The ‘Digital’ in Digital Marketing and Why You Need Guts to Win

Director, Digital Experiences
Mads Fuhr Frederiksen

July 03, 2017

Think about it: digital marketing is so fundamentally different from any other means of marketing that we’ve ever seen before.

Newspapers and radio ads

In the "old days", before you-know-what, we often only tracked our sense of survival based on total market size, market shares, unit volumes and so on. We didn’t always understand why our market shares or profit margins were as they were. We didn’t have the true insights into which promotion triggered what action, when that action was made, or who attributed to that specific purchase and why.

To some extent that was great. Companies could just continue doing what they've always done, with few people to really prove them wrong. They were the marketers with the creative promotions and peculiar ads.

We are in the promotion business

By adding ‘digital’ to marketing, we started opening up completely new ways of communicating and, more importantly, new ways of tracking that communication and its impact. Without impact, marketing fails to deliver on its one core purpose: the action or business of promoting and selling products or services (Source Google Answerbox).

Let’s not kid ourselves - we are here to promote. No matter what type of project or organisation you are involved in, no matter what platform or technology you rely on, no matter the product or service - we are here to promote. And we should be. Otherwise stop reading.

Understand why

That’s why it is such a different playing field we operate in today. We now have the ability to not only track and monitor, but to gather and understand data on a small, medium and even large scale. Today, we can, and we should, always make sure that our efforts are monitored and acted upon. There’s really no excuse not to—and it’s not to point fingers at poor performance, load times or curious conversion rates.

It’s about being able to backtrack your digital marketing initiative through data, and truly understand why your performance might not be meeting or exceeding your expectations and investment. It’s about why your potential customers leave ahead of time, or why your brand new website gets zero attention despite its responsive design and highly flexible content. It’s about why your forms are abandoned over and over again despite a great offer (you think), or why there’s a huge discrepancy between numbers of app downloads and actual in-app usage. The list goes on...

Guts & Glory

Digital marketing requires that you have the guts and competence to be data-driven first in order to actually qualify as digital in any way. You simply cannot claim a digital title or initiative without understanding the true nature of data and appreciating the power you potentially hold.

It’s a major adjustment for many savvy marketers who have applied the same traditional methods for decades now without tremendous insights into the actual results produced. Dwell time doesn’t sell in itself, my friend. Action does.

Data equals decisions

The payoff comes when you are presented with your numbers and you are able to assess whether your marketing has resulted in action. When you have allowed yourself and your team to track, monitor, gather, analyse and understand your performance from a data-driven digital marketing perspective then you are so much better equipped to engage and optimise your spendings the next time.

Being a digital marketer and working from a data-driven angle means that you are always tracking and analysing in order to interpret and understand—so that you can decide on your next move. With accurate data, you can start exploring paths and behaviours, and draw up patterns and methods, that will help guide you and your team to decide what works and what doesn’t.

Because who wants to pour money into something that has little proven effect? Oh wait, apparently a lot of companies still do—and now we know why. These companies are likely to be run by “digital marketers”, only without the “digital”—that one crucial word which has received too much attention already, but for good reason.

If your organisation lacks the mind-set and ability to understand your marketing efforts, then you really have no idea where to go or how to do it. Consider this professional sports analogy: How successful do you think a team would be if they never bothered to analyse or understand why they won or lost their games?

To experiment is to make a new discovery

To explore data and act from it is to discover, to try, and to improve. I hope by now that I have convinced you to face your fears and start diving into data. But before you do, I want to leave you with a word of caution regarding false metrics—or what the great Eric Ries calls vanity metrics.

Vanity metrics

Vanity metrics are awesome to look at, like impressive numbers of website views or app downloads, but they are really, really bad for action and decision. Vanity metrics are often what you read in large, shiny reports from both internal departments as well as external agencies and vendors. But if a metric isn’t actionable and you can’t do anything to make it better, then why on earth are you tracking and reporting on it? The answer is simple: it’s easier to present beautiful, impressive numbers which always makes everyone (including management) feel great, rather than to present reality—a reality that might force you to rethink, analyse and to start acting differently.

So please, if you do not already have the data-driven competences at your disposal, start hiring, stop reporting vanity metrics, and start exploring your digital marketing efforts from a realistic point of view.

It’s a potential gold mine, if you have the guts to face those real facts and data.

Good luck, you might just improve yourself.

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