The ROI of Digital Marketing is that Your Business Will Exist in Five Years Time

The speed with which marketing is changing is frightening! What was the norm just three or four years ago is now old-fashioned and out of date! What is even more challenging is that this change is accelerating. If businesses are to thrive in this new digital era, significant action needs to be taken now. For anyone who did not grow up in a digital world, it is simply not good enough to say, ‘I don’t understand social media’ and avoid an uncomfortable conversation. It is also not good enough to say, ‘I don’t do business on social media. That’s not where my customers come from’. The reality is, every business needs to have a digital marketing strategy, simply because every one of their customers are themselves online, at some point. The fact also remains that the number of businesses being set up by ‘millennials’, who are tech savvy and do understand online marketing, means that competition is only going to become fiercer from those entering the market. This paper outlines the online marketing trends which are genuinely sweeping the globe and advocates some next steps which should be taken. The digital reality is, change and thrive or remain still and die. Which will it be for your business?

Philip Kotler is a highly distinguished marketing author, consultant and professor of international marketing at Northwestern University in the US. Widely regarded as the father of marketing, he has written many books on the current reality and future of marketing. His latest book, titled ‘Marketing 4.0’ describes the shift from traditional to digital marketing which is currently taking place. The central theme of his book states that business marketing must evolve because consumers themselves are changing. Brands should not seek to talk at customers but rather engage with them, and turn them into active advocates of what they offer. Kotler presents a powerful case for how social media is revolutionising the marketing world and how digital marketing technologies are transforming the way in which business is being done. Companies who want to survive have to use these new digital tools to engage with their customers in a different way. With so much of the world now being online, customers are demanding a much more intimate and personal relationship with the brands they engage with. Increasingly customers will not simply be sold to. As the trend increases they will look for active engagement and value to be offered first, before they part with their money.

Kotler argues powerfully that high touch interaction with customers is becoming the new differentiator between businesses. Technology now means that products and services can become more personalised to fit the precise needs of the customer. Consumers are demanding that products and services also need to reflect human values, such as fair trade, diversity and empowerment. Therefore, businesses need to articulate why they do what they do. Customers increasingly no longer accept that it is simply about making money. They are looking for brands to solve problems in the world and those who fail to do so will increasingly become redundant. What Kotler also argues is that there is a convergence between digital and traditional marketing. What he means by this is that customers are demanding much greater interaction with the brands they give their loyalty to. However, this can only be provided by a combination of online automation and a human personal touch. On their own few businesses have the human capability to deliver the level of touches increasingly demanded by the consumer. On the opposite side however, brands who simply rely on digital automation will increasingly be pushed to the side in favour of those brands who offer a more human service, especially in a world which feels increasingly impersonal.

With the growth of online communities, customers increasingly follow their peers when choosing the brands they will do business with. Customer communities are becoming increasingly powerful as people look for social proof and how others have spent their money, before they will do so themselves. Social media is creating communities across national boundaries which further adds to the challenge of getting your offering right, which businesses now face. Positive engagement and real value, to every customer, needs to be achieved. If not, the connectedness of the world means that business reputations can quickly suffer. It’s impossible to hide flaws or complaints in the digital world and any company which tries to do so will badly damage their reputation in the long-term.

However, there is good news. Smaller, more innovative companies can now compete against the much larger established companies on a level playing field… if they can project their business online in the right way. If a business brand is able to show itself to be authentic and honest about the real value that it offers then they have an advantage.

The reality is, that we are also increasingly engaging with products and services via our mobile phones. There is now a new breed of customer – young, urban, middle-class, mobile and connected. This is a group who interact via screens and as a critical buying group they are only going to get bigger. You may have heard them referred to as ‘netizens’. The human attention span has dropped from 12 seconds to 8 seconds. This means that only brands with the ‘wow’ factor will get attention. With so much interaction now being via screens, digital media strategies will need to be applied in order to get that attention.

Whilst most marketing theories will talk about the need to segment and target your audience, to ensure that your messages are relevant, there is an inherent risk with simple one-way communication. Businesses who solely ‘push’ their message out there are increasingly seen by potential customers as ‘spamming’. Communities are the new segment. Brands need to ask for permission, prior to delivering marketing messages, and they also need to demonstrate a sincere desire to help, rather than being hunters with bait. Brand promises are now carefully scrutinised before the hearts and minds of customers are won. It used to be said that marketers needed to gain the attention of prospects, get them interested in what they were offering, elicit a desire for that product or service and then get them to take action. This instruction has now been modified with the same need to create an awareness, shift their attitude, which is now shaped by the online community and then get them to act and act again. This trend emphasises the importance of customer advocacy. With direct marketing being expensive it is crucial to retain the customers who you have already engaged with, no doubt at some time and cost to your business.

