Recently we spoke to a retired senior executive from a prestigious advertising and public relations firm. What came out of that conversation were three difficult digital marketing concepts to wrap your head around. We’ve found that these three basic concepts for digital marketing are among the biggest obstacles for brands to embrace. If you don’t agree or understand these concepts then it’s difficult to buy in. But here they are:
- Connect with your competition online especially if they are bigger than you.
- Give away information about your product or service.
- Make branding take a back seat to SEO
There’s a lot to cover here so for this post we’ll just stick with #1. Connect with your competition especially if they’re bigger than you. I’m taking this page from my days in radio broadcasting. As a radio programmer my job was to get people to listen to the radio stations I managed. The more people who listened to the stations, the more people the ads would reach, and the more the station could charge for ads. Hence the more profitable the stations would be. But many of the stations I managed were brand new to the markets and faced stiff competition from large, more established brands. No one knew who we were and no one was listening. Even though we were a better company, with a better model, strategy and tools. So we did come into these markets with a plan we were confident would work. Yet still no one knew who we were unless they happened to stumble on us as they scrolled through the dial. When people did stop on one of these dial positions we wanted them to stay. The best way to do that is to play music we knew the listener enjoyed and to say things that made them feel comfortable. Our morning shows from the more aggressive formats like rock and alternative might bait leaders in the market for instance and in most cases we would record callers who might share that they really like the competition and have been listening to them for a long time. We would play those calls. Even though they might give us a back handed compliment, “but you guys are good too”, they would often become the first conversions, the first adopters, the first fans of the stations and the first members of our growing databases. With the morning shows the competition regularly took the bait responding by mentioning our announcers and our dial position helping us jump start ratings and billing success.
In digital marketing it works the same way. Let’s take my business for example. The core of what we do is content marketing. Generating content based on professional experience, sharing it for free to earn the trust of the website or social media network visitor and then converting that inbound phone call or email into new business. I often quote a guy named Gary Vaynerchuck. “Gary V” as he’s known is a competitor to some degree. But he’s also very much in tune with how social media works and how to leverage it for your business. You could reach out to him directly just on this mention and end up doing business with him. That’s the fundamental reason that traditional marketeers will say “see, that’s why you don’t do that.” But Gary V, like me, and most advanced digital marketing firms can see where that visitor came from. That could prompt a review of our site and our case studies and potentially a call from someone at his firm looking to collaborate on a project. What it also does, if you like what Gary V has to say, is to validate that I know what I’m talking about. That helps to build trust in my brand and provide our prospects and clients with the confidence to move forward with VOX. It is in effect, trust by association. Instead of seeing your competition as the leader in the space that has to be defeated you look at them as a marketing resource for the audience you’re trying to attract. Your prospect knows and might even be a client of your larger competition. They signed with them because they felt they were the right choice. By endorsing certain elements of your competition through your blog, social media accounts , and newsletter you’re actually building a relationship with a prospect while providing a path to becoming a client.
You also have to try some other things that might seem like a really bad idea. You need to follow their social media networks, like and share their content. If Brand X is the big dog in the market that means they have your audience. That audience probably includes three segments of interest to you:
- Their customers
- Their prospects
- Their employees
As to #3, When Elon Musk was trying to earn the multi-billion dollar NASA contract, Space X was one of the last groups to the dance. To leap frog the competition he hired all the old NASA engineers. You can do the same thing by cherry picking employees from your largest competitor. All that starts by connecting with them and even sharing content from them online.
Now you don’t have to favorably blog/post/talk about your competition by name, but you should definitely connect with their social media accounts, and their employees. And while that may seem like you’re shamelessly promoting and driving sales to them, the reality is that you’re connecting with their connections, learning about the things important to them, identifying weaknesses like an unmanaged YouTube channel or a weak Linked In corporate page, picking out key words useful for SEO, content marketing, and digital ad campaigns, and ultimately connecting with their customer base.
The fact is we’re judged by the company we keep. That’s especially true online. If you are a young unknown brand then you don’t really have anything to lose using this strategy. You can gain respect by association, connect with competitors customers, and identify their top performers. This isn’t a theory it’s a proven strategy.
In my next post we’ll discuss Part Two of Three Difficult Digital Marketing Concepts to Wrap Your Head Around: Give away information about your product or service.