Why integrated digital services cannot be ignored

Over the last 12 months, I have noticed a definite shift in the way marketers approach their digital activity. When I first joined Coast Digital I was working in the online marketing team delivering search solutions for our clients, many of whom used the agency solely for this purpose. I worked closely with our project and account managers before moving into that team to deliver digital strategy across a broader range of clients. What’s really interested me is how many of the clients I used to deliver search for a few years ago have since taken a more joined-up approach to their online marketing and looked at their digital strategy as a whole rather than channel-specific campaigns. Could this shift be because marketers are getting smarter, appreciating the value of a wider digital landscape? Digital marketing is far from new now but many clients have still had the annual battle for internal buy-in, resource allocation and budget in the past from their board.

I was talking about this with one of our project managers, Georgina. We agreed that marketers definitely know that the days when you would have a design and build project and then leave it at that are gone, the vanity website being now wholly outdated. Now it is more beneficial to have a website as a working beast capable of driving sales, generating leads, promoting PR and delivering a content strategy. In order to achieve this, brands are increasingly turning to integrated solutions; solutions that include effective online marketing, as well as fantastic design. Seemingly the realisation has been made that having a pretty website which is incapable of achieving commercial objectives is pointless and that online marketing is one of the most cost effective ways to promote your business and increase results. To fully utilise online marketing services however, you need to have access to a team with knowledge of your site, so that the necessary design and content changes can be made swiftly and correctly.

Last year, over half of B2B marketers increased their budgets (ISC, Econsultancy March2012) clearly demonstrating the growing interest in the digital industry and the positive effects it can have on a business. Additionally, larger budgets have lead to greater interest in full service accounts (those that combine digital consultancy, online marketing and design and build activities). For example, currently at Coast Digital around 65% of our current online marketing clients also work with our design and build team on a regular basis to update their site. For these clients, having both teams in a single business managing both aspects of the account, leads to more informed decisions when making changes to websites or web pages.

As account and project managers we sit squarely between the online marketing and design and build departments. A key element of our work involves integrating both activities so that changes are made with wider strategic objectives in mind. It is also a key responsibility to ensure changes are made quickly and efficiently and that our clients’ customers always receive a ‘joined up’ brand experience both off and online.

The CRO example

A great example of utilising a full-service offering and linking digital strategy, online marketing and design and build is undertaking conversion rate optimisation (CRO). Split testing key parts of your conversion funnel has fast become an essential activity to ensure you make the most of each and every visitor to your site. To maximise CRO efforts however, not only do you need digital strategists and online marketers to identify the opportunities and analyse the data, you also need fantastic designers to build the page assets you’ll need.

Working with a full service agency means each team working on the account will be sympathetic to the others aims, design briefs will be tight and you can take advantage of a wide range of skill sets. Ultimately such an integrated approach ensures an effective test with a strong outcome and costs being kept as low as possible. Of key importance is that you are making decisions based on facts and figures; whether it is changing the PPC campaign, the content on page or the colour and position of a call to action.
(For further information on CRO – Download our essential Conversion Rate Optimisation Guide)

CRO is just one example of where an integrated approach to website design and build, digital strategy and online marketing can yield significant results. The benefits it provides in this example present just a small insight into how fully integrated services can be applied to entire website builds, or ongoing online marketing activities such as email marketing. Fundamentally integration is about using the skill sets from various departments to gain the most advantageous outcome – a website that achieves the commercial objectives and provides a coherent brand experience without sacrificing cost effectiveness. I’m delighted to see so many marketers realising the importance of digital strategy as a whole; after all, you wouldn’t start your offline marketing activity without a strategy, or just by focussing on one specific channel to deliver your results, so why do it with digital?

I’d be really interested to know how you approach your strategy, both on and offline. Do you still struggle to get internal buy in from those that control your budgets? Drop me a line or leave me a comment.