By Sam Brownfield, founder and CEO of Digital Agency Search International, explores key considerations for small businesses looking to utilise digital marketing in the downturn.
While businesses worldwide are scrapping for every last penny in these terrible times, Internet evangelists are preaching digital but taking flak from three sides.
Agencies are championing digital integration throughout their marketing and communications strategy but defaulting to their own favoured communication channel and developing second-rate creative for the digital platform, media businesses such as newspapers are being destroyed by the internet and brands are bored with being told to "do digital or die"
They all have valid points to make, but at Tradewind we constantly seek to remind those considering the Internet where it came from and why - we feel its origins are fundamental to knowing how to best use the digital medum.
The Internet was created as a source of information, a place to share that information, to be educated and to further the debate. Therfore, the most sucessful online sales come from companies that have the founding fundamentals of the
Internet at front of mind – the same reason why businesses shouldn't "do" social media. They should understand social media in order to be able to "do" the Internet better.
In a nutshell, caveated with "in the right hands" the most important thing for business leaders to understand is that the internet is efficient. Efficient in cost to market. Efficient in speed to market. Efficient in reach to market and efficient in returning on investment.
Firstly, cost. There simply is no cheaper way to communicate with a regional/national/global audience. For example with blogs, in the space of an hour business leaders could be online, conversing and providing customer service with their audience for no cost.
When it comes to speed to market we have recently seen Specsavers spoof of the Barclaycard campaign filmed and live within two days.
We also witnessed EA Games reacting to online commentary, with a film of Tiger Woods walking on water to hit a hole in one within two weeks and The Independent using digital out of home media to trump the major new Times campaign the night before it was released.
The benefits here are twofold, not only is the output clever and engaging in all these cases, it is the speed to market that gets people talking – and conversation is the biggest key to success on today's Internet.
As for reach and targeting, if you typed "Hatton fight" into Google on the evening of his latest boxing bouts, up would pop Dominos Pizza with a specially tailored offer for people wanting to watch the fight in front of the TV with a pizza.
Or look at the useful UPS widget it hasn't been downloaded a huge number of times by Internet standards but for the 20000 or so that have, it is the most brilliant piece of targeted software creating an almost physical bond between those who need to send packages around the world and UPS.
As finally, but most importantly: return on investment. You only have to look at the American Airlines widget that is claiming to return a $6-10m annual upside for a $100k cost or McCain's brilliant Potato Parade viral microsite for utterly phenomenal brand exposure Vs cost.
There are two more fundamentals that skeptics must grasp. Firstly that, again in the right hands, the Internet provides massive amounts of free media. The users pass on your message - it doesn't get any better than that.
And finally, and this is arguably the most important - online assets never die. There is no campaign end, no switch off of media budget. Anything that is built today that is good and "gets" the fundamentals of the Internet will still be around for decades. And there is no better form of payback that that.
So, Placebo? Yes, very often - the digital box has been ticked but the return on investment doesn't come. And that is because of bad advice by average agencies to time-pressed clients.
A key thing to remember is that content must be relavnt for your business, often bespoke campiagns that really stand out in terms of what a brand is giving back to the consumer are the bets at all the efficiencies.
Panacea? Of course not, it is part of the communication mix, but consider where digital sits (or doesn't sit) at the beginning of any activity you do and your strategy will evolve for the better.
Poison? Absolutely not, but it can be a bitter pill. Our advice is get advice and don't take anything at face value. The Internet evangelists are not charlatans they are just passionate. We always counsel not to throw the baby out with the bath water but once you've found a way to really "get" the Internet, dive in!
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