But at the heart of every conversation is the fundamental question, what is working now?

To get the latest update, Econsultancy recently invited dozens of client-side marketers to discuss online advertising at Digital Cream Sydney. Through roundtable discussions on the topic, attendees agreed that there was one key thing marketers should do to improve the effectiveness of their digital advertising.

Before we go into it, though, we’d like to let you know about an upcoming course for marketers in South-East Asia. Econsultancy is offering Social Media and Online PR training for those in Singapore (November 2nd and 3rd) and in Malaysia (November 28th and 29th). Click the links for more information and to book your spot.

It all comes down to…

After speaking with three roundtables of client-side marketers, our moderator for the discussions, Carolyn Tait, financial services marketer at AMP, concluded that the success of online marketing hinges on having a clear, written-down strategy. Without one, attendees agreed, it’s difficult to have a meaningful discussion of tactics.

The strategy does not have to be very detailed. In fact, it’s best to fit your strategy on a single page.

What the strategy document should include is:

  1. Who you are targeting.
  2. The media you are using.
  3. The value of the customer, even if it’s an educated guess.

With this simple information, delegates concluded, you can work backward up the sales funnel from conversion to a target cost-per-click (CPC). That is, if the lifetime value of a new customer is $100 and you have a 1% conversion rate, then you should aim to spend no more than $1 per click ($100 * .01 = $1).

While this sounds straightforward, many attendees confessed that they were not yet operating at that level of commercial maturity. Having an online advertising strategy, therefore, should provide marketers with a significant competitive advantage.

But wait, there’s more

Besides driving sensible online advertising spending, though, having a written-down strategy has a number of additional benefits.

1) Retargeting

Around half of the participants were uncertain about the effectiveness of their retargeting programme, and there was little agreement as to what a ‘good’ CPC or retargeting conversion rate should be.

Those with a well-defined strategy, however, were more likely to be confident of their efforts as they had thought deeper about how to retarget through the whole customer lifecycle. They also indicated that using retargeting as part of a broader digital strategy, particularly including telephone support, led to fewer gaps in their efforts to convert interested consumers.

2) Reporting

Having a strategy also helps with reporting, delegates reported. Rather than drowning in a deluge of data, having a marketing strategy helps identify key metrics worth tracking.

And, once the sales funnel was mapped, they could also identify the data they needed but didn’t have and devise a plan to get it.

3) Stakeholder management

Finally, having a document which clearly stated the target audiences, the advertising platforms, and how using these brought in valuable customers means marketers can use their strategy to manage upwards more effectively.

Many attendees lamented that senior management often hijacked marketing budget and resources with a sudden, out-of-the-blue strategy such as “we need to be on Twitter” or “why aren’t we on YouTube like our fiercest competitor”.

While most admitted that it was always difficult to manage such demands, having a strong strategy with a history of success helped marketers ‘manage back’ random requests and continue to devote their time and effort to more effective online advertising.

A word of thanks

Econsultancy would like to thank all of the marketers who participated on the day and especially our Online Advertising table moderator,  Carolyn Tait, financial services marketer at AMP.

We hope to see you all at future Sydney Econsultancy events!