In my recent experience, four things make digital marketing work
- An improvable offering
- Effortful creative work
- Problem solving
The first and most important – the offering, aka product or service – is in a class of its own. If it’s no good, what’s the point of marketing it?
Well there is one point, actually: to get people to try the offering so you can improve it. While every offering is in theory improvable, I’ll leave it to you to gauge whether you can improve your offer in a practical, cost-effective way.
Describing your offer in your marketing makes you improve it (as long as it’s possible to do so). I have seen this effect with everything with craft beer to software to translation services. You build the thing you depict.
That’s why high-effort creative work is also so important – it can change the product itself, as well as communicate its value.
Creative work is what people think of as things like visual design, messaging, and storytelling. It’s the building block of all digital marketing. If it doesn’t yield a continuously useful website, then it’s not good creative work.
Unfortunately, creative is fairly subjective. I believe I can tell in an instant if it’s gonna work in the context of digital marketing. Maybe that’s because I’ve been paid to work on over 1,000 professional websites over the past 20+ years. This makes me believe that I have acquired a skill for assessing the marketing value of almost any website within a few minutes.
Putting These Concepts Into Practice
But I can’t prove that I’m a good judge of (and maker of) creative work; I can’t prove any of it.
All I can do is provide assurances. I can:
- Point to research by objective third parties. For example, Jacob Nielsen did research that proves that carousels are a useless convention. I know why this is true and I know what the exceptions are. But research doesn’t necessarily apply to you. And it’s expensive.
- I can also provide testimonials, case studies, and even – uggh, sorry former clients – references. But quid pro quo is a thing.
- Lastly, I can write about it on newsletter and blog, or speak about it on video or podcast.
I find the last type of assurance works best on me because it’s pretty much impossible to fake.. If I can hear someone speak and also read their words, I have a much better idea whether their offer is for me.
People call this content marketing but that term has become so degraded by trash content, I prefer to think of it as just writing and speaking in public.
Here’s the takeaway – the best kind of digital marketing is writing and speaking that evinces evidence of a solution that can and will be improved, contains hard-won creative expression of some kind, talks about solutions to business problems, and is performed iteratively.
If you find this person and need what their business sells, hire them.
Here’s the other takeaway – be this person.