James Arnold, Chief Digital Officer, Rooster Strategic Solutions

Excerpted from a speech to NAMA, July 20, 2021 — Worksheet | Presentation

Digital and social tactics are common ingredients in every ag marketer’s media mix, often the largest single line items. But the complexity and every-changing nature of the media make them difficult to fully comprehend, much less launch and execute. Here are a few tips from a long professional life in the digital and social trenches.

Break down self-imposed barriers. One of the exercises I like to do with new clients is to list the top ten roadblocks preventing them from executing media more effectively. Typically, seven of the 10 are self-imposed. Launching new digital and social initiatives create a perfect environment to address any recent or long-lingering internal barriers. Friction between the sales and marketing teams? Focus on the quality leads a successful digital program can deliver. Your bosses think social media is a waste of time? They like money, right? Before you show them any creative, show them any number of studies that equate a better reputation with higher profitability. If there are issues prevalent in your organization that have hindered your success in the past, this is the time to sweep them out from under the rug and fix them or find workarounds to improve your odds for a successful campaign.

Master your owned media. The digital landscape is typically broken up into three areas: Owned, earned, and paid. You need to be good in all three areas, and in that order. Typically, marketers jump to paid media first, since it has the highest and most immediate payback. But if your infrastructure isn’t up to speed – especially your company website – you can cause more harm than good by focusing solely on paid media. And if you’re owned media is working well, you might not have to spend as much on paid.

Here are a few tips to improve your website:

  • Test, test, and test again. There are multiple tools, including several free services, that let you measure download speed. You can discover if your site needs to be optimized or verify that it’s working as it should.
  • Make sure the journey is smooth. Does every page drive to the “next thing?” Or are there hard stops confronting your customers? There should always be a journey in place, with a clear destination, such as build a product, find a dealer, watch a video, or purchase a product. If the journey ends at “here’s my blog post,” as many do, it’s time to re-route the journey.
  • Set time to review your performance metrics. This should be a recurring meeting with the right parties held at least quarterly. Make sure to include competitive comparisons to see what related companies are doing.

Is your e-mail working hard enough? For many companies the answer is no – if they even bothered to check. It all starts with having a good list, ideally one composed of first-party names. If you don’t have one, find a partner who can help you reach the customers and prospects you need. And make sure that you have something truly relevant, interesting, or profitable to say to your readers. Otherwise, don’t send the e-mail. Too many companies fall into a “cadence trap,” and assume that it’s more important to send e-mails weekly or bi-weekly than waiting until they have something to say.

Some basic tips around e-mail:

  • Don’t get cute with the subject line. It’s the most important component of your e-mail because it determines whether the customer bothers to read it. Use it to explain clearly what the reader will gain by reading your message.
  • Don’t confuse your e-mail with an ad. It’s not an ad, it’s a letter. This is no place for reverse type, calligraphy, 7-point fonts, or funky gradient schemes.
  • Optimize and analyze often. One of the best things about e-mail efforts is the quick feedback, good or bad. Take time to review open rates, click-through rates etc. I like to pull reports after 48 hours and again after two weeks to capture any stragglers.

Coordinate your creative content. Start by examining your SEO terms, which should be very common and used often by your customers. Are you using these terms regularly on your website, in ads, on your social channels, etc.? Repetitive use across all media will boost engagement with your website. Next, make sure you’re repurposing as much as possible. Don’t just write a blog post and call it done; can the same material be used as a podcast? Infographic? How-to videos on YouTube? Multiply the use and you can multiply the impact.

Ensure that social media is aligned with your marketing plan. It’s not uncommon for marketing units to treat social – especially organic posts – as a separate animal. But if your social strategy is separate from your marketing calendar, you’re missing the boat. Because of the immediate nature of social and the instantaneous feedback it provides, social can serve as a canary in a coal mine, telling you instantly what your customers are discussing and why. You don’t have to get too deep into the weeds with metrics to find valuable insights; simply set 2 or 3 key objectives and measure regularly to take the pulse of your industry, customers, and prospects.

Chances are that most of you are already doing most of these. But there’s always room for reflection, if not improvement in the constantly changing world of digital and social execution. If there’s anything here that doesn’t make sense or something you’d like to pursue further, I’d love to have a conversation.

*Or medium companies. Or any marketing unit that doesn’t have enough people or money to do what they need to do … so basically, everybody!

I also covered the various aspects of paid media in my microcast The Rooster Cast.