Digital Marketing is About Experiences, Not Numbers

Somewhere along the way some in the marketing field — the digital marketing field, more specifically — have lost sight of the true value in marketing. With the rise of digital marketing and the amount of data available, the quest for quantifying ROI on marketing activities has exploded. This makes sense as a reaction to the loose metrics of traditional media and a desire for measuring marketing success. But, how can we keep this desire from going too far, to the point negatively impacting digital marketing strategies?

The problem

A rampant movement is taking place where the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction with digital marketing programs becoming over-reliant on metrics and numbers.

Just because we can measure more, doesn’t mean we should or that the attribution is correct. In fact, relying solely on the science of digital marketing to push conversions does more harm than good by creating repeatable, safe, boring, and undifferentiated brand presences.

Even worse, with an over-reliance on metrics and numbers, marketing strategies run the risk of being purely focused on a conversion. This strategy can create a disjointed and poor brand experience, and arguably, a sustained brand experience after a conversion is actually more important than generating a sale or another form of conversion.

Don’t get me wrong; numbers are still important for measuring success and identifying trends. You can’t run a digital marketing program with out them.

The problem though is in treating numbers as the end-all without context to the concept they represent. For instance, a goal should be something like becoming the number one brand in a market. Then, numbers will be assigned to represent that goal and the benchmarks needed to hit along the way to determine if objectives are being met.

At the end of the day, metrics need to be translatable to the health of your digital marketing program, its objectives, and business objectives — not just used to push anonymous leads through a sales funnel to reach a conversion and quota.

As digital marketing professionals, we need to look beyond conversions and embrace the art of the field to create remarkable, memorable, and lasting digital experiences.

The solution

The development of digital channels and data has provided marketers with the ability to create personalized, memorable, and engaging brand experiences at unprecedented levels — and we in the field should be embracing digital for these purposes.

By creating truly differentiated and substantial experiences that connect to larger ideals, then a brand may create loyal, lifelong advocates before ever making a conversion.

In an experience-based, omnipresent, and advanced digital marketing system, customer or audience journeys shouldn’t be seen as a funnel with an endpoint. Conversely, journeys should be seen as continuous loops and entrance points that have multiple conversions and experiences to create loyalty. Under this model, journeys are shifted from being conversion based to representations of holistic customer experiences that view conversions as one component along the way.

Such a system is not about seeing audiences as numbers, but instead as people who want to connect to ideals that represent them and enjoy unique experiences.

A recent example of a brand focusing on the experience over pushing numbers comes from messaging program, Drift. Drift made the decision to stop gating their content to start treating audiences like people who don’t want to have to jump through hoops to get what they’re looking for, as opposed to leads to gain information from. Drift is going as far as calling this the “free your marketing” movement (you can read more about the early results of this shift).

It’s also no surprise that when companies are struggling they look to improve the customer experience. When Howard Schultz came back to Starbucks as CEO to revive the company some of the first changes he made included redesigning stores, introducing loyalty cards, changing food options, limiting the items sold in-store, and creating a unified the brand experience across all stores — all to improve the customer experience. Although these aren’t digital elements, the principles are transferable to the digital experience of brands, as well.

One of Howard Schultz's first changes upon coming back to Starbucks as CEO was to redesign the layout and design of stores to provide a better customer experience.

One of Howard Schultz's first changes upon coming back to Starbucks as CEO was to redesign the layout and design of stores to provide a better customer experience.

What it all means

Numbers are still important. There’s no doubting it. And they need to be aligned with business objectives and attached to success metrics for conceptual goals.

But, they aren’t everything and shouldn’t be the sole focus of a digital marketing strategy. Instead, they need to be viewed as representations of events, indicators, and concepts, while audiences need to be considered as real people and not just numbers to push through a conversion funnel.

The real focus of digital marketing programs should be sustained brand experiences over multiple touch points and continuous audience journeys. These coherent and consistent experiences build the brand identity through which audiences see, understand, and engage with a brand — and should be used to differentiate the brand and delight audiences.

Ultimately, the lesson is this: Don’t chase numbers. Chase differentiated and remarkable brand experiences.

Thank you

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