I have no authority to do this, but I’m making a pronouncement: value has overtaken benefits as the heart of digital marketing strategy.
You might respond to this in several ways.
- 100% agree.
- Really? That’s not my experience.
- Aren’t benefits and value the same thing?
I’m going to high-five the first response and hope to convince you on the second but begin by tackling the third.
Are benefits and value the same thing?
No, not quite.
Benefits and value are interconnected, but they are not the same thing. For example, one product I work with brings several benefits to a manufacturing process – lower energy consumption, better performance — the usual benefits you would hope to find when you upgrade to a next-generation product.
But, the value of these benefits extends across the process: increased productivity and a reduced carbon footprint that make the manufacturer more competitive and a more attractive option for investors, customers, and employees alike.
Benefits are like the immediate splash you get when you throw a stone in a pond. Value is the ripples that spread across the pond as a result.
Why is this relevant to digital marketing strategy?
The whole point of marketing is to communicate to customers and potential customers how your solution solves their problems: the WIIFM — what’s in it for me? — principle.
If you get the messaging right, you win the sale. Growing that communication to include not just the splash but also the ripples enables us to help customers see beyond the immediate fix, or the immediate ROI potential, to the broader value your solution brings. And if your solution provides (or even explains that it provides) more value than your competitor can, that might be the differentiator you need.
Let’s take another of my clients as an example. This B2B client has developed a game-changing product. It’s three times the price of competitor products, but the lifetime cost is always less — and in many cases, dramatically so.
How do you convince customers to part with more of their money upfront? By selling them on the value. Of course, we talk about benefits. Of course, we tell them about the total cost of ownership. But we also want to talk about added value. What can their customers do now that they couldn’t do before? We’ve found the best way to prove those gains is through case studies – effectively, to pass the job of communicating value on to existing customers.
Once prospects see the results achieved by a similar setting, they understand the value they could achieve. And at that point, they’re willing to make the more costly initial investment.
Quick refresh: strategy vs tactics
Before I get carried away, let’s have a quick refresher on digital marketing strategy vs. digital marketing tactics (because it is easy to confuse the two). Your strategy is your goal – for example, increasing your win rate. Strategy can be long-term, short-term, or both.
Meanwhile, tactics are how you achieve your goals – i.e., the actions you take to get the job done. Your tactics should feed your strategy, not distract from it.
Tactics without strategy – a common pitfall for digital marketing
The trouble with tactics is there’s a lot you could be doing on digital marketing. There are so many tools, channels, and day-to-day busyness that you can end up bogged down by the minutiae of it all and fail to achieve your strategic goals.
Let’s take social media as an example. The number of opportunities for promotion is growing – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, and more. Does it make sense – strategically – to have a presence across all platforms? For some brands, yes. But not for every brand.
My manufacturing client would be wasting time on TikTok, Instagram and Facebook. They get the most response from LinkedIn and YouTube, where they can help people understand their technology with video and engage with people when they’re in work mode. So, naturally, this is where they spend their energy and resources.
As another example, let’s talk about search engine optimization. There’s a clear distinction between optimizing a page and spamming it. This page is about digital marketing strategy, so that phrase needs to be in the article. But if I included it in every paragraph, you would stumble over it and eventually give up on me. SEO is a tool to be used strategically. Think: baker with sprinkles, not toddler with glitter.
One last example: digital selling tools. There are a lot on the market. And I’m writing for the best of them. But I’m pretty sure Mediafly would agree with me — you don’t need all of them. Like I said before, your tactics should feed your strategy, so if you’re finding your digital tools are creating more work than return, it’s time to re-evaluate.
How do you incorporate value selling into your digital marketing strategy?
So, back to the value vs. benefits argument. This is how I see it, with a hypothetical.
Selling features looks like this:
X software automatically brings up sustainable alternatives to products people want to buy online.
Selling benefits looks like this:
Find sustainable alternatives to your usual products with X software, which helps you make eco-conscious choices when shopping online without having to do the homework.
Value selling looks like this:
Feel better about your buying choices and reduce your environmental impact with X software. No more hours spent searching for sustainable alternatives. Automatically find more eco-conscious products and know your purchase contributes to a greener economy.
The product taps into two needs – to buy more sustainably without spending hours trying to find out what ‘sustainable’ means. But these needs stem from broader desires – to reduce environmental impact and build a better future. So, value selling taps into that desire and gives your customers additional reasons to choose your solution over others. If you’ve heard the hole vs. drill argument, this takes it a step further. You don’t want the hole; you want the memories on the wall.
5 considerations for your digital marketing strategy
There are two ways to communicate value: content and calculators. Content wins hearts, and calculators win minds.
On the content side, you have four key jobs:
1. Prepare, maintain and deliver a wide selection of customer-facing, self-service content. That includes website content, social media, downloads, case studies, outreach content (i.e., on other people’s websites), newsletters, etc.
2. Develop a host of customer-facing content for your sellers and customer success managers to share with prospects and existing customers. That includes slide decks, brochures, how-to guides, case studies, white papers, thought leadership pieces, etc.
