Only Two Ways to Guarantee Short-Term Digital Marketing Returns

If you stacked all of the digital marketing strategies and tactics on top of each other they would stretch from here to the moon, and back again, twice. Actually that's just made up--but the point is there's a whole bunch of ways to use the Internet for marketing and companies of all shapes and sizes are throwing lots of tactics, strategies and money against the proverbial wall to see what sticks.

Marketing budgets are in disequilibrium

The motivating force behind these efforts is simple -- to maximize return on investment. However, a company's willingness to invest in the long-term is often undermined by the short-term demands of stakeholders (quarterly earnings reports). Companies without short-term pressure to deliver immediate returns are often the ones more willing to invest in a longer-term strategy like inbound and content marketing.

This dynamic has created a ballooned population of late majority and laggards in the adoption of owned media. Earned and owned online media channels are 62 percent more cost-effective than online paid media, but ads still consume over 88 percent of today's digital marketing budgets. This means that digital marketing budgets are in disequilibrium.

Long-term returns

Digital owned media - is a long-term strategy that can take six to 18 months to start delivering meaningful returns. This is a problem for those companies in the quarterly earnings race. It's likely that many of them expect to move the needle in the same quarter they invest. They forgo the long-term gains inbound marketing can provide and settle for the short-term high of paid media.

The long-term benefits of digital owned media are derived through its propensity to earn media over time. Whether it's a link or mention on a popular blog, number one on Google or 500 Facebook shares, the point of online owned media is to earn media over time.

Short-term returns

Digital paid media - when executed properly can provide returns almost immediately. This is where the vast majority of enterprise-type companies spend most of their marketing budgets. Compared to earned and owned digital media the returns are generally meager, at best.

This investment comes with a possible intangible cost for brands in the future. The public's ever-growing loathing of interruption based advertising will likely start to negatively impact brand perceptions over time.

People are also getting much better at blocking and ignoring annoying online ads altogether - their impact is diminishing. And online paid media is also strife with click fraud.

Digital earned media - in its entirety, represents the smallest budget allocation in marketing today. Lots of different tactics fall under this category and can include search engine optimization, viral campaigns, media relations and word of mouth. Most of these tactics still don't provide short-term returns confidently.

However, the digital public relations piece of earned media, as defined by the Inbound Marketers Guide to Earned Media, most certainly can provide the short-term returns that are so highly valued by the enterprise today. It gives brands the chance to be part of the story and not sit in the webpage media doldrums where banner blindness is so pervasive.

The advantage of deploying this strategy is that it completely eliminates the potential for future brand-drag caused by paid media and moves click fraud out of the realm of possibility. In addition, when deployed properly the return on investment can be multiples greater than paid online advertising.

Putting marketing budgets back in equilibrium

The late majority and laggard brands have essentially created a massive advertising bubble that's bound to burst. Laggard brands will soon start to see their share of voice drastically decline as more late majority brands embrace both earned and owned digital media strategies.

It's not too late for brands chasing quarterly earnings reports to fix their budgets. Embracing earned media using digital PR tactics can displace online paid media altogether and still satisfy their need to show short-term results.