Digital: Building Online Ecosystems

Tyler Tullis
Senior Account Executive

Oct 1, 2015

WHEN A FIRM SAYS they do “digital” in 2015, that could mean any number of services: web development and design, online advertising, social media programs, email marketing, robust content marketing—and a lot more. The trouble is none of these digital tactics can live in a silo anymore. To be effective, a program must integrate all these services into a flowing digital ecosystem.

At DH, we’ve always taken an integrated approach. We blend digital with PR, advertising, branding, and research. We sat down with Michelle Hege to get her thoughts on digital, the DH approach, and how we see the industry changing.

DH: How does digital factor into DH’s overall integrated approach?

Michelle: For any campaign, we believe strongly in utilizing a mix of tactics and mediums to engage audiences, and digital is almost always part of our overall strategy now. Marketers who leave out digital are missing out on a huge opportunity. Thanks to stronger, more reliable metrics that can be optimized over time, digital is becoming an increasingly important tactic to the success of campaigns. Not only does digital provide a stronger ROI than traditional advertising as well as the ability to hyper-target audiences, but it is becoming increasingly important as more and more of our clients’ audiences are found online.

DH: How does DH tie together so many elements into a digital ecosystem?

Michelle: Just like with traditional media campaigns we’ve done for the last two decades, it’s always about starting with deep knowledge of our audiences. Where do folks intake media and at what rates? What are the messages that will resonate with them? That’s why research is such an important part of any campaign. It gives us those answers, which helps us determine the channels where we need to be present. From that point, it’s about sharing consistent, creative messaging across those platforms to reinforce awareness or drive traffic to conversion points—whether that’s making a sale or getting users to sign up to learn more. To be effective, digital ecosystems must cross-pollinate: ads, eBlasts and online coverage drive to the website, the website to social media, and everything ultimately drives to conversion points.

DH: How do you measure all this?

Michelle: That’s one of the greatest strengths of digital—there is no shortage of revealing analytics. Marketing automations do a fantastic job of collecting basic metrics like email open rates, time spent on pages, volunteered user information, click-through-rates on ads. Some of our clients have a mastery of an automation or CRM in-house, and our role is to provide strategic content recommendations while they implement. For other clients, we help them setup their Google Analytics, eBlast analytics tools and social media, then train them on capturing and segmenting basic metrics. Whether you’re a beginner or advanced, there are high value metrics available to show engagement rates.

DH: What do you think is the future of digital?

Michelle: It’s only going to grow, and mobile is where it’s going. In 2014, eMarketer expected two billion people to be using smartphones around the world by the end of 2015. That changes how you write content and develop websites. You have to think about how you get your messages on people’s phones. You have to consider the small screens and shorter attention spans that come with that medium—from both a creative and functional standpoint.

DH: What is the biggest confusion clients bring to you about entering the digital space?

Michelle: It seems that there’s always a new social media platform to try. Clients feel overwhelmed wondering where they should be. They feel compelled to be a part of the newest platform because it has all this buzz. It’s our job to pull back a little and ask, Does it make sense? That’s why strategy is so important. When you’re clear about your goals and audiences, you can determine if that platform will make sense for your organization. Will it progress you toward your goals? Is it where your audience lives? I find myself counseling clients about this on an almost daily basis.

DH: What differentiates DH from other firms that work in the digital space?

Michelle: Our core strength is strategy—figuring out the right combination of these digital tactics. And remember, it doesn’t make sense for every organization to have HubSpot or Marketo. We often work to help organizations find the right starting place and nurture them toward digital ecosystems as they grow. The strategic lens helps us do that so we aren’t forcing clients into a cookie-cutter digital strategy. Just like any campaign, there is no silver bullet. It’s about the right tactical mix to achieve a business goal.

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