Ever since Al Gore blessed us with his advent of the ever-powerful Internet, we’ve seen shift after shift in how things are done, from catching up with friends and listening to music to maintaining health records and making appointments.
Regardless of what industry you’re in, keeping up with all of the changing technology can be incredibly challenging (Google algorithms, anyone?), but the last thing you should do is throw your hands up.
Why? Because, even if you choose to ignore the shift towards digital, consumers are embracing it. And with this shift, comes a shift in power, from the salesman to the buyer.
The Shift Towards All-Things-Digital Is Significantly Changing Our Buying Patterns
According to a study conducted by the Corporate Executive Board (CEB), almost 60% of the consumer’s purchasing process is done before they even come into contact with the supplier. That’s right, more than half of the purchasing decision is made through online research, typically starting with a search engine inquiry.
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When considering solutions to their problems and selecting products to meet their needs, consumers are no longer listening to salesmen; they’re researching on their own and listening to online reviews and the social proof of their friends and family.
What Is Social Proof?
No matter what social media platform you’re using, the products, companies and even content that you support or “like” is transparent to all of your followers. And whether you’re privy to it or not, your followers will immediately place some level of trust in those products and companies or that content, based on their trust in you.
But as a supplier, that means that, no matter how convincing you are or how great your product is, you may not even get a chance to say it or prove it if you don’t have a strong online presence, a strong social media presence and a well-developed digital marketing strategy.
Does this mean that as a company, we have to change the way we market? YES.
But We’ve Always Done It This Way!
There is merit to tradition, but as a business, if you’re not open to evolving with your target market or buyer personas, you can ride your tradition all the way to the poor house. You can fight the change all you want, but the truth is, the consumer now holds the power.
OK, I Get It, But How Do I Convince My Top-Level Execs To Buy-In To Our Digital Marketing Strategy?
Trends are showing more and more that executive buy-in significantly influences the success or failure of a digital marketing strategy.
But getting Top-Level Executives to support your digital marketing strategy can be difficult for a variety of reasons. C-suite execs tend to be a bit wary of digital marketing because traditional marketing methods have always worked in the past, and it can be difficult to quantify the ROI of a digital approach.
So, how do you express the importance and value of a strong digital marketing strategy to the C-suite and get them on-board?
Patterns & Behavior
Well, you want to start by using real data to show the shift in purchasing patterns and the real results of quality digital marketing.
With the Internet, consumers have access to an exorbitant amount of knowledge and can compare products, prices and services without ever leaving the house or talking to a salesperson.
Understanding this is crucial to understanding why your method of marketing must change. Once your Top-Level Execs see real numbers and patterns, they’ll be much more open to letting go of traditional methods of marketing and investing in the digital world.
You will also want to use data from your marketing intelligence software, which will show page performance, traffic and click-through-rates (CTR) and will essentially give you a snapshot of your potential customer’s experience with your website. This allows you to make some educated decisions regarding what’s working, what’s not working and where to invest additional resources.
It’s no secret that the C-suite has money on the mind. One of the best ways to get them on-board with your digital marketing strategy is to explain how creating a quality digital marketing strategy can cut down on marketing costs.
Here are just a couple of fun facts you may want to include in your presentation:
• Social media has a 100% higher lead-to-close rate than outbound marketing. (State of Inbound Marketing, 2012)
• Inbound leads cost 61% less than outbound leads. (State of Inbound Marketing, 2012)
You can download this free report, which includes a wealth of statistics on digital marketing and the inbound methodology here.
One of the ways that digital marketing can cut down on marketing costs is by increasing reach, without reaching deeper into your pockets. How?
Remember when we talked about social proof? Well, with Facebook shares, retweets, email forwards, inbound links and other methods of digital sharing, your existing customers and fans can do the job of promoting you and your company for you. That means you’ll reach new potential customers, simply by pleasing your existing customers and building their trust.
That’s free(ish) advertisement!
Ok, this one is big. One of the most important things to emphasize to your Top-Level Executives is that no matter what you decide to do as a company, whether you stick to traditional methods of marketing or get onboard with digital, your competition is in the game. And if your competition is giving your potential customers a wonderful and engaging digital experience and you’re nowhere to be found, guess who’s going to close those leads when it comes to decision time?
Now that you’ve adequately frightened your execs into throwing money at your digital marketing strategy, it’s time to comfort them. Explain that you and your team will continuously analyze and review, tweaking your marketing strategy using real-time metrics and data.
And of course, you’ll be as transparent as possible, creating a to share all visible data to all of the involved departments, including sales and C-suite. Schedule to meet as frequently as they’d prefer to discuss how your digital marketing strategy is helping your company achieve its goals.
No matter what you end up including in your appeal to the C-suite in your company, be sure to be respectful and empathetic. Remember, they’re heavily invested in the company and change to that investment can always be a bit frightening. It may take a little patience and time to get them comfortable with the changes, and—just like your digital marketing strategy—you may not see results overnight. But keep analyzing and tweaking and you’ll get the results you’re looking for.
What successes have you had in engaging your executives in your digital marketing strategy? Tell us in the comments below.