The MarTech Baseline: The Digital Tools Every Business Needs

Knowing what’s essential when compiling digital marketing tools

In today’s digital world, information moves as fast as a mouse click and disappears just as quickly at the bottom of a scrolling list. Your brand name’s life may be determined by how well you can keep up, and embrace the organic death of print marketing and prepare yourself for the advent of the digital market.

The advertising and marketing campaigns of the past - distributing pamphlets, attending events - are about as successful as doing needlepoint when trying to communicate to current and potential clientele. In today’s market, you can’t afford to neglect digital tools. However, this evolution of methods can be confusing, you may find yourself overwhelmed by the sheer variety of digital marketing tools that promise their necessity; it can be easy to be talked into purchasing tools that end up costing more than they’re worth.

Getting to Baseline

The first step to establishing a strong foundation of digital marketing is setting up your own baseline, minimizing your digital toolbox down to the most fundamental systems. If you would like to see a more specific user guide on customer experience management tools, you can check out our page here.

With well over 2,000 different MarTech tools to choose from, here’s the 6 areas we think you need to be engaged in as a marketer in 2016. This is the baseline:

  1. A Modern CMS Powering a Mobile Responsive Website

  2. Email Marketing, List Management, and List Building Plan

  3. Maintaining Active Social Channels

  4. Content and Writing

  5. Digital Ad Campaign

  6. Search Engine Optimization

A Modern CMS Powering a Mobile Responsive Websit

Choosing a content management system to maintain and design your website is crucial. (If you’re wondering what we at Bear Group recommend for a great, easy-to-use content management system check out our post about the Drupal CMS here.) Your website is your storefront, it’s the interplay of graphics and writing which draws in new leads. Your content management system must commit to your brand’s publishing and business needs as well as business goals. We list a modern, content management system first on our list of marketing tools because it is essential; it will power your entire content strategy.

A content management system allows you to create the image of the kind of lifestyle associated with your brand. A good content management system does more than just sell a product, it enables you to take total control of how your brand is presented and communicate exactly what kind of experience potential clients can expect from your brand. Using the right system could mean the difference between creating that experience or not. In digital marketing, a good content management system is absolutely crucial, it gives a point of reference and establishes a more personable conversation between your brand and the consumer.

Responsive web design

Creating a mobile responsive website is a good way to prepare for web traffic via any web device. Easy navigation lures in new leads and supports the patronage of current clientele. What’s important is streamlining your customer’s journey throughout the purchasing process, and in this regard accessibility is a vital component. Designing your website’s navigation to be a simple and interactive process across a variety of web devices will increase customer satisfaction and ensure that they choose your website. If you’d like to see a more specific article on websites that design mobile responsive interfaces well, or you’d like advice on how you can design your own website, check out our post here.

Functionality and aesthetics are all a part of creating an atmosphere of authenticity which determine how trafficked your website will become.

Our Recommendation: Drupal CMS with a mobile responsive custom site design.

Email Marketing, List Management, and List Building Plan

email marketingConsumers in today’s age digital age are smart; most have easy access to a wealth of data on whatever product or brand you may be attempting to market. Email marketing can be a great method of maintaining communication with customers and leads, in fact, it is found to be the most successful way to drive sales in both B2B and B2C, but if used clumsily it may result in burning out potential customers. What’s important is maintaining a sense of authenticity; know specifics. Who are you talking to? What are they interested in? The closer you tailor your email marketing ads to a consumer's interest, the more responsive they will be.

Purchasing email lists can be a quick way of getting in contact with a large crowd of potential leads, but people are less likely to open an email from a brand name they don’t have a relationship with. It’s better to build your own list, working from previous shoppers or subscribers. Building your own list also comes with the added benefit of having more power to manage your email marketing. With the right system, you can observe who opened your emails, how they reacted to content. Having access to this kind of information will let you know how to react in the conversation with your consumer.

Once you have compiled your list, you should begin to plan how you segment your contacts. Organizing your list into specific categories will help you understand how to customize your emails to each targeted group within your list, establishing long-term connection points. Keep in mind that each contact is unique; your message needs to relate to them on an individual basis.

Our Recommendation: MailChimp for SMB, Exact Target for enterprise (or a CRM).

Maintaining Active Social Channels

Social media marketingSocial media marketing is new enough to still be considered a kind of “wild west” of marketing campaigns, especially because it changes constantly. It was much easier to establish a brand presence when there were fewer social mediums just a couple of years ago. Currently, the sheer number of different social channels can be overwhelming, but it would be a loss to miss participating in the conversations that are unique to each type of social network.

According to an interview with Facebook owner Mark Zuckerberg, as of August 2015, Facebook has over a billion visitors a day (Read BBC Tech article here). A study conducted by Adweek earlier this year found that there are, in the U.S. alone, 179.7 million social media users registered to websites like Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter (Read the Adweek article here). With over half the percentage of the population on social media websites, it’s obvious that your target audience is on the platform.

The question, then, isn’t if there are people really on these platforms to reach, but how exactly they are using social media websites. Every website has its own style, and each generation, gender, and ethnic group uses each of these channels differently, and establishing a strong brand identity depends on how well you participate in the social conversation. Maintaining your brand across active social channels, either by creating ad campaigns or by tracking the reception of your brand, is a vital part of keeping your brand’s name alive.

