If your business doesn't absolutely rely on the web (or mobile or social) at the core of its business model, then why do you have a website at all?
"Shut down your website."
This could be the answer to your question about ROI if you haven't been able to quantify any success across your digital properties.
I'm only half kidding.
And I mean that in a couple of ways.
Does Your Business Rely on Digital?
The first way I'm only half kidding is to suggest that if your business doesn't absolutely rely on the web (or mobile or social) at the core of its business model, then why do you have a website at all?
Think differently! Not by abandoning your URL entirely, but by cutting back drastically the time and effort you spend on the web, leaving only a stub site - maybe of the old-fashioned "brochure-ware" type that everyone used to have. This is just so folks can say, "Oh yes, they exist." Completing the sale will be up to you. Just like always.
It sounds pretty drastic, but here's why I say it isn't beyond consideration.
For the sake of argument, let's say you've put basic tracking on your site.
Running basic analytics is more like a placeholder than a plan. If you aren't carefully measuring user interaction on your site, and you have no idea whether user activity is helping drive your business or not, and your business seems OK, then what does that say about making further investments? Would you make investments in any other part of your business where you had zero visibility into its success? Would you keep your money in a bank that couldn't tell you how much money you had in your account? No, web analytics is definitely not accounting, but the analogy is apt. Digital properties - the web ("PC content" according to some); mobile; social - they all have a business purpose. And if you don't mind not knowing how well these efforts are helping your business, you should also not mind spending very little time and effort on them.
Forget the noise about "requiring an online presence." If you can't make the case to measure success, you haven't made the case to have anything like a real digital marketing effort either. So don't quit on your land line, and make sure you keep sending post cards.
Help! I've Measured and I Can't Get Up!
The second way I'm only half kidding is this: you may already have measured beyond the basics, and been pretty sure about what you've seen, yet it still doesn't add up to a way to make decisions. And if your measurements are just a "feel good" exercise, how does that reflect upon the item being measured?
Don't fade your URL to black. People need to know you're breathing. And even the most cynical assessment of the value of digital content would have to admit that digital invisibility is unwise at best. But do you really need all that activity? Is content marketing doing anything for you? All those Facebook likes? Pinterest pins? Tweets? OK, I have a soft spot for tweets. But all the Flash modules, Ajax forms, banners-no-one-clicks-on, surveys, apps-no-one-cares-about, non-optimized landing pages, videos, avatars, HTML5, pint-sized mobile versions of your content…how's that all working?
In the first example, we assumed you don't know. Here, we assume you do know, but that you don't have a real plan to answer business questions with data; nor recommendations, based on what you're seeing.
Consider doing less digital if: you've thrown lots of content at the wall and now you think you can see some of it sticking - but all you know is the wall is a mess. Time to focus on a smaller, leaner, more manageable effort that strums the tune of your business. Forget what the content mavens are telling you. Of course they want you to spend more money on more of that. But you have a business to run, and costs to control, and you need to make sense of what you've measured.
A site that's measured but untethered to any action plan (based on findings) is not demonstrably more helpful than a site that's had no measurement at all.
A Stadium Without a Scoreboard?
To make one more comparison, think about playing a game of baseball. But without keeping track of runs. It might be fun to play and if the game was good enough you might even pay to see it - but not much, and not often. Digital without measurement is kind of like a ballgame without a score. The major leagues figured this out a long time ago. Stadiums fill up because everybody knows enough to count how many runners cross home plate, and what that means at the end of nine innings.
Measure carefully and accurately; decide what to do based on what you found out from measuring. If you have a notion as to what analytics is telling you, dig deeper for confirmation. Or, just "toss the ball around and have fun": with a small, inexpensive digital presence.
Shut Down image on home page via Shutterstock.
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Andrew V. Edwards is a digital marketing executive with 20 years of experience serving large organizations, and has been an operating executive and digital marketing consultant since the 1980s. Currently he is a partner at Efectyv Digital, a digital analytics consulting firm. Andrew combines extensive technical knowledge with a broad strategic understanding of digital marketing and especially digital measurement, plus hands-on creative in the form of writing and design.
In 2004 Edwards co-founded the Digital Analytics Association and is currently a director emeritus. He has designed analytics training curricula for business teams and has led seminars on digital marketing subjects.
Besides writing a regular column about analytics for ClickZ, Andrew wrote the groundbreaking "Dawn of Convergence Analytics" report, which was featured at the SES show in New York (2013).
His book Digital Is Destroying Everything, published by Rowman & Littlefield, will be released on June 15, 2015.
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