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Does ROI focused internet marketing spoil creativity in marketing?

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

We’ve been talking about tracing how conversions are attained and working out the cost per conversion all my career.  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 interact and engage with the brand and how difficult it is to quantify it.

In the good old days, marketing budgets were 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. There are no formal sales channels in many cases (and probably too many cases).

In those days, it was much more of a gut instinct feeling, everyone made projections, but they were much more challenging to try and quantify. 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 specific periods, 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 to 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 EraIn this era, the online properties we visit collect vast amounts of data about us, allowing them to be targeted about the offerings they are getting out there. They personalise our internet experiences based on our previous online behaviour. 

This is great for marketers as it means we can focus 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 be in transaction mode.

Although this is brilliant for us marketers, I think it’s making us lazy. Where’s the creativity gone? In the same way, we are all marketing using SEO, Social Media, Pay Per Click.  These are all effective marketing methods in their rights, but where’s the next set of opportunities coming from?.

Historically, marketers have driven marketing changes; we’ve come up with great new concepts that other marketers gradually take up.  In this modern marketing era, great software companies dictate how to 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. We always believed that it worked – before we were offered the illusionary 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, and they are the ones that we all look up to; in this new age of marketing, there are fewer and fewer speculators – people are still being entrepreneurial, and yes, they are speculating. 

However, they are increasingly minimising their risks – an excellent example is a methodology I employ 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, we need to look 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 salesperson sat making phone calls or going out to meetings – measure these results as you would a salesperson. 

Then do some exciting and creative things with the 20% of profits that would have been initially (in the olden days) saved up and ploughed back into the marketing budget – get familiar with the concept of the halo effect and keep ‘doing marketing’.

I am still a return on investment internet marketer, I’ve been training all my working life to work that way, and I don’t think I’d be comfortable working in any other way. 

However, I think it’s time that we, as the marketing community, start to believe in much more detail about how we do things. 

We promote ourselves and the general future direction of marketing, how the different forms of internet marketing sit within that and how we are best positioned to make businesses grow and soar above the rest.

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Does ROI focus internet marketing spoil creativity in marketing?

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