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The wild blue yonder

Written by Josh Russell on Monday, 05 November 2012. Posted in Online, Sales & Marketing

One of the things that makes digital marketing so useful is its fluidity. However the lack of boundaries means the unwary can find themselves cast adrift – which is why it pays to find the right crew

The wild blue yonder

Digital marketing has become a part of our daily lives. In recent years with an increasing narrowing of the borders between the social and the professional faces of the internet, the power online advertising h olds is constantly increasing. Despite this, there are very few promotional tools that are quite so misunderstood, with many enterprises more likely to dip a toe in than to try to launch right out into the open ocean. When dealing with such a big unknown, it’s often worth speaking to a hardened seafarer.

Adam Russell is the head of display at LBi, one of London’s largest digital agencies, overseeing graphical advertising, video advertising and interactive advertising online. “Why should you do digital marketing?” he asks. “The reality is that consumers – and people within businesses – are spending an increasing amount of time online.” A colossal amount of research has been carried out on the subject, analysing the time consumers spend accessing various types of content – both on and offline – and comparing that to the amount of capital invested into those various channels. He continues: “What you see is that most advertisers are punching below their weight with digital.”

Digital media can often be the best method to get your brand out there. First of all it has very strong benefits for start-ups and entrepreneurs, in that – when compared to some other media – it can be much more scaleable. “The barrier to entry for TV advertising is pretty high; you’ve got to produce a TV advert, which isn’t cheap, and you’ve got to be buying advertising on a pretty large scale,” Russell explains. “Digital advertising scales all the way from companies that manage their paid search on Google themselves, spending £20 a month, all the way up to companies that are investing seven, eight or nine figures in their digital marketing.”

Another of its strengths is it offers increased measurability, something lost in more static forms of media. Even with the most simple methods such as Google’s self-serve platform, there are plenty of options to measure whether consumers are carrying out particular activities on your website. Russell remarks: “It’s very easy to say: ‘I’m going to test some different search keywords and some different ads then see how well those ads perform and whether we generate a return’.”

Of course if it were all that straightforward then most enterprises would be engaging in managing their own media campaigns. What sort of things is it that are tending to trip up enterprises that would otherwise be able to operate more effectively in the digital space?

“Some enterprises have a lack of desire to really understand the value the different channels drive,” Russell comments. “Time and time again we see businesses fall to the easiest measures to achieve.” An example of this may be overvaluing something like paid search in comparison to display or other measures. “It’s very easy to see the impact that paid search is having because someone searches on your brand term and they’re likely to convert,” he explains. “But if you’re not trying to understand what made that person search for your brand term in the first place then you’re really missing the whole point.”

In the digital marketing industry there is an analogy that is often bandied around and has become something of an inside joke. “There’s a guy; he’s running a little cornershop and he finds that whenever he sells a product, the person that bought that product came in through the front door,” Russell begins. Putting two and two together and getting five, the owner believes the answer to securing more customers is placing more doors. Eventually every outside wall is made of nothing but doors and yet he’s getting the same number of customers as before – he hasn’t realised that something else influenced the customer to come through the door in the first place. “Sometimes that’s a problem, where we see businesses are just focused on ‘this channel brought a customer to my website and so I should try to do more with that channel’.”

Clearly then there are reasons why it helps to have a digital agency batting for you, rather than leaping in to tackle digital marketing on your own.

“Things in the space change very rapidly and so you need to have people who really understand that space,” says Russell. The different areas of digital marketing were once quite clearly defined, with elements such as social media, SEO and content operating in very distinct ways. But the edges have become increasingly blurred, with many of these areas becoming heavily interrelated. “You need a company that can work with you in all of those spaces, otherwise you’re going to end up with potentially fragmented messaging and a fragmented space,” he continues. “If you break up any part of the digital ecosystem, you’re losing some of the connection between those different channels.”

“We’ll quite often end up in conversations now where someone says: ‘Facebook advertising. Is that a form of display or is that a form of paid search?’” Russell relays. Whilst technically it should fall under the banner of display, the fact it operates on a similar ‘cost-per-click’ model as paid search means that definitions are becoming more complex. Additionally, as display is becoming more often bought under biddable models, it is increasingly being placed under a banner of ‘biddable media’. “I’d actually argue they’re very different in the way you’d talk about targeting them and what you’re trying to achieve,” responds Russell. “But there is an increasing level of synergy between the different channels.”

Whilst digital marketing can be a shifting sea, it’s incredibly resource rich and offers one of the best opportunities for your enterprise to scale quickly and reach new horizons. And with the right navigators on-hand you’ll find its an ocean that’s easily conquerable. 

About the Author

Josh Russell

Josh Russell

As editor, Russell is the man in charge of properly apostrophising our publication and ensuring Oxford commas are mercilessly excised. Our digital doyen, he’s also a Photoshop Pro, a dab hand with InDesign and the man to go to if you need a four-hour soliloquy about the UK's best silicon startups.

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