22 Feb, 2017

Has digital made traditional marketing channels obsolete?

 -Traditional is not obsolete

Digital, the word that appears to preface every new trend or technological advance these days. As a marketer, it is almost impossible to keep up with every new digital strategy or tactic.

A little experiment. At 9.19am, I went to Google News as I often do and typed in Marketing. Of the 10 articles that appear on the first page of results, how many of them were about digital?

All of them. 

Every single article discussed digital marketing or a digital channel like social media in one form or another.

Marketing has been transformed by digital over recent years. And it is 100% certain that the digital conversation needs to be at the core of any marketing strategy. Digital channels have facilitated the move for marketers from transactional to relationship marketing, to conversation marketing.

The benefits of digital marketing tools are numerous, but importantly they enable real-time engagement with consumers. It adds a level of human interaction into the buying process that if you aren’t leveraging, you should be.

Digital has not only changed the way we communicate, it has changed the make-up of a marketing team. One article that stood out to me this morning during my Google experiment, was one written by CMS Wire on Building the Perfect Marketing Organization. It’s a very interesting article that looks at the different types of marketers. What stands out to me in this digital world is the increased emphasis on technology, and having team members who act more like software engineers than traditional marketers.

The question, has digital made traditional channels obsolete?

In my opinion, no traditional channels are not obsolete for two reasons.

  1. People favor different forms of communication and these days search for multiple information sources
  2. Means to stand out from the crowd

Let me explain. The first thing I learned as a marketer was that marketing is customer-focused. Our function is to understand our stakeholders and work to develop products that suit their needs, communicate and engage with them on platforms that suit them.

“Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.” – American Marketing Association definition of Marketing.

That’s why it’s so vital to remember that people collect information on a variety of channels, including but not limited to digital channels. This is the reason why the first step of any marketing strategy is to profile your target consumer.

Essentially, you create a picture of your consumer. This helps you target, by keeping the consumer front of mind. Every marketing decision should stem from the consumer profiles you’ve created.

Choose your channel to suit your customer, not because you read it’s the next trend

How to create a consumer profile?

Start by understanding (quite literally) who your ideal customer is, by defining their characteristics.

  1. Demographics – age, gender, income, location.
  2. Psychographics – personality traits and preferences
  3. Behavior – what do they like? What do they dislike?

B2B marketers should also take note of certain characteristics of the ideal business, in which their ideal customer works.

  1. # of employees
  2. Product or service
  3. Revenue
  4. Geographic scope
  5. Type of business
  6. Leadership structure
  7. Budget

From here, you need to start investigating where you target hangs out. What do they read? What meet-ups do they go to? What are the top industry events? What do they search for?

It is at this stage that you will start to see how these profiles will dictate your marketing strategy and what channels you choose to use.

Next, comes the buyer process. Using the information you’ve gathered, assess how they decide to purchase. For example, what they read will impact whether or not they choose to purchase your product/ service. Use your current customer base as a source of data.

Now, you have buyer personas.

Marketing strategists then use this information to shape future initiatives. As I mentioned earlier, when you start to investigate where your target hangs out, you’ll start to see how this will impact your marketing strategy. For example, if your target customer subscribes to a quarterly print journal (the industry knowledge source), then should you not appear in the journal? My point here is to show that digital has not made traditional channels obsolete. It has open doors to new roads. Now with more options out there, understanding your customer has become more important than ever.

Example of how to mix channels – healthcare

Healthcare marketers are fantastic at creating a marketing mix that incorporates both traditional and digital channels. The future of healthcare is certainly digital, with new technology shaping not only marketing but drug development, drug delivery, the clinic and more. In the world of the ‘on-demand’ patient, leveraging digital channels of communication will be key to a successful healthcare marketing campaign. But, so will leveraging traditional channels.

Just like retail, healthcare is not all digital. As the on-demand consumer will go into a retail store, the on-demand patient will visit a doctor’s office or hospital. Mixing offline and online tools will set your company apart. Printed advertisements are still relevant for healthcare marketing, and double up as a digital tool if the magazine of choice opts to have both a print and a digital version. TV advertisements also have their place, with a reach that can be multiplied exponentially with a social media campaign running concurrently. United Healthcare has done this fantastically. They have injected humor into their TV commercials, which coupled with good social activity has boosted their reach. The most recent commercial features Chuck Norris.

Direct marketing through traditional channels should not be overlooked. There are many who would favor information sent to them in the mail, with a personalized message. For example, a local send could attract walk-ins to a new clinic or hospital. Events and tradeshows are also a great way to get in front of your customer and have face-to-face meetings.

Traditional channels are also great providing opportunities to stand out from the crowd in this digital world.

Kit Kat Chunky mailer

Kit Kat Chunky mailer courtesy of dandad.org

Ever chatted to a bookworm about why they don’t like Kindles? It’s because, to them, it doesn’t provide the same experience. You can’t hold a dusty cover in your hand, or smell that indescribable musk from an old book that been left unread for decades.

The same applies to marketing.

Traditional channels provide a different experience, that’s not to say that digital channels don’t. To stand out from the crowd, enable your customers to experience something they can hold in their hands, or indeed smell!

Successful brands recognize the importance of delivering an experience. Kit Kat, in partnership with JWT London, created a mailer to promote Kit Kat Chunky. The piece was designed to look like the card left behind by a delivery company when they are unable to deliver. Kit Kat’s card read ‘too big for your letterbox’. Too chunky – get it? Recipients were directed to collect their free Kit Kat Chunky from their local newsagent.

So, digital has not made traditional marketing channels obsolete. Instead, it has made the need to think strategically about you target customer and how to stand out from your competition more important than ever.

The best-of-best marketers adopt strategies that mix channels, stay ahead of innovation and put the customer at the center of all decisions.

For more about healthcare marketing and the digital future of healthcare, join us Digital Healthcare Transformation Assembly 2017, in April in Dallas. Find out more here >>

 

 

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