Another crucially important area of your digital marketing strategy is setting realistic goals. Your strategy should explicitly define the business goals you want your digital marketing efforts to help you achieve. As with any other journey, you can only plan an effective route if you have a clear, unambiguous destination in mind from the start. Or, to put it another way, you might be the world’s best archer – but if nobody gives you a target to aim at what good will it do you?
To measure your progress towards those goals, you also need to set milestones along the way, consistently measuring your achievements, and steering your digital campaign towards your ultimate destination. Here again the digital realm offers a raft of tools and techniques to help marketers reap a better return from their investment.
When a computer or mobile phone – in fact let’s call it a digital media device – hits a site, a record is created in the web server’s log file based on the unique IP address of that user, and the user’s navigation through the site is tracked. Software on the web server also sends a small, unobtrusive file to the user’s browser known as a ‘cookie’, which essentially allows the web server to recognize the same user when he or she comes back to the site again.
Based on information in the log file, marketers can tell a surprising amount about the user’s activity on the site:
We know the broad geographical location based on the digits in the IP address.
We know when the user arrived and from where.
We know what type of browser and operating system the person is using.
So far we know very little but we can already start to be more accountable. For example, we can now order our advertising and marketing messages to be delivered only to people with a Mac who live in Ireland and don’t like working before lunchtime but are seriously interested in sports.
Now let’s make things a little more interesting. By adding specific ‘page tags’ to our website (with the help of a website developer, webmaster and analytics partner) we can start to do some very clever things – following website visitors to the purchase point and beyond.
For example, say we choose to run a banner ad campaign. We can detect not only the people who click on the banner and go through the site to become purchasers, but also those people who do not
click on the banner but then go ahead and buy the product anyway a few weeks later. This is really exciting stuff for marketers because ultimately it dispenses with our whole fascination with the value of the click-through.
Not long ago digital marketing metrics were all about clicks, clicks, clicks. Today, while clicks remain an important guideline, ultimately they are about as useful as saying 230 people noticed my ad today, isn’t that great? Well, in a word, no. Today’s online marketing investment is about tangible returns; it’s about conversion and ROI; ultimately it is about the accountability of the brand, the price, the ad campaign and the job of the marketer.
Which scenario would you rather: a warm post-campaign glow when the research company pats you on the back and says well done for achieving a 10 per cent increase in brand recall among 18- to 24-year-olds, or 1,293 enquiries about your product and the names and addresses (e-mail, of course) of the 233 new customers who now own your product?
Online marketing is very like direct marketing in that regard. You invest, you sell, you weigh up your ROI, you learn, you adapt and you move on. Except that online the process is much accelerated. Yes, of course there’s still value in brand-based advertising. The drumplaying gorilla who makes you want to eat Dairy Milk, or the girl on the bench who makes you want to whistle the Nokia tune and give her your Coca-Cola: it’s all good brand-building stuff and the kind of advertising that’s sure to remain with us. The big problem with it is its lack of accountability.
The truth is that digital is simply more accountable. You have far more control and can make far more informed decisions based on the feedback and information the technology provides. It’s easy to control the pace and flow of your marketing budget, to turn it up or down and to channel it in different directions.
If you are selling holidays, for example, you already know enough about your customers to realize that certain times of the year (holiday season) are less effective for advertising than others (freezing winter days). But how cool would it be if you could target your holiday advertising so that your ads start to run when the temperature drops below 10 degrees in a particular region? What about being able to advertise your currency exchange services based on the performance of the markets? Well, in the digital world you can do that. The potential is boundless.
Effective digital marketing is about boxing clever. You pick and choose the elements that are specifically relevant to your business. Going through the process of defining a clear strategy, based on a thorough analysis of where your business is now and where you want digital marketing to take it, puts you in the ideal position to know what’s likely to work for you and, just as importantly, what probably won’t.