An attempt to bring balance to our evolving marketplace.
More money is being spent in online marketing than ever before and based on current trends digital marketing will soon exceed spending in traditional marketing channels. (1) Some sources, such as the advertising association and WARC, say that online media spending has already surpassed spending through tradition media channels, accounting for “an unprecedented 51% of advertising spend.” (2)
On the other hand, Procter & Gamble became so disillusioned about the effectiveness of their own online spend that last year they cut their digital advertising by 200 million dollars, with no visible negative side effects. (3) In fact, a Wall Street Journal headline declared, “P&G Contends Too Much Digital Advertising Is a Waste.” The March 1, 2018 Adweek headline that same day read, “When Procter & Gamble Cut $200 Million in Digital Ad Spend, It Increased Its Reach 10%.” Something’s happening here, but it ain’t quite exactly clear.
As I look around and talk with business people today about social media and online marketing, I see a lot of confusion. Should I be doing more of this, or less? Should I be building a presence on that platform or this one, or both? I get reams of data but how do I interpret what we’re seeing? My aim in this column will be put all the hoopla about social media marketing and digital advertising into perspective. Here are five things to consider.
ONE: Internet Marketing is one leg of a multi-pronged approach to markets.
Long before the internet, marketing involved a multi-pronged approach to markets. Businesses, whether marketing goods or services, have always had to make choices between numerous means to place their message in front of potential customers. The primary media, till the World Wide Web evolved, were television, radio, print (magazines, newspapers and direct mail), signage like billboards, P-O-P, buses, airports and the like, cinema and trade shows or events. Each channel had its advantages and disadvantages.
These past twenty years the world has gone gaga over online. Some marketers came to believe that online marketing was the only way to reach a customer, because “everyone is online.” Highways billboards on our nation’s interstates are very helpful in reminding us how far till the next exit where we can grab a bite or unwind. In short, different media channels serve different purposes. (Note: The Ted Turner family fortune began with billboards.)
TWO: Internet Marketing is not one homogenous entity.
Internet marketing has many channels or paths. Let’s start with your website. If you’re a business, the design of your site should be evaluated in terms of its marketing effectiveness, not just how cool it looks. Is your objective to generate leads or sales, or if you’re a restaurant maybe you simply want to give directions along with yummy photos of tonight’s menu. Your website is an online marketing tool. Think of it that way.
Can you imagine if there were no street names or addresses in your city? How would you find businesses or friends? I suppose you would use landmarks. Now think of how many websites are out there in cyberspace. People need help if they are going to find you.
Once you have a website you need to make it search engine friendly, which means “easy to find” by the search engines. There are techniques for optimizing your business website so it can be found. In the mid-90s I used to submit my web address to search engines to ensure it was listed. Nowadays the major search engines send out “spiders” to crawl your site. You have to use other means to let these spiders know you are important enough to be worth finding. This is what SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is about. (Don’t you just hate all the new acronyms that have sprung up the last 20 years?)
Hot Tip: One more thing about your website design. In case you haven’t noticed, more and more people use their iPhones to do their netsurfing. Is your website mobile-device friendly?
THREE: Once you have a website you’ve only just begun.
How will you bring traffic to your site? Banner advertising is but one way to deliver your message and hook people in. Should you buy through a middleman? Should you buy directly from websites you relate to? Actually, before answering those questions you have to ask, “Who am I trying to reach?”
Social media marketing is another thorny labyrinth for many. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest? Which platforms give you the best return on your marketing investment? Again, who are you trying to reach? Some people will tell you no one reads anymore so you need to be producing videos to get your brand out there.
Then there’s the 180-degree view that preaches “Content is King” and if you create it, they will come. I’m a believer in the value of this new school called “Inbound Marketing” but as in the real world, Internet Marketing has multiple tactics, and the challenge is knowing what weight to give to each one. Keep in mind that if you rely on content alone to draw crowds, there are some pretty heavy hitters competing with you for eyeballs. You will never outspend or out-glitz Hollywood. I recommend you think about that. Which leads to my next point.
FOUR: Print and Television are audited; Internet Marketing is not.
This is the dark side that has Ad Contrarian Bob Hoffman, an ex-ad agency CEO, up in arms. On his blog he makes a point to skewer the lack of policing that takes place in online machinations. In his book BadMen Hoffman writes, “Online advertising has two very compelling advantages for agencies: it is lucrative and largely incomprehensible.” (5) For the big boys who sponsor a NASCAR driver, they can at least verify that their car was at least in the race this week.
FIVE: Who are your experts?
Marketing involves targeting the right people in the right place at the right time. I learned long ago that people with bigger brains don’t always make better decisions. No do more degrees make one more effective. And just because you occasionally question the efficacy of online marketing doesn’t mean you’re a Luddite. It may just mean you’ve been cautious about drinking the Kool-Aid™. I mean, how many other things do you invest in that you don’t understand?
Experts perform a valuable function today. Whenever we get into an argument, whether heated or as a diversion, it isn’t long before we reach for a forceful quote or two from an expert. Experts strengthen our confidence in views we’ve chosen to defend. Experts supposedly know what they’re talking about because they’ve got the inside track on specialized knowledge. Experts are called upon to give us the final word in matters both obscure and self-evident.
And sometimes experts are wrong.
We live in a very complicated time. If you are a business owner or sit at a marketing desk, you have a responsibility to your companies (or clients) to become truly informed so that your advice or decisions are reliable and trustworthy.
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(2) Re-Evaluating Media, an eBiquity Report*
(5) BadMen, Bob Hoffman, p. 60.
A variation of this article was originally published in my Marketing Matters column for Business North, April 2018.