Can digital marketing really drive sales? Sure, some spooky-smart data geeks are ready to bury you in a blizzard of data, but the questions linger.
Can digital marketing move the needle for every type of organization? It’s easy to point to the Amazons of the world as proof of digital’s efficacy. But, what about the proverbial B2B manufacturer selling ball bearings or the offline retailer with a brick-and-mortar location? Can digital still pull a rabbit out of the hat?
Surprisingly, the answer is a resounding yes. In fact, our experience at Fluency shows that digital marketing works even harder for “less glamorous” non-ecommerce businesses.
Time to Take Out the Purchase Funnel
The purchase funnel is a tried-and-true method for visualizing how a perfect stranger becomes a loyal customer. Imagine a funnel wide at the top and tapering to a spout at the bottom.
At the top, digital marketing works to fill the funnel with as many people as possible. Marketers refer to this as the Awareness stage and until recently TV, radio, newspapers, and magazines ruled the roost.
However, with the advent of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and other mega-audience platforms, digital marketers feel comfortable that they can snag millions of eyeballs with a click.
Further down the funnel, we find marketing tools that specialize in boosting Opinion and Consideration of a brand or offer. Since 1998, digital marketing has lived in the Opinion/Consideration zone, racking up wins with email, conversion optimization, and lead generation strategies.
At the bottom of the funnel, journeyman tools such as the “Shopping Cart”, transactional emails, A/B tested websites, and good ole fashioned call centers move the needle.
The problem for most decision-makers is that they can’t envision applying digital marketing across the entire funnel. Many still believe that it’s marketing suicide to leave a healthy chunk of the advertising budget in the hands of the “digital guys.”
However, it’s not as far-fetched as you may think. Frankly, for many businesses a digital-heavy marketing plan would level the playing field against more deep-pocketed competitors.
All that’s needed is a vision for how digital marketing could work.
So let’s examine a fictional company and see how it could use a full digital arsenal to compete effectively.
B2B Ball Bearings Inc.
Imagine a ball bearing company – one of many. Unfortunately, the waves of innovation haven’t crested over this industry for over a century. Competition is fierce and profits are scratched out penny-by-penny.
A newly-minted CMO has been given the daunting task of re-positioning the company as a leader and preferred supplier of over 10,000 types of ball bearings. The kicker is that the budget would be a tenth of the estimated budget of the market leader.
After a quarter of costly and disappointing performance from direct mail, TV, and targeted ads in trades, the CMO turns to digital.
His plan is simple, use every digital tool at his disposal to find, educate, and convert prospects into customers.
At the top of the funnel, Awareness, he methodically tests Google Adwords to find a set of keywords that deliver the right prospects at the right price. Confident with his choice, he rolls out his search marketing campaign and begins driving a growing crowd of new eyeballs to his website.
At his website, the CMO tests multiple “Information Guides” that establishes B2B Ball Bearings Inc. as an innovator focused on customer service and solving tough manufacturing problems. These guides are offered for free in exchange for the reader’s email address. He uses Google Website Optimizer to run dozens of tests steadily improving his performance.
Soon B2B Ball Bearings has built an email list filled with prospects considering the company for their next project. Further experimentation and testing gradually transforms the company’s website into a conversion machine.
The CMO then turns to social media to close the deal.
He repurposes his successful information guides into helpful blog posts. He makes sure that each post can be shared via Twitter and LinkedIn. He sets up social media outposts on Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube to capture new customers. He finds that success stories and testimonials posted on YouTube delivers a surprising number of hot-leads to his website.
The two-way interaction on his blog and cross-promotion of the company’s information guides effectively pre-sells his flagship SKUs. His in-house sales-team is delighted with the “easy leads” that arrive throughout the day.
A year later, B2B Ball Bearings Inc. is in hot pursuit of the #1 spot in the vertical. The dirty little secret is that they are stealing market share at a fraction of the marketing cost.
What is the Key to Digital Marketing Success?
Understanding this example requires debunking a few digital marketing myths:
1. Digital Marketing Is Website-Centric
Your marketing message is 100% portable. Now you can effectively sell on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, smartphones, airport kiosks, email, search engines, and more. The days of focusing exclusively on sending visitors to a static website are over. Consider Vitamin Water, which uses Facebook almost exclusively to reach new customers.
2. Digital Marketing Can’t Reach A Mass Audience
This was a valid concern 4-5 years ago; the question today is picking the RIGHT audience, since it’s relatively easy to target as many eyeballs as you want. It’s important to understand that quantity is important when you can’t precisely target an audience. This concern evaporates as Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn continue to add impressive targeting capabilities every day.
3. Digital Marketing Only Attracts Geeks
A quick glance at Facebook’s demographics shows that the Web is now ubiquitous. In fact, it’s more likely that you’ll find your mom on Facebook than your teenage daughter. So-called traditional online tools such as email and search engine optimization are especially adept at finding and driving traffic across all demographic criteria. These tools coupled with testing tools, social media, and integrated strategies can deliver a diverse and targeted audience for almost any business.
This is good news for the non-ecommerce business looking for innovative ways to optimize their marketing budget. The real challenge is quickly pivoting your organization to capitalize digital efficiencies.
You can start the transformation today knowing that digital marketing has graduated from the little-kids table to share the responsibility of moving ANY business forward.