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The Final Digital Divide

Below is a blog post from Aaron Kahlow, our marketing partner with the Online Marketing Summit. This is a site, educational summits and certification for online marketing professionals. I became a big fan in working with and learning from the many talented peeps I have meet that participate. Great information and an example of the content available in the national tour they are doing in major cities around the US. I will be leading a session at the Long Beach event on the subject of:

Online Marketer is the NEW Web Publisher – Are You Ready?

Developing High-Impact Online Content to Generate Demand & Loyal, Profitable Customers

Hope to see you there!

The Final Digital Divide

As I read the articles and headlines for the week, I find quarterly publications like Strategy and Business Magazine, Weekly research reports from eMarketer and Daily Blog posts from Online Marketing for Marketers stating the obvious, yet hard to reach place of crossing the digital divide. Such stats and finds as 370,000+ Facebook Fans of Members Dunkin Donought; 50% of Marketing Budget in Digital for many Fortune 500 (HP, Intel,…); Record Quarters for Email Marketing Service Providers, Search Engine Marketing Consultants and digital agencies are reinforcing the undeniable shift. One that stands out to me is the Tweet from a friend at Active.com who was attending the IAB annual conference that showed 2/3 of marketing dollars are spent offline and 1/3 online. My response was, “How long it will it takes for that to flip flop? 2 years maybe?” And there- in lies “The Digital Divide” we are all crossing.

When we use to talk about the Digital Divide back in the 90s it was about those that had broadband access and internet savvy to do things more efficiently online. In the business world, I think it’s safe to say we’ve crossed that divide. Email being the primary and preferred method of communication and information sharing; researching information and products be done almost exclusively (92% according to Forrester) and IM, texting and social networking being the next generation of socializing we are there.

So when I refer to the Digital Divide, I am talking about the Divide between those aligning their priorities, budgets, staff and strategic thinking with that of the behavior and preferences of their customers. HP’s CMO was recently quoted saying he is spending over 50% of his budget in the digital arena. Microsoft and Intel have announced plans of such long ago. These are BtoB companies, not the high-flying BtoC that are doing really interesting things like the Dunkin Donoughts reference or the great Twitter strategies of Southwest Airlines. These companies think digitally, act digitally and really embrace what I call the Principals of Online Marketing. It’s not good enough to have an eNewsletter, to do a few paid search ads and have re-designed your website in the past 2 years. It’s critical to understand that it’s competitive and those that execute Online marketing better, will succeed and those that do not will quickly fall as they are already. Allow me address a few principles that winning organizations embrace and culturally will make or break a company in the most economic trying times we’ve seen in 2 generations.

Principle #1: Be willing to fail, the secret to Amazon’s success.
Jeff Bezos last week had an interview on the Charlie Rose show where for an hour he discussed how Amazon.com became successful. One of his over-arching tenants is being willing to fail and fail fast. Online channel is new and it’s ok to try new things and fail. He has failed at numerous new initiatives, but where he has succeeded and applied those learning is unmatched.

The translation for me back to companies that are not 100% online retailers or even more so BtoB, is quite simple. You cannot go into a new area or change your strategy and expect ROI to be immediate and base all decisions on that. If you do, one is forced to be conservative and only do what they know has worked, and that is far from shores of crossing that river, I am calling the Digital Divide. Search Engine Optimization and Social Media strategies are the best examples out there. If you are not willing to invest in deterring the right strategy and balance of what’s need in these two areas, you can count the days down that your competitors will and the tremendous market share to be lost.

Principle #2: Treat your website as an asset or capital expenditure
Your website, as I have preached in many past speeches, as the absolute epicenter of all things marketing. Not just online marketing, but all. Every ad should have a URL, every direct mailer should have a web based call to action… I was just watching PBS last night and they we’re doing the old “fund raising drive” asking for $60 donations… and there I am on my laptop saying, alright, I’ll pony up. And all they offered was 800 number. Who wants to call anyone at 10pm at night and talk. So, if you don’t have campaign specific URLs on everything then you are really missing the boat. But, alas, I think most marketers do, so the real deal is why we are not paying more attention to the landing pages, microsite and website we send them to. Every marketing effort will either see a significant lift or decrease in its conversion rate even in long btob sales cycles if you give the customer what they want on that page and it’s easier to find other related items of interest on your site. Yet I still hear folks struggling for budget when it comes to their site. Many companies have made this a capital expenditure. Really, it’s the cost of doing business. So the marketing should control it but the business operation needs to pay for it. Nothing will have a greater effect on your company’s sales than the website. Nothing.

Principle #3: Strategy starts with the customer
Yes, we all know this. We all preach this. We all hear this at every conference we have ever attended. BUT, how many really do this. To bring the conversation full circle, I will go back to the interview with Bezos. He was asked what makes Amazon so successful in the hyper competitive markets they play in. His answer was shockingly simple: “Our extreme focus on serving the customer and reducing cost through operation efficiencies”. And there you have it. Amazon.com made ratings and reviews popular because their customers loved it. This was 10 years ago, before the rest of us started getting on the bandwagon. They created an eCommerce one click buying mechanism that made buying a simple as possible. And they created a recommendations engine to suggest other books of interest before the words behavioral targeting online we’re even mentioned.

So, we don’t need to be pioneers like Jeff at Amazon.com to be successful. All we have to do is look around us, learn from those succeeding, listen to our customers AND fully be committed to crossing that Divide before our competition does.