The client is probably wrong – The future of digital marketing

The client is probably wrong – The future of digital marketing


It was a Tuesday afternoon in early August, and a past client had asked me to catch up to introduce me to her new team and to go over their master plans. This marketing manager – let’s call her Jen – had just been promoted to GM and walked into our Ikea-filled boardroom with her fresh new direct reports, Dave, the new social media manager, and Sandra, the digital manager followed closely.

We had worked with Jen on a campaign a year ago and ended on great terms. I was excited to meet the new team and learn about their planning. Feeling optimistic, Jen starts out with: “we’re going through a rebrand, and the new team are here to work on building out our new social media strategy”. Dave pipes in “we’re looking at what platforms we’re going to use, and I’ve hit a bit of a hurdle. Should we be using Hootsuite or Buffer for our Twitter scheduling?”

This is where my heart skips a beat, and I know that I’m about to rant. I can feel it bubbling up inside me. I pause and ask a few more questions…

They continue. “We’ve done a lot of competitor analysis, and it seems like as long as we’re active on the key platforms, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat, then we’ll be moving in the right direction.”

I pause again. Deep breaths.


It’s my job to help move this discussion in the right direction. And what happens next makes some people nervous but I’ve had this discussion too many times, so I’ve summarised my take on it here.

I don’t blame anyone for working to the above process because our industry has set the formula that Dave was following – the standard social media strategy. We’ve been prepped to have a ten-page plan before we even log in. A plan that carefully outlines targets, content examples, platforms, and a risk escalation triage map. But ultimately it doesn’t matter what you put on paper as your strategy.

We don’t need to work to 3 or 6-month campaign cycles anymore. And frankly, social media marketing moves at a pace that doesn’t allow for time spent drafting up documents and strategies for every iteration. If you’re running a paid campaign, you should be getting a series of ads live, looking at the impact of each individual piece of creative, pausing the poorest performers, and get new ads live using the key attributes of those that are working. You should be adjusting based on data you pull every 24-28 hours. Check it after two weeks, or three months if you’re running a big traditional campaign, and you’ll most likely find you’ve been bleeding money from all the wrong places. You need to develop a framework that lends itself to quick testing with a view there will be poor performers, which is necessary for your efforts to improve – Don’t settle for good when you can be achieving best.

When we work with this approach, we’re removing the non-performers and bringing the average cost to acquire a customer down. If we had let the campaign run, as suggested in many social media “strategies”, we would be spending the budget on the non-performers and sending our average cost-per-interaction up. This formula ensures that messaging evolves to be more relevant and pointed over time, ensuring your paid campaigns are virtually guaranteed a result or at the very least, guaranteed to improve.

At JMD, we call this the process the “Iterative Learning Cycle”. It takes the lean startup test-measure-learn loop but is explicitly applied to marketing. It’s the framework we use to iterate and get results. Iterate is a small word, but it encompasses a lot of tasks: Getting messages live, interpreting the results, removing messaging that isn’t performing, creating more of what is, and always adjusting.

If you’re interested in this methodology, I talk more about it with the guys from SmartBooks here: 


This style of execution requires a new skill set and a new way of thinking for those conditioned by managing traditional campaigns.  It’s not rocket science; it just takes a smart team consisting of a copywriter, designer, photographer, technical ads analyst, and a production manager to keep track of the iterations.

And maybe a few (read: a lot) of nights spent checking your results at 1 am. It’s not 1995, stop drafting up boring documents full of excessively complex words, and start marketing for today.


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