PCI President & CEO Robert W. Sprague doesn’t believe in the concept of “adding digital marketing”; he knows an effective marketing strategy must START with a digital strategy.
Bob is no “digital native.” He remembers 8-track tapes. Unlike most millennials, his smartphone is not yet an appendage. And even though he runs a marketing agency, he used to be a skeptic of digital marketing.
He’s seen marketing trends come and go, but Bob has also learned to pay attention to his own buying process. Over the past few years, he’s frequently found himself perusing reviews, ratings, and social media commentary on his iPhone to assess whether he should purchase a product or service. As a result, he revolutionized his marketing agency’s services to meet the needs of our increasingly digital-first world. And with his agency reaching its 30th anniversary this year, it’s safe to say PCI’s digital strategy is making an impact for its clients.
PCI’s Content Manager, Lindsey Cook, sat down with Bob to discuss his belief in leveraging the digital reality within most target audiences exist. For more of Bob’s insights on this subject, read You and Digital. When Not If. in SmartCEO.
Cook: As the owner of a marketing agency for over 30 years, what’s the most significant way digital has shifted the way you approach marketing?
Sprague: In both a good and a challenging way, digital allows much more granularity in how messages are targeted. In the past, marketing tended to be a lot more “shotgun” — you aimed in a direction with a TV commercial or a direct mail piece or even a website and pulled the trigger. With digital you can pre-identify very specific groups that you want to reach, whether it’s a very specific geography, a demographic, or people who are already searching for what you’re offering. Hand in hand with that is measurement. We now have the tools to demonstrate whether marketing is working or not, virtually real-time. But clients are also expecting that we do so.
Cook: What’s your advice to an organization that has not yet drunk the digital Kool-Aid? How can an organization can get their digital sea legs while also making an impact?
Sprague: Well, I hope the article makes a couple of things clear. First, it’s not optional — there’s really no such thing as non-digital marketing any more. But second, and even more important, you have to approach digital marketing strategically. You can’t just jump in and start advertising on Facebook and Pandora and think it’s going to do the trick. For an organization ready to make the jump, unless the decisionmakers are ready to wade in and devote themselves to becoming experts in digital strategy, I think it’s important to have a sherpa. Someone who has studied and continues to study this phenomenon from the inside out and can help you think in new ways.
Cook: Digital is constantly transforming the way organizations market to their target audience. How do you recommend fellow marketing leaders stay on top of marketing trends and best practices?
Sprague: First, become a participant. Do what your customers are doing — spend significant time on key digital platforms and see what’s going on. Second, learn by doing. Develop a strategy and implement it. One of the good things about digital is the ability to change course rapidly; you’re not in a position where you have to commit to printing hundreds of thousands of flyers, or deciding upon a year-long ad buy. If something isn’t working, dump it, or try out several different paths to see which ones work for you.
Cook: In your article, you cite research, content, search appeal, reach, engagement, and data as essential elements of a true digital strategy. Unless they’ve been living under a rock, all marketers know “content” has been the marketing’s buzzword king over the past couple of years. What do you foresee as the next digital marketing element that will transform the marketing landscape?
Sprague: I think “content” as a concept is going to be perennial. What will continue to change is the form that content takes. I think and hope that we will see less of the let’s-dump-out-a-white-paper-every-day and much more thoughtful and mindful pieces that are worth our time and attention. I also believe content will become more and more multimedia, combining video, text, graphics, and interaction in ways we haven’t seen before.