The digital age has altered how businesses market their products. It has levelled the playing field, and a huge marketing budget is no longer the only factor that determines success. In this blog, we evaluate each of the digital marketing tactics in a marketer’s portfolio to understand how they stack up.
Digital marketing is a collection of tactical strategies like paid advertising, search engine optimisation, influencer marketing etc., that help businesses meet goals like increasing brand recognition and prompting sales.
Content marketing, on the other hand, is part of a digital marketing portfolio and is often used in combination with other tactical strategies to meet business goals. It involves creating informative content that provides your audience with valuable information. From blog posts to videos, content marketing offers numerous opportunities to build a brand by understanding the audience’s needs and pain points and using relevant information to alleviate them by tacitly placing the business offering (product/service) in their minds as a first solution.
What’s in a digital marketer’s bag?
The digital age has altered how businesses market their products. It has levelled the playing field, and a huge marketing budget is no longer the only factor that determines success. According to MarTech, customers today engage with over 13 different pieces of content before making a purchase. The sheer scale and frequency of assets that marketers now need to create, adapt and push out to the different channels, markets, and audience segments make it clear that a holistic “value chain” must be in place for brands to stay relevant and timely.
Mirror on the wall
Reflecting on the impact of each digital marketing tool
With the growth of paid and owned media channels, marketers are looking for ways to engage their customers wherever they are, targeting them with information about their business in a manner most relevant to them.
There is an assortment of avenues, including influencer campaigns, paid ads and strategic content, that businesses can use. Every marketing plan is a unique mix of marketing channels and budgets allocated to each channel. For the sake of simplicity, in this blog, we consider five of the most widely used tools (in no particular order) and review each of them.
We've assigned a review rating to each of them based on the following criteria:
How much value does the tool provide based on how much a business spends? To identify the cost efficiency of a channel, we calculate the sales and divide them by the amount of time and money that is spent.
Influence of or dependence on external factors while the tool is in use. To identify risk efficiency, we look at the probability of the consequences being out of the business’s control.
A function of the ability to modify or tweak the tool as per business objectives and to create customised content according to them
Availability of metrics to measure the attributable impact of the tool. The more measurable the tool is, the more accurate the RoI it generates.
The impact of the tool in the long run. The tools that score a bigger rating in this criteria demonstrate a pattern of requiring an investment in the initial stages with slow growth. As time passes, they typically reap increasing marginal returns (similar to an exponential curve).
*All criteria are relative to the entire set of tools and are based on our experience.
Search Engine Optimisation
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process of optimising a website to get organic traffic. The purpose of SEO is to improve a website’s position on search engine results pages (SERPs) by analysing and tweaking keywords that will help generate leads for the business. It is a long-term investment that leads to organic traffic, boosts brand visibility and establishes the business's credibility and trustworthiness by indicating that Google views it as an important, useful and genuine source of information/content.
In terms of RoI, it is relatively difficult to capture or attribute the exact incremental impact of each tactical SEO tweak, which is why it scores low on measurability. Optimising keywords is a continuous process, and tools like Semrush and Google Analytics help marketers keep track of their progress and manage the overall health of the business site. The impact of a robust SEO strategy is seen over a longer period of time, making it a prime tool for long-term gain.
SEO is completely controlled by the business, lending it high risk-efficiency and flexibility.
Cost efficiency ★★★☆☆
Risk efficiency ★★★★★
Long-term gain ★★★★★
What makes influencers a great avenue to expand reach and drive relevant traffic to the business? The quick answer is: trust. The death of traditional marketing has caused customers’ trust in brands to decline, and they’re turning more and more to trustworthy and relevant word-of-mouth recommendations when making buying decisions.
Influencers help businesses cut through the communication clutter and reach more targeted audiences (often a reflection of the chosen influencer’s brand position).
It is one of the fastest-growing online customer acquisition channels, and forecasts made by Mediakix data suggest that a total of $15 billion will be spent on influencer marketing by 2022. According to a May 2020 GlobalWebIndex survey, 96% of audiences who followed influencers in the U.S. and U.K. were engaging with them more or as much as before the coronavirus outbreak.
With an influx of social media influencers, an influencer marketing campaign can cost anything from $100 to $1 million per post.
So, how does one evaluate this tactic?
The best way to break down the returns on influencer marketing is to look at the number of followers an influencer has. A bigger fan base exposes the business to a larger set of people and, consequently, more people are likely to talk about the business in their circles. Influencer marketing follows the snowball effect — the larger the ball one starts with, the greater the momentum one can attain. Hence, the bigger the following, the more expensive the partnership.
According to a MediaKix survey, 61% of marketers find it difficult to identify the right influencers for their campaigns as it is difficult to evaluate if an influencer has genuine followers. In spite of Instagram’s crackdown, spotting fake followers is the #1 concern related to influencer marketing — sparking a lot of debate with respect to the measurability of the influencer’s impact. Further, subjective factors like the personality of the influencer and their engagement rate need to be factored in as well.
Another subjective evaluation is the “relevance” of the influencer amongst target audiences. Since influencers act as ambassadors of a business’s values, it is crucial to pick the right influencer and sign stringent agreements with them. Any behavioural inconsistency on their part can cause significant damage to the business. This is why it scores low on risk-efficiency. In 2009, Tiger Woods lost a plethora of endorsements, including Accenture, Gatorade and AT&T, as businesses chose to disassociate themselves from the athlete’s scandal.
