All businesses and organisations work in their own ways, and serve different markets with different goods and services, but they have at least one thing in common: a need to make their marketing budget work as effectively as possible. Your existing marketing mix may include: your own printed materials; trade, national and local newspaper advertising; direct mail and/or email campaigns. Embracing internet marketing can add a whole new range of channels: websites, search engine advertising, email campaigns, social media and much more. But the continuing responsibility of marketing budget holders is to balance spending in these areas to maximise effectiveness.
The percentage of your business that comes directly from websites or email campaigns will vary from one sector to another. A business selling goods online, for example, should make every effort (through email campaigns, search engine advertising and integrated use of social media) to drive as much traffic as possible to the website, as cost of sales online may well be substantially lower. The context may be very different for a consultancy, where the role of a website or an email campaign is more likely to focus on establishing brand positioning and values, making the latest news, offers and service details available as quickly as possible, providing information about services and including calls to action that encourage – and make it easy – for web site visitors – to make contact with appropriate points within the business.
The importance of measurability
One big advantage of digital media, however, is measurability, as measurability is critical to making intelligent business decisions. Measurability allows you redistribute your available funds as it gives you clear information about what is working and what is not. Website traffic, search engine advertising and email campaign analysis should be a built-in feature of any solution that you adopt, as this will provide detailed measurement of both effectiveness and cost-effectiveness. (Our email campaign management solution, EMMA, our website management solution, OSCAR, and our AdWords™ Management solution, ADAM, all provide our clients with detailed statistical reporting, and our ADAM service includes analysis and provision of tailored recommendations based on this measurable information.)
Indeed, as part of any new initiative in your web marketing, any marketing information that you already have – how many visitors your website receives, percentages of leads or sales it generates, response rates to direct mailing, and so on – should be reviewed with your online solutions providers to enable them to work intelligently with you to optimise the balance of effort and capital between different marketing strands.
As websites and email campaigns and other digital activities avoid the costs of printing and distribution, they naturally provide an in-built opportunity to significantly reduce costs compared with printed media: an email campaign, for example, can cost as little as a fraction of a penny per recipient. Where website content or email campaign management systems are already in place, they also provide important savings in time: information can be made available far more quickly when there’s no need to wait for printers, or allow time for postage and delivery. If the environment is a concern (not just for the business for its target audience, who may be increasingly alert to environmental factors), paper and petrol savings are also another factor.
You should, however, bear in mind that initial production costs – design and development – may not be a saving. Professional quality of production and good design are worth paying for in every medium, and e-marketing solutions that include content management facilities will usually require a greater initial outlay – although these costs will be repaid many times over if your business is one where product or service churn is high, or where there is a competitive advantage to making news available now only quickly but frequently. This is both a budget and an investment decision: the capital outlay for the additional facilities that content or campaign management solutions provide may be a bargain if your organisation is likely to make frequent use of them (and will have the capacity and commitment to do so). Where changes or ‘breaking news’ is not a frequent event, or where resources to maintain websites or run email campaigns (and the wish to do so) are likely to be a constraint, you should discuss options for a managed service with your solutions provider.
But the ‘killer’ advantage of digital media is the degree to which you can track and measure their impact and take-up. Which pages are visited (or not visited), which keywords were most used, which online advert was most effective, how many people opened emails, clicked which links, how many people have viewed which posts in your blog (and where they came to your blog from): all this factual information is readily available to you in real time. Used intelligently, digital media not only give you the potential for significant savings now, but they can inform just how you deploy your marketing budget most effectively in the future. Measurability gives you the means to make intelligent business decisions that let you deliver the maximum possible business improvements with the funds that you have available.