Understanding Digital Strategy
I’m with Simon Kingsnorth.
Thanks for having me, Greg.
It’s my pleasure. I wanted Simon on the show. He’s written two books, Digital Marketing Strategy and Digital Marketing Handbook. Tell us how did you author the books. How did you become an expert in digital? What are you doing now?
I went waffle for too long, but I’ll tell you a little bit about the journey. I’ve been in marketing for about 25 years. At that time, I worked for a lot of companies, big and small, many of the big brands that people would recognize, but also a lot of startups and SMEs. I worked in a lot of different industries. That was always my goal after coming out of studying Marketing at uni, which was to test out what works in marketing, not just what works in marketing in one company or one industry, but what works and what doesn’t. I’m fortunate enough to have some great roles and some fantastic businesses over that period of time.
I learned a lot. What I did from then a few years ago is write the first book, Digital Marketing Strategy, which talks about my approach to marketing, how you should need to pull that together in the digital age that we are now living through, take all the best principles of marketing that have been established for a long time, and twist them into the digital world and get yourself your best possible result. That book is now used by a lot of universities around the world to teach digital marketing. My new book, the Handbook came out beginning of 2022, which is a much more practical what to do and what not to do guidebook to your day-to-day digital marketing. That’s it in a nutshell.
That’s very much underselling the quality of the content. We understand self-effacement here. It’s interesting to think about digital marketing because you have inverted the notion of marketing a digital first world. Do you imagine where we don’t say digital marketing 10, 20 years from now?
Yes, 100%. Digital marketing is a means to an end. The subtitle of my first book is An Integrated Approach to Online Marketing. It happens to be online, but it’s fine, it’s digital, whatever. That’s not important. For me, our job as digital marketers or whatever should be to get rid of that word, digital. We operate within a marketing world. Some of that staff and the majority of it these days is delivered through digital means, through digital channels, or technology. That’s irrelevant. We didn’t use to call it paper marketing. We just called it marketing.
It’s irrelevant that it’s digital marketing. It’s all about understanding the big practice of marketing about delivering real value for people, being able to communicate that in simple terms, and giving people something back in a value exchange. Marketing is truly about telling stories, all that good stuff. We’re just learning how to do that within a digital environment through digital marketing. I’d love it if ten years from now, people stop using the word digital. I might have to rename my books.
I lead a digital practice at Monigle. It’s oftentimes considered doing a brand strategy and then you do digital strategy. We talk to our clients and say, “No, it’s all one thing. The digital lens that you’re providing, and hopefully we provided in some way too, is that you have to have those capabilities.” The thesis is integration 100%.
I don’t think of myself as a digital marketer. I write about digital marketing. The reason for the first book is that I saw good, well-established, excellent marketers who didn’t understand the digital world yet. I saw a lot of young people coming out of university who were digital savvy and needed to know the strategy side. I saw a lot of tech guys, digital heavy, working on SEO or development or something that’s needed to understand the marketing side. Three different angles. That’s the reason I wrote the book.
For me, I’m a marketer first, and that’s the way we should be thinking. I’ve worked in those big organizations that go through that, “Let’s do rebranding and then let’s think about how we do digital,” because digital executing the brand is fundamentally wrong, in my opinion. It’s not the way to go about it whatsoever. It all has to be thought through as one. I’ve seen those big brands make some fundamental mistakes in their process so that you then have to undo because they haven’t done it in a joined-up fashion. Digital is an essential part of marketing to the point when it should disappear as a concept entirely.
Once everyone gets familiar with the tools and the way they go about strategy and the outcomes that they’re envisioning have a much broader portfolio. It’s an interesting notion that you said about the mistakes brands make. When we were talking before the show, we talked about this notion of social media, it’s appropriateness for whom. You had some great thoughts on that. Maybe share it for the audience. How do you avoid the mistake? What have you seen people have to overcome as their big challenge?
Focusing on social media for a moment. It’s a sensitive area. It’s huge these days. I have a love-hate relationship with social media personally. It’s a fantastic tool. It’s one that almost every business should be operating on. There are huge benefits to it in terms of conversion, brand, engagement, retention, and PR. The benefits are in this, but it’s a risky game. It’s easy to make mistakes. There’s a couple of things I talk about with regards to social media and ensuring your content’s going to resonate. Those are proactive and reactive planning techniques. If you can use those two, you have your best chance of success without the mistakes.
Proactive is looking ahead at what is coming up in your company, certainly less interesting to people, but relevant to your company within your industry which is still relevant to your company but opens you up to a much broader audience and within the world, not so easy to be relevant on. If you can find an angle, you can resonate with a lot of people. If you plan ahead and write some good effective content that’s going to fall on the back of those trends and those activities and events in the industry, then your proactive planning will go well. The reactive side is the key one where mistakes happen. This is where you’re trying to react to something that’s happening now. You need to get a quick communication out. Speed and accuracy are not two things that naturally fit nicely together.
It’s important for every business to have a reactive content planning approach. You can’t plan for what you don’t know is going to happen, what you don’t know you’re going to react to. What you can do is set up a process that says, “If something comes up, here are some predetermined responses. Here are some creatives we can use. Here’s how we go about doing it. Here’s how we resource people out of hours. Here’s how we have pre-approved content, especially for larger organizations, that we can put out fast.”
