Digital Marketing: Advantages & Challenges

Up until the mid to late-2000s, traditional marketing methods still directed the promotional affairs of business.

These included: direct mail and area mail drops to neighborhoods, trade shows, press releases, advertorials in newspapers, telemarketing, newspapers themselves and so on.

In the majority of cases, it wasn’t possible to track responses accurately so formulas and generally accepted guesstimates developed.

For example:

  • Direct mail had its accepted response rate – to be identified later in this article
  • Stats-based call tracking for telemarketing began in the mid-80s, and
  • TV had the Broadcast Bureau of Measurement (BBM) estimating viewer shares
<img src="john-wanamaker-1.jpg" alt="U.S. department store magnate John Wanamaker." />
Only 50% effective

How far back in time has this been a problem? U.S. department store merchant John Wanamaker (1838-1922) once opined: “Half the money I spend on advertising (marketing) is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”

This means that billion$ have been wasted throwing the equivalent of high-quality spaghetti at the wall – and seeing if it would stick.

Setting the marketing time machine for 2012, we emerge to discover:

  • High-speed broadband lines crisscross the continent, enabling sophisticated digital marketing services
  • Exponential growth of network computing has given us Big Data and a wealth of accurate data
  • Digital marketing software addresses all phases of a marketing process – tracking user actions, behavior and conversions

In short, the primary advantage of digital marketing is accountability as every action taken by visitors or recipients can be tracked and analyzed.

One of my earlier website writing clients told me he’d mailed out 2000 brochures in 2003, then endured a zero response rate. Contrast: his optimized website attracts new customers from across the country and a referral program encourages existing clients to help others.

Secondary advantage of digital marketing: If the target audience’s desired actions fail to meet expectations, testing can be conducted and the results integrated into updated content, strategies and campaigns.

The Challenge for Traditional Marketers

For those steeped in, and trusting of, traditional marketing methods, accepting-adapting to marketing done in a digital world can be difficult.

Case in point:
A former 15-year VP of marketing for a national car rental corporation, now running his own company, website freshly completed, expressed misgivings about the effectiveness of blogging.

<img src="Mailbox-1.jpg" alt="Old fashioned marketing" />
In days of old

“When are the leads coming in?” was a reference to his direct mail experience where high volumes of offers, based on purchased or accumulated mailing lists, were mailed out. Its response rate was “1%-3%” which wasn’t his old company’s rate; it was an accepted industry one referred to earlier. If 10,000 pieces went out, between 100 to 300 sales might result. (In some cases, direct mail remains useful.)

Overall, though, there was no way of tracking how many mailed offers resulted in sales or if the conversion rate varied between industries; in addition, each letter was unexpected by the recipient so who knows what happened to them.

I explained that blogging had a different purpose than direct mail; its role was to:

  • Establish his subject domain authority by demonstrating knowledge and wisdom
  • Develop trust
  • Strengthen his online-offline reputation, and
  • Increase his company’s local and regional visibility

I pointed out that his Google Analytics’ indicated: 1) Page views & time-on-site were up 30% (to 5 minutes+) from the time before the site was finished, 2) Returning visitors had increased by 10%-15% and, 3) The bounce rate (people landing on site and leaving immediately) in his target areas had reduced to 20% – and people were reading my 2 blog posts. What about incoming phone calls? Up as well, and from first-time callers.

However, his direct mail paradigm made him pause and blogging ceased. Since that time, “the numbers” noted steadily declined. Understanding the damaging effects of a discontinued blog on a company’s brand, I kept in touch with him by forwarding his latest stats, blog post ideas and even roughed out a content strategy.

Last week, he called to express his concern about a competitive threat in his local market. Specifics: he bought his business from a man who decided retirement didn’t suit him and who had recently re-entered the market with a similarly named venture.

To create some distance in the search engine rankings between my client and his rival, I reviewed some knowledge picked up in Search Engine Journal seminar on local SEO link building – and revisited blogging. He didn’t go for it. I don’t think he trusts social media and sees my blogging fee as an unnecessary expense.

A recently made Twitter contact, Katie Mullins (@KatieMuffins), experienced something similar and I replied in kind:

<img src="twitterkatie.jpeg" alt="Marketing from now on" />
Twitter exchange of note

This quiet revolution is based on a power shift favoring the buying customer. This will be the subject of my next post.