This post came about recently when I was discussing the differences between print and digital advertising with a former co-worker. Prior to my career in SEO, I worked in the print industry (both newspaper and magazine) so it’s been interesting to witness these differences first hand. However, like any comparison, there are positives and negatives with each avenue. So here are a few insights so that when the time comes to market your brand you can make the right choice and set your business up for success.
The Major Differences
As I mentioned earlier, not every business is going to fall in a particular path, it really depends on what your business sells, where your customers are coming from, and who you’re looking to target. For a business that is considering digital marketing, it’s vital to remember that your website is your salesperson. Now more than ever, it’s important to have a quality website that delivers good content, has a user-friendly navigation and a compelling call-to-action. If a potential customer lands on your site, does it represent your brand effectively? Search engine marketing is a medium where people are actively searching for your services, so if you are in a new industry or have created a new concept then it may be difficult for people to find you.
Print advertising, on the other hand, is a better tool for explaining what your service/product is about and is meant more for human engagement. There’s more creativity involved and in most cases, it’s a platform to bring the customer inside your store – making you the salesperson.
The first thing to take into consideration is your monthly budget – the dollar amount you are willing to invest each month towards marketing. Not only is this overall budget important but how much you are spending per lead is a number you should consider when choosing a tactic. Depending on your product or service, the cost per lead could fluctuate dramatically based on your competition, the cost of your service, and the overall market need. Here are some numbers I have pulled from SEOmoz that highlights a few popular avenues.
As you can see, organic search is at the bottom of the list averaging $15.00 per acquisition – a far cry from print media standing at $180. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that SEO is the best fit for your company just because it has the lowest cost. An art gallery, for instance, is an industry where the customer’s presence is necessary for the sale. Therefore, their best option may be investing in a magazine ad where $180 for a lead is still going to return a good profit margin if their average sale is around $2000. But on the flip side, say you own an ecommerce store. Ranking well in the search engines may be your top priority for bringing in revenue, so an investment in SEO would be the most profitable solution.
Measuring your return
Instead of making your marketing decision solely based on price, familiarity, or convenience, you need to assess your goals, the results you are likely to acquire, the true costs and the potential gains. This step of the process is extremely important, because after you find out your cost per acquisition then you have to take a step back and look at the overall campaign over a course of several months or years. For example, those new customers that you pulled in through your marketing efforts, have they returned since? Do you see your revenue, visits, conversions, etc., growing over time? These are the types of questions to consider because if you just see a spike around the time of the marketing campaign and numbers drop back to where you originally started, then that tactic may not be sustainable over time.
There are ways to track both print and digital campaigns. Phone call tracking is the perfect example of a method used by some of our clients who engage in PPC, SEO and print. Each phone number is different depending on the campaign, so that when a customer calls, the company can see which phone number was used and which medium they came from.
From my experience, print is harder to justify by numbers. Magazines and newspapers base their ad pricing off their “reach” – the amount of people who are reading the publication. This inflated number is calculated based on their distribution (number of copies circulated) multiplied by the number of people in a household who read that same copy. For instance, a magazine can claim it has a readership of 100,000 but only circulate 25,000 copies. So of that resulting number, after taking into consideration that people don’t read from cover to cover and not everyone is in the market for your product, how do you really know the number of people who saw and responded to your ad? During the time of the print campaign, are you going to ask each person who enters your door if they came because of the ad? Probably not. As a result, unless your customers are telling you, you have no way of knowing if your marketing is working.
My favorite part of working in internet marketing is the fact that we can directly tie our work to results. For instance, if we change title tags on a website, a week later we can see a jump in rankings which then leads to an increase in visits. Finally, that increase in visits results in more conversions. With Analytics, you are able to track down where people are coming from and how they are searching for your brand. That knowledge is priceless! You can use this information to build a stronger campaign, add new pages or services to your site, and grow your web presence. The last thing I’ll say about digital marketing (because I could talk about this all day) is that when you view the graphs in Analytics over the course of your campaign and you see the numbers all trending upwards for non-branded organic search, you know for certain that you can attribute it to your internet marketing. No other marketing strategy can provide that feedback.
Marketing is a vital facet of every business, which is why it’s important to find the strategy that works the best for you. If you start measuring your results, quantifying the investment, and seeing a continual growth then you will set your business up for long-term success.
Lindsay Atkinson is an SEO Analyst at Digital Third Coast, an SEO firm that specializes in digital marketing services. Connect with Digital Third Coast on Google+.