Marketing in the Digital Era

I have just finished reading a new book I’d like to recommend to those who want to increase their chances of success in today’s marketing world: Marketing in the Round: How to Develop an Integrated Marketing Campaign in the Digital Era by Gini Dietrich and Geoff Livingston.

The book starts with the premise that companies must break down the silos that separate the key marketing disciplines—which the authors identify as advertising, public relations, corporate communication, Web/digital, search engine optimization, content, direct mail, social media, and search engine marketing. Only when these disciplines work together smoothly without the hindrance of silos, the authors say, can a company achieve its marketing and business goals and work toward achieving its vision.

This premise makes sense to me.

The authors recognize that breaking down the silos is difficult, and they offer some tips for doing it. From my experience, however, demolishing silos is much harder than Dietrich and Livingston seem to acknowledge in their book.

I’ve worked in companies where the marketing and communications silos were so high and thick they were like fortresses. Little coordination of activities or sharing of responsibilities occurred, but open warfare occasionally flared. Years later, I hear that the silos still remain; although, they’re weakening.

I doubt my experience is unique.

But while I may see the breaking down of these silos as a more difficult task than the authors see it, I strongly agree with them that it’s necessary for accomplishing more of the company’s goals, with greater efficiency and better results. That’s why I suggest the reader start this book by accepting at face value the authors’ belief that the silos somehow must come down—even if the CEO needs to proclaim an edict to make it happen.

Early in the book, Dietrich and Livingston explain “marketing in the round” as a hub-and-spoke concept in which the marketing function sits in the center of a round wheel and each of the nine disciplines radiate like a spoke out
the center. The idea, of course, is that all of these disciplines are tied together, and each must play its specific role—but  each must do so only in an integrated, closely coordinated effort with the others.

To help the reader understand what’s needed to set up his/her own marketing round and to get the disciplines synced and working together, the authors have divided the book into three sections focusing on specific aspects of the marketing round and its success. Each section comprises a number of chapters, and every chapter ends with one or more exercises to further assist the reader. The sections are:

  • Understanding the Marketing Round and Develop Your Strategy,
  • Four Marketing Round Approaches, and
  • Measurement, Refinement, and Improvement.

I found the second section to be the most informative and helpful, and to be the heart of the book.

At the beginning of this section, the authors state, “Marketing strategy can be compared to military strategy.” Then they refer throughout the section to the 17th century Japanese samurai Miyamoto Musashi’s The Book of Five Rings, showing how using his approach to war can help the marketing round communicate the company’s message and achieve victory in the marketplace.

Specifically, they present Musashi’s  “five primary approaches to strategic engagement” as four approaches that can be applied to marketing: direct (renamed from “middle”), top down (from “above”), groundswell (from “bottom up”) and flanking (a combination of Musashi’s “left” and “right”). Whether used independently or sequenced, the authors state, these directional “approaches form a baseline to approaching marketing strategies.”

In 65 pages or so, they go into detail about all four marketing round approaches. They provide details for determining when to implement each one and lay out its particular strengths and weaknesses.

In the authors’ opinion, the direct approach—interacting directly with primary stakeholders—is the best tactic. “Done well,” they say,” it’s one-to-one marketing at its best.”

The top-down approach—using media to inform the marketplace about new products is “deployed to reach stakeholders that direct marketing cannot [reach], or is launched to complement a direct marketing effort,” the authors say. They add that companies will want to use this approach as their primary tactic only if they dominate their markets or are unable to “engage directly with a large community.”

Groundswell is the bottom-up approach through which the marketing round encourages “word-of-mouth by seeding conversations.”  Through these conversations, the marketing round encourages influencers—among them, “customers, the media, bloggers, newsgroups, and ranking agencies—to share their unbiased opinions” about the company’s products and services.

The flanking approach is the fallback tactic, called upon when various obstacles prevent the use of a direct, top-down, or groundswell approach. Its primary methods are advertising, content marketing, and search engine optimization.

Dietrich and Livingston give an entire chapter to each approach, looking at its primary marketing methods and discussing the benefits and risks of each method.

For example, the direct approach has the following marketing methods: direct mail, email, social media, mobile, and events. Among social media’s benefits are that it bolsters brand loyalty through conversations and by fostering word-of-mouth marketing. Its risks, on the other hand, include (1) time investments—both manpower and long-term cultivation—that do not lend themselves to fast results, and (2) the concern that customers, through their conversations, might be distributing negative information about your brand that could have adverse affects on the company.

The marketing round will want to consider each of these directional approaches, determining whether to use one, two, three, or all of them. While keeping in mind that these tactics work best when integrated into a holistic campaign, the marketing round should choose to implement those that best meet the company’s needs and the marketing program’s degree of sophistication.

Marketing in the Round is an intense book, providing enough information to overwhelm those who are not already marketing experts and well into developing their own integrated marketing campaigns. It is, I assume, aimed at large companies that have many experienced people working in the nine disciplines that make up the marketing round, people who together can build a successful marketing round team and implement all of the great ideas laid out by the authors.

But for those who work in small- or medium-sized companies, the book also offers an array of ideas to be considered, scrutinized, and used as the jumping off point for learning how they, too, can successfully conduct marketing in the digital era.

4 responses

  1. David,

    Thanks for this recommendation. I’m about to finish “Social Marketing to the Business Customer: Listen to Your B2B Market, Generate Major Account Leads, and Build Client Relationships.” This book is a terrific summary with great examples of how social media works best for B2B marketing and public relations applications.”

    Tom C.

  2. It’s so cool to read this because your take on the book is pretty unique. Most hit it from the silos perspective, others approach it from measurement, and others discuss the fundamentals of marketing (which you do touch on). I’m really glad the four approaches made such a big impact on you.

    Also, I like that you think the book is thick with ideas. Some feel the opposite so it is great to get this perspective.

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