Monday, 6 February 2012

Exclusive interview with Digital Marketing star Dr Dave Chaffey

After many months in the planning, I am delighted to post this EXCLUSIVE interview with stellar Digital Marketer Dr Dave Chaffey, to whom very many thanks!!

Dr Dave Chaffey is CEO and co-founder of Smart Insights (, a digital marketing advice site that helps businesses succeed online. He is author of 5 bestselling books on Ecommerce including Internet Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice and has been recognised as one of 50 marketing ‘gurus’ worldwide who have shaped the future of Marketing. 

Question 1: Many companies and managers today are overwhelmed with all the hype around Digital Marketing. What practical advice would you give them, to help get started in this area?

Yes, I think many “rabbits in the headlights” moments with the growing pace of change and the speed at which the key players introduce new features. The great thing about digital marketing is that you can “dive in” and start small by creating a blog or Facebook page. The problem is, you’ll often then lurch to the next latest hype to see whether that helps. It’s currently Google+ and Pinterest for example, this time last year it was Quora. None of these will help build commercial growth if you don’t get the marketing fundamentals right.

At we're firm believers in a planned, structured approach to help make sure your online marketing activities are aligned with business objectives. Planning also really helps you prioritise on the areas you can have the biggest impact, maybe opportunities in tactics that competitors have ignored. It's also essential to get inside customers’ minds to see what they think, feel and do online and work out how that connects with your brand.

It’s crazy really, with how much is invested in digital media today, how few have a planned approach. We asked this question in a post about digital planning a couple of years ago and were not surprised to see that the majority have an ad-hoc approach. We repeated this informal poll again this year and found there was little change:

So, my practical advice is “don’t just jump in”, think about what you want to achieve and how you’re going to position yourself online, to differentiate yourself. A practical tip here, is to improve how you communicate your value proposition across your website and social outposts. If you’re an established brand this is less necessary, but if you’re starting out, it’s essential. 

See our advice on crafting an online value proposition (OVP).

Question 2: What place do Social Media tools have in the Digital Marketing Mix? Are they simply additional advertising channels or something more?

Sure, you can think of social media platforms as advertising channels, but as you know Peter, that’s completely missing the point. We had an interesting discussion of this topic on our LinkedIn Group just yesterday.

A student studying digital marketing was asking about the scope of social media and their relevance to marketing. The short definition from my book is that

"Social media encourage audience participation, interaction and sharing"

You can see that doesn’t sit at all well with advertising; we all know we don’t want to be advertised to when we’re socialising. That’s not to say that advertising on the social platforms doesn’t have value in raising awareness and connecting with advocates, far from it. But social media has an impact across the whole of digital marketing mix as you suggest.

Jen Law, one of our expert members expressed it better, saying “Social media is about conversations, community, connecting with personalities and building relationships. It is not just a broadcast channel or a sales and marketing tool”.

I think it’s interesting that in 2011-12 we are seeing company response to social media growing up and many now see it more broadly and are thinking how best to harness social media marketing across the business. We’re seeing companies talk about broader management of social media. In the same discussion, Paul Fennemore, a social media specialist, said:

A purist would say 'social media' is media. In this case Web2.0 interactive, real-time based media including: Video, Blogs, Wikis, Gaming, Photos, Music and so on.

However, social media has come to mean than this and is not a good term for what it represents, Social Media Marketing, Social Commerce, Social Business, Social Enterprise are better terms depending on the context.

Here, the CEO of Burberry talks about how fundamental social media are to the way they operate today:

Question 3: Today, consumers are exposed to a vast amount of data. How can marketers make it easier for them to find and hear what they need and filter out extraneous messages and information, from all the noise?

Analytics is a passion of mine thanks to my background as a scientist when I was studying in the 1980s. It’s one of the reasons why I was attracted to Internet marketing as it was known in the mid 1990s. It seemed to offer an opportunity to understand our customers much better and deliver relevance in our communications to help secure better business outcomes and ROI on our media investments. Yet, sadly I think most companies fail to filter out the noise.

