Working out where ROI can come from in the digital world

DIGITAL GUIDE: Securing visibility for your business in the competitive online space

Having already looked at establishing whether pay-per-click (PPC) works for your business, rethinking your digital advertising strategy to attract new customers and making your website stand out from the crowd, it’s now time to examine where ROI can come from.

It’s all part of our journey into the complex world of online sales and marketing – an important consideration for any business, regardless of its size or sector. Through a detailed digital guide, we’ve also put together a handy infographic on the evolution of online sales and marketing, while a jargon buster looks to cut through some of the noise. Make sure you click on the link at the beginning and end of this article to see those for yourself.

A 2013 survey – “Digital Distress: What Keeps Marketers Up at Night?” – found that only nine per cent of marketing professionals “knew their digital marketing was working”, while 70 per cent felt under increasing pressure to show what they were doing was actually driving sales and generating revenue.

This figure has yet to decrease, and there’s a reason why. Done well, marketing can do a lot to boost a company’s bottom line – a sure reason for executives to apply some more pressure. But marketing done haphazardly is bound to be a financial drain. We asked our four business leaders what “tools” they used to foster success – which should help you sleep better at night.

In our evolving digital landscape, we see new marketing “wonder widgets” introduced every other day. In such an environment with so much hype it’s easy for marketers to focus on only one tool to solve their marketing woes. But we found that you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket – you need a number of tools to make your marketing plan succeed and bring you the ROI you need and want.

While social media lately seems to be the go-to for everything business, it needs to be said that it’s not a complete marketing service in and of itself and should be used as part of a strategic marketing plan.

This was highlighted by Rachel Bedgood, CEO of Welsh screening business Complete Background Screening, who claimed the digital marketing success her company had seen was reflected in revenue milestones being hit year on year for the last five years – to the point where it has been listed as a Welsh Fast Growth 50 company since 2011. She said: “Social media is currently used as part of our strategy to network, build and extend business relationships online as well as by being a distribution tool for the content we produce – blogs, case studies, news stories.”

That’s not to say it isn’t a powerful marketing tool though. For Andrew Jennings, co-founder and CEO of high-flying watch business Larsson & Jennings, it’s all about Instagram – and he said it packed a mighty punch.

Having founded the business in the same year Instagram launched, the company used it from the outset to raise awareness amongst its target audience and reach out to fashion influencers using the app. “Not only does the visual nature of Instagram provide a great place for us to really showcase our product, it also helps us to tell our story and build our brand,” Jennings explained. “Many of our posts don’t include a watch at all; they’ll just be of somewhere we are in the world or something we think is cool or interesting that our followers might also be interested in – using a global platform like Instagram helps us engage with our worldwide audience.”

Meanwhile, ToxicFox’s head of search, Matthew Rogers, explained that with social media there is an element of direct sales, as well as customer retention, customer service, brand awareness, product awareness, community and social proofing that most skim as they look for immediate ROI.

“For us social media is seen as a major channel and adds to the overall campaign on multiple levels, and this means that while we track KPIs for these channels to keep a track on what works and what doesn’t, we look at the wider picture and not just a cost,” he said.

“But by far our biggest and most scalable growth has come through paid advertising due to it being relatively easy to understand and map out. It’s great for testing and revealing data quickly. This can range from A/B testing of pages for experience to whether a new product range matches what people are looking for. As you have so much data available to you for this channel, you are able to have a great level of control over the path it leads and the expected returns. This and the speed of which you can develop a campaign means you have the ability to test, trial, optimise and grow.”

Of course, while Andrew Dark, director at branded products company Custom Planet, maintained that its retail business, Longsands Clothing, advertises exclusively on social media, there has been one digital investment made that has proved highly beneficial to the firm.

While it may seem obvious advice, it’s truly something that can easily slip off a retailer’s radar, and that’s having a good website. He added: “You also need a good digital marketing company to make a difference. We spent a lot of money over the years, some of which has been wasted but the key is learning from every mistake and not repeating your mistakes!”

Similarly, Bedgood explained that a new website and rebrand can take your business forward and will help your firm remain as one of the leaders within your field – this also shows clients that you are continuously innovating.

True ROI comes from encompassing all sales and marketing strategies, in a balanced way. A business needs a mobile-friendly website, connected to the right places and driving traffic. Content marketing must reflect and understanding of customers and be both unique and updated regularly. On the SEO front, what are the keywords you’re targeting – and are you developing useful and relevant content on a frequent basis to back it up.

Finally comes social media, a discipline requiring an investment of time. If posting, be prepared to respond and engage – but be careful, it won’t necessarily always be positive and we all know the perils of an online argument.

DIGITAL GUIDE: Securing visibility for your business in the competitive online space

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