Digital Marketing is NOT Advertising

POSTED BY Chris Edwards - 02.18.14 - Digital marketing

digital marketing agency Cedar RapidsOne of the biggest mistakes that businesses make starts with the statement “I need to figure out where in my advertising budget I can pull some dollars for digital marketing”.  Makes me shake my head every time.


Two big reasons:

  1. “Advertising” is a pretty big word encompassing a lot of items, but is essentially the act of putting your message in front of people using third party methods (TV, newspaper, radio, billboards, guys shirtless with sandwich boards on the sidewalk in the middle of winter, etc).  Heck, I would even throw digital advertising via web site ads into this category.  Digital MARKETING services are essentially tools for engaging and interacting with prospective and existing customers.  There is a difference.  A big difference.  Both are important, but serve different purposes.

  2. Digital Marketing is an emerging service that surveys show is on a meteoric rise in terms of both usage and spend not by national companies, but by small and mid-sized businesses all over the country.  Shifting small percentages of dollars “out” of an advertising budget is NOT a way to keep pace with what your competitors inside and OUTSIDE of your market.  It has the double whammy of also lowering your media exposure at the same time, which usually isn’t a great idea either.

It can be easy to see in some cases that the budget excuse really is a mask for hesitation or downright fear of where to start.  I definitely get that.  Do you focus on better communication with existing customers using email services?  Do you finally fix that website you’ve been embarrassed about for a while?  But then how do you get people to actually see it once you do?  And then there’s social media.  How do you possibly figure out a good way to use it that doesn’t make you look worse than your average 10 year old?  So many questions.  So many ways to start.  But where?

The answer is:  Anywhere.  All of them are important, but it’s pretty difficult to start them all at once.  What you will find is that once you get in and start doing one or two things really well, it becomes clearer (and easier) to figure out what to do next.  Again, it’s different than advertising in the fact that people rarely say, “You know, first I will do billboards, then I will add radio, then newspaper and then maybe someday TV!”.  No, usually you pick one to three avenues to drive your message and you get after them and that strategy doesn’t expand horizontally, it expands vertically in those channels in terms of frequency.

Digital marketing becomes the extension, not the replacement, of a good ad strategy.  You spend money to generate awareness, but studies show that after there is awareness, consumers then do research via the web.  That is a business’ chance to engage that consumer and either sell them something, or convince them to actually go to the store and buy.  That’s where digital marketing tools and strategies can actually maximize and increase the ROI on an ad buy.  But if you take dollars away from the ad buy to fund the digital tools, you put yourself at a disadvantage in terms of generating greater awareness so you can convert them using those tools you just implemented!  The key is to evaluate the approach and strategy in total, and really think about the entire buying cycle and process from the consumer perspective, then implement the right digital tools to convert all of that valuable advertising.

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Chris Edwards

Chris Edwards

As President of Agency, Digital and Research Services, Chris offers key connections to a broad range of businesses seeking data-driven decisions. With a strong background in data and technology services, he combines this experience with both B2B and B2C marketing insights gained during tenures with media and marketing analytics companies to support the team as they deliver deep and meaningful insights. This allows our clients to make better decisions to improve products and services they deliver to their clients.

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