By: Waad Tammaa, Urban Specialist, World Bank
More than ever connecting people with the physical world occurs in the digital space. From virtual reality to “influencers,” what are the necessary ingredients and pioneering approaches to developing a curated brand and digital platform that generates value – drives sales, leasing velocity, business leads, and community engagement – and what’s just static? How should your digital strategy leverage and intersect with your physical image?
On November 27, ULI Washington’s Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) program probed these questions with a provocative panel discussion, “Leveraging Your Digital Platform to Drive Value,” at the ULI Headquarters. Featured panel experts included: Tom Frank, Executive Director, Branding and Marketing at Streetsense;; Matt Wexler, Principal and Managing Partner of Foxhall Partners, a design-driven, relationship-oriented Washington, D.C.-based lifestyle development firm; and Marta Staudinger, a DC-based fine artist/creative entrepreneur/gallery owner who founded the Latela Art & Curatorial Consultation Firm in 2014 and moderator, Katie Wiacek, Managing Director for Hines.
Digital marketing helps to build community support around a project and outline the key things that make the project unique. Therefore, knowing your audience is key to generate relevant content. For Tom, digital marketing is about “using platforms to push great stories to drive engagement and action,” with the aim to develop a unique identity and figure out how to entertain people. For Matt,” it all begins with a big idea.”
But how do we track performance? Digital marketing personalizes the experience, taking big data and makes it small again. “It is like going back in time where the shopkeeper knows you and your preferences,” Tom said. What’s unique about digital marketing is that the return on investment is higher while spending is lower with high accountability, either through dashboards or word of mouth from service buyers.
The panel also discussed the role of influencers. They empathized authenticity and the importance of finding the right voice for you through micro influencers who have the followers that are unique for what you offer. They are true to who they are and have an authentic voice. They are called to find people who believe in you and let them tell their stories and real experiences with your property through their eyes. For Marta, micro influencers are, ambassadors, that you can find whenever you have good collaboration. “We are becoming numb to influencers, so finding the genuine story is key,” she said.
Other topics discussed included finding brand partnerships, creating digital experiences in real life and “Instagramable” moments, within the physical space that can have an even greater impact than influencers.
Audience questions varied between understanding goals and target audience to differentiating your messages based on different stakeholders and reducing content fatigue. “The core story should remain the same while the value proposition should be tailored to the audience,” said Tom. Panelists also stressed the importance of thinking about what matters to the audience and personalizing as much as possible.
On what is coming next? The gaming industry and YouTube are the new big outlets for reaching out to a wider audience.
The concluding thoughts of the panel agreed that to leverage digital platforms to drive value the key is authenticity, telling a compelling story, and using strategic tools to serve people in the best viable way.