Old school, new school.

Greetings from the apocalypse where we're staying sane by pondering the return of analog. Will landlines eventually make a comeback? Who put this TV on the street and should we take it? All the Big Questions.

On to the #content.

Impressions vs Actions

Impressions are everything. At least that’s what we all thought for the first two decades of digital marketing. But as targeting and tracking tools become more precise, many advertisers--especially at B2b companies--are no longer satisfied with impressions. They want to pay for actions closer to the outcome they need: pay-per-click, pay-per-conversion, pay-per-sale and pay-per-lead. Even brand awareness, long the muddiest of metrics, has become a little more precise.

Yes, counting sheer quantities of people who saw your cute content salvos can be encouraging and often important. But as our own John Hazard points out in Adweek, roping those potential leads into a direct action is key for brands in 2020. Being as how this is marketing, an idea isn’t an idea until it's got a cool acronym… hence, Specific Action Marketing, or SAM (*takes bow*). This approach gives marketers the opportunities to create content directly for very specific audiences—ones they have located through building leads from trade association databases or using advanced targeting tools. 

In some way, this kind of pragmatic marketing approach feels old-school. It’s less about invading potential leads’ space with flashy digital stimuli alerting them to the fact that your company exists, and more about serving up content potentially helpful to their needs when, where, and how they want it. Once a lead becomes engaged, the onus is on the marketer to provide a daisy chain of top-notch content—good copy written with real human beings in mind instead of like, keyword Mad Libs—that promotes meaningful and longer-term engagement. 

Strategies like email correspondence and webinars are great ways of doing this. They require sustained attention and serve to gain users’ trust (i.e. make them feel like they aren’t being shunted through a digital funslide of scamminess). Each step gently pushes them toward taking a direct action and getting more immersed in the journey—that good old-fashioned funnel, whatever you want to call it—that you are creating for them. 

In a way, this move to Specific Action Marketing is a return to a bit of the analog. The process of developing custom packages is a manual process, and conducting a virtual trade show requires humans to do a lot of talking in front of cameras. But it starts with digital, and it runs on digital.

Still, we don’t have customers to attend to enter the funnel unless we captured them somewhere along the digital journey, and so there will always be a place in marketing for top-of-funnel metrics like circulation and impressions. And while it’s popular to call those vanity metrics, that’s not entirely true. Impressions matter, but they are the means—not the end.