I just returned to the office today from vacation. Every year since 2003, my family has vacationed in Emerald Isle, NC, an Outer Banks beach community. And each of these summers we travel the same rural Carolina route for the last 80 miles or so to get to the beach, Route 58. All along this rural road are large, and I mean Times Square big, billboards. Not old wooden, Mail Pouch tobacco types either, but rather modern, illuminated, supported by steel cylinders billboards. These things were built to survive hurricanes. Why do these billboards stay in my mind as opposed to the numerous billboards I viewed during the greater part of my drive via Interstate 95? Because they were blank. Yes, blank.
The Bogue Bank is a twenty-mile islet accessible on both ends by bridges. Atlantic Beach is the eastern most community and is accessed by US Route 70. Emerald Isle is the western most community and is best entered by Route 58. Whoa, whoa, whoa . . . if the best access to Emerald Isle is by traveling Route 58, then why are those billboards blank? Good question. Route 58 and US Route 70 are connected by Carolina Route 24, previously a rural route upgraded within the last 5 to 10 years to a four-lane parkway. Route 24 follows the mainland coast between US Route 70 and Route 58. Even though it is longer both in miles and in time, it seems the majority of drivers are utilizing the 70 to 24 to 58 option rather than traveling on 58 when visiting Emerald Isle. The outdoor advertising executive who forecasted that Route 58 would by the primary gateway to Emerald Isle is probably no longer an outdoor ad exec.
What does all of this have to do with digital marketing? In my mind, a great deal. Foremost, unlike the famous line in Field of Dreams, if you build it, they might not necessarily come. Those billboards on Route 58 are like many, many brand websites that are erected with significant investment and then no efforts are made to ensure and increase traffic. That outdoor ad exec should have optimized Route 58 just like CMOs should devote resources for search engine optimization (SEO). He should have monitored what Emerald Isle realtors and tourism professionals where providing as the preferred route to Emerald Isle and then lobbied for his route. This is similar to competent digital marketers utilizing Google Alerts, Nielsen BuzzMetrics, and/or TNS/Cymfony to monitor their competitive brand landscapes on the Internet and then creating action plans for their brands to be present in relevant areas of the Internet based on the results. Finally, the outdoor ad exec should have advertised on both Interstate 95 and US Route 70 that Route 58 is the preferred road to Emerald Isle. Heck, he owns that outdoor space too. Even in 2008, we engage clients that are not taking advantage of their broadcast, print, outdoor and other advertising forms to promote their web presence, a marketing medium we know is more engaging and achieves a higher ROI than all others when executed properly.
While your website/s might not go blank like those billboards along Route 58, financial and human resources dedicated to maintaining and upgrading your site/s might decrease if you can’t generate traffic. Monitor, optimize and advertise. Sufficiently monitor your brand on the Internet so you know where to play. Optimize your website/s so people can find you. And leverage your other advertising mediums to promote your site. And oh yeah, if you’re looking for a great beach vacation along the eastern seaboard, try Emerald Isle.