To quote one of the most notable philosophers of our time, "It Ain't Easy Being Green" (Source: Kermit The Frog). Being a new marketer in a medium that apparently utilizes all new terminology and methodologies can be frightening, but at the end of the day it is really not all that different.
In order to understand how to utilize the medium to its highest potential, you need to understand the parameters of the medium. Unfortunately this is one of the more difficult parts about this industry. The parameters are constantly shifting and redefining themselves, so the way that I like to approach them is to work backward from the objectives and see what you are trying to achieve.
For a new marketer, this simply means clearly defining your goals. Once you understand what your goals are, you can start to rely on the vendors and partners you surround yourself with to help you achieve them. Being clear about your objectives in the beginning is the easiest piece of the equation to control, but be sure that you set the same expectations. Just because you heard the Internet can be a more efficient medium doesn't mean you should have a higher expectation than any other form of media. If you are trying to achieve a $100 cost per customer in offline media, than your goal should be $100 in online media. Don't lower the goal because someone said you could. If you're quick to lower your goals, than that suggests your goals were too high in the first place. The online space will probably become more efficient than other form of media for you, but don't force us to start two steps behind the competition because you added a variable that affects the outcome of the race.
Which brings me to my next point - Limiting The Variables. We've all heard the words "Test, Test, Test" more than we can stand to hear but too many new advertisers start their tests with the cards stacked against them. Not only can you set yourself up for failure by not clearly laying out the objectives, but you can also forget to reduce the variables and focus on the medium itself. By limiting the variables you should keep messaging similar to what you are doing in other forms of media. You should keep flighting similar and you should try to keep budgets fixed for a period of time, possibly in line with whatever budgets you are allocating to test other forms of media. You want to limit the variable to be the medium itself. If you are committed to the medium, then you can start to layer in new tests and truly start to see the benefits of the medium as it certainly reduces the risk associated with message testing and the learnings can be applied to other forms of media very easily.
This brings me to the last point, which is being sure to maintain your focus on those original objectives. If you start a campaign by laying out the objective of a Cost Per Customer, then the first question you should be asking after the launch is "What is the Cost Per Customer and What Volume of Customers are we seeing?" Too often the first question we hear is, "What is the Click Rate". This is the last question you should be asking, as it is one of the least important variables in the equation. The conversion is important, the volume is important, the conversion from impressions to sales are important. The click rate is a stepping-stone, but of course our industry first touted the Click Rate and as a result we are still stuck with that metric being inquired to from new marketers. Whatever your goals were, your questions should be focused on understanding those goals, not the stepping stones to achieve them. Those are for the detail of optimization, not to be used as a judgment for success or not.
All of the above points may seem very basic to you, but day in and day out I hear new people talking about spending money online and they all seem to be confused or intimidated by the "daunting" task of incorporating online into their efforts. The methodologies are the same for all media and I think that if you were to survey the savviest online marketers you would see a number of people with offline skill sets and experience. The reasons why the fundamental ideas behind advertising are are all the same. It's always about understanding the Target Audience and their behaviors and decision cycles. Once you can understand their behaviors, then you can select media to reach them in an effective manner.
As more and more people come online and spend more time online, the budgets will increase and we all need to start thinking about how to work the media together and truly develop integrated planning.
What are your thoughts?