Allister Frost is the Head of Digital Marketing Strategy at Microsoft. He focuses on overseeing Microsoft’s multi-million dollar search marketing programme and accelerating adoption of emerging digital channels including social networks and mobile across a large matrixed marketing organisation. In his own words, Allister helps his colleagues “transition from shouting out advertising messages to the few to engaging in an ongoing conversation with Microsoft’s gazillions of customers and partners.”

How could businesses improve their digital marketing skills and get ahead in 2011?

Understand the social web. Not just how the big networks like Twitter and Facebook work, but try to really understand how this new conversation platform is profoundly changing how your customers and business partners look for and share information. Listen intently to the online buzz and look for patterns and insights that can inform the direction you should take. Ask questions, and embrace every answer. Don’t think of this as yet another publication platform; the social web is very different and if all you do is push out noisy advertising messages you’ll miss the true value that will help your business stay relevant to tomorrow’s consumers and thrive. That’s why my mantra is Stop Shouting, Start Conversing.

What are some of the biggest mistakes that novice digital marketers consistently make?

Some novice digital marketers understand the web and how it works, but they don’t understand marketing. You need to develop a solid appreciation of what makes your target audience tick, how to structure your message so it lights up their interest, and know how to move people through the buying process, however complicated that may be. Digital channels are just that, another channel. Good marketing disciplines are just as relevant today as they’ve ever been.

What are the top five attributes of an effective digital campaign?

Intelligent targeting, integration with other online and offline elements, analytics, analytics and analytics.

How does Microsoft/your team leverage location aware marketing?

We’re watching this space very carefully and our pilots to date have been quite limited. Adoption is still low and niche, but location-based services will be huge in a few years, especially for shopping and entertainment. It’s a hot area for any digital marketer to follow.

Finally, what are your favourite campaigns and why?

Tune in to my blog at allisterfrost.com for anything that catches my eye. I really like the simplicity of a direct mail that worked and how a dull ink cartridge can win you business. You don’t need big fancy budgets to do remarkable stuff on the social web, that’s what makes it so exciting.