On April 14, I attended the first Digital Marketing Summit, hosted by Visit Montgomery and sponsored by Washington Post Digital. Expert panelists from companies including Wedding Wire, Cvent, and Yelp shared their take on the conference’s theme: Engaging Customers in the Digital Era. There was something for everyone, marketing newbies and experienced marketing professionals alike. My favorite takeaways:
- Fail fast.
- Emotional connection is paramount.
- Customer engagement today is no longer a one-way street.
Elizabeth Stiles from WeddingWire shared her great marketing hacks. My favorite: “Fail Fast.” Wait a minute, what? That’s a counterintuitive philosophy at first glance. But as the old saw goes, “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” Trying new things and experimenting with the right mix of strategy and content is the only way to move forward when it comes to digital marketing.
Here’s a real-life example from Wedding Wire’s social media strategy. Elizabeth talked about Wedding Wire’s initial tactic of posting 8-10 times per day on Facebook—that’s a lot of posts, but they were afraid to lose visibility. But with so much content, they were still losing engagement. They took a chance and went down 1 to 3 times a day…and that strategy worked, but only because they weren’t afraid to try a new mix.
Companies today simply have to build a level of emotional engagement when it comes to their customers and followers. Josh Davis from Cvent stressed showing the humans behind the brands. He showed a striking video from a major international hotel chain that interviewed hotel staff—and revealed the pride they took in creating an excellent guest experience. Video really amps up that emotional response.
Elizabeth Stiles echoed that need to find an authentic voice that creates an emotional connection. WeddingWire has used Instagram and Snapchat campaigns with customers sharing wedding ring photos and engagement photos, using Wedding Wire’s hashtags to make themselves part of the bigger story.
Engagement Beyond the One-Way Street
Companies today need to think beyond the traditional top-down funnel that goes from the marketers at the top to the customers at the bottom. Effective engagement means a two-way conversation, much like WeddingWire did with encouraging users to share their own content.
Mike Bishop, Yelp’s Community Manager in DC’s Maryland suburbs, emphasized that companies today also have to embrace the reality that customers are communicating with each other. Brands that can be part of that conversation are the brands that will come out on top. Mike noted how many companies are scared of negative reviews—the top question he receives is how to get rid of them. (The short answer: not unless the user removes them, the review is moved to the non-recommended review section, or the user violates the term of service.)
Josh’s number-one recommendation? Businesses have to claim their Yelp pages. It’s that simple. Yelp reviewers want to share positive information about local businesses. By claiming their pages, businesses can be a part of that conversation, share their own photos, and engage with the community—even if it seems new and scary.
Embracing failure, building emotional connections, and moving beyond the one-way street of communications: this is what it takes today to really develop customer engagement in the age of digital marketing. This advice goes way beyond the specific channels or tools you use in your campaigns. How can you put these strategies to work for your overall marketing efforts?