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If Sun Tzu Was a Digital Marketing Strategist

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Written By:
John Gamble, Copywriter and Social Marketing Strategy at So Interactive Digital Creative Agency

Which Channel Would He Choose?

In many ways mobilising a large army, co-ordinating allegiances and facing indomitable foes is the daily routine of any full-blooded digital strategist. Sun Tzu would have taken to digital marketing like a fish to water. Content delivery via digital is global, the ability for diplomatic negotiation is immediate and the data is all encompassing. Not to mention that the technology is constantly evolving and almost immediately ubiquitous. But the tech without the content is nothing more than a well primed armoury, you can choose everything from close quarter, guerrilla-style weapons through to things that could carry out a full scale invasion of the entire internet.

The question, however, is which digital channel do you use with which content and when?

Today the role of the digital strategist is absolutely critical, not just within the digital agency, but within the client’s marketing team. Today’s CMO needs to have a firm understanding of how the digital marketing environment works, evolves and responds, not only as a closed environment, but with all other media channels. A perfect example of where this comes into play is around the current dying social media hysteria, a hysteria reminiscent of SEO website mania only 5 years ago. Current so-called Social Pundits, like those of the previous decade passing themselves off as SEO Gurus, are getting in the way and generating havoc by attempting to prescribe one content delivery weapon as THE digital super weapon.

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War

The Digital Content HQ

If you can imagine all your digital channels as parts within a greater strategy to deliver the very best, relevant marketing content, as opposed to singling out only one content delivery channel, then you are already on your way to success. In almost all cases digital strategy starts with a well-constructed website or micro-site, which comprises of relevant content, beautiful design and excellent UX. The website is the foundation that most online marketing emerges from and returns to. It is the original HQ with established edifice. Your site tells fans, consumers and prospects that you care enough about your business to have a domain name, company transparency and that you have enough budget to put it all out there in an innovative and attractive way. It offers credibility and authority, which, for all its adolescent bravado, Social Media cannot offer on its own.

Your site very specifically offers you a number of important advantages. Firstly, you own it, so you are not competing to have your message shout louder than others on someone else’s platform. Secondly, you are able to focus the attention of visitors where you want it. Lastly, and very importantly, are the contact and subscription forms, these are integral parts of the digital permission based marketing environment. You own the platform and when people say: “Yes, tell me more”, they are immediately one step closer to becoming qualified leads. The website is where you are allowed to laser-beam marketing content, capture data and make sales. Whether you are an ecommerce business or not, your website will often be a customer’s first and last port of call before and after a sale, along with your blog.

Special Operation Blogger

Blogging is another one of those content generating tools that is loosely thrown around client-agency conversations. “You need to blog” is very often something you will hear bandied about the boardroom with determined certainty. The truth is, yes, a blog is valuable digital real estate, but, what are you going to say on the blog? Most blog readers are experts looking for tips, high information consumers looking to see if you actually know what you are talking about or they are people genuinely interested in your company, your products, your ethics and ethos. The website or microsite is about attractive business and promotional content, the blog is where you get to build relationships, share information and tips and show the consumer that behind the corporate façade there are a bunch of human beings offering great products and services. The blog also allows your consumers and fans to communicate with you by leaving comments, this is something that is better encouraged and you are, once again, able to place tactical calls to action and invitations to subscribe to more promotional content via your mailer, taking it one step closer to personalised communication.

Mailing Orders to Loyal Followers

Once the loyalty and permission has been gained through your site and blog, you then have the capacity to market and communicate directly with your fans, in a personalised and respectful manner. The eNewsletter / eBrochure  / eMailer is the power of direct marketing content encased in an elegant electronic framework. Email marketing is still on the increase and its effectiveness, as long as it is permission based, still outstrips the other channels in terms of measured sales conversions. The reason is simple, your clients have agreed to receive content from you, they want to read about specials and new information about you and your company. Email marketing is always there, it links your site with all your other digital channels and it always delivers, which has given it a high ranking place in the digital armoury.

What About The New Recruits?

“But what about social media?” scream the digital agencies, above-the-line agencies and garage web designers. What about it? Social media is powerful, it’s immediate content delivery and serves a totally different purpose. Facebook applications, Twitter retweets, Instagram images, Youtube channels and Tumblr accounts are powerful brand building channels and immediate engagement tools. You can run targeted communications and sexy competitions to a broad base of new and old fans. The challenge is that fans in the social media space come and go as they please. Without Facebook apps you don’t get access to their email addresses. So, fundamentally, 50% of your posts should lead back to your site or the forms in your apps need to acquire fan data and get permission to send them a newsletter or contact them. Otherwise they leave as quickly as they arrived, and you can’t get them back.

Social media is immensely important for Digital Customer Care, Brand Reputation Management and Consumer Generated Content. Most people know that Website Customer Care takes at least 24hrs to be answered, although in reality it is more like 7 days, the exception is when it’s a prospective sale. Social Media, on the other hand, works with real-time immediacy. What’s more, the loyal fans often answer product queries and complaints amongst themselves, so when you do arrive to deal with the issue the angry client is often already placated and more amenable to your solution. It is also the perfect place to get real time feedback about campaigns, promotions and new product lines, the fans will tell you all, you just have to ask. That being said, if you don’t manage it properly this is also where a brand can get a good beating if what you say and what you do don’t match up. Social Media is the digital Damoclean Sword, cutting both ways without mercy.

“He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Rock, Paper, Scissors

As you can see, in this very short sortie into the world of digital marketing, things are not as simple as Website-Blog-Mailer-Social. We haven’t even considered mobile, pay-per-click or above-the-line integration. All your activity requires a co-ordinated strategy which melds into a synergistic, integrated whole. The simplest metaphor for a powerful digital strategy is an infinity loop. The website sits in the middle and sends fans to explore other content destinations related to the brand. But those other places whether social, blog, paid for advertising or subscription mailer, always drive the customer back to the site to make a final decision and handover their contact details. The art of digital strategy is not about either or decisions. Like Sun Tzu’s philosophies, digital is about combinations and knowing which channel for which occasion, but the strategic prize is client data and permission for content engagement, which brings about the sale and strengthens the brand.

If you enjoyed this article you may enjoy the books of Robert Greene, The 33 Strategies of War and The 48 Laws of Power.


About John Gamble

John is a Copywriter at So Interactive Digital Creative Agency. As a creative John believes the effectiveness of any campaign or long term marketing plan must be based on a clearly defined strategy. Great ideas from strategic inception lead to exquisite digital design, refined app development and, finally, content that sells with elegant efficiency. John believes that the future of marketing is based on the ability for creative teams and developers to work together from inception through to execution. He has learnt that choosing the best new technology and channels to best serve the intrinsic content needs of both clients and their fans is what makes for effective and high impact digital advertising and marketing.

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