The world of marketing is changing. Thanks to the rise of martech software, what was once a creative, content-driven soft skill is now becoming increasingly technical. Marketing automation systems have made it easier than ever to take a deep dive into data and analytics, giving marketers the tools to generate leads with unprecedented efficiency. And yet many media companies—and most brands—are still using them wrong. The issue? Their way of thinking about marketing is outdated. Stuck in the past with traditional media planning, they look at marketing through the lens of impressions and awareness, a point of view that has failed to evolve and adjust along with the broader, data-driven marketing landscape.

Why Awareness Used To Be an Acceptable Strategy

Before integrated marketing automation and sales systems came to be and prior to digital, marketing was somewhat of a guessing game, a hit-and-hope type of deal. If, for example, you were trying to advertise a beauty product of some sort, you’d probably buy ad space in a women’s fashion or health magazine under the assumption that the publication’s readers are the type of people who would potentially be interested in purchasing your product. There was no way to be sure of who those readers were, if they were actually interested in your product, and the degree to which they were interested. You just had to hope that your ad would somehow land under the gaze of the right people and turn them into customers. With no way to granularly target, the only viable strategy was to try and increase overall awareness. The hope was that if an ad reached enough people, enough of those people would become customers to bring in revenue. 

This strategy used to be acceptable because, with such limited data, there was no better way to go about marketing. The problem with using this same approach today, however, is that now we do have more data, and there is a better, more efficient way of doing things. And yet even today, so many agencies and companies remain focused on awareness in the form of impressions.

Impressions 1

It’s Not the Bots!

The thing about impressions is that their value is not constant, it’s conditional. Although impressions have the potential to be very valuable, such value is not inherent in impressions alone. Recent findings on big brands seeing no change in business outcomes after turning off digital ad spending show how impressions have little to no value if they don’t actually convert. This data has caused many media companies to blame bot traffic for the failings of their campaigns, suggesting that the solution to their problems is just to filter out any non-human activity. While there is certainly a lot of bot activity, especially in particular areas and industries, it is entirely unfair to deem it the sole reason for ineffectual digital marketing efforts, as poor media strategy, loose targeting, and lack of connected attribution play a far larger role in rendering the failures of these campaigns. 

The Proof is in the Pudding 

Our work with a mid-Atlantic hospital network shows just how much of an impact a more tailored strategy and granular targeting can have on a brand’s digital marketing campaigns. We collaborated with our client to build new campaigns that were centered around the specific needs of each of our target audiences and, although impressions decreased by 58.8%, our new campaign strategy improved their conversion rate from 3.5% to 8%. In addition, our work delivered 54% more unique leads to the hospital network at a 40% lower cost per lead. We utilized the same digital tools available to all marketers, we just changed the approach based on the data.

Impressions 2

Moving Forward: Focus on the End Goal

As we move further into a digital age with consumers who have come to expect personalized content, it will become evermore important for agencies and businesses alike to shift their perspectives to focus on results as opposed to awareness. Rather than trying to optimize impressions, brands should work to optimize the potential of each of the impressions they do receive to become a conversion. This revenue-first methodology requires better targeting, which means doing your due diligence to find out who your consumers are and who they aren’t so that you can get in front of the people who matter to your business and ignore those who don’t.

At Boston Digital, we manage campaigns to focus on qualified traffic that most efficiently generates leads for our clients. In doing so, not only do we help them get more leads and grow their business, but we also reduce the amount of time and money they were previously wasting on meaningless impressions. After all, impressions don’t pay the bills—results do. 



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