The Four Pillars Strategy: Breaking Up The Concrete Of Traditional Marketing.

Straight off the bat, I’m going to quote Chrissie Hynde: “That old train keeps blowin..Through the centre of this town.. Restores my faith..When the chips are down. It don’t take no passengers..Since the streets got re-arranged..But that whistle still blows..Because one thing never changed.”

And in marketing, that one thing is the product. So much else has changed – advertising, PR, measurement etc – but the product is the product and we (marketers) are paid to help sales sell it, ideally for a profit. That’s it.

Back in the day (about 15 years ago when I moved from Journalism to PR) it was all about the product and never about the customer.

My first client used to quote the then movie of the moment Fight Club, bastardising the screenwriter Jim Uhls’ words: “The first rule of marketing is: You do not ask the customer. The second rule of marketing is: You do not ask the customer.”

If Fight Club was a coming of age film, then since then marketing has come of age. In essence the ‘four pillar’ strategy is behavioural marketing in the digital world.

It’s about improved customer experience, innovative content marketing, data and analytics, and high-quality execution across channels.

The four pillars are Experience, Content, Data and Analytics and Omni-Channel and together they can be used to improve our own digital marketing and help our customers sell more product to more customers for more money.

If your (customers) strategy is to ‘go big’ in digital, then the four pillars strategy is an option you may want to consider, for the simple reason that, executed correctly, it’s going to put your product in customer-central.

The first pillar is customer experience, which involves mapping and managing customer journeys and making sure that all interactions with the product are as smooth as possible.

Customer experience is one of the hottest topics in marketing now – actually it’s been a hot topic for years; it’s just that we didn’t really get it until the customer started complaining about so-called interruptive marketing.

Thankfully, these days, we focus more on customer goals as opposed to business goals, although if I had a grand for every business with a marketing plan than is NOT central to a strategy to improve customer experience, then I would not be writing this article now.

In real terms focusing more on customers goals is, for example, creating an ad/video/blog that doesn’t even mention the product – it just shows the effects of what a good customer experience strategy accomplishes for the customer i.e. we hit their pain point bang on the money.

Great customer experience can be used to show potential customers how much we are considering their needs, as well as telling them what you are improving as actually doing it.

The lesson here is that we need to break out of habit of basing our content on what the company wants to say and, instead, work it into what our customers are interested in, which leads nicely into the second pillar – content.

So many businesses are making that big push into content marketing, hiring ex-journalists to head the editorial side and employing editorial staff to produce content – this is about producing content that is truly interesting to its target customer base.

There is a paradigm shift taking place in this crucial area of marketing. I am experiencing this first hand with more and more enquiries from businesses looking for “writers” as opposed to (sales) copywriters or technical writers.

Of course a good copywriter is capable of writing sales words that gain trust, motivate action and influence behaviour. During my few years as a copywriter, my mentor (an ex Collett Dickenson Pearce & Partners (CDP) ad man) drummed the AIDA (attention, interest, desire, action) mantra into my head.

But in the digital age, words must do more. They must own spaces
in the minds and hearts of the target audience and create emotional connections. And when words are anchored to a winning strategy, words become a powerful mechanism for delivering frictionless experiences.

I used to have these words on my business card – “right message, right place, right time.” It’s more relevant in todays digital landscape where products can become a blur to target audiences if they don’t receive the right messages (strategy), at the right place (tactics) and at the right time (planning).

The third pillar, data and analytics, is difficult to examine from the outside. How can we tell whether a company is really using data well?

Recently a former client sent me their annual report and I was pleased to see the business breaking out percentages of transactions and products by channels i.e. awareness measurements of marketing campaigns.

These sorts of stats are underrated in digital marketing. We typically like to talk in things we can easily measure – impressions, clicks, CTRs, and conversions – but fail to search for the data and analytics which show people outside of marketing (e.g. the boardroom) whether we are really making an impact on our customers.

To recap, products per se have not changed, but the way people find out about them and access them have changed i.e. how we consume and use media.

And this brings us to the fourth pillar, omni-channel and arguably the greatest challenge facing digital marketing; how to be omni-present in our customers’ digital lives without being annoying.

Omni-channel is simply another way of saying “be wherever they (customers) are,” and it’s about actively reaching out to customers through ‘other’ channels e.g. sporting events, music festivals, trade shows, sponsorship etc.

And it’s important to note that if one promotes these activities across social channels, best practice is not to mentions the product until prompted by a question. In this way, one is able to be omni-present without p*ssing people off.

The holy grail is to get our products into the hands of our potential customers and let them decide through social engagements whether we are saying something that they care about.

Ultimately, these four pillars are about acknowledging that our customers’ behaviours have changed and marketing need to change as well.


About the author: Phil Shirley

“Phil Shirley is a marketing entrepreneur who helps ambitious growing businesses make their marketing pay. He has helped over 500 businesses make more than £500 million. Phil is also an experienced copywriter, ex-journaist and author of several successful books.”

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1 reply
  1. Jeff
    Jeff says:

    Brands own spaces in the minds and hearts of the target audience. Words create the emotional connections that build those spaces enabling the brand experience to gain traction. The user experience is build over time enriching the brand and creating advocates [I don’t prefer evangelists].

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