The Big Picture
Digital marketing is not a pick-and-choose. You can’t expect to see success by running channels in silo.
The lure of running digital ads can be tantalising; the idea of picking one channel, adding a few keywords, writing some ad copy and throwing in a small amount of spend all to gain almost instant traffic and sales should excite anyone.
Apart from the one simple fact that it very rarely works this way. More often than not, you’ll see poor short-term returns, instantly dismiss the channel as not fit for purpose and never get to see what benefits it could actually bring.
This can be the all too frequent problem with digital marketing. The mix of it seeming far too easy to run campaigns, plus dangerously short-term thinking means that advertisers run the risk of focusing on the completely wrong metrics of success and never realising the true potential that comes from building long term integrated strategies.
Looking at the big picture
Sure, the aim might be to get more sales, or more downloads, but just running one channel alone isn’t going to drive all of these, and definitely not in the long term. Marketing has always been the long game, and that’s still true today as it was 50 years ago. The shifting of ad spend from offline to online channels has not made it any easier to achieve success. It’s simply following the audience to the mediums they spend most of their time on. People have shifted away from traditional TV and instead consume content on YouTube and on-demand. Magazines have moved to online publications. And so on. Yet brands still have to work as hard to capture people’s attention and build enough awareness and trust across these mediums to convince people to part with their money. And hopefully not just for a one-time purchase either.
Running PPC on its own, for example, and expecting sales to boom is frankly naïve. Instead, over time advertisers will find that their spends are high and conversions low, as individuals go to brands which they’ve interacted with previously or been exposed to elsewhere, or those that they’ve already got affinity toward.
This in a nutshell means one thing: the only real strategy is brand strategy. There’s never really a separate channel strategy, or a ‘digital’ or ‘offline’ strategy. They’re all subsets of your brand strategy and this should always be the main focus.
One of the most important basic principles: the marketing funnel
Funnels are hugely important and very often ignored. A well-developed marketing funnel will create the ability to take the target consumer from an unaware prospect to purchase, repeat purchase and finally brand advocacy. It allows brands to build out a strategy of where they’re going to find the right audience and how they’re going to reach them at what point in the journey.
A very basic idea of a marketing funnel is usually the inverse-triangle and focuses on three parts: awareness, consideration, conversion.
Awareness focuses on the where and how of initially getting in front of the target audience and make them aware of the brand.
Consideration places emphasis on maintaining consumers interest with the brand. Keeping the brand front of mind as they move closer to the point of purchase.
Conversion is how to turn a considered audience into customers. Beyond this, the focus can turn on how to build a brand affinity.
Every channel has its place in the marketing funnel
Different channels, and the strategies deployed within them, usually have their own ideal place within the marketing funnel.
PPC is most frequently the strongest conversion driver, but wouldn’t be the most effective for awareness. Likewise, display is an excellent awareness driver but is in no way the most effective conversion driver. Video & social sit very comfortably in the mid-funnel. Obviously this differs based on multiple different factors, and the range of channels available is far wider, but this example touches on a key principle: use a range of channels, which affords the best opportunity to engage with an audience at specific touch points.
Marketing is a journey
The channels and methods of execution which we deploy may have changed dramatically in the past 20 years, but the principles of marketing have not.
The real key difference is the trackability, accountability and reportability of digital media vs traditional media. Far from making the life of marketers easier, the amount of data available means marketers should be working harder to build hyper-targeted and truly personalised experiences to help build long term brand affinity.
What this doesn’t mean is the expectation of instant returns. There may be some in the short term, but this is never a sustainable approach, not least because there will remain a very large untapped audience. Focusing on long term growth by building a strong full funnel brand strategy will, almost always, be the best approach.