From Dot Bomb to Dot Boom
Let’s face it. The economy is taking on the distinctive, sickly pallor of a post Mardi Gras Keith Richards.
Generally, recessions hit the advertising business with the ferocity of a rabid wolverine, and the last one trimmed overall ad spending by 9% according to market researchers Veronis Suhler Stevenson. The wolverine in question mauled and devoured online advertising, which plummeted 27% over two years during the last recession.
This time it will be different. Not only will online marketing survive, it may actually thrive during the lean times, continuing its inexorable theft of ad spend from traditional media tactics. Online is far more mature and proven now, and there are five specific reasons why it will be the go-to tactic among increasingly budget-conscious marketers.
First, online is typically less expensive than many other marketing tactics, and a sizable and impactful online effort can be undertaken more quickly and cost-effectively than can an offline campaign.
Like an Elizabeth Taylor marriage, online doesn’t require much long-term commitment. PPC ads can go up and down on a day-to-day basis. Email can be sent (or not sent) based on financial considerations. Even banner ads can usually be negotiated with an advantageous cancellation clause of 72 hours or so. Try that with your local TV station or newspaper. Other than keeping your Web site up to date, the only core online tactics that require substantial ongoing effort are organic search optimization, and Web site analytics and testing.
More Juice for the Squeeze
With diminished outbound marketing budgets, companies will shift focus toward increasing revenue from current customers, either through more frequent purchases, or larger ones. Email marketing is the perfect vehicle for communicating with customers and incentivizing additional purchases. Customer lifecycle marketing (persuasively combining email with direct mail, voice mail and text messaging) will gain favor as companies strive to close a higher percentage of a reduced flow of leads.
There is meaningful financial waste associated with advertising to people who have no interest in your product or service. The superior targeting ability of online marketing will enable companies to focus their reduced marketing dollars solely on likely prospects. This will accelerate the trend toward use of behavioral targeting and retargeting in online ad placement.
Behavioral targeting mines a person’s Web page visits and search terms to serve relevant ads. If a prospect reads several pages on Yahoo! about Nissan Altimas and does a search on Yahoo! using a related term, an ad for Valley Nissan dealers can be served up just in time.
Retargeting (a nascent industry led by local company Fetchback) takes the concept one step further, enabling companies to advertise only to people who have visited their Web site previously without making a purchase. With average conversion rates hovering around 2%, this is an ideal way to reach the other 98% that have taken the time to visit your site but haven’t yet converted.
Additionally, search marketing will continue to expand since it is the only tactic (other than Yellow Pages) that puts the marketer in the middle of the consumer’s purchase psychology funnel. I expect heavier bidding on specific, “long tail” search terms that often correlate with greater intent to purchase.
Numbers Don’t Lie
Online marketing of all types offers superior measurability and trackability in comparison to traditional tactics. This is of course due to the Orwellian nature of the Web, where every mouse click is tracked, usually anonymously. While the availability of this data may give you the same creepy feeling you get when gazing upon Joan Rivers, it makes for effective marketing.
When implemented correctly, banner ads, organic search, paid search, blogs and social media, email, lifecycle marketing and all other online marketing tactics provide a user by user scoreboard that can be utilized to ascertain precise return on investment metrics for each campaign.
In this way, online marketing provides companies the ability to test a wide array of tactics, evaluate which generates the best response, and then adjust the marketing program accordingly.
The old saying is “I know half my marketing dollars are wasted. I just don’t know which half.” This problem is even more acute and painful in a down economy when advertising dollars are curtailed. The inherent cost, targeting, and tracking advantages of online marketing make it more likely to succeed (or at least able to minimize losses from a failed campaign). And when a wolverine is at your door, that’s the type of assurance you want from your marketing strategy.