Why Are You Still Spending Money Offline?

I’ve always been a die-hard promoter of the Internet. I’ve loved working on campaigns and telling people why they need to be marketing in the online space for several years and truly enjoyed its scalability and the advancements that have been made. Supposedly that makes me an evangelist? Well in the right context, I would tend to agree.

Recently, I read a blog post by public relations guru and author of Putting the Public Back in Public Relations Brian Solis where he cites a Forrester Research report that indicates more money is being spent online than with traditional advertising. He titled his blog post “The Decline of Traditional Advertising and the Rise of Social Media“. In some ways, the report offers some vindication to me that I chose the right industry and profession. Here’s basically what the report had to say:

Forrester Research: Forecast US Interactive Marketing Spend 2009-2014

From the chart above, Forrester is predicting that search marketing will continue to lead in spending through the next five years followed by display advertising. Also, they are quick to point out that “owned social media assets (like internal blogs, community sites) are really the only emerging media getting traction” in today’s economic climate.

My take on the data? It’s not a surprise that search marketing is the head of the pack. Why? Because it’s all about how the phases of online marketing goes through. It started with the website. Once someone had one, everyone wanted one so then agencies specialized in creating awesome and dynamic websites, heralding in the Web 1.0 era. Now we’re understanding that people can look for websites using a search engine, then we want to pour all our money into getting noticed through search engine optimization and search engine marketing tactics. Let’s get our name out on Google, Yahoo and Bing! Could it be that marketers are trying to reach as many people as they can and think that search marketing will get them there over email marketing? I think that their thinking is pretty correct, but one thing to note is that email marketing is the constant communication once you’ve engaged them at least once. It’s supposed to be the conversation you have – somewhat like web 1.5 (partially non-community content and community conversation). What’s the point? While we’re seeing perhaps a revolution towards online means of communication with our customers, it’s not just search marketing. Perhaps that’s what marketers are thinking will be the next biggest opportunity they’ll have to reach out to folks compared to other means? Nevertheless, more dollars are seemingly being allocated to the other online sectors as well – we’re seeing the emergence of mobile, social, email and display being taken as a serious form of marketing.

I believe that marketers and businesses are making the right transition from offline to online. More of your message can be shared and you have multiple touch points to engage with your customers. Now how can THAT be a bad thing? Shar VanBoskirk of Forrester Research makes this great observation: she sees the overall advertising budget for companies will decline over the next five years. And why not? The cost it takes companies to buy an advertisement in the New York Times or local newspaper will probably be more expensive than running banner ads on the New York Times website or even by having coverage on industry blogs. The web offers low barrier to entry and you can certainly do whatever you want to get your message across to your customers.

Marketers these days will need to think creatively and find “out of the box” ways to get their message over the noise and clutter. Re-examine your position on traditional advertising. Is that billboard advertisement really worth spending all that money when you could possibly just set up a website, put up some banner ads, send out a few emails, do some SEO work, and communicate with your community using social media – all with the same budget (assuming all possible)?

Look, I’m not saying that traditional advertising is irrelevant, because it’s not. I like traditional advertising, but where exactly are your customers? Where? They’re online! So you need to be online as well reaching out to them. We all know that marketing (and mostly advertising) is a “dog-eat-dog” world, so why not find smarter ways to communicate and then look at the money you save. VanBoskirk offers this suggestion: marketers should use their excess budget to allocate into “investments like innovation, research, customer service, customer experiences, and marketing-specific technology and IT staff, in order to further marketing’s strategic influence within their companies.

Innovate or die? I like it…but for marketers it’s probably get online or get left behind.

So where are you marketing?