Is your business getting left behind in the new digital marketing era? According to UK and US sources, marketing spend, as a percentage of revenue, on average, stands at 6.8% for small and medium-sized businesses. As a percentage of overheads, business to business companies allocate on average 12.6% to their marketing efforts. By 2020 it is estimated that the average firm is going to be allocating 45% of its marketing spend to online media. In 2018 the average firm is allocating 41% of its total marketing spend to online media. That figure has risen dramatically from 2014 when only 29% of businesses total marketing spend was allocated to online efforts. Currently search engine optimisation captures the largest spend of online advertising. Online video such as YouTube represents the highest growth category. Social media advertising is expected to represent 25% of the businesses total online spending in 2018. Currently, social media marketing and email marketing are generating the best return on investment. The strongest businesses, who are getting the most from their digital marketing strategies, combine online technology with CRM automation. This basically means that a large part of the business’ marketing efforts are automated and can take place ‘in the background’, with only a small amount of ongoing human input needed. Facebook remains the largest of the social media channels with Instagram also being expected to grow. Indeed, engagement with brand profiles on Instagram is 10 times higher than on Facebook and 84 times higher than on Twitter.

Businesses are significantly shifting their marketing spend from traditional marketing to digital marketing and the gap between the two is now getting bigger. Nevertheless, the overall recommendation for a small business from Philip Kotler, is to balance the two.

So, what does all of this mean for the average small business? It is very possible to significantly increase the size of your business by adopting some fairly simple strategies. The first is to attract people to your website and the second is to convert them when they arrive. Increasingly, multiple marketing approaches will be used to attract visitors to a site. These will include search engine optimisation and the number of links that point to your address. Email campaigns, pictures, audio and video will all offer value to customers. Your website will need to pass the eight second test. That is, how can you grab the prospect’s attention within eight seconds? My question to you is, if you look above the fold on your website does it really grab your attention and make you want to investigate further? You will need to use an online lead generation model to attract customers and you should be thinking ‘lead generation’ rather than ‘sales model’. Online, we buy from people who we know like and trust, and with a higher price the bigger the challenge becomes. So, the purpose of the website is to begin a relationship and we have to get the prospect to stop for 30 to 40 seconds in order to begin that relationship. How do we do that? Usually, by giving them something and that is where social media and online marketing has a very big part to play.

Whilst we all complain about email spam from people we have no relationship with, email still remains one of the best forms of marketing. What people do want to receive is interesting and useful emails but of course in order to send emails out, to the level that is needed, you will need an auto responder system.

If you are with the majority of business owners who want to rely on the capacity of team members and you do not have qualified digital marketing experience in your business then you need to click on the link below. The Digital Marketing Apprenticeship is government funded and largely free to businesses. It will get you ahead of the game on social media and ahead of the competition. It will enable you to gain more leads and clients and it will certainly upgrade the digital skills of your team members. As a result of just one of your team members completing this Level 3 apprenticeship, over 12 months, your business will have internal expertise on how to deliver customer relationship marketing, digital marketing campaigns and a social media strategy for your business. You will be able to find the right blend of channels for your business, whilst also being responsive to the digital marketing changing environment. Search engine optimisation and pay per click strategies are also a part of the qualification. There are additional insights into security measures and how to protect your data across the various channels.

The reality is that 70% of small businesses, which if you count them, numbers in the tens of millions are still doing all of their marketing in-house and are outsourcing very little, if anything at all. Too many businesses are still relying on poor websites and simple word-of-mouth to create new business. When looked at it in this way it would be fair to say that most businesses are leaving a very large amount of money on the table, because they are not challenging themselves to be much better in the online space. Either, businesses will need to enlist external support as the complexity of marketing becomes greater or they will need to look to increase their capacity in-house by training team members. Either way, action needs to be taken to at least remain abreast of the competition. To move ahead requires clear planning and the determination to take decisive steps and go beyond what others are doing. This is a reality which cannot be ignored. The question is, what are you as a business owner going to do with this information, if you don’t click on the link below?

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