It’s not brick and mortar at Baselworld, but it sure is a physical experience far from digital, an intense, special and pleasant one.

Having pounded trade show floors across Europe and North America, this must rank among the more inspiring and visually pleasing experiences of this variety.

In many ways, what happens here is as old as mankind. Well-dressed merchants bent over small tables in private, very elegant settings, carefully displaying precious wares to a somewhat jaded clientele, whispering special attributes that make the offering all the more unique, while sipping delicate libations and doing excellent business, thank you very much.

So who needs digital marketing, I asked myself as I visited brand after noble brand. This world is safe, it’s ticking happily and profitably. Well, yes and no. Despite appearances, our 24/7 digital experience is no longer the bazaar of biblical times and the first touch-point may now well be online even for dealers.

While watch brand marketers are well aware of this reality and some are seriously investing in their digital presence, this market is still struggling to move beyond “brochure-ware” websites, email marketing, banner advertising and tentative social media forays. The challenge for medium-size, lesser-known brands is differentiation, brand awareness and reach.

Digital media offer unique and cost-effective opportunities to capture worldwide markets both in B2B (dealers, distributors) and direct-to-consumer. While consumers may be reluctant to purchase sophisticated luxury goods online, 78% research and browse products and services before buying. So the question is, after spending two thirds of your marketing budget in Basel and booking half your yearly sales, how do you best use the remaining funds to reach your revenue goals?

The online basics many vendors now have in place are an attractive website (though the user experience is sometimes wanting). In addition to perhaps a Chinese version, SEO is the next milestone to be passed, after which it becomes difficult to know what to do next and what will work best. AdWords? More social media? Facebook for luxury brands?

Marketers (and management) mostly see their budgets as an expense, even if necessary. But what if you could turn online marketing into an investment in the business with a measurable and positive return-on-investment? This sort of pitch by marketers to their CEO might just get their attention, perhaps even free up additional resources.

Inbound marketing and marketing automation are forms of online marketing just starting to get attention in Europe, but have widely and successfully been implemented by tens of thousands of companies worldwide. Why?

Instead of 100’000 eyeballs hardly perceiving a huge poster or full-page ad for a luxury watch (“outbound” from the point of view of the advertiser), online searchers with a keyword string of “ladies luxury watch diamonds Switzerland” will, if you do your homework well, find your brand (i.e. become “inbound”) and be pre-qualified as showing high interest and affinity from the moment they make their first click on one of your digital assets.

41% of European companies have generated customers on Facebook or LinkedIn. That’s probably more than you thought. The question is not only how to best “lay out the social bait” but how to connect the digital dots.

That’s where an inbound methodology enabled by an all-in-one technical solution can work its magic: by connecting all your digital assets and making them transparent as well as measurable – a forward-looking marketer’s dream. So if you were unable to attend this year’s Baselworld (boo-hoo), at least you can dream, mobile device in hand, and envision managing and optimizing your entire digital stream as you go to bring in new leads and convert them to happy, loyal customers.

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Stephan Burckhardt

This marketing vet is based in Greater Vancouver, Canada. He has worked in B2B marketing in Silicon Valley and Europe, was CEO of a large agency serving B2B startups, trans-nationals, and everything in between. Focus: technology, healthcare, professional services.
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