Allister Frost on digital, traditional and content marketing strategies – MAF203

My guest this week is marketing expert and speaker, Allister Frost.

We chat about whether there is a difference anymore between traditional and digital marketing – it’s all just marketing now isn’t it? And the key steps to putting together a content marketing strategy.

Welcome to episode 203 of the Marketing and Finance Podcast.

Allister Frost on digital, traditional and content marketing strategies - MAF203

What you’ll hear about in this episode

  • Why “traditional” and “digital” marketing are no longer separate approaches
  • A strategy is essential before getting into marketing tactics
  • Why outsourcing your marketing can be a risk
  • The importance of developing your own strategy
  • How Allister defines content marketing
  • Using ‘small content’ for marketing success

Who is Allister Frost?

Allister spent a decade at Kimberley Clark before becoming Head of Digital Marketing Strategy at Microsoft. After 10 years there, he set up his own consultancy firm, where he helps companies make sense of technology and marketing.

He supports his clients to use both together to do things that are relevant in a world that’s accelerating at an unprecedented rate. Allister’s also a trainer and keynote speaker, but says at the heart, what he does is about marketing in the modern context.

Digital transformation, disruption and technology myths are topics Allister often speaks on. The common theme is how people can communicate effectively and how to think about their businesses.

Summary of our chat

Is there really a difference between traditional and digital marketing anymore? It’s all just marketing isn’t it? There has been a definite shift away from defining certain marketing activities as digital only. Allister says that even 10 years ago Microsoft were promoting the idea that “traditional” and “digital’”marketing were both about communicating. Some organisations, perhaps those slower to catch up, need the distinction to focus on digital in the first place. 

Allister says that there used to be long preparation, checks and balances before companies launched advertising campaigns. The challenge today is that there are so many ways to communicate and anyone can do it. Instead of thinking about the goal, the focus has shifted to “let’s just do something.” This makes marketing inefficient.

Many businesses struggle with marketing, so it can be attractive to outsource it to an “expert”, especially as it seems cheaper than having someone in-house. Unfortunately, this rarely delivers the long-term results they were hoping for. Outsourcing is not the answer if you want to be credible, because you need to represent your brand properly online.

Although you can have people to support, guide and offer best practice, you need to own your strategy. Businesses need an inside champion who can see the big picture. It’s important to track analytics to develop and improve your marketing strategy and clearly define your goals.

Every organisation needs a definition of content marketing that each employee knows by heart. Allister defines “content” as everything you do. He uses the description of content marketing from the Content Marketing Institute:

“The technique of creating and distributing valuable and relevant content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience with the object of driving profitable customer action.”

Allister believes that content marketing isn’t just about big gestures, and talks about major (e.g. campaigns) and minor content. If you’re doing content marketing well, the best touch-points for your customers are the small things. A blog, podcast or info-graphic is minor, but customers encounter them often, making them extremely valuable.

One Thing Allister Would Like Listeners to Take Away

Allister says that being a marketer is a huge privilege, and we lose sight of that because we get stuck in the day-to-day firefighting. It’s a privilege to have the opportunity to communicate a message to the right people to make their life better.

People should see marketing as as an honourable, noble profession, but it’s one of the most disliked. It’s seen by business as a cost and the outside world as manipulation; that we’re tricking people into buying stuff that they don’t need.

You should be able to say that what you do, ‘Helps connect the right solutions to the right people so that they can live their lives to the full.’ It’s not just about sales, it’s about helping people.

An Example of Simple Marketing

You see too few examples of this, so when there is one, it’s a joy. A simple advert from Canon impressed Allister, who make printers for big organisations. Some years ago, they sent CEOs of 200 firms their own annual reports, which are available in the public domain.

Canon printed each one on top-quality paper, and annotated it to explain why the firm should use them. For instance, if the report said the business wanted to expand into Africa, they gave contact details for their rep in Africa. This was successful as they secured 30 leads.

An Example of Marketing Madness

Allister collects examples of bad marketing, which he stores in a folder called “The Zone of Irrelevance”. He saved one email from a big petrochemical company which read: “Something exciting is coming!” but didn’t say what it was.

Another common email he receives is like: “Watch our new TV ad” which includes a link to view. He was also emailed to follow a tool company on Instagram but no incentive to do so. Allister says these are examples of adverts that aren’t relevant to the customer.


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