Damion Wasylow / Digital Marketing / November 1st, 2013

Confessions of a Digital Convert

You don’t know what you don’t know.

Masters-in-Social-Media-UFLike most people who started in this industry, I hadn’t worked in digital previously. I don’t have a master’s degree in social media (and neither should you, kids). In fact, I looked at my counterparts in digital marketing as cute younger siblings, trying really hard to act like big brother.

Hey, I told you that I didn’t know any better.

Before joining 352, I spent 12 years in a traditional agency setting. During my time there, I did everything from graphic design and copywriting to account management and media buying. I wrote and directed a number of radio and television commercials. I was proud of my diverse experience and felt I had a solid grasp on all things marketing and advertising.

Occasionally during that time, a prospective client would come to us after meeting with a digital agency and tell us about the budget and tactics that agency recommended. Without exception, I scoffed. Who did these digital agencies think they were, taking these hapless clients for a ride? Clouding their judgment by throwing around jargon they couldn’t possibly understand? In my mind, there was no way search engine optimization could be worth more than a couple hundred bucks a month. And don’t get me started on social media.

How many SEOs does it take to change a lightbulb, light bulb, lightbulbs, home decor, lamp, lighting...
How many SEOs does it take to change a lightbulb, light bulb, lightbulbs, home decor, lamp, lighting…

So, I joined 352 with the intention of expanding the agency’s marketing offerings to include traditional marketing and advertising – you know, real marketing.

The case seemed fairly simple: companies spend 80 percent of their budgets on traditional and only 20 percent on digital, so we were missing out on a huge chunk of potential revenue. Having traditional media expertise in-house would grant us access to new pockets of clients’ marketing spends while also earning us a seat at the table with clients looking for an all-in-one agency.

While those arguments still hold true to an extent (although about 23 percent of CMOs plan on using the majority of their budgets on digital in 2014), and our teams have already started capitalizing on more traditional capabilities, I soon learned how short-sighted my view of digital had been.

Sure, there is a lot of jargon thrown around, but you know what? There are also incredible results. There are data that would make any traditional marketer’s jaw drop. Thus, I stand before you today, a full-on convert to the dark digital arts.

Photo credit: Stephan Lomp
Photo credit: Stephan Lomp

Why the change?

At the traditional agency, we never truly knew how much impact our campaigns had for clients. At best, we used observation to make educated guesses. We applied trend analysis to see how metrics changed when a campaign aired versus when it was off-air. When we used multi-media campaigns, however, those tactics didn’t necessarily narrow down the source of the impact to a specific medium or message. It was very easy to spin your wheels without even knowing it.

From time to time, we attempted to address the tracking issue by applying unique URLs or phone numbers to individual ads or by implementing promo codes, but not every campaign is direct response. Even with direct response campaigns, consumers rarely used our special information. They generally just Googled the client name and went to their site.

The nice thing about that ad for UF’s social media degree? They know exactly who clicked on that link and how they interacted with the site.

With digital marketing, we can track everything. And that means every penny of a client’s spend is justifiable. I can track a lead from the moment of their first interaction with a client to the moment they make a purchase or request a quote, or a thousand other goals. I can test to see which messages are resonating with different segments of my audience and iterate on the fly.

Not only that, I can watch that person come back and spend again and again, and I can learn about his or her preferences in order to cater marketing messages to the individual. That translates to efficiency for the client and an improved experience for the customer.

The biggest driver of my digital infatuation is that consumers actually seek out my clients’ content. Done right, they are actively searching for the products, insights or expertise I’m trying to promote. My messages no longer interrupt their day; they enhance it. Like any good sales person will tell you, your closing rate is substantially higher when the consumer initiates the conversation.

Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy the challenges of creating a traditional branding initiative and the rewards of building an effective multi-market multimedia advertising campaign. They’re just no longer my only resources, nor my go-to resources, to help clients succeed.

As technology and consumer behaviors continue to evolve – with corporate budget allocations evolving along with them – I expect I’ll run into more digital marketing converts like myself. Take it from me, traditionalists: embrace the digital world. You just might learn to love it.

After all, you don’t know what you don’t know.

  • Peter VanRysdam

    Welcome to the dark side, Damion!

  • Christopher Porter

    I love it! I consider myself a digital native, and was always wondering what I missed in days of yore with David Ogilvy marketing tactics. I love marketing done well, and truly hate marketing done poorly.

    It is so interesting to hear your conversion story to the digital side. I agree that one of the interesting things with digital marketing is the ability to measure your success, but there is something deeper that gets me even more excited. Clay Shirky writes about it in his book “Here Comes Everybody”, and Seth Godin talks about it often on his blog.

    What gets me excited to wake up in the morning, is that consumers have a voice. They always had one, but now it is powerful, and companies need to listen to what their customers are saying. No longer are they just customers, but become proponents or opponents of that brand. Consumers are creating content singing praises of really great products, but most companies don’t know how to capitalize on the movement, or create a platform to empower their customers voices. It is actually a bit scary, but if done right can be amazing.

    Anyways, thanks for sharing your experience. Looking forward to seeing the results of your paradigm shift.

    • dwasylow

      Excellent points, Christopher. Digital makes marketing more of a two-sided conversation. Before, it was just companies pushing out the message they wanted people to hear. Now, consumers have a greater say in framing the discussion. To your point, there’s a lot of opportunity for companies that figure out how to leverage their customers’ voices. Thanks for reading and sharing.