Welcome to the New Year, Big Thinkers! 2023 is now upon us. And that seems like a great time to revisit this episode that looks at how to drive business using digital in the year ahead.
Digital continually changes. But there are some consistently useful strategies and tactics you can use to improve your business this year — and beyond. What tools, techniques, and tips can you expect to work for you in 2023? That’s what this episode of Thinks Out Loud is all about.
We’ll look at why consistency and focus matter more than ever. We’ll dive into how to put a "Core and Explore" strategy into place for your business. And we’ll look at the Hub and Spokes that matter to grow your business in 2023.
Want to learn more? Here are the show notes for you.
How to Drive Business Using Digital in 2023 — Headlines and Show Notes
Show Notes and Links
- Will ChatGPT Kill Google? (Thinks Out Loud Episode 367)
- The Future of the Metaverse? (Thinks Out Loud Episode 363)
- The Metaverse in Hospitality Marketing: Loren Gray Interview (Thinks Out Loud Episode 366)
- Is It Time for Digital Marketers to Move On to The Next Big Thing? (Thinks Out Loud Episode 360)
- How Much Will 2022’s Top Tech Trends Shape Your Digital Strategy This Year? Not Much (Thinks Out Loud Episode 334) – Tim Peter & Associates
- A Far Too Quick Look at the Metaverse, web3, and the Future of Digital (Thinks Out Loud Episode 349)
- What 2022 Trends Should Marketers Care About? (Thinks Out Loud Episode 335) – Tim Peter & Associates
- Revisiting "Content Distribution Concepts to Help Your Content Marketing Succeed" (Thinks Out Loud)
- The Single Biggest Myth in Digital: Content is Expensive (Thinks Out Loud Episode 275)
- Revisiting Content Marketing in Action (Thinks Out Loud)
- Is Content a Strategic Product for Your Business? (Thinks Out Loud Episode 319)
- Your Employees — and Customers — Live in a Different World Now (Thinks Out Loud Episode 362)
- The History of Internet Communities | by Richard Chen | Medium
- What Does "Digital" Even Mean Right Now (Thinks Out Loud Episode 343)
- The Future is Already Here (Thinks Out Loud Episode 370)
- The Most Important Trends in Marketing 2023 (Thinks Out Loud Episode 369)
- The End of Google? (Thinks Out Loud Episode 372)
- Big Trends: Does Marketing Have a Future? (Thinks Out Loud Episode 375)
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- A Modern Content Marketing Checklist. Want to ensure that each piece of content works for your business? Download our latest checklist to help put your content marketing to work for you.
- A Brief Introduction to Thinks Out Loud. As a bonus, we’ve also included this PDF document that highlights some of our core episodes to help you dig into what the show is about. We think it will help you capture the show’s essence while you’re working your way through the 300-plus episodes published so far. Download it here.
- Digital & E-commerce Maturity Matrix. As a bonus, here’s a PDF that can help you assess your company’s digital maturity. You can use this to better understand where your company excels and where its opportunities lie. And, of course, we’re here to help if you need it. The Digital & E-commerce Maturity Matrix rates your company’s effectiveness — Ad Hoc, Aware, Striving, Driving — in 6 key areas in digital today, including:
- Customer Focus
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Transcript: How to Drive Business Using Digital in 2023
Well, hello again everyone, and welcome back to Thinks Out Loud, your source for all the digital expertise your business needs. My name is Tim Peter. This is episode 368 of the Big Show, and I think we have a really cool show for you today.
I was talking to someone the other day — about the podcast actually — and we were talking about the fact that there’s so many new things going on that we’ve been talking a lot about: the future of digital; and things like the metaverse; and all of these incredible technologies like ChatGPT and the like. And the question I was asked was, “Well, that’s great and all. But, how can I succeed right now? How can I drive business using digital in 2023? What is it that I need to do to make my business succeed using digital?”
And it’s a really important question to think about. And as we’re heading into a new year, it’s an incredibly important time to be thinking about that question.
Not as Much Variation as You Might Think
And I wanted to say there’s really just a couple of simple principles that I encourage people to think about. Obviously, there is going to be some variation here based on the size of your company. There’s some variation between B2B and B2C. There’s some variation based on the industry that you’re involved in. At the same time, there are some basic principles that apply fairly universally and that I would recommend you think about as you are looking forward to next year if you want to use digital to drive business. Which:
- I assume you want to do, and
- I would recommend you actually do.
