Does ROI focused internet marketing spoil creativity in marketing?

Whenever I explain to people what I do and my methodology, one of the things I’m at pains to say is that I’m a marketer that focuses on return on investment.

All my career we’ve been talking about tracing how conversions are attained and working out cost per conversions. It’s a standard format however recently I’ve been starting to think about the point of marketing and how it works to change the way the marketed to interact and engage with the brand and how difficult that is in reality to quantify.

In the good old days, marketing budgets where generally based on a percentage of profits or projected profits from the other ways the business made money – the point was to generate new business and increase revenue, however the difference with an online business is the marketing channel has taken the place of the traditional sales channel, in a lot of cases (and probably too many cases) there are no traditional sales channels.

In those days it was much more of a gut instinct feeling, everyone made projections but they were much more difficult to try and quantify, as such there was a mindset that marketing is something you have to do but it’s something that you have to be prepared to lose on. In the age of the internet, projections are made about the likely outcome over certain periods of time and if it’s not working within that timeframe things are cut short or modified. This is as it should be and is the way that I always work, but it doesn’t lead for creativity because working in this manner means that you work with what you know works and what is easily predictable.

Marketing in The Personalisation Era

We are now entering a new phase of The Information Age, which I call The Personalisation Era. In this era, the online properties we visit are collecting vast amounts of data about us, allowing them to be really targeted about the offerings they are getting out there, they are personalising the internet experiences we have based on our previous online behaviour – this is great for marketers as it means we can really focus in on the things that are going to work, we can show the user the things we know they are going to be interested in and at times when we know they are going to be more likely to be in transaction mode.

Although this is brilliant for us marketers, I do think it’s making us lazy, where’s the creativity gone? We are all marketing in the same way, using SEO, Social Media, Pay Per Click. These are all effective marketing methods in their own rights but where’s the next set of opportunities coming from? Historically, marketing changes have been driven by marketers, we’ve come up with great new concepts that gradually get taken up by other marketers, in this modern era of marketing great software companies are dictating to us how we will market to our potential audience – let’s  face it the internet has just about killed off many forms of offline marketing all because it’s not as trackable, but it never was and we always believed that it worked – before we were offered the illusionery properties of Google Adwords conversion tracking.

Speculating to Accumulate

The brave new world of internet marketing is all about helping a business reduce its risks, however I believe that the risk takers are the ones that stand out from the crowd, they are the ones that get things moving, they are the ones that we all look up to, in this new age of marketing there are less and less speculators – people are still being entrepreneurial and yes, they are speculating, however they are increasingly minimizing their risks – a good example of this is the methodology I employ a to predict seo return on investment. My gut feeling is this is stifling creativity and originality in marketing.

Advice About Internet Marketing

I’m an internet marketer in the Information Age, I’m not stuck in the Fordist past, it’s gone and we have to get cleverer about what it is we’re doing. I’m not going to pretend about that, however if internet marketing is now replacing the more traditional sales channels then we need to be looking back at how it used to work, we need to be saying these forms of internet marketing, such as PPC and SEO are not like the sales channels of old and if you rely on them you are replacing the salary of a sales person sat making phone calls or going out to meetings – measure these results as you would a sales person. Then do some exciting and creative things with the 20% of profits that would have originally been (in the olden days) saved up and ploughed back into the marketing budget – get familiar with the concept of the halo effect and just keep ‘doing marketing’.

I am still a return on investment internet marketer, I’ve been trained all my working life to work that way and I don’t think ‘d be comfortable working in any other way, however I think it’s time that we as the marketing community start to think in much more detail about the way we do things, the way we promote ourselves and the general future direction of marketing, how the different forms of internet marketing sits within that and how we are best positioned to making businesses grow and soar above the rest.

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