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How to craft a Business Case for Digital Marketing Investment

By Anne-Marie Raynor
on 19/1/18

As marketers, we understand the value of digital. But more than that, we’re digital advocates; we speak passionately about its benefits, from both a standalone perspective and as a complement to other marketing channels.

While that’s understandable and commendable, it means we can be snow-blinded to the fact that senior decision-makers sometimes struggle to see the value in digital. Budgets can be slashed, projects stalled, and campaigns thrown to the wayside. This is particularly prevalent in less digitally mature sectors, such as manufacturing, where sales have traditionally been driven by repeat business and referrals. With marketing budgets being released at the start of the year, what can you do to negotiate more investment for digital?

Of course, it’s in the best interest of agencies to help in-house marketers build a business case that clearly and concisely outlines the benefits of digital. With that in mind, here are our top tips for convincing the people in charge of your company’s purse strings to invest in digital marketing…

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Set goals that match your company’s objectives

The key objections to spending on digital tend to be related to lack of visibility around ROI. This prompts the question: how can digital marketing truly demonstrate the value of paid and organic activity? Needless to say, you need to be clear on your objectives, and what tactical methods you want to use to achieve them.
Part of the solution lies in developing a system for measuring impact. A robust digital measurement framework should be devised, providing transparency and visibility for the senior team. Return on investment will be the one key metric that they’re interested in; if you can’t measure the impact of your activity, you’ll find it impossible to persuade your finance director to give you more budget.

If you’re going to discuss ROI, you’ll first need to set out the overarching objectives of your business. To do that, it’s important to consider why your website exists in the first place. Is it purely a sales tool; does it provide customer support; does it have a combination of these roles; or is it for something else entirely?

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Let’s consider the example of a construction services company. Its objective could be: “To become the UK’s leading provider of construction services, through our market-leading expertise, innovative solutions and world-class customer support.” To that end, relevant goals might be as follows:

  1. Build national brand awareness
  2. Generate more leads through the website
  3. Improve online customer support

Decide how to measure your digital performance

Once these goals have been outlined, you can start putting KPIs against them, which will be a vital step in demonstrating the value provided by your digital campaigns.

As obvious as it sounds, it’s important that you put proper thought into the KPI for each goal. The last thing you want is to pick out metrics that fail to give you sufficient insight into channel performance, regardless of whether you’re above or below target. For instance, it’s all well and good to set a traffic target, but if your company directors are primarily interested in lead generation (or, more likely, revenue) then that KPI is unlikely to tell them what they want to hear.

Manage expectations, and don’t expect to change the world overnight

You should always include a digital roadmap of short, medium and long-term goals, demonstrating where your digital budget will be spent and the key objectives of each stage of your company’s digital maturity.

But while you’re eager to secure digital investment, don’t fall into the trap of over-promising. Be realistic. If, for example, you’ve never done paid activity before, it’s natural to expect a period of ramping up; results won’t happen overnight.

body01.jpgWe’ve done some digging into how new paid search and paid social accounts are scaled over time. Our research shows that it typically takes five months for spend and return on ad spend to stabilise at a “normal” level, with both metrics seeing significant fluctuations in the preceding months. If you fail to set realistic expectations from the outset, you’ll soon be facing an uphill battle to justify ongoing digital expenditure.

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Review competitors (but not just the usual candidates)

While competitor activity shouldn’t be the primary reason for your business to invest in digital, it’s likely to be a consideration. However, don’t fall into the trap of reviewing your most obvious rivals – particularly if your organisation operates in a sector that isn’t particularly digitally mature.

Instead, take a look at the start-ups in your industry; what are they doing to disrupt the market? Smaller, younger companies are often more digitally savvy, so this analysis is more likely to yield useful takeaways to inform your own strategy.

Just consider the oft-repeated disaster story of Blockbuster. They dominated the video rental market, and competitor analysis against their conventional high-street rivals would no doubt have put them well ahead of the competition. But LoveFilm and – most significantly – Netflix disrupted the market completely, rendering physical stores increasingly irrelevant. Today, there are fewer than a dozen Blockbusters left; at the peak of the company’s powers there were 9,000 in the US alone.

Keep your business case to one page (or less)

CFOs, MDs and chief executives are notoriously time-poor. At any given time, they’re also likely to be weighing up any number of priorities and business challenges. That means if you’re going to get their attention on the subject of digital investment, you’ll need to keep it short and punchy; if you can’t sum up your initial business case in a one-pager, it’s probably too lengthy and complex.

Start by outlining the project, explaining its importance and discussing execution plans. This should be reinforced with research demonstrating digital ROI (we’ve got some great case studies to help you out with this). Before taking your proposal to the key decision-makers, get buy-in from other stakeholders too; the more people you can get onboard, the easier it’ll be to secure your digital investment.

Need help proving the value of digital marketing to your MD or CFO? Want to hear how we’ve helped businesses across numerous sectors generate amazing returns from their digital investment? Get in touch with us today!

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