Digital marketing is the next wave that requires brand builders to either SWIM or sink.

Digital marketing is no longer the after-thought in the marketing plan.  It should the center iofyour discussions about the most effective ways to market your organization’s products and services.  While traditional, off-line communications still has its place in terms of promoting a brand message and satisfying goals related to awareness and preference, digital marketing is the “go to” for achieving behavioral metrics and creating customer transactions.

Recently, at a healthcare strategy conference, savvy marketing guy Chris Bevolo of Interval, presented on the topic of digital marketing.  Chris stressed that digital marketing strategies must be considered first, and in this order: search, web, and mobile.  Marketers need to think through how consumers will search their brand, where it will take them, and how they are searching.  A highlight of his session was the discussion that mobile is not just for those on the go anymore. The cell phone and pad have replaced the remote control and the “couch potato” is a person on the go when it comes to mobile marketing.

In thinking about Chris’ presentation, and my own need for acronyms to keep things simple and memorable, I added another element to the formula above and put a tidy bow around it called “SWIM,” and if you don’t approach your digital strategy with this in mind, you might just sink.

SWIM stands for Search, Web, Interact, and Mobile, and here’s why:

Search:  How people find your brand, and how your brand finds interested consumers.

As you plan your digital strategy, discussions have to start with Search. Defining key words, optimizing them, determining social media channels, evaluating the many methodologies of behavioral, contextual, and other search tactics are all part of the key decisions you need to make to keep your brand as a consideration in the world of search.

Start this discussion by asking questions such as, “if people look for us, how will we show up on the main search engines?

Or, “if people search this subject, where will our brand come up?”

Web:  Where people find your brand online.

In an online world, your brand, and the brand experience, live on your website.  After people find you, where will it lead and what will it look like? Key discussion points around ease of use, navigation, responsiveness, and “look and feel” are all elements of this strategy.

The conversation has to include brand consistency; is the content on message with the overarching brand strategy and promise.  And, does the online experience deliver on it?

Interact:  What visitors want when they visit your site.

Engagement is more than a new buzz phrase, it’s the “wow” experience people want to have with your brand online. Strategic decisions have to include how you will create meaningful and immersive interactions with visitors to your site.  Before your bounce rates soar, consider interactive tactics.  These include downloadable information, videos, and other tools that will keep your online visitors stick around.

Your customers live in a visual, instant gratification world.  Does your website deliver?

Mobile: When (and where) people find you.

Regardless of whether they are literally on the move, your customers are finding you via their mobile device.  And most likely, it’s while they are in the comforts of their own home, and on the couch.

A website or App that is responsive and optimized to mobile technology is no longer a “nice to have,” it’s a “have to have.”

Hospital branding discussions are not complete without digital marketing strategies and desired actions.  Remember, digital does not complete the discussion – it starts the conversation.

If you “SWIM” as you navigate your digital marketing strategies, it will help your brand stay afloat by forcing you to determine how your brand will surface and the type of immersive experience your consumers will have.  And if you feel like you’re over your head, breathe, yell “SOS” (Swim or Sink), and float until you’re ready to ride the digital wave again in the most appropriate manner.

Contact Springboard Brand & Creative Strategy for more information on digital marketing.

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