Earlier this year, the marketing industry was buzzing about Morgan Stanley analyst Brian Nowak’s quote in the New York Times that “In the first quarter of 2016, 85 cents of every new dollar spent in online advertising will go to Google or Facebook.” I’ve since heard this quote at just about every digital marketing conference I attended in 2016.
So, if you judge digital marketing by the dollars spent, then you could easily argue that the only money you should be spending in digital marketing would be to launch a paid search campaign on Google or to boost your content on Facebook. The wisdom of the crowds would lead you to this conclusion, and if you stopped here then you’d be fighting it out for category dominance in your industry’s keywords and social media engagement.
Seeking An Alternative to Facebook & Google
What’s fascinating to me is that all of the advertising on Facebook and Google still leverages traditional banner ads and text-based ads. In 1995, during my tenure at Modem Media, we were seeing as much as 44% click through rates on banners ads. Today, the industry average click through rate is somewhere between 0.04% and 0.17% for display banner ads – and has been that low for some time now.
When you then combine ad blocking, bot fraud and banner ad blindness, you can see why most marketers are actively looking for alternatives that will deliver better results. Having been in the digital marketing industry now for 22 years, I’ve seen quite a number of companies saying that they’ve got it all figured out and can consistently deliver ROI. When you pull back the layers of the onion, however, you’re usually seeing their best case studies with a giant asterisk that “your results may vary.”
So what’s the answer? Where do you go to generate engagement and drive sales when everyone appears to be doing pretty much the same thing and getting lackluster results?
Quality Content Marketing Developed Authentically Reigns Supreme
Here’s what my agency, Trepoint, has discovered. While content marketing has been around for some time, it’s only recently that the focus has shifted from companies talking about how great they are to companies authentically looking to answer questions and solve problems that people actually have.
By quality content, I don’t mean beautifully designed infographics and blog posts that tell the world how great your company / product / idea is. Quality content is about understanding what your audience really wants to know and delivering that knowledge as incredible value for free and with no strings attached.
As marketers have started to do more (social media) listening, they are discovering what problems people have that they can actually solve. It turns out that being a real person that’s actually helpful is the best marketing that exists. Your content that is focused on the needs of your customers and potential customers outperforms the ad spend on digital advertising simply because when people find something incredibly useful, they tend to share it with others who are experiencing a similar problem.
I recently interviewed Jay Baer for an Inc article and I LOVE his example of River Pools and Spas. Specifically that in 2008, it turns out that if you couldn’t pay your mortgage you had exactly zero interest in investing in an in ground pool in your back yard and River Pools and Spas was in a world of hurt. They took to their blog to write more than 300 blogs posts answering every question any prospect had ever asked them. In doing that, they not only survived in 2009, but shortly thereafter they became number one in their industry.
In tracking their metrics, River Pools and Spas discovered that their average customer read 100 pages of content before reaching out to someone live. Why is that? Because when you’re seriously considering making a major purchase decision, you’re looking for all sorts of information to help you make an intelligent business decision. By identifying and proactively answering every question you could possibly ask about an in-ground pool, they drove deep engagements with their prospects and their sales skyrocketed.
Adding the X-Factor of Influencers for Maximum Impact
Now if you don’t have the time or inclination to write 300 of your own blog posts, it turns out that you can pay highly qualified influencers to do the heavy lifting for you. These are NOT celebrities, but rather bloggers and social media experts with highly engaged audiences that you’re looking to reach. While I do not believe influencer marketing is the magic bullet that solves every digital marketing challenge, I do think it’s delivering the kind of value we haven’t seen in digital marketing for quite some time.
To that end, if you are interested in learning more, I want to invite you to join Trepoint’s free webinar on influencer marketing. We are practicing what we preach and are doing our part to deliver value to those who are authentically interested in improving their digital marketing. And, if you have some additional insights on what’s working for you, please share in the comments section. Even after 22 years in the business, I don’t believe I have all the answers – far from it. What I do believe is that really smart people tend to find each other and work together to make our industry better.