mark elliott

Mark Elliott is the Managing Director and Founder of Sparks4Growth Limited, where he is the main client consultant and project manages digital marketing solutions with his team. He’s also the author of the E-Course “How To Run An Email Marketing Course That Gets Results.”

We recently asked Mark how he approaches digital marketing and gets his advice for brands on building their own digital marketing strategy. Here’s what he shared:


What’s your approach to digital marketing? What sets you apart from your competitors?

Digital marketing is, in my view, an extension of traditional marketing, the principles remain the same i.e. customer orientation is the key to business success. When defining digital project solutions I keep wholly focused on matching the client’s business objectives with solutions that will connect them with more customers. There is no “one size fits all” just the appetite to help our clients Leap Grow and Thrive online.

My team and I don’t sell digital products, they are merely tools. We sell our time and expertise as an outsourced marketing team.

How has the world of digital marketing evolved since you started your career? What’s made the biggest impact?

It has leaped in gargantuan levels. My first interaction with digital marketing was back in 1995 when I worked at BT as a Corporate Account Manager – I was selling telecoms and some datacomms such as early iterations of broadband (ISDN2). Suddenly we were sending out disks to load these things called “web browsers” onto PCs. Then selling website services and it just exploded from there.

Now the digital panacea is even more exciting and fast-paced. It’s so invigorating to see constant innovations, solutions like Apps and an ever evolving web scene.

How should brands approach designing their digital marketing strategy today? What tools should they be using? What should they skip?

The danger for brands is to try and “do it all.” To see everything shiny and exciting then try and dive into that arena. In reality, each business has clients, their clients tend to “be” in certain places (both offline and online) so it is best to focus on digital marketing that engages them there, rather than trying to disrupt the clients or force them. So for example, Snapchat wouldn’t in my view be a good fit with certain business clients. But it’s perfect for Millenials.

So the right tools are the right tools for that specific business and their clients, be they business or consumers. Playing with every tool in the shed is what I would recommend avoiding!

How important is content marketing to a brand’s overall digital marketing strategy today?

Content remains to be critical to the overall digital marketing arena. It is, however, often misunderstood. Content for content’s sake is pointless, expensive and resource thirsty. Again, selecting the right content for the right objective is the key to success – be it written SEO Content (like blogs or web pages), Emails, Videos, Images … all need to be applied correctly and, importantly, coded correctly.

As voice search (like Siri) and image recognition search (being developed by Facebook, Bing, Google, and mobile hardware providers) expand the better that content is indexed the more success businesses will have online.

What should brands be focusing on with their content marketing? What can they do to ensure their content marketing efforts will pay off?

At the moment, I would say focus on high-quality, well researched written content that “gives answers to problems” it’s been that way for a while. This helps from a user engagement/user experience perspective and Google SEO organic results. Increasingly, though I would say video, particularly as the younger generations consume so much of it, is key for the brands engaging with that demographic.

To make the payoff,¬†match the digital content marketing tools to the audience. It really is old school marketing but it’s proven to be effective still.

What are you biggest content marketing pet peeves? What do brands do that make you cringe?

Quite a few things make me cringe – firstly, using out-of-context marketing to “look cool” when it just doesn’t suit the brand. It’s as embarrassing as your dad coming clubbing with you (when you’re 18 and he’s 40).

Secondly, the sheer lack of listening, it sounds odd but I find it shocking how much some companies sell digital marketing services that are poor quality, overstated and that will never, ever give value to their customers. Their approach devalues the expertise of real digital marketing experts and leaves customers with big financial holes in their pockets “buy cheap, buy twice” is certainly a truism!

At the other end of the scale, watching large Businesses blow massive budgets on digital fads, without thinking them through. I tend to call these “vanity projects,” whereby the client’s team at the “coal face” will know what will work and what will not for their customers but the COO or CEO simply won’t listen as the approach looks flashy. The result is a marketing “fail” and confused customers!

What are trends are you observing in content marketing today? Why is it an exciting time for brands to invest in this strategy?

As mentioned, the overall panacea is still leaning towards SEO written content, video content, etc. But the level and quality of user generated content is astounding! I’ve seen some very small SMEs create the most amazing innovative content using just an iPhone and bundles of creative thinking.

What brands do you think are especially innovative with their content marketing? What can we learn from them?

Mainly FMCG Brands tend to hold the top spot for truly exciting content. They can simply afford to “test and burn” until they hit the right spot but also invest in integrated marketing so that there is a great join up across the board.

If I had to name one particular brand that excels like this, it is hard not to mention Virgin Travel (in-store digital and online integration) but I think the tie-ups with Nokia and Deadmau5 experiential digital marketing have really piqued my interest.

The thing I think I will continue to learn and others will too, is that innovation is key and that innovative thinking can come from your colleague’s daughter or son as easily as an expensive Agency. The honing and execution of these ideas still need a level of expertise and refining which is where I think my Agency fit in really well.

What digital marketing trends or innovations are you following today? Why do they interest you? Why should businesses pay attention to these trends?

Personally, I am really excited about visual image recognition content, voice search content and virtual reality. I think that blending of online and offline is just going to be amazing within five to 10 years. This is the future, so I would say start testing and investing now to be ahead of the pack.

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