Formation flying in digital marketing

Formation flying in digital marketing

Among some industry commentators, there is a belief that many firms and individuals operating in the digital marketing services sector are preoccupied with metrics and money. It is not to say that these things don’t matter, it is simply that they should form part of the picture rather than being the factors that define it. In reality, this balance can sometimes be difficult to achieve.

In the long run, a digital marketing firm can only thrive if it helps its clients save and make money while also helping improve the experience of its clients. Contrary to some industry viewpoints, this is not always best achieved with firms that are new to the block. Of course, there is lots of energy and innovation from younger firms, and this can certainly be a positive, but what makes a firm great is the ability to tie experience and longevity with energy and innovation.

Digital marketing firms are at their absolute best when they are bringing benefit. This means raising the status and profitability of clients, but also enhancing user experience. This can never happen by accident: it has to be the end goal, and the primary question when planning a way to reach this ultimate target should be, “How do we make things easier and more pleasant for every user involved?”. If the primary concern were simply “How does the client make more money?”, there might perhaps be short-term gains but these would come at the cost of reputation, longevity and, of course, user experience.

And yet, having a purpose and ensuring understanding of the client’s intent is not in itself enough. It is also important to keep a broad perspective. This means monitoring things as diverse as Google algorithms, historical lessons, linguistic developments, cultural trends and fads, emerging user behaviours and, of course, technological aspects such as the kinds of devices being used to access and digest content.

And it would be foolish to dismiss the lessons of traditional marketing – there are still plenty of useful perspectives to be derived from this sector. Sure, digital marketing services have reached a level of precision-targeting and responsiveness that previously could only have been dreamed of, but however much innovation and advancement there has been in this regard over the past fifteen years or so, there is still no substitute for marketing that taps into the age-old tropes of compelling storytelling and startling creativity.

As a sector, it is probably fair to say that digital marketing can get a little carried away with itself, sometimes even to the point of hubris. Although the discipline is important and indeed, for most businesses, essential in establishing a strong brand and sustainable growth, it is only part of establishing a strong bottom line.

Take data as an example. Digital marketers often discuss data and metrics as if they are some kind of Holy Grail and in doing so, perhaps become distracted from the purpose of their task in its entirety.

This can mean that analysis and the chase for positive data trends comes at the expense of many of the most basic tenets of traditional marketing. Fixation with metrics to the point where they are placed as the foremost considerations risks alienating both the client and the client’s clients. Stories become lost, brands become bland or overly complicated and long-term results become side-lined as digital marketers myopically strive to second-guess Google algorithms and other metrical factors.

That’s not to say that data can be ignored. It cannot! But, instead of it ruling a digital marketers every purpose, analytics should form the backbone of a fully fleshed out body of technical development and creative work.

Remembering the importance of longer term results requires a rather special blend of confidence, leadership, perspective and humility. And, of course, experience.

Unfortunately, with the exception of a few young geniuses, who are preternaturally wise beyond their years, these traits can only be achieved over the course of many years of professional experience. For the most part you can only lead once you have learned, and you can only have confidence and perspective once you have led successfully. Humility is gained by acknowledging both the perpetual nearness of failure and the considerable level of grace inherent in success. You need to have spent your time at the coalface before you can claim to be a mastermind.

The best leaders rely on capable teams. The most successful leaders help their teams grow both as units and individuals, rewarding them, keeping them motivated and helping them fulfil their potential within the team while also recognising the unique individual characteristics that help them thrive. Creative people are notoriously difficult to pin down – they don’t like having their feathers trimmed – so enabling them to fly and to fly gloriously, sometimes solo and sometimes in formation, without nose-diving into the mortal ground, is one of the great challenges for any leader working in the creative sector – and digital marketing services are no exception.

Still, creativity is no good without the advantages provided by perspective. It is basically pointless being a creative savant if you can’t see the needs of the client, the client’s clients and those of the digital marketing services business itself – perhaps even in that order of priority. Of course, it also helps if you have some metrics in place to try and measure these things! Although as a quote often attributed to Albert Einstein but more likely coined by the 20th century sociologist William Bruce Cameron so neatly tells us, “not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”

In digital marketing, you must look at the whole, not just the parts, to get an idea whether the team will work for you. Are they well versed with the measurable, will they look after the metrics and the money? Do they have the youth, exuberance and creativity to spiral your brand to new heights combined with the experience to handle every digital marketing situation thrown at them? If you can answer yes to these questions when looking at the team profiles, you know that their output will be beautiful and effective. You’ve found a team that can fly – you’ve found the Holy Grail.

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