Online and social media marketing are free, right? – let’s drop all offline marketing then!

During the recession I am increasingly hearing about companies who equate online and social media marketing as being free and then cut all of their offline marketing to concentrate on the free online marketing.

There’s a number of problems and myths inherent in this that I thought I would address:

Myth 1: Online and social media marketing is free: whilst many of the tools and techniques are free, the time needed to make them into a success most definitely is not free: you still have to buy the time of a skilled practitioner.  And in most projects the single biggest cost is that of the skilled labour.  `And whilst “many” of the tools are free – there are no sign-up fees to Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn yet – there are many other costs to take account of: what about domain name registration: ongoing hosting and bandwidth costs: can you really deliver all PPC (pay-per-click) and SEO (search engine optimisation) in-house? – what about ecommerce and credit card handling? – what about secure servers and CRM?

Myth 2: Your website equals your marketing plan: now I am an online and social media marketing advocate, but even I will not ever propose that your marketing plan equates to your website.  There is always a role of effective offline marketing, even if it is not directly involved in customer acquisition.  You simply cannot ignore the whole offline marketing arena, especially if it violates one of the most basic tenets of marketing: always respond to customers in the medium in which they initiated the contact: if that’s via email or Twitter then fine – but what if they call you or write to you?

Myth 3: All online marketing can be done by relatively cheap, inexperienced staff: in many organisations online marketing is the upstart new kid on the block – and social media marketing is not even on the radar of the senior decision makers.  So social media marketing gets delivered by the youngest, most inexperienced staff in the marketing team – and therefore the cheapest.  This is just wrong on so many levels: the people that are engaging with your customers and potential customers should be more senior than that – but most importantly they should be empowered to talk on behalf of the company and they should have more seniority within the company.  Of course, the opposite is also true – social media marketing that is originated by someone senior but which then needs to go through 5 layers of sign-off before going live, so missing out on that crucial component of the social media marketing mix – timeliness.

So you can save some money by focusing on online marketing, but you should really be looking at it’s true strengths: the fact that everything online is measurable to a degree simply not possible offline.  This way you can get a true idea of the cost of acquiring a new customer and most significantly put a true figure on your return on investment.

Knowing – and being able to prove – that every pound spent on online marketing delivers a return of (say) £3 should give you the best job security possible in these troubled times!

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