We live in a time where digital-first marketing is the name of the game for almost every business, and especially for specialty B2C. But ‘digital marketing’ is extremely broad and constantly changing. So what type of digital marketing should you be doing? Maybe just as importantly, what shouldn’t you be doing?
In far too many businesses, the marketing function is one of the primary places money goes to waste under the guise of productivity. This is because doing marketing well is not easy, and a lot of marketers would rather do flashy but ultimately less-effective things, rather than those that are not as glamorous but actually work.
But what does it mean for marketing to work? Raising brand awareness is the wrong answer. There’s a billboard I drive by sometimes which itself advertises the billboard company. The sign says, “Does advertising work? It just did.” The premise is totally wrong. The goal of marketing isn’t people seeing or even knowing your brand; the goal of marketing is getting potential customers into your sales ecosystem. Brand awareness is a necessary but insufficient step towards achieving the goal of marketing.
Some companies have started to fold marketing back into sales, dissolving the marketing and revenue officer roles and instead having a unified commercial officer. But in many companies, these are viewed as distinct functions, and it’s incredibly common to see marketing leaders dodge responsibility for revenue.
The entire purpose of marketing is to give your company a realistic chance to make a sale. Marketing material doesn’t actually make the sale, but it does need to get potential customers into your sales funnel. It doesn’t matter what channel you’re selling through: if your marketing doesn’t have a clear link to the number and/or quality of realistic opportunities you have to make a sale, it’s a failure.
Once upon a time, a company I was working with brought in a new hard-hitting marketing director who came from a data and statistics background. He was serious about making sure his marketing campaigns were generating real value for the business. Prior to that, this company had been taken to the cleaners by an array of failed sponsorships, random publicity campaigns, and other similar marketing tactics. The cost was enormous, and the discernible impact to sales near zero.
Early on, the Director was on a call with the publisher of one of the top trade magazines in the industry, who was trying to get him to pay for a pricey ad campaign in the magazine. The Director asked the Publisher for some data on past campaign results, estimated ROAS (return on ad spend), or really any other info that would help quantify the campaign’s potential value. The Publisher, offended and taken aback, said nobody asks that question and that the Director didn’t understand how the industry works. The Publisher then condescendingly asked, “Do you know what a hit (view/impression) is?” The Director passed on the ad campaign, and so the Publisher himself lost a sale.
But the surprising thing is people like this Publisher are absolutely everywhere. Many marketers (and the people who sell to them, including marketing agencies) are notorious for consuming vast sums of capital on campaigns that look impressive on the surface, but which they can’t actually defend based on sales impact. They instead deflect with claims like “brand exposure is incalculable so we can’t quantify an ROI” or vague generalizations such as “the lifetime value of a new customer is $, so imagine how much money you’d make if this campaign were seen by # people.”
If a marketer ever says stuff that, get rid of them. On the other hand, if you find a marketing executive or agency who is serious about ROAS like that director I mentioned before, you’d better do everything you can to keep them happy and producing for you.
What that background, let’s talk about some common digital marketing tactics used by specialty brands and what not to do.