There are certainly technical challenges with attributing influence to multiple media across complex customer journeys and how we use cookies to do this. I also think the web analytics systems as designed, are mostly designed “by geeks, for geeks” and they’re not structured around the questions that marketers ask – that’s why we’ve developed guides to step marketers through these questions on But the bigger problems are todo with the classic governance issues of people, process and systems. You need the right KPIs, dashboards tailored to your business and a regular review/action process. Out-of-the box, the analytics or social listening tools don’t give you this. Some big companies do get this right, here’s one example we covered:

 Question 4: What steps can companies take to measure and validate the returns that they get from their Digital Marketing investment?

To answer you’re question directly, I recommend these steps:

  1. Define value of outcomes on your site – setup goals in Google Analytics with values assigned to represent value.
  2. Put in place tracking of all media, on and offline, with consistent marketing source codes
  3. With this in place start using rarely used measures like revenue or goal value per visit and $Index value
  4. Understand, at a granular level which media including sites, search terms, placement and creative create value for you.
  5. Maximise value, prioritising the media with the best conversion rates and ROI.
  6. Understand more complex journeys through multichannel funnels so you are crediting assists earlier in the journey rather than just “last click wins”
  7. Find solutions to assess the value within social media marketing – 1 to 6 will help, but specialist tools are still needed!
If you want more detail on this, see an article I wrote for Brian Clifton , Show Me The Money, or buy Brian’s book on Google Analytics – this stuff matters! 

Question 5: As the Web evolves into the Cloud and becomes even more pervasive, what changes do you predict for Marketing, resulting from the growth of mobile and the ubiquitous connection of less animate objects?

A challenging question to end! Regardless of the cloud, I think many don’t have a good conception of the their creative assets and how to make them most effective. We still have this mental idea of creative placed on our site or an advertisers site we need to use to get our message across. In 2007, I think there was a lot of discussion of “atomisation” and I think this is a better way to think of creative assets today. 

My colleague, Dan Bosomworth on likes to call these “social objects” and they are the fundamental units  for effective content marketing today.  They are incredibly effective in some markets such as tech products and fashion. Companies like Hubspot, Eloqua in B2B, ASOS, Burberry in Fashion are masters in creating effective assets and campaigns around these which expand their reach and preference and link through to commercial goals. There are examples from many sectors though. 

For me a solid content marketing strategy is key to online success today and it’s fundamental to success in search, social, email marketing and conversion. It unifies brand communications in disparate channels. So if you don’t have a content strategy you’re falling behind.

We find discussions of the potential of mobile marketing are some of the most popular on our blog, whether this is about QR codes, mobile apps or effective mobile design. It certainly gives increased opportunities for connecting with consumers in a more personal way, but I can’t see examples where how a company deploys mobile marketing has transformed their brand in the way that content and social media have for some of the examples above. 

At some levels a mobile or tablet device is just an alternative to the desktop platformand gives a channel choice for similar content and experience. It doesn’t give so many brands so many new opportunities to engage. But I’d like to hear of more examples, particularly around proximity or location-based marketing with experiential marketing events.  This is where it can give companies an edge.

Looking further into the future, more objects will be web-enabled whether that’s cars, household items or people! PR Smith talked about this in our Emarketing Excellence book as earlier as 2001 about the Post-PC customer. 

We haven’t seen real progress in this area although the Verichip  was touted as an implantable RFID chip. Health and privacy concerns seemed to have stopped it and I’m not too sorry about that – I think we all need to unplug sometime! 

It will happen, but “not in my lifetime”.

Useful links and resources:

If readers of this post would like to learn more about digital marketing, we've created a framework on Smart Insights which can help marketers explore a topic without being reliant on Google or Wikipedia. 

Here are the starting points I'd recommend:

Our home page has a widget we developed based on the PRACE framework to explore over 200 digital marketing techniques 

For a quick scan of all techniques try our Best Practices review- grouped in 25 key marketing activities

We also have a Digital Marketing Strategy Guide and simplified marketing planning framework.

Find out more about our Ebooksand training courses.

Thank you Dr Chaffey!

No comments:

Post a Comment