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Digital Marketing: Short Term Profit vs Long Term Growth

Jamie Hallitt

by Jamie Hallitt on 4th April 2014

 04-04-2014 10-44-57In January 2012, Haribo released a TV advert showing the results of an interesting (if slightly halfhearted and biased) social experiment. Children were asked to sit at a table, faced with a single Haribo sweet. If they managed to resist eating the sweet for a short period of time, they would get two Haribo sweets to eat rather than one.

A no-brainer… surely? Apparently not. Not even one of the participants could resist the temptation of something they really liked, despite the promise of a better prize at the end of it.

Reflecting on the idea of short term profit vs long term growth, I couldn’t help thinking that  Digital Marketers are often guilty of focussing more on short-term aims rather than the end goal – which in the majority of cases is to aid the growth of an organisation, or a specific part of one. That’s not to say that short term aims aren’t appropriate (in fact they are always vital in my opinion), but they have to be structured logically in order to get the very best out of a Digital Marketing campaign. When making that investment, Digital Marketers should be focusing on specific and easily measurable KPIs which all contribute to the achievement of reaching that end goal.

It sounds fairly logical, almost obvious in fact. However, when short term goals are achieved, it is often easy to lose sight of the end goal due to that warm fuzzy feeling we get when we’ve done something right – i.e. pride.

Key Performance Indicators

With tools such as Google Analytics and great paid search interfaces such as AdWords, it’s all too easy to pick out certain metrics and turn them into KPIs that end up forming your over-all Digital Marketing goals. How many times have you looked and your Click Through Rate (CTR) and made a mental note to make sure you’re doing your best to increase it? How often do you look at your average Cost per Click in AdWords and think how high it is? How happy do you find yourself after seeing a positive improvement in your average position?

For most, it’s hard to look at statistics such as these, and turn them into a “bigger picture”, because we’re so used to using short-term aims to determine which actions we should take. Many of us use these metrics on a daily basis and it’s all too easy to make these KPIs the center of our attention 100% of the time, instead of thinking about whether these statistics actually mean anything in the long term.

Short Term Profit

Short-term profit is usually the main focal point for determining the success or failure of a marketing campaign. When you’re managing an AdWords account, you may look at whether certain keywords have produced conversions and whether it looks like there has been a profit or a loss as a result of the money spent on clicks for those keywords. This is, of course, best practice and it’s also common sense. However, common sense sometimes isn’t enough to make something work in the long run.

It’s also very easy to fall into the trap of thinking “It’s not working now, so it never will”. Paid search is a prime example of a tool that business owners and marketers spend money on, in the hope of achieving short-term profit, but giving up once it’s swallowed so much money that it’s not justifiable to keep it running. The psychology here is that you’ve made a loss, so shut it down before you lose any more. “Minimise your losses”.

Business man working with laptop and thinking about  new project

Long Term Growth

Unfortunately, minimising your losses is not always a great tactic for growing your business – what happens when you’ve tried everything, with no luck? Do you give up? Do you quit trying to grow your business because nothing’s worked so far? No, you try again with a different strategy and you ask for help from experts in the tools you’re using.

With paid search as an example, as marketers, what we should really be thinking about is whether keywords are playing a part in achieving longer term goals, such as the growth of a particular part of a business. The answer to this kind of question isn’t answered by looking at “profit per conversion”. It can, however, be answered by analysing past keyword data and using the right metrics to measure whether each particular keyword has been used to find your website, before a conversion was completed by a user searching another keyword later on.

This is thinking long-term; not giving up on a keyword because it hasn’t directly produced a conversion, but rather analysing whether it’s had an effect at all – and if so, has it been positive? Think about what might happen if you paused or deleted that keyword, and whether you would really want to risk losing out on those conversions, purely because users weren’t converting straight after searching the keyword.

Moving Forward

Next time you look at your Digital Marketing strategy or even a small part of it, be it Social Media Management, Content Marketing, PPC, SEO or even Email Marketing, just take a bit of time to think about whether the goals you have achieved in the last few months have actually had an impact on your long term growth as a business. If the answer is no, think about how you could change your strategy to make sure that this over-all end goal is always in sight across all your channels. In a nutshell; don’t ask whether something has worked – ask whether it’s contributed to the success or failure to your end goal so far. Then alter your strategy based on the answer.

Image Source

Force Of Nature! via BigStock
Business man working with laptop thinking about new projects via BigStock

Jamie Hallitt

Jamie Hallitt

Jamie specialises in building, managing & optimising SEO and PPC campaigns and has three years of experience in Digital Marketing. He has a particular interest in the professional services sector and multi-channelled eCommerce campaigns, focusing on ROI and conversion optimisation.

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