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The following is taken from chapter 3 of the third edition of Digital Marketing - a Practical Approach


Without specific objectives the likelihood of any venture succeeding diminishes significantly - and this is equally true for digital marketing - and yet perhaps the biggest failing when organizations go online is that they fail to determine their objectives for doing so. Without specific objectives the organization cannot (1) determine whether the online activity has been successful, or (2) assess the return on investment (ROI) for any online operations.

The reasons for any lack of strategic direction are many, though the IT departments' ownership of the web presence was certainly a significant factor in the mid to late 1990s. So too was a lack in understanding in what the new medium of communication had to offer. While these reasons are still (sadly) still in evidence today, another problem has moved to the fore - a lack of joined-up thinking between:
* Off- and online marketing efforts, where too often online is considered to be separate from other marketing activities - and so is treated as such in strategic planning.
but perhaps worse for those studying this subject ...
* The various elements of digital marketing - particularly where different aspects are owned by separate departments, PR, social media and sales, for example.

Since 1997 I have proposed the concept that there are three key objectives to any marketing-related Internet presence or activity (it was first published in a book I co-authored: Gay et al. (2007) Online Marketing - a customer-led approach). Those objectives are: branding, revenue generation and customer care. Before we consider these in more detail, I'll add the caveat that - as I intimated earlier in this chapter - to perform branding, revenue generation or customer care you have to know what they are. Any marketer reading this book will know the theories, concepts, tools and applications because they are part of the basics of the discipline of marketing; computer-scientists-come-marketers may not know these things.

Brand development. Where the online presence compliments and enhances the branding efforts of the organization. For the business that trades offline only, the web-based branding will be an element of an overall branding strategy. For organizations that depend on their brand for sales success, online is unlikely to be the leading element of their branding efforts. The likes of Nike, Apple, Coca Cola and Mercedes, for example, will spend far more on offline branding than online. There is a certain irony that online-only businesses will conduct much, if not all, of their branding efforts offline (according to full year revenue figures provided to Thinkbox - part of - by UK commercial TV broadcasters, in 2016 online brands were the biggest spenders on TV advertising).

Revenue/income generation. Where the online presence acts as a commerce or acquisition channel in order to increase revenue into the organization by direct sales or lead generation. Direct sales is self-explanatory - it is when a purchase can be made directly from the web presence. If you are not clear on what lead generation actually is I would advise you to research it fully - if you are going to work in B2B you will almost certainly be involved in it rather than direct sales. As a basic guide, with regard to a website: if there is a link that says click here to buy now, that is direct sales. If there is a link that says click here to speak to a member of our team to find out more about our product, that is lead generation.

Customer care / service / support. Where the web is used to enhance the service and support offered to customers - it might also be considered part of the customer experience of the product or service. The term customers is the key to this objective in that it applies to people or organizations that have already purchased the product or service. When I first proposed this object 20 years ago there were very few applications of it. Fundamentally it was limited to aspects of a website that - for example - gave customers instructions on assembling or using a product. However, about that time I saw how computer networking provider Cisco used forums on its website to support its engineers around the world. The increased popularity of social media platform and the use of mobile devices to access them has, however, led to this objective becoming primary for many offline organizations.

Note, however, that these objectives are based on the organization's web presence. It is possible - but highly unlikely - that an organization, brand or product might advertise online but have no permanent online presence and so these objectives do not apply. In those cases, the objectives for online advertising are appropriate.

For simplicity I have stuck with my three objectives concept, although others have broken it up into more sections, such as:
1 Brand development
2 Revenue generation:
(a) Direct sales
(b) Lead generation
3 Customer:
(a) Care
(b) Service
(c) Support

Or even - as some authors have done:
1 Brand development
2 Direct sales
3 Lead generation
3 Customer care
5 Customer service
6 Customer support

However such is the nature of the web that:
(1) It is possible for a single website/presence to address one, two or all three of these objectives.
(2) It is uncommon that a web website/presence addresses only one.
(3) It is feasible for different elements of digital marketing to address different objectives.

Therefore, for clarity in identifying strategic online objectives, it is necessary to identify the primary objective, expressed as a percentage. Figure 3.5 gives examples of how such a percentage breakdown might apply to different organizations. Having determined the percentage allocated to the primary and other objectives the marketer must then decide what elements of digital marketing will best meet those objectives. As a guide; think of the percentage breakdown of objectives as an indication of the effort, budget or resources to be committed to each objective. In the examples offered in table 3.2, the online-only retailer has only one source of income - the website - therefore 90% of effort and resources must be given over to generating sales. This would include not only the website design, but also driving potential customers to the website via - for example - SEO and/or online advertising. Or perhaps, as alluded to earlier, some of the overall marketing budget should be committed to offline advertising that drives visitors to the website. In the Offline-only retailer example, the 75% for customer care might be on social media, with only a basic corporate site and some network advertising for the 25% branding.

As you will come to realize as you make your way through this book, some elements of digital marketing are more suited to one objective or another. Several of these are overt; network banner ads being better for branding, for example. Other elements, however, are intrinsic to the objectives; prominent calls-to-action on e-commerce sites, for example. But by identifying what you are aiming at achieve, and understanding all aspects of digital marketing, those intrinsic elements will become obvious.

direct marketing objectives as percentage

There are a couple of caveats to the examples given:
* As with all marketing, there is never a single answer that is right for every organization, brand or product all of the time. Not only might the percentage breakdown be different, but the elements used to achieve those percentages will differ for each organization, brand and product - even if they are in the same industry or market.
* Meeting one objective effectively may have a positive effect on another objective. For example; the offline-only B2B service provider that has an objective of 100 per cent customer support may well increase customers' perceived brand value of the organization because of the after-sales service. This might be identified as a spin-off effect of good practice in one area having a holistic influence on the entire organization.

A final comment on determining objectives is that knowing what you aim to achieve makes it easier to identify what elements of digital marketing are best selected. Furthermore, to achieve your objectives it is as important to know what not to do as it is to know what to do. Simply undertaking every element of digital marketing that is included in this book will (a) not guarantee success, and (b) will cost a lot of money - with little by way of ROI.

A footnote to this is that students and practitioners ask; 'where are the SMART objectives to these strategies?'

I argue that my '3 objectives' model is strategic - and so long-term - in nature. The key objective points the direction of the overall purpose of the organization's digital marketing. For example, if the key objective is to generate income via online sales, tactical objectives can be more specific and time constrained e.g. SMART - increase sales of products x and y by 20% over the next 12 months.

In a dynamic digital environment, this translates into being able to react to changes in technology, the market and customer expectations by adjusting tactics ... whilst still pursuing the overall key objective in a holistic manner. However, a caveat is that in constantly focusing on changing tactics, marketers must not lose sight of the key objective.

Alan Charlesworth copyright notice
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