News flash. Digital is in – digital use, digital marketing and digital buying. More and more studies are rising to the surface that put this handwriting on the wall in big, flashing, Internet-green neon. Do you believe it? You’d better. Are you ready? You’d better be.

Digital Marketing Is In For Companies

“Digital” encompasses a variety of areas under the “Internet” umbrella. Sure, it all happens online, but “digital” includes Search, Social media, Mobile, Email, Tablet, Websites, Video and more. To companies, digital marketing means reaching the consumer across multiple touch points. Scenarios that could potentially turn into brand display overload dance in the heads of business owners everywhere.

Imagine your business with highly active, multiple touch points:

  • (Search) Your website ranks first for a major, much searched for, key term.
  • (Social) Your content is read and shared by at least 20% of your 30K Twitter followers, 15K Facebook fans and 350 active Pinterest users.
  • (Mobile) Your site is mobile friendly but just in case, you have an interesting mobile app with over 1 million downloads so far.
  • (Email) Your newsletter, according to your email analytics, has an active subscriber list with an obscene open rate of 30% (well above your industry’s standards).
  • (Tablets) You’ve invested in HTML5, CSS3 and rich, interactive tablet applications to entice and increase visitor retention and brand awareness.
  • (Websites) You have an active website with over 100K visitors per month.
  • (Video) You’ve loaded YouTube with active, viral videos, the smallest of which has received over 500K views.

And your brand is on all of it.

In January, the CMO Council (Chief Marketing Officer Council) published a study entitled “More Gain, Less Strain: Optimizing Marketing Partner Performance and Value in a Digital World“. Analysts – great for info, but horrible at quick titles. Like any study, it had participants and came to conclusions. The conclusions were many and not at all surprising – at least for those that read the writing on the wall. The outcome:

Digital marketing is in. Companies know it. They support digital marketing efforts BUT are unprepared to make the shift. Companies are having problems integrating.

Interestingly enough, the companies struggling with digital marketing are turning to marketing agencies that integrate their needs into one package. For example, if you’re selling optimization and social media marketing, but outsource the SMM, your agency may be skipped over. Even more interesting is that the study shows the more traditional advertising agencies that haven’t grown or aren’t willing to grow, are getting bit by the Digital Age.

Business to business advertising agencies argued with the study, according to an article on BtoB Online. However, they’re argument didn’t have anything to do with whether business should adapt, but whether B2B agencies adapted quickly.

None So Blind as Those Who Cannot See

A few days ago, MediaPost published a write up about the CMO Council report. As these things go, it was a pretty standard write up. However, observe the commentary, if you will.

Commenter #1, Karen, remarks how the study misses the boat entirely, because consumers run the show. Commenter #3, Jonathan, on the other hand, dismisses the whole study as “meaningless”. He says,

“Wow…another survey by a firm that promotes digital tools that marketers need to use more digital tools. This line of reasoning is getting old and suspect, isn’t it? Where’s the research that tells us that more than 90% of companies DON’T have dedicated digital strategies after many years of being hit over the head about them? Maybe there are real, objective business reasons. The implication that they’re behind some curve or trend is just stupid. This ‘data’ is meaningless.”

Do you ever read this stuff and shake your head? We do. Especially when both are adamant about their stand, and neither are right.  Of course, that could just be our opinions…

Driven by consumers?

Yes and no. As more and more consumers move to the Internet to research products, read reviews and spend their hard-earned dollars, brands will struggle harder to make the shift to digital. In this way, consumers do, indeed, run the show. After all, it does no good to advertise if the ads aren’t where the consumers go.

Does this negate the offline world of T.V., radio and print advertisements? Not at all, but it does point to a greater need for fully integrated marketing agencies.

Does this point to complete consumer control? Absolutely not. It’s always been wise business practice to be where the buyer is, and interact with them in a way they expect, want and need.

Digital strategies ignored?

Jonathan makes a case against dedicated digital strategies based on the percent of businesses that haven’t embraced these strategies. He appears to be dismissing online strategies as unimportant overall, because a large number of companies haven’t done anything about them.

This, friends, is not brilliant logic.

Rather than point to the fallacy of using online strategies, this may, instead, point to lack of knowledge, inability to integrate or budgetary constraints on expanding marketing venues. Either that or they blatantly refuse to grow (in which case, we’d have to brand their lack of growth as idiocy, rather than inability).

The Truth About Digital Sales, In Big, Flashing Neon

A study published in April by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has a headline that shouts Internet Ad Revenues Hit $31 Billion in 2011, Historic High Up 22% Over 2010 Record-Breaking Numbers. Please note that “ad revenues” does not mean “ad spending”. That $31 billion last year is the amount consumers spent via online advertising. Search revenues alone rose 27%, and mobile rose 149% to $1.6 billion.

Nielsen published their State of the Media: U.S. Digital Consumer Report for Q3-Q4 2011 in March of this year, and shared some staggering statistics. For example, 274 million Americans have Internet access. That’s more than 85% of the U.S. population, and more than double that of 12 years ago.

On top of that, we have mobile smartphone and tablet use, as well as streaming video onto our televisions, through our desktops and laptops. We’re a “constantly on” society. We don’t just watch T.V., we do things with our fancy gadgets: 57% percent of smartphone/tablet users checked email while watching T.V., for example.

The numbers aren’t as high for sales, but they’re still impressive. 29% looked up information related to the watched TV program. 19% looked up product information for ads that crossed their screen, and 16% looked up coupons or deals for the ads. Overall, when viewing ads, a full 23% of tablet owners bought something through their computer. – And the facts keep on coming.

That’s a lot of consumer buying and brand exposure, and it strongly makes the case for increased digital marketing expenditures. Sorry, Jonathan.

Pro-Active Marketing, Not Re-Active Marketing

Whether you’re a business owner or a marketer, the path seems straightforward. Consumers are online and active in the digital marketplace. Businesses need to expand their touch points into as many marketing avenues as their consumer base, budget and company growth rate will allow. Marketers need to integrate more digital services into their offerings in order to provide companies with well-rounded, value-added strategies.

It’s called proactive marketing… growing your business through available marketing channels as they become available. Otherwise, if you wait until everyone is reading the same sign, you’re practicing reactive marketing. You’re always going to be the late bird without the worm, the turtle in molasses or any other “slow” metaphor you can think of.

The summary – the take away – the pièce de résistance: digital marketing is in. You may now return to your regularly scheduled program.