How to sell digital to a sceptical board


By Chris Lee

Organisations across the European Union and US are set to increase their digital marketing spend by three per cent compared to last year, Econsultancy reports. This modest rise indicates a shift towards digital but NMK has spoken to a number of consultants recently and the issue of board scepticism towards the value and return on investment of digital still lingers.

So how can marketers who believe in the opportunities presented by social media, the need to create mobile offerings and great content, and use analytics to make data-led judgments convince the board to invest in digital marketing strategies and tools?

NMK asked its network for answers.

The hardest question to answer

For Rowan Grace Evans, Head of Social Media at consultancy Greenlight, one of the hardest questions facing any social media professional, either agency side or in-house, is “what impact will this have on the bottom line?”

While fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) and consumer-facing companies might be able to bridge this gap, as social referrals have a direct impact on sales, the business-to-business (B2B) and financial sector struggle to see the point of social, she argues.

Grace Evans said: “However, there is an answer to this question. Firstly, not taking social media seriously or not having a social presence is the equivalent of not turning up to a major industry event – your competitors are there, your customers are there, and the chances are they are going to be talking about you in your absence. The only way to determine what is said about you is to show up and take part in the conversation.”

Secondly, she believes, for brands with a longer or more disjointed sales funnel, social is still a powerful brand and reputation tool, as almost every company wants to be seen as an expert in at least one field and social media allows you to share that expertise, if not your core product.

“Social media is unlikely to change the business or marketing model for B2B brands, however, should be seen as a credible route to market, as the customer who buys into your content and knowledge is more likely to ultimately buy into your product,” she argued.

Understand the board’s reasoning first

For Ged Carroll, VP of Digital Services at PR company Racepoint, you have to understand the nature of the boards scepticism before you can address it.

“Return on investment can break down into two areas: achieving objectives more effectively – cost per acquisition for leads for example – or reducing cost by doing more with less (average time to customer response, number of enquiries handled/operative – in a customer service situation). The first option is the easiest to do a small test and learn exercise on,” he told NMK.

Business evaluation is easier with digital

For Eamonn Carey, Head of Digital at PR firm MHP Communications, the ability to better track target audiences’ behaviours makes a compelling case for digital.

“We have to justify digital on a daily basis to our clients and certain businesses are definitely easier to persuade than others. For online businesses it is easy to track the user journey through the funnel via cookies or click tracking. That makes calculating ROI relatively straightforward,” he argued.

Carey argues that businesses that lack the ability to track users can find it more difficult to calculate a specific return on investment, particularly if their aim is to sell more of a physical product.

“Ultimately, it comes down to agreeing objectives and desired outcomes and using the most appropriate and available metrics to calculate results against these. Positioning in search rankings and journalist’s articles can be useful additional measures of the success of any digital activity,” he concluded.

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