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Digital media is a conversation.

For as long as there has been marketing, there have been marketing flavors of the month. And it makes sense. If we can do this one thing and get the results we want, we can eliminate the complexity and uncertainty of marketing. And, if fish had wings they’d be birds.

So we go through these phases. Dimensional direct. Outdoor boards with one-word headlines. Music video television spots. Shaky cameras. Social media. And to make matters worse, we can point to brands that are employing flavor-of-the-month tactics and who are succeeding and exclaim, “See! Matchbook cover advertising works!”

What we don’t say is that the killer matchbook cover concept was part of a broad campaign that included merchandising, direct marketing, purchase incentives, trade incentives, and a $20,000,000 television and digital media budget. And that’s exactly the point. Tactics in isolation don’t work. Ever! There is no magical silver-bullet tactic.

So, no matter how many random Facebook posts you post and Twitter tweets you tweet, all those tactics will do for you is make noise. Since a tweet in a vacuum cannot be traced to a transaction, it barely even qualifies as marketing. Does this mean social media is without value? To the contrary. Social media in a holistic digital strategy is a valuable piece of the conversation. But it has to be a conversation.

Owned media.

It all starts with what you own. Generally, in the digital media world, this means websites, specialized web pages, blogs, and microsites. This is where you let people know what you are, what you think, what you do, and what you’re good at. When you think about building a brand, owned media is the only place where you will be able to state your differential advantage—tell your story—your way. This is where you deploy the full compliment of branded expressions to plant your brand in the reader’s brain.

Inbound media.

This is where the give and take comes from that makes it a conversation. It starts with content that people want.

You figure out who you’re talking to and what you want them to do. And then you provide it in the form of white papers and e-books. This value-added content can be original (most Gibbons | Peck inbound is built around original content as part of our brand story), re-purposed, or purchased content.

Through call-to-action (CTA) buttons—on social media, digital banners, and on the pages of your owned media—offer your value added content. In fact, there’s probably one or more CTA button at the bottom of this page.

Each CTA button takes your prospect to a landing page, where he is invited to receive the content, in exchange for something. Usually an email address. Sometimes a phone number, snail mail address, or some demographic information. And then you use that contact information to—as our friends at Hubspot put it—delight them, with subsequent information, conversation, and expressions of your interest, gratitude, and your brand.

Content offers.

Of course, your offers will differ, depending on your brand, category, audience, and selling approach. Inbound for hospitals might include seasonal advice on things like flu, allergy, heat, or cold. Or perhaps, your healthcare marketing strategy might use inbound methodology to start a conversation about prevention, diet, exercise, preventive exams.

Bank marketing professionals can use inbound as a tactical tool, a delivery system for bank branding, or as the digital corollary to community involvement activities. Any time your selling strategy requires you to distribute information or whenever collecting prospect data is beneficial, inbound marketing is a potential strategy.

There are dozens of strategic uses for inbound marketing for banks. You can offer educational tools that lead your prospect back to your door—how to shop for a mortgage, what kind of checking account do I needis a bank a good place to park money. For something as mundane as distributing product information, you can create pdf versions of your product brochures and offer them via an inbound system.

This way, you’ll be assured that you gather the contact information of your shoppers, in an organized and complete fashion. How valuable would that be? How much teller and CSR time would that save!?

The legitimate role of social media.

Once you have your owned media and inbound program in place, social media becomes a valuable tool to distribute your content (brand expressions) to your passive community. Using boosted posts and Facebook and LinkedIn advertising tools, you can be very selective about geo-targeting an area, focusing on a certain type of individual or company, or even targeting specific individuals (once you have their email addresses).

Re-marketing.

Finally, once your prospect has visited you, you can use re-marketing to direct banner ads back to them, as they move abound the worldwide web. Used strategically, this is a great way to generate return visits from motivated shoppers. Sales managers will tell you that a sale generally happens only after 5-10 contacts. So it’s important that you engage your prospects continually.

All top advertising agencies and the best branding agencies understand that digital storytelling is crucial for building a brand community. In the realm of healthcare branding, where cultivating a healthy community if frequently a mission level activity, digital media can serve a vital function. And any investigation of bank branding best practices must include a perusal of the opportunities of a digital conversation.

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