What are you doing with your data?

Is digital marketing recession proof?

That was the question posed by Jenny Williams, MD of Sydney-based consultancy Ideagarden, during her morning presentation on the final day of Marketing Week 2009.

Typically, during a recession, budgets are slashed company-wide. As marketing is viewed as an expense, their budgets (usually along with IT and HR), are the first to go.

However, the smart companies are doing it the other way – they are increasing their spend during the tough times, and they’re doing better when the economy upswings because of it.

This means that old models need to evolve. Marketers get this, but getting that message through to decision-makers is difficult because of the ‘language’ barriers (marketing-speak vs. business speak).

So where does digital fit in to the marketing landscape during a recession?

Believe it or not, online advertising is proving just as effective, if not more so, than Television advertising. Digital is relevant and it is personal and it is interactive, as opposed to the passive messages from TV and radio.

Digital also has the unique, measurable property of being able to capture volumes and volumes of customer data. And in our technology-driven, time-poor, attention-deficit age, information about your customers is power.

A revelation put forward by Jenny was that in the digital space, demographics literally go out the window. Customers can be divided up into two key groups – those you know, and those you don’t.

You already have information on the people you know. You know what they buy, what they download, where they surf and, perhaps importantly, what they say. You can tailor your content, your products and your service to their needs. You can ask them if they achieved what they set out to achieve when visiting your online presence, and if not, why not.

If you don’t know them, you can collect data about them through engagement, not interruption. Then when they engage, you now have a customer you know.

Jenny believes digital marketing still has obstacles to overcome as it evolves.

Digital marketing is led by a different breed of people (read: geeks) and they speak a different type of language (read: geek-speak). Time to de-jargonise.

Digital also tends to get lost in the details. CEOs are not going to read a 100-page website specification doc. A better way needs to be found to communicate the power of this medium to decision-makers.

Then there is the problem of data overload. Too much information that is too hard to analyse (not that there is time to analyse it anyway). Identify the key data and do something meaningful with it (easier said than done!).

How can companies who are not effectively using digital channels start down the path?

Jenny suggests:

– Figuring out a strategy to store and collect the right kinds of data.

– Get data systems talking to each other consistently (read: IT needs to work together, not against, Marketing!).

– Invest in technology that is flexible (4 years for a CRM roll out is not going to cut the mustard today).

– Invest in flexible software development platforms for rapid deployment.

– Make sure your digital approach is fast and, importantly, user-friendly.

So, is digital marketing recession proof?

As Jenny succinctly put it, “nothing is recession proof.” But as digital marketing grows and evolves and starts to get the same spend as traditional marketing, more and more companies will turn to it as a way to talk to the people they know and reach the people they don’t.

Very interesting stuff from an industry visionary.

Don’t forget, casual reader, that you can follow Marketing Week 2009 on Twitter: #marketingweek


Rob Frost

P.S. In the interests of full disclosure, I am currently interning at Via Media, Adelaide’s Digital Marketing specialists. Via Media is a major sponsor of Marketing Week 2009. The views and opinions expressed in this post may not be fully represented by Via Media.


One Response to “What are you doing with your data?”

  1. Walter Adamson Says:

    Good post and many good points. Re segmentation yes it’s true that “conventional” segmentations are rapidly becoming liabilities. There are new “segments” but defined around the connections and behaviours in certain spaces, places and online engagements and not related to old demographic segments.

    Walter Adamson @g2m

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