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Fundamental tactics of digital marketing
The tactics for digital marketing strategy are essentially advertisements, social platforms or direct mailing. The first two will allow us to market to an audience for a certain payment. They give temporary permissions to target certain audiences. In the case of ads, its like an interruption in the consumer’s flow of consuming media (like a TV ad), though, in the case of digital ads, the consumer is given a choice in whether to click on the ad. In the case of social media platforms, we have followers and subscribers and ad interruptions as well – as in YouTube. Nevertheless, both the methods are akin to renting; we stop paying rent and we lose it all. Direct mailing or marketing can be our own. In the long run, it is better to go this route and the subscribers, rather than rent it from a social media platform. For all of these we need permissions for marketing – either a willingness to click on the ad, or follow us on social media or more direct subscription to allow us into the inbox in the case of direct mailers.

Direct Mailing is a substantial and important piece of the DM strategy
Just a decade ago, no one bothered about digital marketing. Those days, we were not inundated with spam. Some smart marketers who were early adopters of digital, especially email marketing, took it up and flooded mailboxes with spam. Significant malware also became part of spam emails.
That was when email providers started filtering out spam using spam blacklists, keyword based filtering, then IP/domain filtering which was all encompassing since ISPs could be common. This led to genuine content providers being blocked. But not everything is spam, and some of us attempt to provide genuine content around our service. So, there is hope. The newer spam filtering solutions learn from manual segregation and then start to understand what consumers like. Consumers also have the power now to unsubscribe or worse block us. There are also authentication parameters introduced like SPF, DKIM, and DMARC that allow identification genuine mailers from spammers and malware. AI or machine learning classification studies the email content and images to decipher spam from good content. Among gmail’s 1.5 billion users – only 0.1% spam gets in. But then gmail also claims chances of classifying good email as spam is less than 0.005%.
There are beta trials going on with the ability to create instant alias emails for certain subscriptions. So, fundamentally, the way technology is moving, there is hope for genuine content marketing. But, if we need to market directly, we need to earn the customer’s permission; earn their attention. This “Permission” is the privilege of delivering relevant messages to people who want them, or do not mind reading them.

Permission marketing
How do we do this? It’s just like a newspaper. We buy a newspaper everyday, or subscribe to a magazine thereby permitting the newspaper to show us ads. So, marketers rent the newspaper’s subscribers to show their ads. Without this permission, it would have been impossible. Similarly, in the online world, we need to earn permissions.

Our product should be of value, if not, improve!
How to get this permission? Well, it is easier said than done. it needs to be done day by day, drop by drop, with regular engagement. Spreading the word about your product is not easy. Surely it cannot be done one-by-one to each of your customers. What’s the point in marketing at scale? We might as well have sent out a salesman! Here’s were we need to bite the dust. VCs talk of the “Fail Fast” strategy for start ups. They don’t want to throw good money behind startups that could eventually fail. So, the faster they realize that their product is not worth anyone’s time, the better. Marketing therefore gives us a chance to take a hard look at our offering and sit down and redesign or recreate something that will really deliver value. It has to be a product worth talking about. Otherwise, there is really no point being in the market. Once we have exceptional value to offer our customers, then we should start to consider where to get our customers (they are still subscribers to our digital marketing campaign now) from, and how to get their permission.

Earn trust
How do we get our subscribers to listen to our online marketing pitch? The online world is afflicted by a serious scarcity of attention. It is awfully hard to get noticed. Our campaigns hardly reach anyone. Most are programmed to land in Promotional tabs, or even worse “the spam folder”. This gets decided automatically and sometimes arbitrarily. Even if we do manage to sneak past and get noticed, subscribers will unsubscribe if they see that we are not who we really claim to be. Worse, they can block us, spoiling our chances of reaching other consumers. Hence there is a need to earn trust and create value for the subscriber even before our product creates value – once the subscriber becomes a customer – which is much later!

Most marketers still take a laundry list of subscribers from a database and hire digital marketing agencies that do creatives which are basically pictures with a tag line or may be some kind of Happy festival messages. The question is – as a customer, would you see value in these? Or, would you rather see value in messages from which you learn something? That is enriching you? It’s most likely the latter. Once subscribers see value in our messaging, they will eventually trust us and give us “Permission” to enter their inbox – just like they allowed the newspaper into their home. They are not a list of leads in a database anymore. They have subscribed to us! That is when trust is gained. It is only then that we stand a fair chance of being able to reach out and be known for our product offering.

Focus on the targets only
In this process, there would be many subscribers who would drop out and unsubscribe. That is but fair. Never market to a laundry list of 20,000 customers who would ignore us. But if we market to a trusted subscriber base of say – just even 2000 or any smallest viable audience, we stand a greater chance of being successful. This is the first step in Digital Marketing; especially B2B.

Commitment, research and creativity
So, it’s really not about publicity and unnecessary talking to reach as many people. It is rather about digging in our heels, and doing the work to write those genuine stories, creating high quality content, building the capabilities required, and then earning trust of even a small number of potential targets. My advice to clients would be to think through this process very carefully, spend time on it, be committed to a sustainable marketing campaign and align every bit of content with your strategy. Make it deep, creative and research based rather than “Happy festival” messages. This would mean not only working on strategy, aligning marketing to it by understanding what our customers need, but also continuously changing our offering to add value and make a change to our customers. If we can make this investment, eventually business will come, and marketing will be successful. If not, it is just a marketing campaign.

Note: The words Permission marketing were coined by Seth Godin, who is a leading marketing thought leader. I’m sure he advises many of the big and famous companies. One can learn a lot reading his articles and blogs. Those of you in our part of the geography, who seek consulting services around strategy, marketing, processes, and some help in implementation, can reach out to me.

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Catalyst India (Bangalore/India) offers Management consulting services to grow & build your capabilities, Strategy, Business transformation, Market entry and Marketing support services. To know more about how we can help strengthen management capabilities in your firm and support your business to grow and scale, please visit or mail us at

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