Is digital marketing losing its luster? Digital marketing channels are getting so saturated that marketers are re-examining traditional marketing. Say what?

There’s no such thing as the perfect channel that will provide a solid return on investment (ROI) forever. With the ubiquitous emphasis on digital marketing these past few years, people have put a lot of money into social media, websites, blogging, digital content marketing, lead generation, inbound marketing, search marketing, email marketing, etc., etc. If you’re operating a smaller business or nonprofit, every marketing dollar counts, so choosing the “best” channels for your target audiences is crucial to success.

Has digital marketing proven its worth?

Let me set one thing straight right away. I am NOT anti-digital. I am, and have always been, pro multi-channel marketing—using a mix of digital and traditional channels, depending on your target market segments. Financial advisers always advise us not to put all our (asset) eggs into one basket. This is the same thing.

Let’s examine some recent digital statistics:

  • Only 19% of UK business revenue comes from digital channels (Salmon study, reported by e-Consultancy)
  • Some 21% of permissioned emails from legitimate senders around the world failed to reach the inbox during the year-long period from May 2014 to April 2015, up from 17% during the previous year-long period. (Return Path, reported by MarketingCharts)
  • Social Media has grown massively, but its growth is now starting to plateau. The over 65s segment are now driving growth, as other age groups have plateaued completely and use is hardly growing it all. (“Global social media research summary 2015,” Smart Insights)
  • “Modern screens and e-readers fail to adequately recreate certain tactile experiences of reading on paper that many people miss and, more importantly, prevent people from navigating long texts in an intuitive and satisfying way.” (Scientific American)
  • A Nielsen study showed that 40% of online advertising is not actually being seen by people. (B2B Marketing)

Now, let’s look at some traditional statistics:

  • Magazines and newspapers have the highest ROI at 125%, compared with other ad mediums including TV and digital, which weigh in at 87% – and that’s ROI in concrete revenue terms. (GfK Panel Services, reported in MarketingNews, April 2015)
  • Research shows that the average reader of a branded magazine will spend up to 20 to 25 minutes with it. On the Web, you’re hoping for two minutes, maybe. So if you’re looking for engagement, a custom magazine can get you 25 minutes. (Joe Pulizzi, Content Marketing Institute, reported in CMO)
  • For many brands, catalogs are the single most effective driver of online and in-store sales, according to analysts and retailers. (The New York Times)
  • 82% of people in a YouGov survey said that newspapers are influential… a trust score of 63% (higher than all other media). (B2B Marketing)
  • According to the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) Response Rate Report 2015, direct mail is over seven times more effective than the digital channels combined, with ROI between 15 and 17 percent. (Target Marketing)
  • Almost 80% of consumers will act on direct mail immediately compared with 45% who say they deal with email straight away. (DMA, reported by Entrepreneur)
  • TV ads continue to lead the way among paid media in influencing Millennials’ purchases, according to a study from MarketingCharts.

Of course, statistics depend on who’s doing the research and whether it is skewed or prejudicial. Many studies are conducted by the very vendors that have much to gain from results in their favor. Nevertheless, as with everything else in life, popular trends and activities reach a tipping point before people look for the “next big thing.”

Do I think that digital marketing is going to die? Absolutely not. But, as its channels become over saturated, marketing leaders are starting to look at traditional channels to complement their digital efforts.

Related Article: Digital Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

“Print is interesting because it actually provokes people to read it. Just buying it or getting it in the mail provokes the reader to engage in a way that digital doesn’t. If you have time to read a magazine, then you’re going to really engage with the ads in there. Print ads should inspire you to look at them even longer.” (Britt Fero, executive vice president and head of strategy of ad agency, Publicis, MarketingNews, April 2015)

“It’s becoming tougher and tougher to get customers and prospects to complete forms around digital content. But an amazing print magazine? They’ll gladly read that. A number of brands are launching and continuing with printed magazines because it enables them to acquire a number of data points from customers.” (Joe Pulizzi, Content Marketing Institute)

So, how do you survive shifting channel preferences?

1. Know your customers and prospects.

Do the research to keep abreast of their behaviors, likes, dislikes, and needs. You don’t need big bucks to send an online survey or make some telephone calls. The more you know where they hang out, what they want, and how they make purchase decisions, the more prepared you are in developing a multi-channel marketing strategy.

2. Analyze which marketing channels are currently giving you the best return for your dollar.

“Analyzing in-depth the return on investment from different channels and the outcomes by customer type is a great starting point for optimizing your marketing spending.” (Vin Gupta, Entrepreneur)

3. Consider timing when planning your campaigns.

Traditional channels take more development time than do digital channels, but you can’t beat them for building brand awareness and educating your audiences. Timing your digital campaigns with your traditional efforts will give you a bigger bang for the buck.

4. Personalize your messages.

With variable data printing, personalizing your print campaigns is affordable. Use it wherever feasible to engage your audiences with valuable and relevant content. The same thing goes for digital channels. Emails, for example, should always have the recipient’s name woven into the salutation or body content.

5. Read and stay on top of marketing trends.

Read marketing blogs, articles, and bona fide study results. There are many good resources available to small businesses and nonprofits. (I provide recommendations on pages 106-107 in my book, Beyond Your Logo: 7 Brand Ideas That Matter Most For Small Business Success, available November 1.)

Which marketing channels are working for you? Have you been using traditional channels?

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