There are numerous digital programs which enable you to post to several different media outlets at the same time, but it’s important to consider a few factors before shotgunning the same post or graphic across the interwebs. First of all, each social channel is different, it has its own flavor and appeals to a unique demographic of people. Someone who enjoys staying connected through Tumblr might be less likely to follow a post than a person who actively uses Facebook. Spend time on each of these networks familiarizing yourself with their styles. Secondly, post often and post well, creating a presence that people are not only familiar with and recognize easily but also expect a certain level of consistency from.

A tempting mistake, especially when interacting with a newly popular social media website, might be to wait and see if the website’s popularity sticks before joining and using it as a platform for your brand. It’s true that some websites end up having the life expectancy of a mayfly, but the cost of playing it safe will ultimately mean losing valuable time and become a huge, missed opportunity for your brand.

Our Recommendation: Use of at least Facebook and Linkedin.

Content and Writing

Whatever you post on your social channels, or however, you maintain your blogs or website, it’s important to keep in mind what kind of story you’re telling about your brand. By maintaining a blog, you are generating and maintaining an image of your brand that goes beyond superficial, catchy advertisements. Marketing, after all, is just another genre of storytelling, and dry, bland descriptions can drive leads away. When writing content for posts, remember that the key word is “authenticity,” you want your posts to be on brand, personable, and a little beautiful. Having a well-planned content strategy is the difference between content creation and content marketing; a well-written piece of content tells a story of what your brand is about, it provides a narrative that people can relate to.

Our Recommendation: Build an editorial calendar and start blogging.

Digital Ad Campaign

Ad Web ServerWith any digital ad campaign the three most vital components are placement, timing, and content. The internet experience has and is quickly changing, and successful digital ad campaigns are more than just pay per click advertisements featuring “clickbait” lures. Display, remarketing, video, audio, and even promoted content ads are fantastic and multi-faceted ways to market your brand to your target audience. A familiar handle and use of multiple ad platforms can create an almost multisensory experience of your brand that looks more authentic and welcoming than a single format. Social media platforms are also making it easier for marketers to manage their advertising too, appealing to business users and casual users alike, platforms like Google, YouTube, Pinterest, Twitter now allow marketers to customize their digital ad campaigns to the style of the platform’s website.

When wondering if you’re prepared to launch your campaign, ask yourself; how specific am I being with my campaign? Know your audience, and make sure that your ads are showing up across a wide range of social media outlets or websites; that they’re tailored to the kind of people who typically traffic these websites. Digital advertising also gives you invaluable opportunity to test messaging systems, evaluate how much of an impact your creative appeal has, and better judge effective keywords to describe your brand. Always be testing! Your ad should also be communicating the values of your brand, not just the product but the style as well, what makes your brand unique. Be fresh, be new, be engaging.

Our Recommendation: Minimum Google Search Ads

Search Engine Optimization

SEO ToolsThe key point of digital marketing is being seen and being recognized. Search engine optimization is one of the most basic aspects of raising awareness, but it should be utilized at the right time. Is your website as prepared for visitors as it possibly can be? Is your user experience aesthetically beautiful? Does your written content tell a story? Is it accompanied by a recognizable brand design? Having an imaginative and memorable HTML title is half the battle, but it’s important that it works in tandem with your web content. Easy access to your website is imperative, but functionality and aesthetics are large components in what drives increasing conversions. At this point in time your search engine optimization ranking is determined by more than just meta titles and descriptions, but by usability as well.

Our Recommendation: Read this post on Moz and do it all…

Know Your Digital Marketing Tools: Find Your Support Person

If you implemented only a few of these things you would immediately see a lift, but without research, maintenance, and a competent support person you won’t see any return.

Part of maintenance involves hiring a well-informed support person to manage your digital marketing tools and strategy. It is a hard learned lesson, and supporting this system of baseline marketing requires a person to maintain it full-time. Each of the baseline items above require ongoing content to be written in addition to continual evaluation and adjustment. Even at baseline, a digital marketing system is not something you can just set and forget.

In 2014, we had literally dozens of clients ask us about marketing automation tools. Superficially, marketing automation looks like an easy and self-maintaining system that can be used in long-term and short-term decision cycles. The reality is that marketing automation is more of a supplement and requires a support person who knows how to operate the tool well; it’s more of a nurturing tool rather than a selling tactic.

A common mistake we have seen among many client teams is assigning the task of managing the system to someone who is unfamiliar with the tool; attempting to change their previous role into that of a digital marketer. Or, they attempt to task a few people with spending a small amount of their time doing superficial maintenance. The truth is that a marketing automation system is simply too big and too complex - even those used by smaller brands - to be maintained by anyone other than a knowledgeable support person who understands basic, digital marketing strategies. Hiring a support person will ensure that your digital marketing tools are being optimized to their fullest, producing quality marketing strategies and consistent results.

The fact of the matter is, there are many marketing teams that are missing out on these new digital marketing techniques, spending time and resources on outdated marketing methods and finding themselves increasingly behind the changing market.

As you begin to investigate the growing world of digital marketing, remember: establish your baseline.