In the last 9 months, a series of reports and research have begun shining the spotlight on a segment of the Local Media market that– up until now– has been under the radar for many. It’s called Digital Marketing Services, and as Borrell Research recently commented in their first report on the topic: “Suddenly digital advertising is yielding the spotlight to digital services…local advertisers are spending two and half times more on these online marketing services then they do on things like (untargeted) banner ads…”
So where did this market come from and what exactly is it?
Digital Marketing Services: Background
As author Jay Baer has said, “Marketing has changed more in the last 5 years than in the 50 years preceding it”, and nowhere is this more evident than in the local space. Traditionally, a large portion of what a local business would call its “marketing budget” would be spent on things like yellowpages ads, direct mail, ads in local print, and possibly outdoor or radio (if they had the budget). But as Borrell research found in their surveys starting about four years ago, when local businesses were asked in which media they intended to increase ad spending, two-thirds responded “my own website”. As the research firm commented at the time- “It’s obvious that they consider their websites to be their own personal advertising medium“.
It’s also obvious to those watching the industry that the importance of a business’s web presence has only increased since then. A study just released by Inc magazine and Vocus looked at the state of digital marketing for SMB’s, including larger local businesses that earn $1 million or more in annual sales revenue. Among those larger businesses (which the researchers reported tend to be more advanced in Digital Marketing), their web site is ranked as the number one “digital channel” with 38% of respondents rating it as the most effective part of the digital marketing mix. In third place behind email was SEO, rated most effective by over 20% of respondents.
The same study also found that– just like the web site component of a local businesses overall digital presence has become critical– their social outposts (on Facebook and Twitter) are becoming increasingly vital as well. Social media as a digital channel came in fourth place behind SEO, with approximately 20% rating it as most effective.
All of these priorities, which can be loosely grouped under “web presence management”, are the core components of digital marketing services. Other ancillary services include reputation management (impacting all important customer reviews), site development (including the increasingly critical mobile presence), and paid search– all of which obviously are also key components in driving a successful web presence that generates revenue for a business.
What’s Driving Growth
So why the rapidly increasing investment in Web Presence management by these businesses? Clearly it’s become critical to driving results– as budget conscious small and medium sized businesses are infamous for investing only where they can see an immediate return. But driving this success is one of the most striking changes in consumer buying habits in the history of modern marketing.
As I outlined in my post on the growth of content marketing, the rise of digital media since the birth of the web means that the average consumer spends exponentially more time researching products and services today then they did before the web existed. If you were in the market to buy a car fifteen years ago, a considerable portion of the decision-making process was typically spent traveling from dealer to dealer, looking at comparable models, gathering brochures, and talking to sales people– all before making a final decision on what to buy. Today, research has found that by the time a consumer arrives at a dealership, they already know exactly what they want- down to the make, model, trim package and price they’re willing to pay. What they’ve discovered online about the car and the dealership– on both desktop and mobile devices– has driven their decision, before they’ve even stepped through the door. This modern information hoovering habit impacts both high ticket, high consideration purchases like cars and appliances, as well as everyday spend like where you’re going to eat tonight. And this habit is increasingly driven by smartphone armed, “always connected” consumers.
For businesses, being found online today is critical. When consumers in the market to buy go online to research whatever it is you are selling, you have to be found– in search results, in social outposts, in ratings and reviews.
As a business, knowing that consumers are now looking online for information, ratings and reviews before they ever approach your business, is a paradigm shift. It reorients the foundation of your marketing approach from outbound to inbound, and re-orders your spending as well. This trend is only accelerating with the explosion of mobile, and anybody connected to the local media business needs to be on top of this trend to make sure they don’t get run over by it.