I see this often.


An entrepreneur finds someone to help him with digital marketing. Soon afterwards, websites get built, social media accounts pop up, e-mail newsletters are sent out and money starts to flow to all sorts of online advertising. Not long thereafter the phones start to ring and inboxes fill up. Miracles do happen.

This form of digital marketing that is focused on so called “lead generation” is known as “performance marketing” and it has taken the world by storm. It does the seemingly impossible: relatively affordable marketing that is measurable.

It’s almost too good to be true.

Compare this with traditional brand driven marketing where expensive adverts are placed on TV, radio, magazines and billboards and no one actually knows the impact of it. Trust me, I’ve been there.

So where’s the catch?

Can it really be as easy as paying a digital marketer a few thousand to turn on the sales taps?

Yes, but with a twist.

First though, some gossip from inside the marketing industry. This issue of performance marketing vs. brand marketing is a major area of tension. Performance marketing is by its nature “digital” and lends itself to the techie type. Brand marketing is more creative and lends itself to the arty type. The one is relatively cheap, the other expensive. Left brain vs. right brain. Science vs. art. Google vs. Coca Cola.

So why even bother about brand marketing? Clearly, performance marketing is the way to go for the entrepreneur looking for quick results?

This is where the twist comes in. Performance marketing will get you attention, but what happens next depends largely on the brand. It is the brand that sets the hurdle of who counts as a customer and who doesn’t. The brand acts as a filter that allows you to skim the cream and leave the rest for the competition to fight over.

Think of it as a shopping mall. Everybody is allowed into a mall, but not everybody feels comfortable going into every shop. Some shops clearly shout, “I am not for you, stay out!”. I’ve never gone into an Armani store to browse for a shirt….

Digital marketing will get people into the proverbial mall of your industry to take notice of your business, but your brand decides who becomes a customer. Without a brand, you risk drowning in sales leads, dropping the ball on customer service and diversifying your offering to meet every need. You lose focus.

The ideal marketing strategy includes a bit of new school digital and old school branding.

The challenge for the entrepreneur is to find a marketer that can do both. It is a bit like finding an arty accountant, or someone that likes both Marmite and Bovril. It’s rare, even though the best solution is never one sided.

Next time you talk to your digital marketer, ask them about their views on the role of the brand. If they shrug their shoulders, or role their eyes, you may want to look for someone else.

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