Getting Digital Buy-In

We seem to be in an interesting time for digital marketing.

For the past decade, the prevailing sentiment was the big social channels would offer the marketing nirvana: ads which were highly targeted to specific customers at a low, low cost. Print, television, all that old stuff could suck it. The future’s digital, baby!

A lot of this sentiment seemed to grabbed by those higher up the chain. Avinash Kaushik calls it "marketing by in-flight magazine”. We’ve seen it in action, the marketing manager coming from the board meeting with the instruction to “get some Web 2.0” as quickly as you like. Why? Because buzzwords are easy.

We’ll look back at that time as the good ole days when online media promised us the most for the least amount of money. Looking at it now though, those in-flight magazine, online business journals, are now adding some cynicism into the mix. This social stuff isn’t all that was promised. Companies spent a fortune building a following on social only to find that they need to spend another fortune maintaining it. And even then, the return on investment is seemingly negligible. Some of this naysaying is warranted, but some of it is just clickbait. The good thing is that now, between the hype and the huff around digital marketing, the reality is coming into focus.

How do you persuade against the naysayers? If P&G is pulling their digital spend, what chance do we have? How do you get the HiPPO (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion) to buy-in to your digital vision?

We had success by showing those who need to be persuaded that we’re basing it on some solid foundations rather on enthusiasm. Here are our tips for putting together a solid business case for digital which is based on reality, not nonsense.

1.   Define clear, understood objectives

Any digital campaign needs an endpoint, a journey that ties back to an overall business goal. Awareness isn’t enough; you’re focusing your efforts to get someone to do something specific. Understanding what this is is key to how you structure the digital campaign.

2.   Understand your customer

Regardless if you’re B2B or B2C, you have to know how your customer tends to buy. This may be the start of a customer journey; you need to know how you can be as useful as possible. We recommend doing some customer interviews if possible, nothing too crazy, just understand the stages customers go through on their buying journey to make sure you’ve got the bases covered. This research isn’t costing the Earth, can be done in a couple of weeks and can provide invaluable insights on what your customer is looking for when they research online. This approach is especially important for high consideration purchases. Knowing how your customer using online to educate themselves means a more impactful campaign with less wastage in media spend. Look at tools such as SEMRush to see what people are searching for and create content around that.

3.   Right media for the right customer

You’ve done your research so know you’ll know where best to put your media spend. I’m always amazed to see high end, B2B promoting themselves on Facebook. I don’t feel that’s always the right channel. We generally don’t recommend display ads. They are generally cheap but not effective. They tend to deliver poor quality traffic, and a chunk of that would be fraudulent through bad bots. Even if you get a great placement, the fraud rate can be high. Whatever the best approach is, make sure that you share the reasons with the HiPPO’s that it’s based on a solid understanding, rather than just what the latest buzz is around. And not every nail needs a digital hammer.

4.   Test and spend, test and spend

The joy of digital is that you can test and reiterate until you nail it. Spend £100 per test, get the insight and apply it for the next test. If it doesn’t work, kill it and move on. This approach helps persuade the HiPPO’s that you’re using budget effectively and correctly, not just in one big blast. Once you hit upon something that works, put more budget against it. Even then, keep looking at performance as the campaign develops.

5.   Understand the journey, end to end

You can put money into the media, but if the place that you’re sending people to isn’t directing the customer to the next stage of the journey, you’re burning money. You’d be amazed at the amount of campaign landing pages that don’t have calls to action. Always consider the next step in the journey, even if that’s from a CRM or offline perspective.

6.   Clear Reporting

Report on the goals you set in point 1. If the goal was to sign up 1,000 people to your mailing list, report on that figure. Don’t use conversion metrics to report topline numbers, this tends to confuse. What’s easier to understand: we got 800 new emails or that you got a conversion rate of 1.4%? Conversion is useful but not when going to your boss to explain outcomes. Generally, if I hear conversion being reported first, it means that the actual numbers are going to be poor. Don’t hide behind conversion.

7.   Bring the brand with you

The excitement of getting involved with something new can be painful for the brand. People’s best intentions start to impact on the look and feel of the brand as it moves into digital. It may look funky to add a drop shadow here or add a new brand colour there. All this tweaking starts to make your digital endeavour look like something brand new which can scare a HiPPO into rejecting it. Work with the brand in the first instance, not just visually but by using the brand’s tone of voice, to prove that you’re building on existing work rather seemingly creating a whole new sub-brand (and additional cost) online.

That’s our solid start for at least having a meaningful conversation with management on getting buy-in on running digital campaigns. Focus on the business requirements and the customer journey, not the in-flight magazine advice.

If you're up for chatting through this, even just as a sounding board, you can reach at [email protected] or on the Twitters, @steelso. Good luck!