Today's digital landscape provides a variety of opportunities for companies to take advantage of affordable, if not entirely democratized, technology solutions. As someone who has spent nearly a decade waltzing around the marketing and PR ecosystem, I've pretty much seen and heard it all. Ultimately, it becomes a question of discernment (meaning "how do I choose to spend my money?") as opposed to access -- because we now have so much information and technology solutions from which to choose.
The real question is: If you're not a brand with deep pockets or the ex-editor of Wall Street Journal isn't leading your digital strategy, what's important and where do you start?
Particularly if you are a startup or a boutique marketing agency, here are a few areas you can prioritize along with a few tips you can take advantage of almost immediately:
#1 - Self-publication and syndication
Major players like Dell and Microsoft do a stellar job of creating "news you can use" from their own branded properties and positioning themselves as a resource for entrepreneurs, analysts, and even partners. In my opinion, no matter how big or small your company is, producing thought-provoking, useful content is one of the quickest ways to establish yourself as a leader and build trust with potential and current customers.
Tip: It's not enough to just create great content. The next step is getting it out there in a streamlined way. Newcomer Publet takes this idea of self-publication and provides a technology that allows brands big and small to self-syndicate on any device at the click of a button. New York-based Launch.it in a similar vein, allows companies to self-publish their news and share it with the world.
#2 - Video
When we launched our last product, we spent a decent amount of money getting a series of high quality videos filmed and produced by a Los Angeles cinematographer. We spent time creating a narrative and telling a story that simple text could never do, and it has paid major dividends. Beyond the videos, we cut a series of somewhat humorous GIFs to use in various internal marketing campaigns.
Tip: Cinegif integrates high-quality animated GIFs into your digital strategy efforts. Their recently launched FIG technology allows marketers to optimize content with new and improved rich media composed of multiple GIFs, still images, transitions, and hyperlinks that are compatible across all digital channels.
#3 - Campaign microsites
Big brands -- think Coca Cola and Target -- are generally running hundreds if not thousands of campaigns and promotions at any given time. They often create microsites within their main site that can be tracked to specific digital marketing tactics. Smaller, less established brands should also consider creating separate properties for various promotions or campaigns around holidays, sporting events, and the like.
Tip: Consider Wix, a leading, global platform for building free websites. With hundreds of beautiful templates to choose from and absolutely no coding skills required, they have made this once daunting process seem almost too good to be true.
#4 - Customer loyalty and engagement
As consumers become more distracted, the ability to understand and engage what "gets your customer going" is becoming more important than ever. If you're an e-commerce startup or even established company, you may be throwing away dollars by not properly targeting and incentivizing current customers and new visitors.
Tip: Two companies immediately come to mind here: Freshplum effectively provides the best combination of targeting and individualized promotions in order to maximize revenue for customers, and Punchtab enables brands to drive cross-channel success and ROI through engaging campaigns that retain customers.
#5 - Digital advertising
Today's digital environment has opened the floodgates for companies big and small to get in on the advertising game. What was once reserved for huge TV, radio, and billboard budgets has been scaled down to things as simple as PPC ads on relevant Facebook feeds. But this still requires some sort of internal expertise, or an agency to manage.
Tip: New York-based AppNexus has done wonders for this new internet advertising ecosystem, and hundreds of companies are using their technology to power innovative trading solutions and marketplaces. One example is FlxOne, a big data analytics and optimization company that delivers groundbreaking insights and actions for real-time advertising, which means companies can buy and sell ads more effectively.
Whether you are a startup or a small to midsize agency serving clients with limited budgets, the thinking around marketing -- which includes advertising and public relations -- needs to be multi-tiered and multi-channeled. This takes out-of-the-box creativity and a commitment to testing a variety of solutions.
One last note: not all brands are created equal... so listen to the conversation and analyze the data. Do both!