7 Digital Marketing Statements That Drive Me Crazy

by James Lawrence on 
May 21, 2024 | 
Digital Marketing Strategy
James Lawrence
James Lawrence

As the owner of a digital marketing agency, I hear a lot of marketing conversations and listen to a wide range of marketing thought leaders.

And you know what? Some often repeated things fall somewhere between annoyingly misleading and dangerously wrong, especially when it comes to digital marketing.

So, in the interests of making sure good decisions get made and bad ideas get challenged, I call out each of the following statements:

  1. I’m going to make all my decisions based on data.
  2. We don’t have the budget for better creative.
  3. You NEED a TikTok strategy.
  4. We’ll spend more money once XXX is proven to work
  5. All my marketing needs to be digital.
  6. My boss wants more followers.
  7. XXX is dead.

1. “I’m going to make all my decisions based on data”

I only like hearing this from a client’s competitor. 

It’s an idea promoted by an awful lot of digital marketers and accepted by a good number of marketing and business decision-makers. The problem? If you apply this thinking to all of your marketing, you’re going to be underperforming in a significant way.

Let’s be clear: data can be very effective in absolute decision-making in specific situations. For example, data is important in key moments within certain bottom-of-the-funnel activities in digital marketing. For lots of campaigns, it also has its place in effectively informing decisions in other types of marketing and at other stages of the funnel.

The problem is when people confuse these activities with their overall marketing. They are not the same thing. I regularly encounter people who take data-driven decision-making literally and won’t continue any activity unless they can see evidence that it beats other activities in Google Analytics on a narrow set of metrics. I’m not saying not to use data. I’m not even saying data is not important. I’m saying something I think is incredibly obvious. The fact an activity is hard or impossible to measure does not make it worthless. Ignore hard-to-measure marketing activities at your peril. Typically, top-of-the-funnel, long-term marketing activities are challenging or even impossible to measure. However, plenty of research shows their enormous value, and the general advice is that you should aim for around 60% of your entire marketing budget to be spent on such activities.

2. “We don’t have the budget for better Creative.”

It used to be that Creative was the engine room of marketing and advertising. Think about Don Draper and most of everything you see in Mad Men. It was about developing a great idea and putting media behind it to reach your audience.

But somewhere along the line, digital disposed of some of the core truths about marketing and spending time and money on great ideas. Great ads and quality content became an early casualty. For many businesses, the Creative being used in their campaigns remains an unsatisfactory afterthought. It should always be a core part of campaign strategy, attracting a solid budget and priority.

Plenty of studies prove the link between the quality of creative and campaign performance. Take, for example, this NC Solutions study in 2023, which showed that 49% of advertising effectiveness (as measured by its contribution to incremental sales) comes down to the creative.

Average creative and average results go hand in hand. I’ve personally seen good creative transform the results of struggling campaigns, and it frustrates me endlessly that marketers (or those dictating their budgets) remain happy to roll the dice by underfunding the creative component of their campaigns.

3. “You NEED a TikTok strategy.”

But do you? 

As with everything, it depends on where your audience is and what mindset they are in when they are there. Can you entertain, inspire or educate them with short-form videos that suit that particular channel? And by “them”, I mean people who will actually be able to purchase the product or service you make your money from. Yes, TikTok is growing and over 9 million Australians are on the platform. But all Australians use roads, does that mean YOU should be advertising there as well?

This point is not really about TikTok. At Rocket, we run very successful TikTok campaigns for our clients and love the platform for the right audience and offering. This point is about whatever the latest and greatest channel is to appear on the digital landscape. You’ll invariably get a lot of pressure to turn up and invest in a big way (even from non-marketing people). Sometimes, it's the right thing to do, but in my experience, it often turns out to be a distraction.

What you really need is a way to assess what role any new channel should play in effectively reaching and influencing your specific audience. It’s always about your audience, never about how exciting a channel is for other people, especially not how exciting it is for all of us marketers.

4. “We’ll spend more money once XXX is proven to work”

Firstly, let me be clear that I believe marketing should always be judged by its impact on the bottom line of any business. It sounds obvious, but marketing should be expected to work.

My issue with this statement is that it’s typically not applied to an overall marketing strategy (with a suitably long-term measurement window) but to a specific activity or campaign. This is a problem for two main reasons.

The first, is the issue already discussed around the number of valuable marketing activities that cannot be effectively measured, especially not in the short term. It doesn’t make sense to judge an activity in a way that it’s never going to make an impact. 

