Series of icons showing vast array of digital marketing channels

Doesn’t it feel that digital marketing has taken over the world?  There are more niche digital marketing agencies around these days that plain old marketing agencies.  The irony in it is that general marketing agencies are becoming “niche specialists” because they embrace such a wide channel base (traditional as well as digital).  So, surely, if everyone is investing in digital marketing now, shouldn’t you be doing to?

Well, actually, it is not quite the simple yes/no question that it first appears to be.

Unhappy Teenage Boy Being Gossiped About By Peers

Throughout life we are constantly influenced by our peers.  From school age, peer pressure has a massive impact on how we act, behave, our thoughts and opinions, our likes and dislikes and what we feel is acceptable and unacceptable.  This never leaves us.  It may well become less influencing on our own mind as we get older. However, there is always that nagging voice in your head.

So, when you have multiple people you know and respect telling you that digital marketing is revolutionising their business and that you should be doing it, and the business media explaining the power of the latest digital marketing technology, it is natural to sense that perhaps your business should be embracing it to.

Other business owners are completely on the other side of the fence and are avoiding embracing digital marketing because “it is isn’t relevant to their business” (or more likely they don’t fully understand it). So should you be investing in digital marketing channels or not?

Well guess what, that is down to you. But there are some key questions you can ask yourself to reach your answer.

Will digital marketing meet my business goals?

Firstly, you need to consider your ambitions as a business.  Where are you trying to get to, and how quickly? What is your current growth rate?  What channels are currently delivering your lead generation?  Are they providing a positive return on investment?  Depending on how you answer these questions one of two things will stand out……

  1. What we are currently doing is driving enough leads and growth, at an acceptable return on investment, to fulfil the future ambitions of the business.
  2. What we are currently doing is not going to provide the growth required to fulfil our ambitions.

If you came to conclusion 1, then actually why do you need to consider digital marketing channels (we will come back to this later)?  If, on the other hand, it was clear number 2 was the case, then digital marketing needs to be seriously considered.

What we are saying is don’t just invest in it for the sake of it.  There has to be a solid business case for any channel shift.  Even if you know what you are currently doing is not going to take you where you want to go, it doesn’t automatically mean digital marketing is the answer.  There could be a whole host of reasons why this is the case (and other opportunities outside of digital marketing).

Should I switch my marketing investment towards digital marketing channels?

Example of different digital channels for a beauty business

Many business owners seem to be viewing their marketing strategy as digital or traditional (non-digital).  This is probably being fuelled by a marketplace full of digital agencies who only touch digital projects.  So if they only offer digital marketing services, is there still even a need for traditional marketing practices.

Yes. Without a doubt.  How can we 100% say this with such conviction?  Think about what marketing is.  It is about communicating and engaging with a specific audience so that they ultimately purchase your product or service.  Ok, that may not be the classic “textbook” definition but the only reason business owners invest in marketing is to sell more stuff and make more money.

Ageing man in living room with laptop smiling

So, if it is all about reaching and communicating with the customer, how do we know whether digital or traditional methods are best?  Well consider your customer’s world.  I am going to take a punt here and guess that your customer’s world is exposed to both digital and traditional media on a daily basis.

Even the elderly generation, who have been more resistant to technology, have been forced to start using it since lockdown earlier this year.  Kids from the age of 3 or 4 are playing on tablets and watching YouTube videos (sad but true).  Your average business person will be using the internet multiple hours per day.  Some research in the US showed that Americans check their phone on average once every 12 minutes – burying their heads in their phones 80 times a day.  Do you think that is any different to the UK… to you?

Handsome casual young man using a mobile phone at home

However, what about the flip side? We all still open our post – we have to in case we miss something important.  We are all exposed to brand advertising in store, on our TV screen, on signage, billboards and in print.  The only way I keep up to date with what films are currently out at the cinema is by looking at the advertising on buses.

Guess what, I also still talk to people. Word of Mouth marketing is as powerful as it is ever was, and if a recommendation crops up naturally in conversation from someone I know and trust, as opposed to someone on social media who is a paid “influencer”, then I am going to listen to them (peer influence again).

In summary, what I am saying is that it should not be a case of doing one or the other, they are not mutually exclusive.  The best marketing strategies will embrace both, after all our audience is exposed to both channels on a daily basis.

How can digital marketing enhance my business?

Although I mentioned earlier that ultimately marketing is about selling more stuff, there are so many stages between “brand awareness” and “repeat sale”. 

Digital marketing channels aren’t purely about lead generation.    Some undoubtedly are such as Google Ads.  You are paying to show your ad or get clicks from people who are specifically looking for a related product or service, or who fit the correct demographic of your target audience (and ideally both). If you don’t convert Google adverts into leads and sales, it is going to become very expensive.  

Graphical representation of brand awareness

However digital channels can be used purely to raise brand awareness, increase engagement with your brand, helping them research options, educating an audience, providing more reactive customer service, helping them maximise the use of your product or service, and getting customers to promote your brand on your behalf.

Think about a customer journey, and how they evolve from cold prospect through to retained customer and ultimately a brand ambassador.  What role can digital marketing play in that process.

In summary

Hopefully, this article has stimulated some different thoughts to digital marketing and the role that it could play in your business.   What I want to make clear is that its role and its importance will be different to every single business.  What you must do is make your decision for the right reason – not because someone else is telling you should do it, or because you are afraid of the unknown.  No-one knows your business better than you, so you need to make that call.

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Ian is the founder of Opportunity Marketing marketing, with over 18 years of experience in successfully setting up marketing departments, creating marketing strategies and implementing these strategies across a wide number of SME companies in both the B2B and B2C sectors through a variety of channels.