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Making the most of the opportunities of the Digital Age

24 Oct 2015

I’m happy to admit that a few years ago I stood Canute-like fiercely repelling the tidal wave of opinion about mobile phones and advertising. I couldn’t compute why people would ever want advertising on their phones and I railed against the idea with the same passion I currently dedicate to people who talk about “Disrupting Government” (No. Let’s have better Government)

I do now concede that the smartphone revolution has given marketeers the chance to reach larger audiences than ever thought possible. And working on campaigns I regularly hear sales pitches from people selling online advertising promising us hundreds of thousands of “eyeballs”. For really not very much money. It’s all very seductive.

But traditional marketing textbooks remind us that numbers aren’t everything.

As someone who lived through the digital marketing boom (where a 3% response rate was pronounced a success, conveniently forgetting that actually 97% of people we spent money on reaching had said “no thanks”), I’d urge real caution at marketeers basing future strategies on reaching huge digital audiences at the sake of all else.

In the last few months, I’ve heard a few modern experts (usually the people selling the media) describing click through rates of a couple of percent as being “good”. They’re not. They’re just proof of waste. And waste can be avoided as the digital age offers us so many more tools for analysis than we’ve ever had.

Rather than just the chance to reach huge numbers, the digital age actually offers us all an opportunity for more precise thinking. To set benchmarks for performance, to adjust and tweak tactics and channels according to what’s working. To tailor content and dump the stuff that isn’t working.

And the best success metrics? For the first time in most of our lives, it won’t be readership or pre and post awareness, or some other vague benchmark. It’ll be those measures that reveal true interaction with our target audience. The most simple engagement measures (follows, likes, sign ups etc) can be of real interest if you can understand which specific element of your comms plan inspired them to act.

Measuring the numbers of times a document has been downloaded is a blunt (but useful) measure, but analysis of the timing and volume of downloads adds huge understanding for future projects. You might find that all the downloads happened within an hour of announcing the programme. Or there might have been a single tweet or media mention that suddenly spiked interest. All easy to measure.

And once you’ve exhausted the desk research, what better next step than to reply back and invite your audience to engage properly.

Through your own media. In your own time.

– IABC Special Guest Blogger Alun Probert

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