Shama Hyder on How to Gain Momentum in Your Marketing

Shama Hyder is a web and TV personality, a best-selling author, and the award winning CEO of The Marketing Zen Group -- a global online marketing and digital PR company.  Entrepreneur Magazine called her the “Zen Master of Marketing,” and crowned Hyder the  “Millennial Master of the Universe.” She was listed as a 25 Under 25 entrepreneur by Bloomberg Businessweek in 2009 and more recently as a 30 Under 30 entrepreneur by both Forbes and Inc. Magazine.

I spoke by phone with Ms. Hyder about her helpful new book, Momentum “How to propel your marketing and transform your brand in the digital age.”

Looking at all of the social media platforms popping up and the new technologies disrupting older marketing strategies, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and behind the curve. Explain how your new book, Momentum, breaks down and demystifies marketing in today’s environment.

One way Momentum helps readers feel less overwhelmed is by helping them understand the marketing ecosystem or landscape and their place in it. Trying to navigate the digital marketing world is like being a fish and trying to figure out your place in the sea. The ecosystem is constantly changing, but my book explains broader business principles that teach readers how to employ tactics strategically in order to be successful in their marketing.

Let’s take content creation for example. One can use a variety of platforms to create content such as a website, social media platforms, or a blog. But in Momentum, I don’t just talk about about these platforms or tactics. Instead, I explain the underlying principle behind what it means to create good content. I teach you how to think of your content as a filter helping your audience sift out the information that is important to them from the clutter.

Your book does a fantastic job of breaking down the many processes and components of a digital marketing campaign. Can you please summarize the 5 principles you lay out in the book as the basis for a successful marketing plan in the digital world?

Sure, they are as follows:

1) Agility through analytics: This is all about learning how to translate data so you can make good decisions. There are no sacred cows. To be successful, you need to be able to look at things going on in your marketing and in your business objectively.

2) Customer focus: In a sentence, customer focus is not what your brand says about you; it’s what your brand allows your audience to say about themselves.

3) Integration: It’s no longer about traditional vs digital marketing. It’s about connecting with audiences and making the audience’s experience with your brand as seamless as possible.

4) Content curation: You don’t have to create content all the time. That’s old school thinking. You just have to bring your audience the best of who you are. You can be the filter that allows your audience to see what data is important to them. No matter what you’re selling, you need to empower your audience to be able to make good choices. They have more information at their fingertips than ever before, but they need help figuring out what to do with it. That’s where you come in.

5) Cross pollination: You need to break down silos and be more creative in how you leverage your resources. If you think outside the box, you’ll realize there are a lot of people with whom you can collaborate. For example, start looking at your employees as your social media ground force. They can be your army on social media promoting your company’s message. Consider partnering with vendors to figure out how to get your products into the hands of more people. You can leverage your fan base to be an integral part of your customer service operation. Lots of people fail to see these opportunities, which are often right in front of them.

You discuss ‘growth hacking’ in your book. What is growth hacking exactly? It’s a common buzzword, but many people don’t know what it means.

Very simply put, growth hacking is the idea of being able to create campaigns that are very analytics driven -- testing, seeing what works and amplifying what works really quickly. It’s about approaching marketing scientifically. Growth hacking is very results oriented. If you are a growth hacker, then you’re essentially a scientist for your own business.

You mention that growth hacking was made famous by the exponential growth of tech start-ups. Is growth hacking possible or advisable for all businesses?

It’s good for every business. Not just tech start-ups. And it’s good for businesses of all levels and in all departments. It makes sense to use this approach even for one who is managing a marketing department at a huge enterprise. Growth hacking is practical and it can be applied to more than just marketing. It’s a mindset rather than a tactic. Growth hacking is a mindset for how you approach digital marketing and business as a whole.

With so much data available thanks to all of the new Analytics tools, how can a business best figure out which data is most important to measure? How do you filter out what’s important from what is noise?

Always start with your goals. That’s what determines the filters you use and everything else. Determining goals is often where people get stuck. For example, a business owner may want leads, but then she might get hung up on the fact that a competitor is getting higher search rankings than she is. This is a waste of energy, because page rankings are not important metric by which to measure lead generation. Don’t get caught up on vanity metrics. Focus on what metrics actually make sense for your business goals and objectives.

It’s often said that we are now more customer focused than ever before. But many people ask: Hasn’t that always been the case? What does it mean to be customer focused?

When marketers such as myself talk about being customer focused, it’s not the sort of customer focus people usually think about. We’re not talking about keeping the customer happy -- that is very important as well and always has been, but here we’re talking about something related to branding. Being customer focused is thinking about what customers can say about themselves and their own personal ‘brand’ from doing business with your brand.

Why is tracking ROI so difficult in the digital age? How can we prove that our efforts are paying off?
It’s hard, because it’s not linear. It’s rare that someone makes a decision right away and says “Aha! I have seen a commercial and now I will buy the product.” It often takes multiple interactions with your brand across a variety of touchpoints -- a billboard, a TV commercial, a social post, a search ad etc. It’s often impossible to demonstrate a straight line between a given marketing tactic and a customer conversion.

The customer journey isn’t linear just like interpersonal human relationships are not linear. So, to impose a linear sort of measurement on your marketing ROI is a mistake. But if you measure not only quantitatively, but also qualitatively (what people are saying about you etc.), you will achieve a better understanding of your results. Qualitative data is also very important, but often overlooked. I advise measuring in a way that makes sense for your business, rather than by whatever popular metrics are out there.

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