I have several meetings each week that reach the inevitable question, "So what kind of sales do you guarantee as a digital marketing agency?" It's a frustrating question for many in my industry. While it's not out of line for a client to expect ROI, I do find that traditional marketing guys have created an unrealistic expectation for the digital cowboys.
Marketing is a process of planning and implementing an overall vision that attempts to connect buyers with sellers. We do this through advertising, strategic planning, market research, and frequency. Typically marketing has essentially been the planning of a promotion, and then strategic placement of advertising in the big four mediums—newspapers, magazines, TV, and radio.
When marketing professionals put together a plan, they looked at the numbers given to them in terms of reach by the advertising agencies (ie: a circulation of 100,000, or 25,000 listeners). Then came digital, and the world changed. Now the big four are scrambling to figure out how they too can adapt to digital. But why? What does digital have to offer that traditional marketing doesn't?
The answer comes in the form of ROI. While digital marketing agencies can't guarantee a certain number of sales as a result of each ad—much the same as traditional marketers—digital does allow you to understand how ad dollars are spent in a more efficient and detailed manner. Digital offers you the ability to not only understand reach, but what that reach is doing with your ads.
Spending Dollars Effectively
When someone picks up a newspaper, what do they do? Read. Are they reading the ads? Possibly. However, more often than not they are catching the headlines and your ads are forced into their path.
With digital, you can make sure that every dollar is spent only when that a person shows interest. It's called CPC (Cost-Per-Click). On Facebook, you don't have to pay unless someone actually likes your page, or clicks on your content. That like or click is interest. Now, not only have you presented advertising that has garnered some interest, you have in many cases retained that person into your network. They will now see future messages.
What's This ROI I Speak Of?
So if digital marketing folk can't guarantee sales, what kind of ROI exists? Well it all starts with content. When digital content is pushed out, it's measured. First, reach is tracked person-by-person. Instead of getting newspaper numbers such as a circulation of 100,000, you get the exact number of people that actually laid eyes on your ad. Then you get those "interest" numbers. Stats are given regarding how many people clicked, liked, shared, etc. In some cases, the amount of time they spent digesting your content is also statistically presented. Then there's the big pay off in the form of reaching out.
If one hears a radio ad, sees an ad on TV or in print, they can't interact instantly with the content. Messages, comments, sharing and other means of communication give you instant access to an interested, and potential customer.
Sure, it's not a guaranteed sale. However, digital does get you closer to the customer than ever before. Once the marketing gets them there, it's up to the client to close a deal.
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Jay Hall - Chief Strategist