5 Ways to Move Marketing Resources Online

Apr 30, 2012 6:06 AM  By

For most merchants, online marketing offers a more favorable return on investment than offline marketing. In addition, it is much easier to track, analyze and plan for. If that is not enough, online marketing also happens in real time or close to it. On the other hand, offline marketing feels like watching grass grow in today’s fast paced business world.

The challenge with online marketing for most merchants is scalability and sustainability. Here are some ideas on how to transition more marketing dollars into the online space while managing the risk to customer acquisition and retention that lurk within these initiatives.

Level the playing field
Key performance indicators such as customer acquisition cost must be apples-to-apples for all media channels. If $10.00 is your acceptable threshold for investment, then that needs to be calculated for both the online and offline channels making sure both metrics are fully loaded.

Lifetime value should also be calculated across media channels using identical cost content strategies so you can understand the ROI for each channel. If lead generation is the objective, then key indicators around the cost of leads and conversion to a sale must be visible on a level field.

Test, test, test
Begin by peeling off the least productive segments of your offline program and replacing those marketing dollars with tests around online initiatives. Be sure to test those opportunities with the most potential for success.

Start with transitioning only 5% – 10% of your budget and make that much work first. Have a plan for the online tests with key performance indicators in place for reporting. Expectations should be clear ahead of time for what represents acceptable results. The old direct marketing wisdom is as important as ever here – test, test, test.

Leverage customer analysis
Listen to what your customers are telling you about what channel they prefer to shop with. Have the proper channel segmentation in place to respect their choice. This includes both channel of origin and channel of order. While the ROI may be better online, trying to move offline buyers into that space will result in declining market share over time.

Determine when, where and how to outsource
Transitioning marketing resources and sales to the online channel means you are also transitioning the work there too. Someone will have more work to do as you make this change. Be careful not to just add it to someone’s already full workload. This will compromise the success of the initiative.

Consider outsourcing for the test period to leverage experienced resources and give the program its best chance for success. Once proven, the work can be brought in house.

Include social media
The ROI model may not work here at the present time. Key performance indicators must still be developed but the foundation for decisions must be expanded to include brand engagement and a clear awareness of competitive pressures. You will need a little bit of a leap of faith here and some trust that in the long run you have transitioned resources wisely. It was not too long ago that certain industry experts were questioning the value of email and Internet altogether.

Geoff Wolf is executive vice president of client strategy at J.Schmidand Associates.