The second is related to the 95/5 rule and the reality that, on average, only 5% of buyers are planning to make a purchase shortly. The remaining 95% are simply not in the market. Whilst this was a B2B study, the general rule will hold true to some extent across almost all categories. 

Many (but not all) digital activities aimed at the 5% are measurable and it’s a good move to wait for proof before increasing your investment in such activities. Many effective activities aimed at the 95% will be much harder to prove. 

In terms of understanding the benefits of long-term marketing activities, when a member of the 95% does eventually become a buyer, the brands they already trust will stand a much greater chance of securing the sale. Bain & Co did an excellent study on B2B selling and found that up to 90% of buyers will ultimately choose a vendor from the list they had in mind when they first started researching who to buy from. One of the best ways to get your brand on your buyer’s “list” is through effective long-term marketing activities. 

Frustratingly, for those seeking certainty, these are the very marketing activities unlikely to be measurable on a “money-in, money-out basis”.

5. “All my marketing needs to be digital.”

If your prospects spend all their time in digital, that might be a good decision. But this is rarely the case. How realistic is it that anyone is only influenced by things they see on their screen? The alarm bells start going off for me when I hear the above statement, and I suspect the business in question has made the decision in a strategic vacuum. 

We know from experience that many of our most successful campaigns are for businesses that have an excellent marketing strategy mixing traditional and digital channels.

You should put your marketing budget into those places where your potential customers spend their time. With the caveat that you need to limit your channels to those places, you have the skills and resources to do an effective job.

This might be largely digital. It might be largely offline. Realistically, it’s probably a mix of both, as this reflects how most of us spend our time. Like everything, it’s all about your audience and having a clear strategy on how to effectively reach them.

6. “My boss wants more followers.”

Good marketing always has a clear business outcome by which it’s going to be judged. Sales, leads, revenue, foot traffic, brand awareness and more. Good marketers spend a lot of time thinking about how to influence key business metrics.

Sitting below business metrics are marketing metrics. Impressions, visits, followers, likes, opens, clicks and more. There’s nothing wrong with these metrics. Tracking the right ones is an important part of diagnosing what’s working in your marketing. 

But they should rarely be the actual reason for doing marketing, and when I hear a statement like this from someone who’s not a marketer, I see red flags about what’s motivating them or how they intend to judge performance. There is nothing worse than dedicating a chunk of time and money to working on a goal you know is not going to create a meaningful impact.

7. “XXX is dead.”

SEO died about a decade ago. Email passed on shortly afterwards. Or was it shortly before? Websites also died, replaced by social media accounts. Facebook is dead, TikTok killed it. Or was it Millennials?  

Tragic. Except that:

  • 53% of all the web traffic globally comes from organic search. And SEO is how you get more than your default share.
  • And Facebook’s slowdown in growth might be an obsession for sharemarket analysts, but a massive 81.1% of all Australians still have an account.
  • And don’t get me started on email. It’s still consistently rated one of the best-performing marketing channels by many marketers because it keeps on working.

I’ve said it before: follow your audience. If they’re using a channel, and you can effectively target and influence them there, it’s not dead for you.

I’m glad I got that off my chest.

Are you with me? I hope so. Good marketing is complex. If you’re a marketer, you know that already. It requires research, strategy and a deep understanding of your offering and audience. 

If our approach to marketing resonates with you, get in touch. We’ve got 50+ experts working tirelessly on high-performing digital marketing campaigns and highly effective creative.

Drop us a line here or call us on 1300 059 620.

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James Lawrence
Co-Founder & Director | Rocket Agency

James is co-founder of multi-award-winning Australian digital marketing agency Rocket, keynote speaker, host of Apple’s #1 Marketing Podcast, Smarter Marketer, and co-author of the 2019 Amazon Australia’s #1 best-selling marketing book of the same name. He was also a finalist in 2019 and 2020 B&T Marketer of the Year.

James’ 15-year marketing career working with more than 500 in-house marketing teams inspired the 2019 release of Smarter Marketer. It has been endorsed by marketers at some of Australia’s leading brands, including Hubspot and KPMG.

In 2022, James launched the Smarter Marketer podcast, the definitive podcast for Australian marketers. Released fortnightly, James sits down with local experts and global authorities to discuss how Australian marketers can become more successful in their careers.

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