Another challenge marketers face is measuring and improving the RoI of working with influencers. Brand influencers are a long-term commitment — they need to talk about the business to their followers for a certain time period to establish credibility and association.
Cost efficiency ★★★☆☆
Risk efficiency ★★☆☆☆
Long-term gain ★★★☆☆
Paid advertising offers marketers ad space in exchange for money. Compared to owned (website/social media handles) or earned (word-of-mouth reviews), paid advertising is an effective way to increase business reach.
Businesses use paid ads to reach custom target audiences, build awareness and allow for customised messages that convert leads into quick sales. A business could choose to measure the success of their ads (visual or text) on the basis of per click (CPC), per impression (CPM) or even per lead generated (CPL). These results can then be used to understand the return on investment the channel has generated. For example, let’s say running a display advertisement on Google Display Network costs a hypothetical business $1 per lead. A business has identified that 0.001% of all leads convert to a client with an average ticket size of $1000 per annum. The cost to acquire a new client is $1000. Hence, a business must ensure that the client is retained for more than one purchase cycle (lifetime value of the customer) for the investment to be profitable.
Paid advertisements give a business granular control over their marketing spends, with options for targeting customer personas and testing what’s performing well. Another significant advantage is the ability to reach audiences when organic reach on social media is down.
On the other hand, the biggest challenge of paid advertising is the cost associated with it. While the per-unit cost of advertisement (impression or click) may not seem very high, they can quickly add up. Additionally, businesses have to constantly modify their campaigns to achieve maximum effectiveness. Lower frequency (number of times the audience is exposed to a message) and volume of ads may not guarantee the required reach. However, exposing the audience to paid advertising too often may also become a trigger to tune out. As a result, they may disregard the messages or offers. There is a continuous delicate balance of making a competitive bid and developing high-quality ads before businesses can get a prime spot on SERPs.
With audiences developing a blind spot or an inclination to reject these intrusive advertisements, the conversion rate on these ads is low while the costs continue to surge. The increasing advertising clutter and a dynamic bidding process need large investments or a very clever strategy to outperform the competition with bigger budgets.
Cost efficiency ★★☆☆☆
Risk efficiency ★★★★☆
Long-term gain ★☆☆☆☆
Social media marketing is a powerful way for businesses of all sizes to intercept prospects and potential customers where they are. It is a great place to build a community or a more relevant following and for brand discovery and word-of-mouth recommendations. It also allows a business to listen to what the customers talk about — their pain points, potential need gaps in the industry and, most importantly, what they are saying about the business.
Using social media for marketing enables a business to project their brand image across a variety of different social media platforms. While each platform has its own unique environment and voice, the business’s core identity — whether it's friendly, fun or trustworthy — should stay consistent.
One big misconception about social media is that it’s FREE. A combination of strategic content, user-generated content, paid advertising and frequent content pushes, social media is a highly resource-intensive avenue. Businesses have to direct immense time and monetary efforts towards producing high volumes of content, managing platform updates and audience behavioural changes, and dealing with the competitive landscape to remain on top.
Cost efficiency ★★☆☆☆
Risk efficiency ★★☆☆☆
Long-term gain ★★★☆☆
Generating three times as many leads as traditional marketing and costing as much as 62% less than other traditional forms of marketing, content is slowly emerging as the underdog of a marketer’s portfolio.
Unlike other digital marketing tools where business offerings are explicitly promoted, businesses use content marketing to communicate valuable information to their target audience with an intention to encourage interest in their product or service.
Strategic content enables personalised tools like blogs, educational articles, e-books, informational videos and webinars to manage millions of stakeholder relationships concurrently, for they allow flexibility in customising information for the audience. The efforts are easily quantifiable — various tools like semantic web analytics, social media data mining, feedback analysis and, of course, sales allow businesses to measure the success of pushed-out content. Businesses can use these results to calculate the RoI and set sustainable budgets towards their content marketing efforts.
The ability to personalise communication, high stakeholder engagement and quantifiable results make this tool critical to a winning marketing strategy. But, does ALL content have an equal return in the long term?
The short answer here is no.
While business content will always be discoverable, it will pay dividends if it provides value for a long time.
Does this mean businesses should only invest in long-term content? The answer is, again, no. Topical content helps businesses join the conversations that their audiences are having, creating a spike in interest; evergreen content makes them stay. We recommend a blend of both these formats.
Longer shelf life of quality content increases returns on the spends, and premeditated planning and execution bring down the risk factors. Content can also be reused or repurposed at a minimal cost.
Cost efficiency ★★★★★
Risk efficiency ★★★★★
Long-term gain ★★★★★
Strategic content is proven to be cost-efficient due to a longer shelf life, and it’s more risk efficient and flexible. Additionally, the influence of external factors is negligible, the business retains a high degree of control and its impact is quantifiable in the long run. It is safe to say that investing in content reaps the highest dividends when compared to other tools in the marketing mix, making it the best investment in a marketer’s portfolio. But does that mean it should be the only avenue that marketers invest in? That would be too simplistic and optimistic. Like any financial portfolio, a healthy mix of instruments is required to achieve business goals. This mix has to be constantly analysed and tweaked to obtain higher returns. Instead of comparing and selecting marketing channels, perhaps it’s better to ask: "What's the right combination?”