What’s the best approach to digital marketing and how do I make more meaning and less noise? Be human (rather than a squirrel).

Feeling like a squirrel? It happens to all of us. 

Feeling like a squirrel? It happens to all of us. 

As a small business owner and communications professional, this question looms. The answer can be equally anxiety provoking with information, advice and sales reps coming at us from every direction: social media, the importance of video and images (got a designer and videographer handy?), the best digital marketing platforms, automation tools, inbound marketing, outbound marketing, organic reach, demand generation, segmenting, qualifying prospects, lead generation, nurturing campaigns, funnels, PPC (pay-per-click) campaigns, and more. Like an endless loop, digital marketing itself is trying to sell us on their products and integrations, hooking us with our worries and insecurities.

As a person, this question makes me want to throw up. How do I protect my information? How do I get this pop-up ad to stop playing while I’m working or trying to read a recipe? I wish this underwear ad was not “retargeting” me while I’m trying to look professional in a client meeting. Who is looking at my information and how are they using it? Is my Facebook feed showing that I like a business that I’ve never done business with? I’m pretty sure that my friend Amy isn’t endorsing Walmart today. How do I protect my privacy? How do I stop wasting time on social media? And the list goes on.

As a storyteller, a content creator and strategist, and a lover of authentic branding who collaborates with other businesses and professionals who want to make the world better, answering the question of how to stand out takes on a whole new urgency. 

In the face of that urgency and the noise, it’s best to take a step back and ask why do I want to stand out? How can I make a difference without making more noise? How can I make and sustain connections that will be transformative for me, the causes, and the people I work with and care about?

Fortunately, there are a number of human-friendly approaches that are keeping us values-driven people sane and in the game, and that are satisfying at both a personal and world-changing level. 

  1. Understanding the hearts and minds of the people we are trying to reach.
  2. Making a plan (this is not easy). Only 51 percent of companies operate with a long-term plan
  3. Building measurement into the plan (this is not easy either).
  4. Remembering that progress is incremental and takes time.
  5. If you’re feeling like a squirrel, you may be off the path and it’s probably time to revisit numbers 1, 2 and 3. 
  6. Not being creepy or annoying. 
  7. Learning more about the power of storytelling.
  8. Learning from the mistakes of others.
  9. Learning from the successes of others.
  10. Trial and error. Success is often the result of the failures.
  11. Not giving up.
  12. Allowing time for creativity.
  13. Building a culture that supports collaboration
  14. Being cautious of ready-made content and automation and using it judiciously and in a hands-on-way so it extends our reach and doesn’t undermine it.

While continuously getting a handle on all the digital marketing jargon, platforms, tools, and techniques, we have to keep reminding ourselves that ultimately everything comes back to offering something of value and building and nurturing the right relationships in a truly authentic and sustained way: #collaboration, #sharing, #givingback, #wordofmouth, and #referrals will always win over #advertising. Who are you? Who am I? Should we work together? How do we best work together to get to a place we both want to go?

What’s the biggest asset for those of us who truly want to connect and make positive change? We care, we’re human, we’re operating in our niche, and on a human scale. Should we keep a studious eye on the big players, the experts, the mega budgets, the bots and AI posing as humans? Absolutely, both personally and professionally! But the fact that we ARE human and keeping it real in our communities is a superpower of sorts. 

So, let’s back away from the concepts of B2B, B2C, C2B and C2C. Honestly? I hate being called a consumer as much as I hate the term “lifestyle.” We are humans and we’re living lives. So how about we embrace H2H. Human to human is where it’s at. The Year of the Human is already trending. Fist bump! Let’s keep it up and pass it on. 

Graphics Credit: Internet Archive Book Images