by: Christian Smagg

Although there are many online tactics available to supercharge your digital marketing plan, not all of them deliver the same effectiveness or even are appropriate. It is obviously highly depending on the target audience you are trying to reach and develop relationship with, the product and services you are promoting as well as the marketing objectives you are trying to achieve.

A McKinsey Global Survey of marketing executives from around the world entitled "How companies are marketing online" offers some solid insights into the future of digital marketing together with an excellent synopsis of Web 2.0 and online tools effectiveness as well as how they are increasingly being used to develop customer engagement.

Spending is expected to increase on all types of online advertising vehicles over the next three years with over 10 percent of marketing professionals expecting to be spending a majority of their budgets online by the end of the decade.

One may consider that marketing is "simply" getting the right message to the right target audience, at the right time, using the right media mix. But except for those companies that use online tools across the full spectrum of marketing activities, from building awareness to after-sales service, few marketers truly integrate their marketing efforts and get the most out of both their online and offline marketing investments. Their message doesn't communicate and connect with their target audience and usually lacks consistency that flows through a variety of media.

The majority of marketers consider online vehicles as being more efficient than traditional media. In addition to established online tools, a strong interest is shown in the interactive and collaborative Web 2.0 technologies for advertising, product development, and customer service. But while digital techniques are increasingly considered as an effective component of the marketing strategies, the lack of capabilities, at companies as well as their marketing agencies, the difficulties convincing management, together with concerns around the absence of meaningful metrics (which is actually counterintuitive since the ease of measuring return on investment is among the key selling points of most online marketing techniques) are critical reasons why digital marketing is less frequently used than their importance would actually require.

Online tools are used by marketers in a variety of ways in order to achieve their marketing goals throughout the customer decision-making process, sometimes in ways that contravene the common wisdom about where these techniques are delivering their maximum effect. Emerging vehicles including blogs, podcasts, social networks, wikis, virtual worlds or online games are mainly considered as an effective way to achieve customer retention and, to a lesser extend, brand building. It is actually interesting to note that as much as 35% of marketers are not able to clearly identify which marketing objective(s) should be achieved though the use of these "less traditional" communication channels. This is probably showing an enthusiasm - mainly from frequent users of all digital tools, serving all marketing purposes - for experimenting such collaborative and interactive tools.

The evolution under way in digital marketing reflects fundamental shifts in consumer behaviour. Leveraging the digital universe now requires marketers to look beyond traditional tactics. As the Internet gains influence and online techniques take on a larger role in strategies, digital marketing may well be the next frontier for consumer engagement and marketing effectiveness.

Core marketing competencies has always consisted of driving market awareness, creating demand, growing customers, and accelerating sales. But marketers are increasingly facing complex multi-channel processes, dynamic interactions, extended integration, growing customer-generated information, and increased use of sophisticated technologies required to successfully deploy cost-effective marketing initiatives.

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