Digital Marketing is not an Ad Hoc process

Author: Hamish Anderson

For many years digital marketers have worked to establish the credentials of the digital medium, arguing that the efficacy of online marketing is as good as, or better than that of offline. Slowly – due in large part to the permeation of mobile technology, as well as the growing evidence of solid ROI figures  –  digital marketing has become accepted as an integral and necessary component of marketing as a whole.

However, from our vantage point as a digital marketing firm, we see too many firms engaging in ad hoc digital marketing, believing that a foray into the digital world will reap generous rewards. We’ve had countless discussions with companies who want to develop an engaging  website, conduct social media activity, create a blog, thinking it will improve their marketing performance, yet who do it in apparent isolation to other marketing activities – be these online or offline. What these conversations seem to do, is highlight a lack of understanding as to the current marketing landscape, and perhaps more importantly, to the way consumers are digesting marketing. Furthermore, more often than not, clients seem to be focussing more on what they want to convey to the market, or on how many followers they can get, forgetting that their marketing interaction has the potential to offer them deeper insight into their market.

Furthermore, it surprises me how many marketers fail to treat online activity the same as they would offline. Too many, still see integrated campaigns as offline activity which drives people to their website, or as social media activity which boosts their ‘followers’. The question I pose to my clients is this: “what are you doing to engage them and translate this activity into continued interaction/sales?” Unfortunately, too often, I get blank stares back!

Now, those of you reading this will fall into one of two categories. The first group represents those who to date are treating digital marketing as a platform for increasing their marketing spectrum and promoting a specific marketing message without consideration of the greater picture. The second group is that group of people who agree with me, and know that digital marketing is more than ever about conversations and content and campaign integration; where digital platforms are utilised to communicate a message, derive benefit, provide insight, learn from the market and interact with them. For those in the later group, the below list will serve as little more than a reminder of things to consider for your next integrated campaign.

Misconceptions about Digital Marketing

What I have noted from my various conversations, is that there are common misconceptions about digital marketing platforms:

  • Activities such as creating an ‘engaging’ website (in isolation to other activity), or starting social media activity will somehow be a panacea which will boost marketing ROI several fold
  • Social media activity will show positive results even through intermittent updates and/or posts
  • Adding social media posts will add such a ‘bevy’ of indexable content that other SEO activity can take a back seat
  • Social Media is a platform for seeding information to your audience
  • Email campaigns don’t necessarily require integration with the company/product website
  • Click throughs from social media sites can be used as predictors for increased revenue/business
    • They are often surprised to learn that path analysis of these visitors shows the visitors abandon the site very quickly
  • That cutting SEO budgets will not affect SEO performance

Re-educating the Misguided

In the face of comments which stem from one of these misconceptions, I remind my clients that Digital marketing:

  • Is more market  responsive than traditional marketing and that getting digital marketing wrong can have greater negative effect than getting it wrong elsewhere
  • Has better ability than offline to target a specific audience
  • That digital marketing should at all times be part of the overall marketing strategy and not sit apart from it.
    • Many clients are surprised to be told that online and offline marketing needs to be consistent –
  • Allows the ability to engage in dialogue with your audience
    • The ability to listen, learn, interpret and respond to the market
  • Has the ability to report actual metrics not aggregated industry metrics
  • SEO activity is a pivotal component of marketing.
    • We use the anecdote that if you build a brand new amazing house full of the best gadgets, an amazing layout, a view to die for and enough space for a huge party, but don’t build roads or signs to allow people to get there, then the house is offering nothing to anyone.
    • Cutting SEO budget to fund other activity will most definitely affect search performance
  • Requires ongoing maintenance. Digital marketing is not a set and forget platform. Your audience will abandon you if you abandon them through lack of relevant and timely information.

At the End of the Day

Whilst companies have begun to embrace online marketing, there is still a preponderance of firms who limit their digital involvement or who undertake isolated activity in the blind belief that it will lead to a spike in sales. As digital marketers, it is our responsibility to re-educate those who see online marketing as an adjunct to mainstream marketing, rather than a pivotal component of their overall marketing plan which requires the same efforts, maintenance and attention as all other marketing activity.

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