Thursday, February 24, 2011

Interactive, Integrated, blah, blah, blah - What's Your ROI?

I just read an article that was completely a reiteration of a conversation I had with a colleague yesterday. The topic was Buzz words and the misuse of marketing terminology.
Now, buzz words have always been around and some of us have even been paid to create them. Many of us spent hours in our early careers memorizing them so that we’d sound “smart” and “in the know” in conference rooms and during presentations.
However lately, I find myself thinking like Dr. Phil! He has a saying when guests (patients?!) on his show try to make their issue complex. He says something to the effect of, “Well, I’m just an ol’ country boy from Texas,” and then he goes on and describes in very plain English everything he learned in his many years spent earning a PhD. , doing Post Doctorate work and maintaining a practice for many years.
Well, I went to school. In fact I went to a very prestigious one in Southern California and I have worked for some of the largest marketing firms in the country. I have “made rain” for some very big international clients, but when it comes right down to it, I guess, ”I’m just a simple girl from a small town in California and I know BS when I see it and I usually call it out.”
So, I’m calling B.S. on two very incorrect perceptions pervasive in business today. I have a major passion for marketing. And technology has provided wonderful enhancements and time saving techniques to it. However, I am finding that business people have two very misconstrued philosophies about it. One is that they seem to think that marketing is now “free” because everything is just done online. And the other is that “integrated” marketing = online marketing (and online marketing is free). Let me tackle those fallacies one by one.
Online Marketing is “free”…. I kid you not, I have seen budgets from reputable companies and in the line item for Online Marketing it has zero dollars appropriated to the activity. Zero? Really? What about the person who has to develop (think about and decide upon) an online campaign? What about the person who has to design (requires graphics and usually some html coding experience) online collateral? What about the person who has to create (think and then write) a “buzz worthy” blog entry or press release that will catch attention? Then what about list costs (in-house or purchased), keyword costs, CPA, CPM, et al? I could go on but I think you get the point  - Online Marketing IS NOT FREE!
Integrated Marketing….Many articles/blogs (blogs is the buzz word for articles ;) ) that I read and almost every position posting with Integrated Marketing in the title is really talking about Online Marketing.  Online Marketing is an important factor in a well rounded marketing program but it is not the description of an Integrated Marketing approach. People that think that it is have thrown the baby out with the bath water. A good description that was used (an understood) for many years to describe a holistic marketing approach was “Marketing Mix”.  Now, “mix” isn’t as fancy as “integrated”, but people understood it better. What it meant was that your marketing budget (which was not a zero!) was dispensed amongst many marketing activities like, advertising (on/off line) PR (social media marketing), events, direct mail , print, partnerships (now called affiliate marketing), inbound/outbound TM, etc., etc., etc.
I have seen some large and older companies continue to utilize a marketing mix, but many newer online companies seem to think that integration means  hitting all of the online forms of marketing only. It is not.  There is too much noise online for any company to put all of its eggs in one basket. Yes, I’ll admit there is the one in a million that takes off like wildfire, but millions don’t. And, it is sad to see many of the millions fold as they have good ideas, good products and good services, but they don’t have good marketing. Good marketing comes from knowing your target and then developing as many ways as you possibly can to “hit” them with why they must have your widget.
I caution all marketers to take heed as these misconceptions greatly dilute the intelligence, skill, creativity, education and experience required to pull off a successful campaign with a high and measurable ROI. Although, maybe we should just leave it as it is and inflate our ROI since the cost to market is free!?!

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