Focus and Consistency
So what are those principles? Well, the first principle I want you to remember is “focus and consistency.” I know that sounds like two, but to me those go hand in hand. They are inextricably linked. It is so easy in digital, it is so easy with digital marketing, it is so easy with digital transformation to get distracted by what I call, “Ooh, shiny,” right? Whatever the cool new thing is, the thing that’s getting tons of buzz and tons of media attention.
If you think back to the beginning of 2022, there was an immense amount of conversation, there was an immense amount of discussion around the metaverse, around what Facebook was trying to do with the metaverse. And at the time I said that I didn’t think the metaverse was going to be that big a deal — this year anyway — and so far that seems accurate. I want to be fair, I’m not making a prediction one way or the other about if it will ever be a big thing. I’ve done episodes about that recently and I will of course link to those episodes in the show notes.
I’m saying that you want to perform in specific areas consistently. I’m saying you want to keep your eye on the ball. When you lack focus, when you lack consistency, it is far too hard to produce results that also have any consistency to them. You’re bouncing around from thing to thing with very little long-term benefit from any of those actions, and so you want to make sure you’re maintaining focus and consistency on those areas that actually deliver benefit to your business.
Core and Explore
Now the second principle I want to talk about really gets at where do you put that focus and consistency? And you’ve heard me say this many times before. It’s a principle known as “core and explore”. Now, “Core” means the things that work for you all the time. And “Explore” means the things that you’re going to test so that you can continue to grow within the Core.
Hub and Spokes.
There’s one key area of the Core you want to focus on, and that you’ve heard me talk about many times is “the Hub and Spoke.”
The Hub. Your Hub are the channels that you control. They’re your website, your email list, and your community.
The Spokes. The Spokes are channels that provide you reach, that provide you distribution for your content and your messages and your products. So they include things like paid and organic media., advertising, social, YouTube. Sales platforms like Amazon or Expedia or Etsy or Reverb. And I would also include creators or influencers. Among the spokes, they’re ways of reaching new customers that you cannot reach cost effectively or as easily on your own. And I want to dive into both of these a little bit.
Hub and Spoke: The Hub
Your Email List
When we think about the hub, the first thing that I think about is your email list.
You want to make a goal to grow your email list by a healthy percentage in 2023, you get to decide what healthy percentage means in real terms for your business. I do want you to remember, however, that there’s about a 30% churn rate every year in email. Meaning about 30% of your list either opts out or they stop opening them, or they unsubscribe, or they put a filter in place that sends you to a folder that they never look in, that they just simply stop seeing your email.
A core principle you always want to remember about email is that “if your list isn’t growing, it’s shrinking.”
If you started 2022 with a 100,000 person list, it is now a 70,000 person list. Period. And that ratio holds if you started with a thousand person list, a 10,000 person list, a hundred thousand person list, or a million person list. If it’s not growing, it’s shrinking. And it’s shrinking, on average, by about 30% per year.
Why is this so important? There’s a really simple reason. If we’ve learned anything from Facebook’s implosion this year, if we’ve learned anything from the ongoing Twitter mess, it’s that you can’t rely solely on the Spokes, the external distribution channels, to allow you to continually connect with your customer. Email remains the single best way to stay connected with customers who want to stay connected with you. They’ve said, “I want to opt in. I want to hear from you.”
Sure, that could change in the future, but look at the growth of Substack. Look at the growth of all these email newsletters. These are customers saying, “I want to hear from the people I care about.”
In 2023, that’s still going to be true. So make a goal to grow your email list by a healthy percentage.
Your Website The second part of the Hub that I think it makes sense to think about is your website, and there are a million things that you could do on your website, but I want to focus on two really quickly.
Landing pages. The first of these is your landing page.
It’s probably time for a healthy landing page tune up. If you have an email list, you’re using that email list to drive people to specific pages on your site from time to time. When’s the last time you reviewed those landing pages to make sure that they are still delivering on the promise that you make in your emails.
- Do they focus on a brief bulleted list of benefits to the user, to the customer?
- Do they have focus on clear images that show your product or service in action? And I really do suggest, you know, showing real people or images, you know, cartoons, things like that, that you own, that you control. Stock photos — which I’m going to be honest, I’m far too guilty of using on my own site — simply don’t work as well. Keep this mantra in mind. “Pretty pictures sell products.” So if you’re updating your landing pages, make sure you’ve got clear images and pretty pictures to sell products.