(Yes, there is a lot of cross-over between 1) and 2). There should be. In the past, many businesses considered their online presence separate from resources for sellers. I don’t think that is often the case anymore, but, if it is, I’m making an urgent plea. Please, stop doing that.
You want your buyers to experience a seamless journey throughout this process. That can’t happen if you decouple ‘marketing content’ and ‘sales content’. (It’s all customer content, ok?)
3. Ensure you get the content to the right people at the right time. On the self-service front, this means having your SEO in place, an easily navigable website, and the tools on your website that direct people to the information they need. On the seller-serviced side, this requires a solution like Mediafly Engagement360 that enables you to arrange, store and curate your content for optimum impact.
4. How do you know what optimum impact is? That is another area of responsibility. Testing, tracking, and analyzing content usage will give you the insights you need to develop better content, ensuring you are delivering on that digital marketing strategy and communicating value in the best possible way. Don’t forget to involve sellers in this process and train them to make the most of the content and tools.
The calculator is, in lots of ways, more straightforward.
5. Give your customers a tool to show the value of your solution. A calculator they can access themselves without help from you, using data they input so they can be confident in the results.
How can you be sure you digital marketing strategy is working?
Now you know which tactical methods you need to deliver your marketing strategy and help customers understand the value you’re offering, how can you ensure all that effort is worthwhile? Here are five tips:
1. Set SMART goals
First off, in order to meet your goals, they have to be SMART. That means they need to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-limited. Pinpointing a specific goal — a targeted turnover, perhaps — gives you something tangible to aim for. A defined goal is easier to measure, which means you can track your progress.
Likewise, your goal should be achievable. Without the resources to realize your goal, you’ll fail. The time-limited part is also important because it ties you to a deadline, which keeps everyone motivated and on track. So, an example of a short-term SMART digital marketing strategy would be to increase organic search traffic by 100% within six months.
2. Prepare to succeed
Once you have set your goals, you need a plan to achieve them. And it doesn’t have to be as energy intensive as you’d imagine. There are all kinds of tools out there to help you out.
- Engagement360 – A must-have marketing tool, Engagement360 enables you to develop a personalized, interactive, and relevant content engagement experience across the entire buyer journey. Yes, I realize that sounds like more jargon. It’s hard to talk about marketing without using jargon. But in practice, what it means is that you have the ability to understand where your customers’ interests lie and show the content that is most relevant to them at every touchpoint.
- Value360 – The value selling solution of your dreams. Fast-track customers through the buying journey by giving them a quick answer to the question ‘What’s in it for me?’ With Value360, you can create and launch self-service assessments or calculators on your website. In essence, it makes life easier for your customers, who can see from the earliest stages the impact your offering could have on their business. (Of course, it also makes life a lot easier for you!)
- Qualified – A chat bot with a difference, Qualified uncovers signs of buyer intent and helps you identify the most valuable visitors to your website, thus enabling you to engage with buyers earlier and build that pipeline.
3. Check in with your ‘why’
Once you have put your plan into action, it’s important to keep returning to your strategic objectives. Every time you implement a new tool or tactic, ask yourself ‘How does this serve my strategy?’ I’ll say it again – it’s all too easy to get swept up in the how and forget the why. Your digital marketing strategy should be kept foremost in your mind at every stage and across every tool.
4. Trial and error
I’m sorry to say that not all plans are successful. So, while your strategy will likely stay the same, or evolve as your business develops, your tactics will probably need adjusting. Fortunately, because you chose a SMART digital marketing strategy, you’re measuring every development and it will be apparent when things aren’t progressing as they should be.
If you are not sure what’s working and what’s not, try A/B testing to see how changes in your methods, keywords, etc. might affect your results. Don’t be afraid to try new things, or to drop tools that aren’t working. Fortune favors the bold (so long as they have a strategy).
5. Data-driven evolution
Speaking of measuring, there are tools for that, too. And you need them if you’re going to prove and improve the success of your digital marketing strategy. If you’re using Engagement360 to create improved content engagement experience, you can also tie content to revenue – so you can actually see which content is enabling you to achieve your strategic goals. Once you know what works, you can do more of it – and stop spending time and money on the stuff that doesn’t work.
Don’t Rush Your Digital Marketing Strategy
The most important thing you can do as you develop your digital marketing strategy is give yourself the time to do it. And I don’t mean blocking out hours of meetings – though collaboration is critical. I mean time where you can actually think. What are my long-term goals? What would I like to achieve this quarter? This year? How can digital marketing support our business goals? What resources do I need to make it all happen? As well as time to get distracted and exercise that creative brain of yours.
The truth is this: digital marketing is immensely powerful and holds incredible potential, whatever the size of your business and however ambitious your goals. Likewise, value selling has the ability to set you apart from the competition. But in order to realize all that potential, you need to develop the best digital marketing strategy you can, based on an understanding of value and supported with the right tools and tactics.
Are you ready? Check out the 5 Must-have Marketing Tools to Maximize Your Budget and Drive Content ROI for more advice for your digital marketing strategy.