Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Offline or online? Marketing turns inside out

The great question of the age is what percentage of your marketing budget do you spend online? The IABUK’s survey said last month that online marketing spend now represents 5.8% of total marketing budgets. I question this method of considering marketing budgets because I’m concerned about what this really means? And what comes AFTER the movement online? Is there life beyond “online”?

How much of your budget do you spend online?

Let me pose you a different question for which there is no statistic just yet: How much of your budget is “Inside Out”? I apologise for the unwieldy term which I will define right away: “Inside Out marketing” takes place when you’ve moved your budgets significantly online and gone beyond the critical turning point where suddenly it becomes clear that you will always need offline. Let me explain…

Just as the aerospace pioneers discovered when breaking through the sound barrier, where the rules of aerodynamics were different, I believe the rules change for marketers once they have moved their marketing centre of gravity “online”.

Firstly, they discover that they actually need “offline” and that “online” can’t achieve their goals all on its own.

Secondly, they learn that they need to reinvent offline.

And finally “Inside Out marketers” rediscover “integrated marketing” which you may have heard of before!

Now they’re fully fledged members of the “Inside Out marketing” club.

So how much of your budget is “Inside Out”?

As someone dedicated to promoting ‘search marketing’, you may think it odd that I should be asking marketers not to throw out the offline bathwater with the online baby. The essence is that both “online” and “offline” are linked and vital ingredients of this new marketing world BUT – the centre of gravity has shifted.

Rule number one of “Inside Out” is that the marketer’s web presence (the organisation’s complete web site network) has moved to the centre and become the marketing fulcrum around which all else revolves. This then enables the whole marketing plan to be re-evaluated in a cohesive and measureable way.

Here are the central rules of “Inside Out”:

Define your marketing objectives.
Place your web site presence at the centre of everything.
Use your web site as your marketing measurement tool on- or offline. If you’re using CRM – integrate CRM and web site.
Speed your development of customer insight and marketing communication tool testing by using online as the development medium
Once you know what works best – move back offline to drive your whole activity both on- and offline.

Answer: “Inside Out” consumes your whole marketing budget 100%

Your web site is capable of doing certain things very effectively:

It can capture and evaluate all of your results data on the fly.
It can run A/B spits to test different marketing concepts hundreds of times quicker than is possible in print. Beyond A/B splits you can use “multivariate” testing of concepts that can inform on literally millions of different approaches in just a few short weeks that you will be able to roll-out in print.
It can conduct market research – without having to resort to tiresome questionnaires – all you need do is present different information, to different customer groups and assess the results. You customers won’t even know you’re asking them.
It can capture latent need through the results of search engine marketing activities or through your own on-site search box.

Online is very powerful, but it does have some weaknesses – such as how can everyone be number one for “cheap flights” on Google?

In “Inside out”, you take the learnings from your web presence and drive them through “offline” knowing that the customer will respond – and in many cases go searching online. Just as Norwich Union did – when they picked up the search engine responses to their slogan “Quote me happy” – a phrase they owned.

So I contend that the switched on marketers will soon no longer think “online” or “offline” but “Inside Out”. Namely, that my web presence is at the centre and I therefore know my customer which means I am able to drive my customer to me, through offline communications such as direct mail, radio o r TV and pick up and walk the customer through to my web site through search online. Now that to me is the true holy grail of marketing.

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