Monday, November 3, 2008
Jason Baer understands the game-changing value of adding digital marketing expertise to an agency’s service offering. Before he founded Convince&Convert, a social media and email consulting firm that helps agencies beef up their digital marketing capabilities, Baer headed the interactive division of Off Madison Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. Recently, I sat down with Jason to get his take on why agencies must get serious about developing digital marketing capabilities.
Joel: Why is it critical for agencies to develop digital marketing capabilities?
Jason: 500% more people in the U.S. have a MySpace account than watch American Idol, which is far and away the #1 TV show. More dollars will be spent on Internet advertising this year than on radio advertising. We're at the point in the development of the Web that digital marketing capabilities are no longer optional, they are required. To be any sort of marketing consultancy today and not having digital expertise is akin to not having the expertise to write a press release or design a logo.
Further, the inherent tracking and testing opportunities that digital provides can dramatically enhance ROI of offline marketing, when those techniques and philosophies are applied universally. For example, using banner ad rotations to test creative messaging that is then rolled out in print, radio, TV etc.
Lastly, in this uncertain (at best) economy, clients will be gravitating even more toward digital because it is definable and measurable and the production costs are minimal in comparison to other tactics.
Joel: What “land mines” agencies should avoid in developing digital expertise?
Jason: I find three primary problems when traditional agencies try to enhance their digital capabilities.
First is the guru syndrome. I've written about this on my blog. Many agencies want to find a Web genius who can handle everything, and that will make the pain go away. Unfortunately, digital marketing is so broad and so nuanced now that one person cannot possibly stay on top of all of it. Also, if you accept the proposition that eventually digital will be baked in to essentially EVERY marketing program, having that digital knowledge siloed creates huge operational challenges for the agency. The guru ends up doing nothing but going to meetings, and does little actual digital marketing.
Second is the notion that digital marketing begins and ends. The reason digital marketing works is that it's a process, not a project. The ability to tweak and improve based on a careful study of analytics and other feedback mechanisms is a concept that is outside the historical world view of many agencies that specialize in "making stuff" like TV commercials, radio ads, outdoor boards, etc. The idea that once it's made, that's just the beginning of the marketing program, not the end is a big change for many agencies.
Lastly is the belief that digital marketing is a young man's game. So many small and medium-sized agencies make the junior staff handle all the digital work because it's familiar to them. That's a huge mistake. The potential for digital to transform a client's business - both positively and negatively - is real (especially in email and social media). Consequently, senior staff not being in the digital trenches creates missed opportunities, both for agencies and the brands they represent.
Check back on Wednesday for Part 2 of my interview with Jason as we talk about what agencies must do to master digital marketing.