Then and Now: The Biggest Difference Between the Traditional and Digital Marketing Environments

marketing analyticsI have been fortunate enough to practice marketing before and after the emergence of the internet, social media, and digital marketing. While the channels for communicating have changed and grown significantly, the basics of good marketing have remained the same. These new channels also often come with something that traditional marketing efforts usually lacked─analytics. Or, at least, lacked the sophistication that now exists to understand the nuances of the target audience’s response.

My first job out of college involved traditional direct mail marketing. Our promotion process involved creating a brochure, renting a mailing list, and sending the brochure via third-class mail to hundreds of thousands of individuals. The brochure included an order form that people could fill out and mail in to register for an event. That provided us with some very basic analytics─what was the percent return on our efforts. It was generally around 1-2%. If we used different sources of mailing lists we could also place a unique code on the mailing label (which was on the back of the registration form) to learn which list got the highest response. Good information to know but, again, quite basic. Finally, in some cases, we tested various elements of the brochure─maybe the headline, maybe the offer, maybe the color used. Create two or more versions of the brochure, code the label appropriately, and we could determine which elements of the brochure drove the greatest response.

All of this was important information to know to help make our marketing efforts more effective, but this type of data pales significantly when compared to what can be done in the digital environment.

Going Digital

To me this is the most significant difference between “then and now”─between the traditional and digital marketing environments.

Since I spent such a large percentage of my marketing career in the direct mail niche, I learned to love data and the ability to use data to improve marketing efforts. That love of data has been reciprocated 100-fold in the digital environment.

Today, if I were to use digital channels to promote an event using an online brochure─or landing page─the information I could gather would be far richer. For instance:

  • I could tell whether or not people actually saw the offer. With traditional direct mail, unless they sent in an order or called, we had no way of knowing whether the brochure had even been viewed.
  • I could tell how long people engaged with the offer. Can’t do that with traditional direct mail.
  • I could tell what elements of the offer most interested them─e.g., by including various links or looking at a heatmap of where on the landing page people spent the most time.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

Doing What Works

With digital marketing, if I send out a digital promotion for something I can get analytics about all of these interactions and more. I can gather a much richer array of inputs to help me analyze my digital marketing effectiveness and to make critical changes to boost the future success of my online marketing efforts.

These days, websites often serve as the primary “front door” for many businesses. Analytics tied to these websites can help marketers learn a lot of things. They can literally “track the path” of people coming to the site and the steps they take along the way to making a purchase decision (if that’s what the site is intended to do).

But while the analytic capabilities are out there, readily available and, in the case of Google Analytics, free, I often come across companies that either don’t have any analytics tracking tied to their website─or that don’t use the analytics to drive improvements. In some notable cases, I’ve actually worked with clients who have refused to make appropriate changes to their strategies or tactics despite what the data was telling them.

Similar types of analytics are available to marketers through each of the social media channels, and through tools like Constant Contact. The value of this information, though, requires that the data actually be used.

There’s a wealth of information at our fingertips today. Now, like then, we need to be using that information to help us make solid marketing decisions.

What are you doing with your data?

About Us

Strategic Communications, LLC, works with B2B clients to help them achieve their goals through effective content marketing and management with both internal and external audiences. We work with clients to plan, create and publish high-quality, unique content. Whether on- or offline, or both, we’ll help you achieve desired results.

(Strategic Communications is certified as a Woman-Owned Business Enterprise through the Wisconsin Department of Administration.)

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