- Make sure that you’re focusing on a clear call to action for each landing page. What is it you want your customer to do when they get to that landing page? And is it clear what the benefits are to them for taking that? So those are your ideas for the landing page. Focus on a brief bulleted list of benefits, focus on clear images, and focus on a clear call to action.
Site speed. The other part of your website that you want to think about in 2023, and this is true every year, but what can you do to make your website faster? It doesn’t matter how fast it is today, doesn’t matter how fast it was last year. Next year, it will seem slower by comparison. So what can you do to increase the speed of your website? Work with your development team to get your website to respond ever faster, particularly on mobile, because that’s going to have a real effect on whether or not customers convert.
Community. The last part of the hub that I want you to think about is your community. You need to continue to nurture your community. Who are the people already talking about your products or services? Do you know what they’re saying? Do you know how you’re connecting with them? What are you doing when they’re talking about your products and services?
And what can you do to foster that relationship, to deepen that relationship, to bring them ever closer to you in a really healthy, organic way? Right? We don’t want to be creeps about this. We don’t want to just randomly reach out to people and say, “Hey, can you do this for us?” But rather, “Hey, thank you so much for what you’re saying about us and for helping keep our name in other people’s, you know, worlds. How can we help you going forward? What can we do to grow this community together?”
Think about whose job it is within your business to do that, to help nurture that community, to help grow that community.
Community remains one of the biggest growth areas over the next. And it requires attention from your team. Your Hub is not complete if you are not working to foster that community more organically and more naturally.
Remember, you are an equal participant in it; you are not the sole participant in it. It’s not top down. It’s very much a dialogue. It’s very much a conversation. And if people are already having that conversation, you want to participate in a really natural way.
I’m a big fan in terms of, of seeing how people do it. Look to healthy communities on Reddit, for instance. If you’re not doing this already, but see where people are doing this well on Reddit. Because Reddit is a site that really rejects inorganic conversations. And so if you look at companies who are participating on Reddit in a really healthy, organic way, you can learn a lot about how to do that well for your own business.
Hub and Spokes: The Spokes.
Now, I’ve talked a lot about the hub. Let’s talk about the spokes for just a minute. And I’m not going to go too deep on this because spokes are probably where we see the widest difference among big companies and small ones, and among B2B and B2C. The channels that you use for marketing and sale play widely divergent roles, depending on your company, your customers, your industry, the size of your business, your focus.
Some companies live and die on Instagram or LinkedIn or TikTok or Etsy. And some companies never use any of these, or they’ll use one and never touch any of the rest. There’s just tons of diversity here.
Diversify channel partners Despite that diversity, there is something everybody can do, and that is to diversify your channel partners, at least to some degree.
And again, look at the Twitter and Facebook messes. You know the line, you know the old line, “Don’t build your brand on rented land.” I’d update that to “Don’t build your brand on a single piece of rented land.” The greater you diversify the landlords with a say in your business, the lower risk to your business from any one of them.
Now, when I talk about diversifying these channels, it might sound like I’m suggesting losing focus or losing consistency. But here’s why that’s not the case. I would recommend that you pick just one or two additional marketing or sales channels that you can manage going forward with focus and consistency. If you can only do that with one, then only do it with one.
If you’re a larger company, maybe you can do two. Maybe you can do three. But it’s only those that you can do with focus and consistency that you want to test.
And that’s really the key. Test something new, see how it works for you, for your business. You can then double down on those that work. Sure, bigger companies can probably do more than one or two, but the point is all about which ones you can use with focus and consistency.
There’s lots of other things you can do with Spokes, but again, those are going to vary widely. So think more about “are we diversifying the rented land we’re using to build our brand so that we’re not dependent on a single landlord?” The better a job you do there, the better a position you’ll be in in 2023, and frankly, beyond.
Product and Messaging
One last thing I want to say about Core is think about your product and messaging. Is your product clearly defined? Even if it’s a service, is it clearly defined, especially if it’s a service, is it clearly defined? Do your customers understand what you offer and the value it provides them? I made a huge mistake when I first started consulting.
People used to ask me, “What can you do for me?” And I’d answer, “Oh, all kinds of things.” Well, the thing is, nobody can buy “all kinds of things,” right? That’s not a product, that’s not a service, that’s not an offering. That’s this amorphous mass. That’s not something that people can get their head around or their hands around.
