This article is inspired by a piece written by Molly Flemming for Marketing Week, available here.

The premise for this article is simple. 

There are multiple articles available online discussing how digital marketing is a cheaper alternative to traditional marketing. Also, you can find multiple articles discussing how digital marketing can be made cheaper.

In the present article, we are not going to declare all these pieces wrong or misleading. In fact, like most things in life, the reality is based on understanding conditions.

So, is digital marketing a money saver? Possibly. 

But, should you look at digital marketing as a money saver, in terms of spending less on your marketing in general? No.

Let’s start with the basics.

Some Things Never Change

If there is one thing constant in life and business, it’s “You Get What You Pay For”. 

The inspiration for this article; i.e. the views of Vauxhall MD Stephen Norman on digital marketing; grabbed my attention on one specific comment. 

“When digital came in, the idea was it would be a money-saver, but in fact nobody has saved a penny”.

Apart from the fact that Vauxhall has had a few decades of mixed results now, blaming digital is already a stretch. But, the problem here lies in the attitude itself.

Stephen Norman places his emphasis on the ROI from their marketing efforts. There is no denying that measuring your ROI is a valid line of action. However, the overall attitude of an organisation plays a part in the full story here. 

Like any other business, there are good and bad digital marketing practices. As a result, there are good and bad digital marketers. 

Saving Money vs Making Money

Under the present circumstances, if you want to go for the good digital marketers with the plan of saving money, there is already a problem. If saving money is the consideration number one for you, you end up going to mediocre or bad marketers in the first place.

The correct attitude is – You go to good digital marketers to make more money, not save money. As simple as that. 

In all fairness, given that most business solutions revolve around only a few ways of adding value, ‘saving money’ seemed to work like a charm around the time when digital marketing started taking off. However, in more recent instances, businesses have started to go back to the idea of correlating spending with making money. 

This does not mean that the notion of ‘saving money’ does not work in digital marketing. Of course it does. Again, it’s all about one’s attitude towards business. 

What Works?

Another comment that I picked up from the cited article was around understanding your clients. When talking about the effectiveness of digital marketing, Stephen Norman mentions:

“If anything, we have even less idea today of what works and what doesn’t than we did [pre-digital]”.

This is a well recorded problem within businesses. In fact, there are problems at every layer of this gigantic problem around data – methods of collection, the collection itself, our attitudes, expectations, and above all, the interpretation. 

There is no denying that data is a powerful tool. However, there are some horrific statistics related to data, e.g.

As a result, instead of actually improving our services through the use of available digital data, in most cases, we are creating an illusion of knowing more. This means that instead of improving our understanding of the customer, we fall back on a false sense of what is going to work. At the end, with a weak understanding and interpretation of data, we end up falling even shorter than the starting point. 

In any case, there needs to be an improved emphasis on meaningful action through interpretation. For this to happen, we cannot solely rely on direct derivations of actions from data. Instead, we need to build a culture of questioning the deeper, hidden ends of data. 

For instance, at Axies Digital, we use applied and digital psychology to connect data with actionable steps to further the business of our partners as well as our own.

Related to Data

We have covered multiple topics around data for business. To strengthen your understanding of data for business, check:

  1. Data Ethics – A Case for the Future of Work and Business
  2. You Need More than Plain Data – Applying Data Mining in Business
  3. How can Misleading Data Undermine Marketing? Meaningless Stats in Marketing
  4. The Law of Small Numbers – What Data Mistakes are Made by Businesses
  5. How to Grow from Actual State to Desired State? | Success from Digital Data
  6. Measuring Digital Marketing Success in an Extended SEO Effort
  7. Cross Platform Analytics – A Digital Marketing Challenge
  8. World’s Most Valuable Resource and Its Impact on Business
  9. Search Intent – Managing Expectations from Search Results
  10. Behavioural Analytics – Understanding Your Target Audience Better

The Exaggeration

Like most of the rest of the article here, we are going to look into another statement from Stephen Norman:

“There is still a significant body of people – and not just old people – who want the physical selection process in buying a car.”

Yes, of course.

Stephen Norman is pointing at the fact that an estimated half of people still prefer buying in store. In the auto industry, the percentage of people buying in person is expected to be even higher.

However, stating this fact out as a setback to the expectations from digital marketing to replace the physical touch is a major exaggeration.

Digital is not here to replace our buying habits; it merely adds a new dimension to the buying cycle. 

Gone are the times when you simply walked into a car showroom and put yourself into the merciful hands of the sales person. (There are some horrible statistics in the department of in-person sales. I will not go into details here but you should do your own search).

Digital has made the process of buying more transparent. Now, the customer gets the chance to weigh in their options before committing. They get to learn about the product and get more information.

However, physical connection is still the ultimate step. Simply, digital is now the step one in building a physical connection. (We talk more about going from digital to physical here).

Concluding Remarks

Digital marketing is not necessarily cheaper. And, there are good and bad digital marketers that can be differentiated by the way they present your business data and discuss its impact.