If you don’t already have a digital marketing strategy, you’ve at least heard the term. But, like many buzzy tech phrases, it can have various meanings. For some, erecting a website constitutes having a digital strategy, while others equate it solely with social media outreach.
According to Matt McFadden, who’s created digital strategies for jewelry retailers including James Free Jewelers in Dayton, Ohio, a strong digital marketing strategy includes both endeavors—but only for starters.
As director of marketing and an account manager for Merge, a digital strategy firm based in Greenville, S.C., McFadden assesses the business goals of companies, then develops Web-based products and campaigns that fill in the gaps.
To help get your interactive ideas flowing, we asked him to break down a typical digital media strategy, and share his thoughts on why you, as a jewelry retailer, should be shopping for one.
A graphically pleasing page from Merge's company website (photo courtesy of Merge).
JCK: What is a digital marketing strategy?
McFadden: It’s a long-term approach to solving business problems. It goes well beyond building a website. When we start our discovery process, we don’t even talk about the web. It’s core for us to understand the business and the brand itself, including what they want to deliver. We need to figure out how to get messages in front of people. That entails search engine optimization, both organic and paid, and mobile — because pretty soon we’re all going to be mobile. Only then do we start to figure out what channels we want to use. Using one channel, like a website, can be successful, but aligning a lot of different channels is the key to success. That means integrating the web with email and social media and mobile. And the content that lives on those channels — what’s pushed out — is core to our digital strategies. It’s a multi-layered approach.
JCK: How do you control the flow of information from all those channels?
McFadden: We do not do it all at once. It would be almost impossible to effectively measure what the key performers are. If you throw all that stuff out and hope it sticks, it’s going to be hard to get your head around all the different marketing initiatives. We’re only in phase one of [jewelry retailer] James Free. You have to all agree with what’s going to be there at launch, but you’re going to continually want to give your users more and more. But you want to figure out along the way what your users want. There will be things you can’t predict.
JCK: What are the usual components of an effective digital strategy?
McFadden: The website is phase one most of the time. The content that lives there is extremely important, and with jewelry, photography is extremely important. Social media [platforms where users interact including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest] is going to be really key, and finding the right channel is important. Then we do email marketing, and we try to make the emails as user-friendly as possible. We build programming that gives users exactly what they want to see. That way, we see higher engagement levels. Within emails, you’re also promoting other social media channels, like you might also be cross-promoting social media campaigns with one another. You use Pinterest to build Twitter, etc. All of a sudden you have a giant map of all your digital properties. You want to make sure they’re all aligned and optimized and pushing out really good content to all audiences. Then you also have search engine optimization [which makes your channels easy to find in search engines] and the general user experience.
JCK: Why does a jewelry retailer need a strong digital strategy?
McFadden:With James Free, they said, "We have the choice to build another location, but we want our third location to be online." Think of it as click-and-mortar. Because of the weight they put on it, we feel like we’re operating a third store for them. You would put as much thought into building an online store as you do a physical one. Instead of them hiring a full sales force, they’ve engaged us. And we’ve honed in on a demographic that’s extremely engaged and spends more online on jewelry than others. We actually know where those people live, based on a lot of research, so we’ll be laser focused on that one demo. Other demographics we will attack in different ways. Younger crowds can be kind of intimidated by jewelry stores, so we might address a younger crowd through microsites.
JCK: Is it important that a website change its look and message every so often?
McFadden: James Free’s site is set to change on a weekly basis. Seventy percent of their business is based on occasion, and with that weight on occasion, their home page has to change out. It’s not going to be static at all—it can’t be. Just like the cases in the store change, so does this. Ongoing management is key.
JCK: What types of questions should a retailer ask a company offering a digital marketing package?
McFadden: Ask questions about process and how capable someone might be to build out and manage long-term campaigns. You want to feel comfortable. What we do is not necessarily for everyone. James Free wanted to build a third store. Others might just need a brochure-type site. But you want to make sure the agency can look beyond site launch.
Also, gauge their comfort level with managing different channels. We know the web changes so fast. We know SEO is not going to go away, but mobile is changing and new social channels are coming up all the time. You want to feel comfortable that the agency can adjust and adapt.