I read a fascinating article recently on the death of Digital Marketing. The author, Mark Ritson, a professor in Marketing at Melbourne Business School, draws the interesting comparison between the popularity of “International Marketing” as a subject for MBA students in the 1970’s – just as companies were starting to “go-global”, and digital marketing today as companies are going online.
The point Ritson makes is this: it is all just marketing and although the execution differs, the marketing fundamentals remain the same, which I summarise this way: It is all about knowing your customer intimately.

This brings me to something I often notice among many of the businesses I work with: they only do one type of marketing, at least intentionally, namely digital marketing. They have a website, social media, some search engine optimisation and possibly pay-per-click advertising. And that is where their conscious marketing efforts stop.

In a way this is understandable. Digital marketing – or rather, marketing using digital platforms – is a far more accessible type of marketing to the small business owner versus traditional types such as TV, radio and print. Add to this digital marketing’s supposed benefit – that everything can be measured for effectiveness – and suddenly business owners jump at it as the holy grail.
But this is short sighted. Marketing is the one business function where operations and people come together. It is about answering the question: How do we make money by offering our product to people. And make no mistake, even if your business is in the B2B environment, you are still selling to people. Someone must like your offering enough to approve the cost estimate.
Which is just the point:

People are multi faceted and complex. Your customer does not just have a digital life that is separate from their physical life.

By focusing all your efforts on digital marketing means you are taking a one dimensional approach to your customers life who in reality moves seamlessly between surfing the web, chatting to friends, reading the paper and scrolling their Facebook.
But why do so many business owners choose to segment their marketing approach so harshly and focus only on “digital marketing”?
I believe the answer lies in how segmented the marketing industry itself is, forcing the business owner to either engage with a digital agency, or a PR agency, or a design agency or a social media agency. What is really needed are multi diciplinarry agencies that provide business owners with honest cross platform advice based on age old marketing fundamentals. This type of advice is in short supply, for various reasons. But its days are numbered.

Ultimately there should be no digital marketing agency – only digital implementation agencies. Marketing agencies should be platform agnostic and focused on how to best communicate with complex human beings.