A surge in email marketing success, improved goal achievement and big plans to increase marketing budgets are some of the key findings from the 2nd Annual BroadBased Digital Marketing Survey.
Small business owners, marketers and executives who responded to our survey provided valuable insights into what’s working, what’s not and where they’re taking their digital strategies in 2019. Some of the trends we observed last year continued, while new ones emerged as companies continue to optimize their tactics, strategies and digital marketing budgets.
In addition to offering a snapshot of the current landscape, the 2019 survey provides a second year of data that deepens our understanding of longer-term trends in digital marketing. Our goal in sharing these results is to help marketing professionals know what strategies are succeeding at other organizations, so they can confidently shape their direction for the year ahead. Here’s what we found:
Lead gen still leads, but not by as large a margin
Lead generation continued to be marketers’ primary goal, but brand awareness gained significantly to finish a close second. Facebook’s algorithm update caused a sharp decline in organic reach for brands, which likely drove an increase in awareness as a priority for companies that need to reach a wider audience.
Also, as we will cover later in this report, there has been an increased reliance on email marketing, which could help scale and automate lead generation campaigns. This may leave more resources to focus on brand awareness to drive prospects to the top of the sales funnel for further nurturing.
What was your primary digital marketing goal in 2018?
Goals have become more achievable
We saw an 11 percent increase in companies that met or exceeded their goals from last year, as about two-thirds of respondents were at or ahead of where they wanted to be. As we predicted last year, companies would sharpen their focus to improve performance and continue to place an emphasis on campaign measurement and tracking.
Our work with clients last year revealed more demand for campaign adjustments based on performance. We found higher expectations with regard to proactive advice, both on the tactics we had in place as well as adding new tactics and building cohesive strategies. Heading into 2019, we expect this theme to continue, as constant fine-tuning is critical to achieving goals in today’s digital landscape.
Did you meet those goals, fall short, or exceed them?
We’re going all-in on email
Email marketing nudged ahead of Facebook advertising in this year’s survey. This was surprising, given that 38 percent of respondents named Facebook number one last year compared to only 23 percent this year. Email took the top spot, and we can think of a few reasons why.
For one, email may be the only digital tactic that gets less expensive as technology advances. With rising costs on Facebook and Google Ads, it makes more sense to scale out email programs, for which you own the distribution, instead of using third-party algorithms. Building your email list also has cross-platform benefits, as you can build custom audiences on both Google and Facebook with your email users. This allows you to target your audience with a custom message at a lower cost, making email marketing a powerful tool as the digital trends advance.
Which specific digital marketing tactic was most successful?
The more things change, the more they stay the same
Overall digital marketing tactics used by our respondents changed very little, leading us to believe that companies are less inclined to incorporate new marketing tactics as they become better at implementing and producing results from existing ones.
As 2019 unfolds, we expect to see more companies turn to Instagram for advertising as the platform continues to grow. In fact, according to The Infinite Dial research report, Instagram was the only social media platform to see increased use in 2018, while all others were flat or declined.
Another digital technology to keep an eye on is messaging, as 80 percent of businesses will have a chatbot by 2020. As people continue to gravitate towards text-message-style conversations, companies will create better experiences to accommodate them and create messaging channels to convert them to leads.
What tactics did you use in 2018?
Budgets and tactics are expanding in a big way
More than 60 percent of respondents said they would be increasing their 2019 budgets, and almost as many are adding new tactics. This is a major jump from the previous year, when only 40 percent were planning to raise their budget.
The main takeaway here is clear: companies experienced enough success with their digital marketing strategies last year that they are willing to invest more in 2019. This also tells us that success measurement has reached a point where marketers can feel confident enough in putting more budget into their efforts, as well as adding new tactics to their base.
This should not come as a surprise based on the recent announcement that digital ad buying will exceed traditional in the United States in 2019, with digital spending set to grow to $129 billion. Something else to consider is that almost two-thirds of that total will be spent on mobile platforms, further justifying the surge in companies adopting new tactics, especially those that are mobile-friendly.
Companies are continuing to shift budget towards tactics that offer the best access to their target audience and to give those tactics the best opportunity to deliver the right message at the right time.
Do you plan to increase, decrease or keep the same marketing budget in 2019?
Do you plan to add any new tactics in 2019?
Companies get rolling with video
Video marketing has begun picking up steam, with 61 percent of survey respondents reporting that they used video in 2018. That was a significant increase over the previous year, when only half of respondents were incorporating video into their digital marketing strategy.
Video is proving to be much more effective at attracting consumer attention over static blog posts or image-based presentations. Whether live action, animated style or photo slideshows, videos are becoming the preferred style of marketing for a variety of industries.
Marketers are taking advantage of the increased demand for videos — from instructional how-to videos to customer testimonials to product demos — to win over their audience’s attention. Video marketing is also a powerful tool for advancing prospects through your sales funnel by pairing different types of videos to match your prospect’s stage in the buying process.
Incorporating video into digital marketing has never been easier or more affordable, and you can expect it to become a go-to tactic in 2019.
Have you incorporated video into your digital marketing?
Are websites showing more wear and tear?
Compared to the previous year, companies are letting their websites age a bit. The same percentage of survey respondents have websites that are less than one year old, while the two-year-old segment dropped to 19 percent, and websites three years old or more increased to 26 percent.
This data could mean that companies are sufficiently content with the current version of their website that they’re choosing to invest instead in traffic and content. It could also mean that while full redesigns are dropping a bit, marketers are making smaller, more incremental changes to their sites in the form of updates and enhancements.
When was the last time your website underwent a partial or full re-design?
Most strategies aren’t measuring up
One especially interesting finding from comparing two years’ worth of data is the shift in responses on digital marketing challenges. In the previous year, an overwhelming majority of respondents identified a lack of budget as their biggest marketing challenge and reported that they did not intend to increase their budget in 2018. This year’s survey found that marketers are increasing budgets and putting return on investment measurement squarely in their crosshairs. Thirty-seven percent of respondents marked ROI measurement as their biggest challenge, the most of any option.
This makes sense, as marketers are now being granted more budget and resources to execute their strategies, which brings a natural increase in accountability. Vanity metrics, such as impressions, email opens and social media likes are no longer sufficient confirmation of digital marketing effectiveness. The pressure is on to tie direct revenue to individual tactics and campaigns, and a better understanding of technology is required to do so. Because customers make so many touchpoints on so many devices before converting to a lead or sale, marketers need to place additional emphasis on technology tools that can identify what’s working, what’s not and what they need to do next to drive and track revenue.
What is your biggest digital marketing challenge?
Gaining a competitive advantage by extracting more value from your budget has long been the goal of professional marketers. Digital marketing technology has dramatically improved our ability to make marketing dollars “work smarter, not harder,” but at the same time it has increased the pressure to stay ahead of the competition while satisfying corporate executives’ need to know that digital marketing is generating a tangible return on investment. These trends were clearly evident in the 2019 BroadBased Digital Marketing Survey, which showed that marketers are sharpening their focus on strategy and outcomes as they take advantage of technology and apply documented processes to save time and resources.
We hope you found these results and analysis valuable and that having a two years’ worth of data to compare shed additional light into some of the blurry corners of modern digital marketing. We extend a sincere thank you to all of the respondents who participated in the 2019 survey, and we have listed some trends below that we think will be worth keeping an eye on as the year unfolds.
What does 2019 have in store?