Digital Marketing’s Dirty Little Secret


There are a lot of positive noises being made about digital marketing. It’s a growing industry. An exciting, evolving trend that has completely changed the way businesses communicate with prospective customers. You hear buzzwords and terms that make it sound like a whole new world like viral video, social engagement, mobile optimization or content marketing.

It sounds like a fascinating world that requires heavy research, brand new tactics and a complete rethink of your marketing strategy. We’ve often spoken about the exciting new developments in content marketing or the opportunities in mobile strategy on this blog. Because we get excited about new ways to help clients grow.

But, speaking as a marketer, I have a confession to make. All that stuff, everything you’ve heard about digital marketing as a brand new industry with unique, innovative strategies. It’s all a lie.

It’s certainly exciting. It’s definitely important. Businesses really should be building digital marketing strategies. But don’t let anyone fool you; none of it is new.

Content Marketing Isn’t New

Let’s start with the biggest buzzword of all, content marketing. The biggest trend in online marketing, the process by which you create content that people want and use that to broaden your reach, raise brand awareness and drive traffic to your website. It certainly sounds unique. Until you ask yourself, what’s an advertisement? What’s a billboard? How about a free gift?

If YouTube videos, social media, whitepapers and infographics all fall under the vague umbrella of ‘content’ then surely brochures, TV ads and branded items count too. When you create any of these, you want people to like them, you want them to tell their friends and you hope it will broaden reach, raise brand awareness and drive people to purchase your products. These are strategies that have been around for decades. The question then, is what’s the difference?

Neither Is SEO nor Social nor….

Ah, I hear you say, but what about SEO or social media? They’re new, right? They must be, they deal with mediums that didn’t exist 20 years ago. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what we want you to think. Even before people started to scoff about outdated SEO tactics like purchasing links and stuffing keywords, it was already unoriginal. Before the internet, people used phonebooks and newspaper classifieds to find the services they needed. Back then, ‘optimization’ meant choosing the right wording to appear higher in the alphabet and then finding font and ad sizes to stand out. These days it’s PPC ads and keywords, but it’s the same principle.

Social marketing may be the oldest form of marketing ever. As a service provider you get to know the business owners in your area that might want to avail of your service. Then you befriend them and make sure you’re the first person they think of when they need your service. Then you focus on service quality so that the people who do use you recommend you to your friends. Sound familiar?

I could go on; email is telemarketing/direct mail, ads could be ‘targeted’ by newspaper and location long before blogs, social media or websites became ‘locations’. But I suppose it’s time to answer the question, what is the difference?

The Difference Is…

When used correctly, digital marketing tactics are better than their real-world counterparts. There are no new strategies, or unique innovations in marketing; it’s innovation in lifestyle and technology that makes digital more effective. The technology means those old tactics now have near-infinite possibilities and can be deployed much faster and much more often. It’s not new marketing, just better marketing.

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