Those things avoid you reacting quickly to something to try and be on the ticket and get ahead of the trend, but you’re stumbling and making a mistake. Things like humor are fantastic on social media and important. A lot of the brands these days are playing off against each other. Competitors having fun with each other is a lovely trend that I enjoy at the moment. It’s nice to see that humanity is coming through on social media. You get that humor wrong and you slightly overstep the bounds. That can quickly backfire. Something you wrote five years ago can easily come out of the ether and hurt you as well. You need to tread carefully. Having that reactive pre-approved process and that proactive planning ahead process are two important strategies within content marketing and social media.
When you were talking about that, it reminded me of the states we’re in as marketers. We’re usually in strategy and this knowledge mode, and then we spend most of our life in proactive planning routine execution, but crises emerge. There’s not a brand in the world that’s not going to have a crisis. Most of us don’t prepare for it, and then try and respond to the moment because we have to flex our muscles as a rehearsal. You almost have to simulate a crisis to be prepared for it when it comes across. That’s what I’m hearing you say. A couple comments that I’ve noted that I saw in the background was you’re almost heretical because you say social media may not be for every brand. Is that a fair?
It is fair. I said for the majority of brands, not every brand, in that comment there. That’s the point that I would stick to. The majority of businesses can benefit from social media. There are places for it, but there’s a couple of points here. One is not every company needs social media. For example, there are simple B2B distributors. They don’t necessarily need social media. Their businesses from one organization to another, it’s operational, it’s commercial, it’s a great business model, they didn’t necessarily need to be talking about that on social media. Depending on the distribution they’re doing, they may even not want to draw any attention to what they’re doing.
There are businesses like that. A relatively small percentage of the overall businesses and brands out there don’t need social media. You can argue that case. I’ll discuss that with anyone who wants to all day long, but in my mind, there are some businesses that don’t need it. The other piece is that you don’t need to be on all the channels. There’s a certain element of, “TikTok’s here. We’ve got to be on that. Pinterest over there and Snapchat over here. Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn.” What you end up doing is ten things badly. There’s no point in producing a generic piece of content and blasting it out to every channel you can possibly think of to be there. Every channel is slightly different.
They may or may not have your audience there. If they don’t have your audience there, there’s not much point in being there. Again, I can argue that with people all day long, but generally, that’s the case. If you are going to be there, be relevant to that audience. Create content that’s right for them. Don’t just take something and write it on Twitter and then stick that same thing on Facebook and LinkedIn. It’s not going to work. This is partly because not every company has to be there and partly because every company doesn’t have to be everywhere.
There’s no point in producing a generic piece of content and blasting it out to every channel. They may or may not have your audience there, and if they don’t have your audience, there’s not much point in being there.
I used to be deep in the analytics world. We once did a study for some high-end fashion brands. Putting their brand on Facebook was one of the worst things they could possibly do. It’s not because Facebook is a bad channel. It represented something to their audience that they didn’t want to be associated with. It’s a telling point about digital. There’s so much energy around it, but filtering out and having the nuance around audience, relevancy, and how you prepare for it, whether routine or crisis, is a couple of the great points you make.
The audience is essential. Understanding who your audience is, and understanding that, researching and analyzing and not assuming, and then understanding who the audience of those social media channels are and putting those two things together is where you’re going to see the success. I’ve worked with many companies who assume they should be on LinkedIn or Twitter because that’s professional and they shouldn’t be on TikTok and Instagram because it’s not. When you look at it audience-wise, it’s the absolute reverse. You get a lot more success when you match those two things together rather than saying, “We’re a business, so we have to be on LinkedIn.” It’s critical to do that analysis.
We found in the analytics world, we had to run ads on Saturday because that’s when our folks had time watching their kid’s soccer game to read our ad. We ran on Saturday. Audience needs state. The books are great. People should take a look at them if they’re looking for some boundaries and notions around it. Maybe as our last question, could you give us a one-word answer on what you think when people should be thinking about digitally enabled? Why do you think about that word?
Digital Strategy: We’re not really in the digital age. We’re in the human age. So if digital enables humans to connect, humans can connect now easier, faster, and in more depth than they’ve ever been able to in the history of humankind.
Humanity. That’s what the word is going to be. I mentioned at the beginning that we talk about that we’re in the digital age. What I tend to say the majority of the time is we’re not in the digital age. We’re in the human age. Digital enables humans to connect. Humans can connect now easier, faster, and in more depth than they’ve ever been able to in their history of mankind. If you can bring genuine humanity and authenticity into your marketing, that’s the most powerful thing in the digital age.
Simon Kingsnorth, I won’t say nice to meet you. I’ll say nice to connect with you. Thanks for being on the show. Great point of view. I appreciate it. Thanks, folks, for tuning into the show.
About Simon Kingsnorth
Simon Kingsnorth is the author of the international best seller, Digital Marketing Strategy and his new book The Digital Marketing Handbook was released in Jan 2022. He is also an international keynote speaker and professional trainer. He is the Founder and CEO of Simon Kingsnorth Consulting – a global marketing agency unlike any other.