They need a clear understanding of the value that your product or service offers. If you think of a customer in a supermarket, they can pick up a box off the shelf and they can read the ingredients. They can examine it from all sides. They can look inside. They can feel it. They can touch it. Sometimes they can even smell it. It’s tactile, it’s physical, it’s real. And particularly in digital, you want to make your products and services as tactile, as physical, as real as you can. You have to do the same with your offer. Put your benefits in “a box that customers can pick up,” at least metaphorically, so that they can have a better understanding of what it is that you do and the value that they receive if they choose you.
I did this. I eventually developed a handful of products, a digital marketing assessment that clearly laid out the benefits of companies’ digital marketing. A digital transformation framework that I could walk companies through to improve their digital transformation journey. A digital marketing agency vendor selection framework. A web development vendor selection framework.
People said, “Oh, I get that. I know what I’m buying and I understand the benefit that I receive.” They can pick up those boxes, feel them, touch them, see what’s. And remember those landing pages I referenced a minute ago? If you don’t put your benefits “in a box that customers can pick up,” whether metaphorically or real, your landing pages simply won’t work.
So these become really conjoined. They’re really joined at the hip in terms of the product, the messaging, and the landing page to drive business for, y’know, your business.
Your Content Calendar
One last thing I want to touch on here is your content calendar. What is it that you are actually saying to people all year long now, you don’t have to know about the whole year all at once.
Rocks, Pebbles, Sand
Conduct a “rocks, pebbles, sand” exercise for your content.
Rocks. Define your rocks. Rocks are these big important events or items probably defined for the next 120 to 180 days? Maybe longer if you know you have a big product release or a conference or a market event that happens further out, but these are things that you know are coming.
You know, I do a lot of work in the travel industry. We know that summer is coming, you know, on Memorial Day every year in the United States, right? The big bank holidays, if you’re around the. Those shouldn’t come as a surprise. We should put those on the content calendar now for things that might be, you know, six months away, because they shouldn’t come as a surprise to us.
And we should be thinking about what kinds of content are we going to be putting in place in support of those market events today so that we’re not scrambling in May to figure out what it is we’re trying to say to our customer.
Pebbles. Then add some pebbles to the plan. You know, these are smaller but still necessary items, and you really only have to define these, you know, 30 days out, 60 days out, depending on how long your content creation process is.
Sand. And then lastly, look for holes in the calendar and say those are opportunities for sand. Opportunistic items. They’re small messages, but they’re things that support your overall messaging for the year that at least you have a few weeks, you’re at least a few weeks in advance of where you are today, and then keep updating this content, a calendar on a rolling 60 to 90 day basis.
That way you’re not getting caught short or surprised as new things come up in all cases. Keep using your data to continually refine what’s working, learn from it, and improve, just build on it.
So again, within the Core part of “Core and Explore”, we’re talking about “Hub and Spoke.” We’re talking about products and messaging.
In Explore, that’s really where you’re keeping a small portion of your budget to test new ideas. I’d say no less than 5%, and probably no more than 20 or 25%. Again, the size of your budget is going to play a role here. If you’ve got a $5 million marketing budget, digital marketing budget, you could probably conduct meaningful tests with a much smaller percentage. Even 1% would give you $50,000 to play with. I’d recommend more, but the basic point holds.
So what do you test? Well, again, there’s a lot of diversity here, but you could test big, wild ideas. You could test the metaverse. You could test NFTs. You could test new social channels like Twitch or TikTok or Discord if you’ve never used them before. You also could try small ideas like our one additional sales or marketing channel that we talked about before.
What you want to keep in mind is focus and consistency. If it works, if it does well for your business, are you ready to add it to your Core practices? If you’re not ready to add it to your Core practices, how would you do that?
The point is, how do you keep exploring things that you haven’t done before to learn and to grow, while also maintaining focus and consistency? That’s really what we’re trying to get.
If you think about everything we’ve just talked about, it might sound like a lot, but notice we’ve stayed true to a few simple principles:
- Focus and Consistency
- “Core and Explore”
- “Hub and Spoke”
- Product and Messaging
Using digital to drive business in 2023 doesn’t need to be difficult. It requires focus, it requires consistency. But it’s really about learning and growing. It’s about staying open to new things while building on your prior successes. And, yes, some of those will be, “Ooh, shiny.” But instead of being distracted by them, this framework, this process, helps keep your attention, your time, your resources, and your budget focused on what works.
And when you maintain that focus, that’s what’s going to work to drive business using digital in 2023. And every year after that too.
Show Closing and Credits
Now, looking at the clock on the wall, we are out of time for this week. I want to remind you that you can find the show notes for today’s episode, as well as an archive of all past episodes by going to TimPeter.com/podcasts.
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