In 1970 US market research firm Yankelovich estimated that the average New Yorker saw 3000 advertisements per day. Today that figure is estimated to exceed 5000. And this figure is growing through the increase in digital communications such as email and online advertising. Unsurprisingly, of 4000 people interviewed by Yankelovich, 50% thought marketing and advertising were out of control (1)! As evidence of digital’s growth, expenditure on digital communications exceeded that on television in 2009 in the UK. This trend is likely to be mirrored in other countries, at least until online advertising auction prices become unbearable.
Let’s assume you’ve developed a great product, service or brand and determined your target market and brand positioning strategy. You now want to get your message to your prospects and turn them into customers. So where and how do you start? What’s the mix of offline and online activity, and how do they work together to command attention and persuade?
First, determine your promotion objective and strategy.
Five promotion strategies
There are five broad types of promotion strategy to consider:
1. Change image/perceptions; by increasing awareness or changing attitudes to brand. Building awareness is a vital precursor to selling any brand, as is changing perceptions, for those with flat or declining sales.
2. Trial; by creating (or increasing) new or renewed brand experience (retrial), perhaps through switching from a competitor. Most useful for new or low penetration brands.
3. Loyalty; by increasing brand buying frequency or usage. Also important for brands with flat or declining sales.
4. Relationship building; by understanding, acquiring, servicing, retaining and encouraging customer advocacy. Most common in business-to-business (B2B) markets, but increasingly so in business-to-consumer (B2C).
5. Stocking or display; by selling-in and encouraging display of an above average amount of product. Most useful for brands who promote or sell via intermediaries, such as distributors, wholesalers or retailers.
Five media strategies
To meet your promotion objective and maximise sales, your next challenge is to get your message across at the lowest possible cost. Whether via offline or online media, or a combination of both, there are five broad types of media strategy you can use. This is where it helps being a game-keeper!
Probably the most common type of media strategy or the type you’ll be most familiar with. Involves promoting (pushing) a message to customers via some form of media, for example, mass channels like tv or radio, more niche channels such as magazines, or direct channels such as direct mail. In the digital world, main vehicles include email marketing (electronic direct mail to customers), online advertising via banners or pay-per-click (PPC) adverts (also called search engine marketing (SEM)). It can also be argued that PPC advertising is a form of ‘pull’ marketing given the customer is in an active search mode, i.e. searching using keywords.
This involves attracting (pulling) customers to your brand; for example, via store merchandising or an exhibition stand. Attracting customers to a website via the Internet is probably the ‘best’ example of ‘pull’ marketing, whereby a website is designed to attract search traffic by optimising it for key search terms (search engine optimisation (SEO)). This is akin to thinking about your website as bait or a lure to attract customers!
Fishing is enabled by digital technology and can also be considered a form of ‘push’ strategy. Involves placing adverts, or embedding links to drive clicks to your website, or capture customers. Likened to ‘fishing’ in that ‘nets’ or ‘squeeze’ pages’ (3) are placed in locations where there are large shoals of fish, to attract or catch large numbers of customers. Co-opting affiliates, or establishing price comparison sites or portals can be considered a form of ‘fishing’, whereby other fishermen, either individuals, businesses or high traffic websites are used to capture customers.
Involves building or buying a sales database and continuous promotion to attract, engage and build customer relationships. This type of strategy sits between marketing and sales, and is most commonly used by B2B businesses. Nurturing can also be considered a form of ‘push’ strategy. Originally enabled via direct mail, telephone and face-to-face, digital technology has inspired new communication possibilities.
This involves co-opting customers to a shared interest group. Thus building a community and enabling relationship building between community members and the brand. This type of strategy is used by both B2C and B2B businesses and has also been inspired by new digital technologies – the major social media platforms, particularly Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as purpose-built community platforms.
1. Change your view on individual media to see their role as part of the whole.
The questions to ask are .. what channel is the most effective for what message? And what combination will generate most leads and sales at the lowest cost?
It is better to think of media as a collective whole. Consider ways to combine media to increase message impact, drive interest and activate sales. Link offline to online worlds and vice versa. Promote your website url via all forms of advertising and integrate digital media, for example, blogs to website, Twitter and Facebook. Use the same creative across all media and over a series of campaigns. Avoid the temptation to change the creative lead too often as it is a recipe for customer confusion.
2. Embrace digital for itself
Digital technology can change the role of each element of the marketing mix. It can enhance your product or service as well as inspire a range of new promotion opportunities. Start by considering the extra benefits that digital can add to your product or brand proposition. Potential benefits include, paper-free delivery, paper-free billing, savings on storage and cost, better control or personal management, education, entertainment and social benefits. Through content and stories it provides the ‘sticky stuff’ or ‘scent’, i.e. keywords to attract passing customers.
3. Make the website marketing central and a brand home
Websites are no longer simply a repository for information, acting as shop window per se, but serve a broadening range of functions including promotion, entertainment, customer services as well as a place to shop. Thus your website should be a hub for all marketing communication and relationship building activity, and a home for your brand, housing resources and downloads, under-pinned by content and customer management systems to store and retrieve everything and enable customer interactivity, purchasing and service.
4. Create cut-through creative ideas
Set high creative standards for all media to command attention and interest. The difficulty with PPC advertising is that communication is dumbed-down to a limited number of characters, the same text font, and colours. This limits the brands ability to gain competitive advantage through creativity. By creating better branded communications and creating demand for your own brands and searched through phrases, it is possible to set up your own route to market. In game keeper parlance, help the dog see the rabbit. As Aleksandr Orlov has shown!
5. Measurement is vital for management
As Peter Drucker said, ‘what gets measured gets managed’ (4). Thus establish comparative measure for media cost per hundred or thousand impressions, and cost per sale. Then and only then will you be able to plan, test and learn where best to invest to maximise your return on media investment.
(1) Story, Louise; Anywhere the Eye can See, It’s Likely to See an Ad, New York Times, January 2007
(2) Adapted from Arnold, Tim; Tomlinson, Guy; Chapter 31, Managing Digital Marketing, The Marketing Director’s Handbook (2012). 27 new pages that lift the lid on online trade marketing secrets, and help inspire strategies that give you the edge. Available FREE with purchases of The Marketing Director’s Handbook from The Marketing Directors’ website.
(3) A squeeze page is a single website landing page designed for a specific promotion purpose and to capture a customer’s contact details. Arnold, John; Lurie, Ian; Dickinson, Marty; Marsten, Elizabeth; Becker, Michael; Web Marketing All-in-One Desk Reference for Dummies (2009)
(4) Drucker, Peter F; The Practice of Management (1955)