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  • Writer's pictureHugo Pinto

3 key marketing strategies for the digital age: Thought Leadership, Audience Building and Performanc

The deep transformations affecting the business models of the digital age are having a huge impact on respective marketing functions. It’s transforming from a “Vanity” to a performance stance – and C-level stakeholders now demand business relevance to back up a set of marketing activities.

It’s not only the market that changes, C-level positions also change, with the CMO spending more in technology than the CTO and the CIO becoming the CDO – Chief Digital Officer.

In recent times most of the marketing programs I’ve been overseeing or following have begun to converge, as today’s businesses either aim to differentiate themselves, become more convenient and user-friendly or more efficient in generating revenues and optimizing targeting.

Thought leadership, Audience development and performance marketing strategies have now become a must to support specialized consultants, e-commerce ventures as well as advertising systems and media empires, and it usually comes down to one of these (or more than one simultaneously).

In an exercise to understand how to position the marketing function I’ve tried to create parameters for each of the disciplines, in a way that both us professionals and other parts of the business understand potential vs. constraints of each possible route in making your business prosper.

1. Thought Leadership Strategy

Key role: Head of Marketing Communications (Marcomms)

Key asset: Content

Most common industries: technology, consultancy

Teamwork level: 5/5

Investment Intensive: 3/5

Pros: Clear value proposition, high credibility and brand value

Cons: Internal coordination intensive, long implementation timings


Building thought leadership with the right stakeholders is most useful for businesses that are trying to sell highly technological products/services – some of them before they‘ve been proven (!!). Content marketing is the key for success. A good product is not enough; you need clear messages and value propositions, to engage and convert the market into a trusting follower more than a client, and generate credibility.

Key concepts:

– Pick 2 or 3 key use cases that prospects aspire to achieve and understand what are the criteria of the decision maker to enable them

– Usually high value contracts or project fees are involved and the pool of prospects is very targeted

– PR plays an important part with Social Media being used as a reputation barometer and a broadcasting channel

– Engage with the right level/profile of users/clients/influencers in industry events (they are the hunting ground)

– C-level must be active in social media to help broadcast the powerful messages

– You must be different to be remembered (and valued by your clients)

– You must manage different audiences at the same time and ensure you are a part of the networks they are in (associations, regulators, think tanks)

– The right partners give you credibility as well as the capability to exchange exposure for resources, or vice-versa

Key Metrics: Business Leads, Sentiment, Influencer Reach

2. Audience Development Strategy

Key role: Head of Digital/Partnerships

Key asset: website/portal

Most common industries: fashion, e-commerce and entertainment

Teamwork level: 4/5

Investment Intensive: 2/5

Pros: Low investment required, User generated content keeps it running

Cons: Constant effort to stay relevant, be efficient in all touch points


Your key goal is to generate traffic in your website or platform. Usually these businesses have a low ARPU and need to constantly generate growing volumes to support revenue sustainability, and leveraging partnerships, affiliates and revenue share models is critical.

Key concepts:

– SEO is on the top of the priority list, and improving the website’s performance according to the business’ core activity are key – if you’re a video platform – be the one that has the most user-friendly interface, takes less time to load than Youtube and show up in the first page of search results. J

– Make your business visible on all relevant platforms where your audiences are going to be – have an activation roadmap for each channel

– CRM programmes are good to understand beyond acquisition and increase ARPU

– Follow the trends of the users’ context – memes, time of year, contiguous environments: if you target entertainment, you have to keep an eye on music and comedy

– Optimizing subscriptions and e-mail are musts in any point of contact with the users

– If you’re selling something, make sure you have an Amazon, eBay, Pinterest or Etsy store/profile – this is your storefront, and the best customers probably search across all of them be active and always respond

– If you’re in the content business make sure you have editorial agreements, and an easy to use UGC interface

– User reviews tools and websites are your best marketing assets – the digital shopper trusts user reviews, not advertising

– Social Media is both a customer support tool and a promotional channel – there must be consistent guidelines and practices

– Partnerships are the bread and butter – the more qualified the better, and in one go you can double or triple traffic

– Revenue-share models are usually the bargaining chip for these agreements – just make sure you’re not paying more for a customer/user than the revenue that he/she generates…

Key Metrics: Video/page impressions, Subscribers, followers, registered users, UGC

3. Performance Strategy

Key role: Head of Performance Marketing

Key asset: Product

Most common industries: gamming, travel, finance

Teamwork level: 1/5

Investment Intensive: 5/5

Pros: Predictability, measurement, can be tested exteriorly first

Cons: Heavy investment (platform and every campaigns), Expensive HR


Conversion is the word. Get as many downloads, as many bookings or the highest value segment of customer to spend money with your business. After that it’s optimize to monetise.

Key concepts:

– Attribution modeling and e-CRM systems have become the standard for the digital age. With so many channels and different formulas to test, automated performance management, clustering and planning is pervasively taking over the digital transactions enabled world.

– Everything is data-driven because you can measure everything so you are able to identify most valuable users/clients and focus on keeping them spending as long as you can

– Mobile is becoming the most relevant channel and it’s proving a more efficient and reliable one, because of the added data you can get from it: location being the most important data point.

– This model allows the testing of what channels, creatives, devices and contexts works for each user segment for each value proposition, and how to engage or combine them with other sets of data (i.e. CRM, weather, financial)

– Social media channels are social business platforms as they are now enabling transactions, campaign conversion and feedback, all in one place.

– Acquisition is a trial and error, A/B testing environment – you can start off small to define substantial investments that guarantee results – it becomes a financial exercise, in which you plan how much you’ll spend and have a very accurate estimate of how much revenues that will generate.

Key Metrics: ROI, LTV, CR

Success Stories:

Thought Leadership: IBM has creating a leading performance in the digital space, through projects like Watson (AI as a service) or Wimbledon bringing Cloud, Social and Mobile and juicing it up with data services in the background.

Audience Development: Pinterest has become the place to be if you want to grow your relevance with digitally engaged and dollar-spending females around the world – it’s reached the 70 Million and keeps growing on a day-by-day basis.

Performance: The apps markets and mobile gamming industries have flourished in the last few years because of this sudden technological boom – looks like Big data helped someone, right? Facebook has grown its apps marketplace from 0 to $4.4Bn/quarter in two years.

Just like the rest of the business world these get adjusted or change very frequently, so I’d love to get your help in completing this ongoing guide to an efficient marketing strategy. Looking forward to hearing about your experience, and including your suggestions!

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