later having a big role to play. Being comfortable with numbers is part of the job spec, Schwartzman says.

The book outlines four tips to carry out data research effectively:

  • Question previous findings. Don’t assume that previous metrics, performance or methodologies still apply now. Chances are that the constant technological innovations will enable you to look beyond simple metrics like overall web traffic to look at duration per visit, percentage of returning visitors and lead conversions.
  • Keep score of your digital analytics.
  • Rely on empirical evidence and eliminate your biases.

“You can’t improve what you can’t measure. The hard data you get from measuring and evaluating your digital performance is the critique that informs how you set up for your pivot.”

5. SEO is your amigo.

SEO is essentially about building as many avenues of discoverability as possible. The author really emphasises the importance of dominating search results on Google. More particularly, you want your website to appear within the top results of your relevant search, or at least on the first page because we know that visibility drops dramatically beyond this point.

SEO strategy is all about keywords. You want people to use your keywords to get found, and you want to use the keywords that your audiences are searching. This way, you will be seen for offering a solution to their problem.

It is only through repetition, once your audiences find your website, your social media accounts, your podcast, your blog, that you will become “top of mind”, Schwartzman explains.

People rarely buy “on the spot” online. At the click of a button, they can find a ton of information about you, so they will do their research. In this instance, virality is your best friend: you want people to like, comment, share your content. You want to promote engaging content answering your audience’s needs and you want high-quality websites discuss your products.

Once people see you as a player in your field, web traffic and sales will follow naturally.

6. True reputation online is made by your ambassadors, not just by you.

Social media can be a powerful ally to your communications activities. Messages and conversations targeted at specific communities can increase your likelihood of virality.

What is great about social media is that the basic one-way communication model is no longer relevant. For organisations, engaging on social also means ceding control and embracing what people are saying about you online: “To marketing and PR professionals who for years have served as gatekeepers of the brand message, the notion of ceding control in exchange for reach is counterintuitive. But the laws of virality are driven by a broad online constituency who can serve as your brand’s army of online ambassadors.”

However, out of the different organic media channels (owned, shared and earned), it’s earned that carries the most influence and the most impact. Impartial endorsements, unbiased reviews and third-party commentary have a greater impact in shaping reputations online.

All in all, the book is a great reminder of the importance of our audience in a digital world. The author explores essential concepts around the need to attract not all traffic but the right traffic by providing specific solutions to customers’ problems.

“The Digital Pivot” also ascertains the role of research in understanding the media types that organisations need to integrate in order for reputation to be truly impactful and authentic.

Just like a PR measurement framework with the traditional inputs-outputs-outtakes-outcomes, Schwartzman builds a case for a clear map of customer journey. The final outcome – in this instance, how people will get to your website – should be the result of specific steps that should be taken in a specific order: analysis of web stats, configuration of marketing tools, optimisation of website performance, social media marketing, PR and advertising.

This book is a great resource to take you through each of these steps for a more profitable and brighter tomorrow.

“The Digital Pivot: Secrets of Online Marketing” can be purchased here.

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