Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Anil Malhotra

Digital marketing — boring the board to death

By Anil Malhotra, Chief Marketing Officer at Bango

There’s something very wrong at the heart of the digital marketing discipline.

Recently, the company board has come to know something that the rest of us in marketing have failed to acknowledge for too long.

Social media promised digital marketers a new frontier of never-seen-before data about their potential customers. And so we all raced headlong towards that promised land, chasing grandiose claims of hyper-targeted marketing.

Alas, social media just hasn’t lived up to the promise. Digital marketing has fallen victim to misleading and meaningless marketing metrics ever since — damaging the entire enterprise and sending marketers into information overload. As a result, they’ve been throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the company board: conversions, shares, likes, retweets, applauses, engagement rates, clickthrough rates and so much more.

Frankly, it’s boring the board to death. In fact, it’s making the C-suite question the worth of digital marketing in its entirety.

Likes and shares? Find a CEO who cares

As part of Bango’s ‘Board to Death’ research report, 200 CEOs were surveyed on how they really feel about digital marketing. The results around social media metrics were hard-hitting – 76% said they don’t care about retweets, 65% don’t want to hear about your likes, and 66% aren’t impressed with impressions.

We’ve all been there when our CEO decides to ask how much a “like” is worth to the business, or what the virtue of a retweet is. It’s painful. These questions aren’t just hard to answer – they’re often impossible.

The bottom line is this: if social media activity cannot show how it is boosting business, CEOs and the rest of the board just don’t care. Our research has shown this to be the case.

62% of CEOs believe too much of their marketing budget is being poured into wasteful dead-ends with no real ROI, and 59% think that digital marketing metrics uncoupled from fundamental business KPIs have no tangible meaning.

And with social media advertising spend in the UK projecting to reach £5.2 billion by the end of this year, why are we investing so much money into something that CEOs simply aren’t buying into?

Social media — lost in the revenue desert

Marketers are stumbling across a revenue desert, drawn to the mirage of social media with its promises of data, targeting potential customers based upon their interests, job, gender and age (in the case of platforms such as Facebook).

This data and these metrics feel real, they feel tied to purchases and revenue. But a mirage it remains, a false oasis. That’s not water you’re drinking, friend. That’s sand. Unfortunately, there exists a vast disconnect between who people are, how they behave on social media, and whether or not they will purchase a given product. Intent to like, share or retweet has very little relationship with intent to buy.

This disconnect has already registered with many CEOs. Our survey found that 60% of them think that the marketing potential of social media has been exaggerated, with 22% stating that social media marketing or digital advertising would be first for the chopping block in a budget cut.

Now, this is NOT a call to surrender! Marketers need not stay in the desert and not every social media campaign is a mirage. They can and will work, if properly conducted. Furthermore, if marketers can prove that their work is more focused upon people likely to make a purchase, 71% of CEOs have said they would be willing to increase budget for the marketing department. But the question remains, how is this achieved? How does social media recalibrate with revenue?

The answer is purchase behaviour targeting.

Purchase behaviour who?

Purchase behaviour targeting, or ‘PBT’ for short, is one of the most effective yet underused tools available to digital marketers today. PBT allows digital marketers to target their ad campaigns at those who have purchased similar items in the past and so are more inclined to purchase those – or similar products – again. In this way, rather than relying on the lattice of guesswork that is consumer demography, marketers can focus their energies (and budgets) solely on people with the greatest likelihood to buy (“buyography, if you will). Serious targeting — rooted in proof, not assumptions. If there’s one thing the board really likes, it’s proof.

PBT is extremely scalable. The greater the bank of purchase data, the more accurate your targeting. Cutting-edge marketing technology is capable of processing billions of dollars’ worth of payment information across several purchase channels, collating insights into the purchase behaviour of users needing to know their lifestyle choices, gender, age or other demo data points.

Social media marketing strikes back?

So perhaps there’s hope yet for social media marketing. It’s been running on the wrong fuel, that’s all. A shot of purchase data should do the trick.

While it’s true that Facebook has been making PBT available to their clients for some years now, this has been totally reliant on Facebook’s own bank of first party payment information. However, with payments providers stepping into the arena of big digital marketing, PBT is about ready to explode in both usage and precision. CEOs and the rest of the board can start to see a solid ROI on their marketing budgets, and marketers can sleep more soundly at night knowing the revenue desert was just a bad dream.

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