The vast majority of digital marketing seems to be focused on creating content and experiences for customers with the ultimate measure of success being increased traffic to the company website, leading to leads and sales.
It’s a reasonable approach, since company websites typically provide the kinds of information that explain what a company does, the products or services they sell and some means for collecting inquiries or conducting transactions.
But here’s the problem with that in 2014 and beyond: Consumer trends towards content discovery, engagement and interaction have evolved way beyond the common corporate website or online store.
Buyers can get the information they need to decide on a vendor or make a transaction from any combination of devices; smartphone, tablet, computer or web destination; social network, blog, microsite, industry publication, document hosting service.
While marketers are elevating their multi-channel marketing and integrating across owned, earned, paid and shared media channels, the focus is almost always to drive traffic back to the company website to transact.
Driving website traffic is an approach most marketers have taken for years. It’s what’s comfortable according to our processes and skills. It’s easiest to measure too, since we control what’s measured on our own websites.
Driving to or driving away?
It’s worth asking: Do customers really want to go to the corporate website to get more information after watching a cool video about a product? Do they really want to leave their favorite social network after getting a recommendation from friends in order to make an inquiry with a business? Does it really matter whether a customer becomes aware, interested and inclined to transact because of experiences on or off the company website?
As a consumer or B2B buyer yourself, I’m sure you’ve experienced a situation where you’re watching a video, reading content or interacting on a social network and you had to go through a few hoops to get to a corporate website or online store to transact. Or more commonly, you see something interesting from a company posted to a social network and you have to visit the company website to see any detail.
Maybe you’ve experienced the alternative – you came to the conclusion to dig deeper into a service or company and were able to do it right there where it was discovered – not on the corporate site?
I think the demand by customers for off-site engagement is only going to increase. If digital marketers stick to the “drive website traffic” as the only means to move customers along the sales cycle, then those who do optimize for customer experience wherever the customers are, will win. An integrated marketing approach is necessary to optimize for customer experience.
That’s what optimization is all about: making it easy for customers to do what you want them to do. That means empathy with their journey and refining the experience across the customer journey – wherever it may take palce.
This doesn’t mean the end of the corporate website or blog. But I do think it means a few things worth considering:
- Companies need to step up the content and engagement value created on company websites. If there is substantial social network and community engagement already, then integrate off-site content through social hubs and curation
- Marketers need to account for prospect and customer engagement off site just they do with on-site engagement
- Investments in content, engagement and transactions in off-site environments need to be tested and ramped up where appropriate
- Marketers need to evaluate tools, services, widgets and platforms that support content publishing, promotion, transaction and measurement off-site
What do you think?
Do your marketing activities focus exclusively on driving traffic to the company website or online store? Are you testing or implementing off-site content, engagement and transaction functionality? What embeddable ecommerce tools have you seen or used within social networks, content artifacts or videos?