26 February 2019

Why we need to get back to digital marketing basics

Duncan Nichols, Director of Strategy & Planning, Croud

Whilst the rapid growth of digital offers many exciting opportunities for marketers, it is not without its challenges. Take the retail sector, for instance - whilst online sales are undoubtedly on the rise, competition is intense, consumers are fickle, and more and more spend is being funnelled through a handful of big players such as Amazon.

Digital marketing teams are some of the first to feel the effects of these changes. Budgets are squeezed, targets increase and demands upon direct response channels are elevated. So now, more than ever, it’s important for agencies and brands to get back to basics and focus on three core principles.

1. Focus on the metrics that matter

Essentially, try and think bottom-up. That is, focusing on the bottom line, not the top line. It’s easy for under-pressure marketers to zoom in on revenue as the most immediate measure of commercial success. But revenue masks the reality of what it costs to design, manufacture, ship and market a product.

Similarly, an ROI that only includes digital marketing costs is vanity, and no CFO - when approving budgets - would trust it. Agencies need to work with their clients to understand the margin they make on each product, to ensure that their marketing spend is driving profitability. This empowers marketing teams to make informed decisions about investment - and to have confidence when speaking to their CFO.

2. Integrate, integrate, integrate

The best marketing happens when channels are planned in alignment, alongside work that is happening elsewhere in the business. Optimisation in isolation can be counter-productive: you might have a great click-through rate in PPC, but if you’re shouting about different things in your copy than in your emails, you’ve missed an easy opportunity to amplify your message and appear consistent. This is jarring to customers in a way that is easy to understand but difficult to measure, and certainly easy to ignore if you’re pursuing revenue at the expense of everything else.

3. Don’t be seduced by short-termism

When the pressure is on there’s always a tendency to focus on the quick wins, the low-hanging fruit, the next discount, the cheapest possible customer ‘acquisition’. It requires discipline to remain focused on the long-term objectives that matter: building brand equity, encouraging loyalty and repeat purchase through positive customer experiences, and increasing conversion via site testing and personalisation. Constantly changing direction won’t help you understand what works and what doesn’t: that requires consistency.

In short: avoid the race to the bottom! Even in challenging times, consumers are still looking for positive experiences: helpful, relevant advertising, consistency of message and seamless purchase. Base your strategy on products that contribute margin or cross-sell well to those that do, and test relentlessly to refine your approach. Build your successes into compelling narratives and become your CFO’s best friend.

You can hear more from Duncan at MW Live, at 15:25 on 7th March, speaking on the end of acquisition and why it’s time to start talking to customers differently.