One of the important aspects of marketing is choosing the right channel to effectively connect with the target segment. With the advent of internet and rapid growth in its penetration (as per the latest statistics there are around 2.2 billion people worldwide on internet, with a sharp 31.2% jump in the increase of internet penetration from the last year and an astronomical growth of almost 500% since 2000), the marketers have a new channel to ponder over. With such a large population on internet, with considerably better purchasing power than those who are not, it becomes one of the most important consumer touch points. Its often talked about as one of the most efficient ways to reach the target segment as extensive data about the profile of the visitors is available with the websites which is often shared in the public domain as well. The down side of it is that there are so many ad-pricing models, networks, sites and modes of online media marketing that selecting the right place and the right mode assume great importance. A bigger problem is to arrive at a set of metrics to evaluate the marketing campaign.
The objectives behind the online marketing efforts could be many. For the e-commerce companies for an instance, selling goods and services online, the primary motive could be to drive quality traffic eventually resulting in more sales. In case of a brick and click company, the objective could be to increase the brand visibility in order to promote offline sales and/or to drive traffic to the online portal to increase online sales. For a brick and mortar company, it could be all about engaging with their target segment effectively in order to reinforce brand equity, or increasing the brand visibility to improve the top-of mind recall.
There are different modes of online media marketing. Some of them are search engine marketing (Google Adwords, Yahoo search etc.), ads placed on ad-networks or directly on the site, ads on youtube, social media marketing (ads/pages on social networks like facebook, twitter, linkedin, pinterest, etc.). Marketers are also increasingly choosing non conventional marketing techniques these days over the conventional ones. For example McDonald’s tied up with Zynga’s hugely popular game Farmville for a special McDonald’s farm in the game. Online media marketing is not just restricted to big companies now, and even the small local businesses like restaurants, spas are also readily trying to leverage the internet phenomena. There are a lot of small businesses bidding for Google Adwords, buying the ad-space and many of them are even partnering with deal sites like Groupon, Snapdeal etc. to drive footfall in their shops. Almost all maintain their Facebook page as well.
Though the online media marketing undoubtedly is one of the most efficient ways of targeting the desired segment, the processes involved in realizing these gains are equally complex. Many companies, in the recent past, have reduced or completely abandoned this channel because of the poor gains. For example, automobile major GM stopped ads on facebook as they couldn’t really justify this marketing expenditure vis a vis the increase in footfalls in their showrooms or increase in conversions. They still decided to continue with the Facebook page though, where they could host content and engage with their prospective customers without having to pay anything to the Facebook.
There are many issues plaguing the marketers while working on the nuances of the online marketing campaign. But the three major issues are:-
CPM vs CPC vs Everything else
Most of the online marketers grapple with the question of which ad-pricing model to choose. The most popular ad pricing models are CPM & CPC. For the uninitiated, CPM is Cost per 1000 impressions and CPC is Cost per Click. If you think you have an awesome product, and the content of the ad placed on the site is equally awesome which could give you a healthy Click through rate, you should most definitely choose CPM. On the other hand if you don’t want to take any chances, and would like to quantify your risk to some extent one could go with CPC (independent of the CTR as you pay only if somebody clicks on the ad). Some of the sites also have a model where you could advertise paying a lump sum amount for which you get the ad space for a fixed period of time. Zomato.com, basically a restaurant review site, gives out ad space under such a pricing contract. Then, there are other sites like Groupon, which let the small business advertise (through offers, discounts etc.) based on Cost per Acquisition basis i.e the company or the shop-owner would pay only if they acquire a customer.
SEM vs SEO
Search engines usually constitute a large percentage of the referral traffic to any site. When you search something on google, you would have noticed sponsored links at the top of the search results and text ads on the right side of the page. As a marketer, you would ideally want your website’s link to appear either as a sponsored link or as a normal link, for all the searches even remotely connected to your business. For example, while marketing Snapdeal online, you would want your site to be part of the displayed results when someone types deals, or offers, or phones, or restaurants, or snapdeal, or Crazeal.com (a competitor’s site). There are two ways to achieve this, either you go for Search Engine Optimization, where your site is optimised for all the related keywords, or you opt for Search Engine Marketing. In the latter case one has to bid for the keywords (in case of Google the keywords would be called Adwords) ,and still has to do a bit of optimization for the site to have a good quality score. Quality Score multiplied by the bid amount would give you a rank, and it will form the basis of the order in which your site is displayed in the sponsored search list.
Bidding for ad-words could be a little tricky. The relevant ad-words are priced at ridiculous amounts because of the intense competition. For businesses where the price/unit is less and the order size is less, for example, for a website selling a tshirt priced at Rs.200, with the order size most of the times being 1, advertising on google may just take away all the margins. On the other hand, if you decide not to advertise and the other companies do, then also you are losing out on an opportunity to generate leads which may eventually result in lower sales. I believe for a company to achieve some gains out of search engine advertising, it needs to cross a certain threshold of sales, with a large portfolio of products, giving you an opportunity to up or cross sale. Also, SEM through Adwords could be the best option for creating buzz and driving the traffic to the website in the short-term, but in the long term SEO is a much more sustainable solution.
What to measure?
A huge problem with online media marketing is to arrive at a set of metrics to evaluate the ROI for the dollar spent. For an e-commerce website, it is much easier as they can just measure the quality of traffic coming to their site, and also have the advantage of tracking conversions through various applications available. But for a brick and mortar company, like GM, it becomes extremely difficult to track the conversions or lead generations via online marketing. The problem becomes even more pronounced for social media marketing which many think should be a place for engaging with the target audience and should not be evaluated for conversions or referral traffic. Evaluating this engagement or rather quality engagement is equally difficult. No doubt Facebook gives you Insights, which throws at you a myriad of metrics, but these metrics in my opinion evaluate perceived engagement and not the actual engagement.
Marketers want more people to like the page, so that they could push the content on them, and in process create engagement. And hence a popular metric used by most of the companies is the “number of likes”, but then the moot question is “what does a like signify?”. At times, people like a particular brand, and hence they like its page, but many of them do not want to be bothered with the ‘content’ that is forcefully pushed on them. Some discontinue and the others just ignore. So, there is no guarantee that the likes actually translate into true fans. A good way of figuring out the effectiveness of the campaign (increase the likes) is to see whether the increase in the number of fans has resulted in proportionate increase in the engagement/post. In most of the cases it doesn’t because people may ‘like’ the page for various reasons, and all these likes may not be synonymous to ‘fans ’per se. Hence, along with the “change in likes”, it would be better to track changes in other essential metrics with respect to the “change in likes”, in order to keep a track of the quality of likes generated, and hence the engagement.
As can be seen from the above mentioned dilemmas, one has to be extremely careful while choosing the right mode, the right pricing model and the right metrics to use online media marketing effectively. And even after doing all of it, the jury is still out on whether one can be assured of realizing handsome gains.