Digital marketing is indispensable in a society so steeped in screen-time, yet opinions are mixed regarding methods and measures that best leverage the field’s efficacy. 2021 will see billions spent on online advertising, but much will be wasted on vanity, inefficiency and fraud.
So how can you protect yourself and get the most out of your investment?
Analyzing and optimizing the ROI of your digital marketing dollars can make the critical difference between “advertising” and merely “spending”. The marketplace is rife with myriad metrics (and acronyms) designed to sharpen best practices, but it’s critical to identify which benchmarks truly relate to your goals, and whether those numbers can actually be trusted.
Beyond crunching numbers, it’s also imperative to diversify marketing channels in search of an optimal balance, focus efforts on improved content, and audit expenditures to ensure delivery of promised performance.
Improve your content
Digital marketing often focuses more on placement than product, resulting in ads that may be widely seen but are just as widely ignored. To maximize the return on your advertising budget, it’s important to invest in the message as well as the messenger.
Saturation of the online environment means most ads are blocked or perceived as white noise. Overlooked units represent wasted resources, which is why smart marketing dollars advocate quality over quantity. It’s better to engage smaller audiences (who may even forward your message) than bore big crowds with message bombing.
Working with creative agencies, signing social media influencers, or unleashing your marketing team are all viable paths for upgrading ads to entertaining content that brings your brand to life and fosters greater engagement
It’s also important to tailor ad messaging for the target audience and medium; one-size-fit-all campaigns rarely prove effective across a range of demographics or assortment of channels.
Such customization is particularly important when diversifying your marketing portfolio. Native advertising and content marketing should meticulously match their surroundings, social media campaigns should consider the aesthetics of the platform (visual for Instagram, video for YouTube, fast-paced for TikTok), ad copy should not only be well-written but in a voice adapted to the desired audience.
Managing this upgrade in advertising content will require team coordination and superior project management tools to track alternate campaigns and an expanded library of assets. Make sure that you have collaboration software that optimizes assignment tracking, image cataloging, content sharing, copy editing, and seamless communication.
With the right tools, right team, and right ideas in place, you’ll be ready to up your game and increase the engagement and results generated by your ads everywhere they run.
The power and peril of metrics
We’ve previously discussed several methods for tracking the impact of digital advertising, noting that these tools can be valuable for analyzing productivity…but also cautioning that translating numbers into appropriate action depends upon identifying campaign goals and confirming reporting integrity.
Marketing metrics allow us to track ad-flow performance at most every stage of the life cycle: raw views, consumer reactions, opportunities generated, and even long-term profits can all be quantified.…but whether these numbers reflect real value or mere vanity depends upon specific business goals.
Likes-and-shares might be important to impress younger demographics or raise brand awareness, but prove worthless for serious services targeting affluent audiences. Purchase conversions are the focus of direct marketers, while solid leads are more meaningful to sales teams. Content-based marketing thrives on traffic and search results, but email campaigns rely on specific actions like subscriptions.
Also be certain you can trust the numbers you’re tracking. Unlike traditional media ad-buys that are publicly circulated en masse, digital ads are served out-of-sight, vouched for by the very vendors they profit. Unscrupulous agencies might run your ads across unsanctioned sites and spoofed domains…or turn them into phantoms that don’t show at all.
Even reported clicks and actions can be faked by programmable bots, which comprise around a quarter of all web traffic. Be sure to employ independent analytics to monitor traffic related to your ads/links/website to verify reported statistics. Performance measures are important for assessing the ROI of your digital marketing campaigns, but limit attention to statistics most correlated to your goals, and vet all numbers against real-world success and results.
Optimize your buys
You’ve identified your goals, diversified your strategy, and improved your advertising content…but there’s one more leak in the pipeline to patch if you hope to maximize marketing dollars: the actual ad buys.
As mentioned above, simple fraud is one way that ad dollars can be wasted, but even when ad buys are seemingly legitimate, expenditures are often far from efficient. Spots obtained through a series of middle-men, brokers, clearing houses and adtech outfits, lose a commision at each layer.
Additionally, agencies that are on-the-level about ad placement and bot-prevention can still be careless about funneling your assets to correct geographic regions or ensuring that there is proper pacing and frequency caps governing distribution of your message.
Research indicates that in the end, only 50% of ad buy outlays ultimately goes to purchasing ads. Consider buying directly from publishers, or spending more for better quality placement.
It’s tempting to use cheap CPM exchanges promising massive exposure, and easy to overlook targeting details when trying to reach your audience, but getting sloppy at the last step of the process negates all the hard work and resources expended to that point. Be sure that you have adequate performance optimization tools and only use ad buyers/intermediaries you trust.
Diversify your portfolio
Analyzing metrics can fine-tune performance in individual segments, but truly optimizing your marketing ROI requires experimentation across a variety of channels to determine which media-and-methods work best and which are not worth your time.
By expanding the scope of ad campaigns, you not only broaden the reach of your messaging but gather invaluable data for refining future allocations. Empowering your marketing department to think out-of-the-box and hone flexibility drives creative enthusiasm and leads to eye-opening breakthroughs, with great feedback gained even where gambits fall short.
You likely already employ intelligent CPC display ads, but could benefit further with broader targeting and delivery methods. Place buys on mobile apps, commit to integrating with social media, expand ad properties to video assets and branded content, partner with ambassadors or influencers, and don’t neglect older but proven approaches like email campaigns.
Stepping out of your comfort zone illuminates new opportunities, just as revisiting familiar tactics can reveal how much they’ve advanced. As online marketing expert Gary Stevens of Hosting Canada points out, “Email marketing has evolved tremendously in the past half decade or so and has quickly become one of the primary revenue drivers across every industry, making it more important than ever before that you have the right systems in place to ensure you aren’t leaving any money on the table.”
While experimenting with new frontiers, it’s important to keep your monitoring methods, and campaign chronology separate. Employing different tracking methods for each approach, or launching them sequentially without overlap are effective ways to accurately attribute value as you decide which channels to retain. Using diversification to expand your options, assess your returns, and then directing your investment accordingly represents the very nature of ROI optimization.
The current economy has constrained marketing budgets, compelling cuts and driving the need for efficiency. Digital advertising remains more important than ever, but also must be administered effectively. Marketers tend to play conservatively while keeping an eye on broad metrics, but maximizing ad ROI demands more attentive measures.
It’s critical to outline advertising goals and place attention only on meaningful data, diversify marketing approaches to identify optimal channels, customize improved ad content to engage with the audience, and make certain that ad buys are efficient and trustworthy.