Take your budget further by doing digital right

Digital advertising can be deceptive and sometimes drain budgets by focusing on the wrong metrics. Jackie Stierlin outlines why marketers need to ask digital agencies more questions and how to get more bang for your buck when it comes to digital.

It’s no secret that many brands have been burnt by deceptive practices in online advertising. Some agencies make big promises, attract sizeable budgets and deliver impressive numbers, but somehow their clients’ sales remain flat. It can be a baffling and frustrating experience. So what’s going on?

Well, here’s another question: What is an ‘impression’ actually worth? You might get a substantial number of impressions on your ad – and pay a lot of money to acquire them – but they might also be entirely meaningless. Here’s why.

Cooking the numbers

Some snake oil salesmen have found that digital marketing affords them the opportunities to pull the wool over the eyes of clients by hyping inconsequential, even meaningless, metrics to demonstrate reach. It’s easy to impress a client with tens of thousands of views on a video if you count everyone who glimpsed a second or two of it as they scrolled past it on their timelines (just ask Facebook). It’s easy to show off a sharp rise in visitors to a client’s site if you ignore the bounce rate. And it’s easy to count as impressions everyone who passed by an ad hidden on a cluttered page.

In recent years, some big brands like P&G and Uber woke up to this sort of deception and responded by turning off their digital ad spending. The consequence of stopping US$200 million and close to US$100 million respectively, in ad spending was… nothing. Nothing happened. Business outcomes remained unchanged for both companies. 

Such stories can, and have, led to digital marketing cynicism since it would seem the much-hyped medium doesn’t work as advertised. But before shifting your budget back to radio, print and skywriting, consider scrutinising the approach being taken and start asking questions. 

Here are some questions you can and should be asking:

Are you looking at the metrics that matter?

The metrics you should be looking at are the numbers that tell the story of your buyer’s journey in the context of a long-term strategy. These are the numbers that translate into tangible business goals. A digital agency worth its salt will be invested in nurturing those numbers – and it can take a long time for a strategy to gain traction.

But in the end, the rewards will be far more valuable than the fleeting endorphin rush offered by impressions alone, even if it’s a great many impressions.  

How do you improve the metrics that matter?

The beauty of digital has always been that it allows for a high degree of personalisation with the ability to precisely target specific audience groups. This gives marketers the ability to reach the right people with the right message on the right platform. It maximises the impact of every marketing effort, ensuring that anything going out lands on the most fertile soil possible.

Because relevant, personalised marketing is so much more effective, it will stretch a budget a lot further. You can spend much less to achieve a lot more, so consider investing the rest of your budget in the other areas of digital that support a modern business.

What more can you do with a digital budget?

Paid advertising is really just part of the digital equation. Don’t underestimate the importance of organic content like social media and blogs. They should work in harmony with each other to shape a customer journey and lend credibility to your brand.

You could also invest in strengthening:

  • Customer Experience (CX) – The digital touchpoints in your customer journey should cast your brand in a good light. Every engagement should be characterised by intuitive user experience (UX), seamless functionality and a polished look and feel.
  • Employee Experience (EX) – Employee satisfaction is important for the health of any business and digital provides many opportunities to improve internal communications, support productivity, enable collaboration and celebrate corporate culture.
  • Sales Enablement – The right software and integrated technologies can help your sales team do what it does with greater efficiency and at greater scale with all the information it needs to be effective.
  • Digital Transformation – It’s an ongoing effort in most organisations to implement digital technology solutions for a better, more cost-effective way of doing things. Be sure you don’t fall behind.

Someone to bring it all together

Your best bet is to choose an agency with expertise in all these areas that can devise and execute a holistic digital strategy. A good agency will work closely with clients and invest in getting to know your business. This is how it will determine the best way to strive for your desired business outcomes, tailor solutions to your precise requirements and measure progress with meaningful metrics. 

Whether you’re starting your digital journey, at the very beginning or looking to improve the path you’re already on, its important to understand what metrics matter and where you can strategically invest your budget for maximum return.

Jackie Stierlin is the head of digital strategy at League Digital Australia.

Photo by Adeolu Eletu on Unsplash.