Advertising has always been a key part of marketing. If you talk to random people on the street, chances are that many of them would equate the two. This was especially true in the good ol’ days, but even with all the tools and tech of the digital age, advertising still plays a major role in most companies’ marketing strategy.
The reason for this is simple: it’s often the fastest and most hands off way to generate leads. If you have money, it is often easier to pour it straight into ads than worry about optimizing throughout the customer journey.
And before I get into a rant about why advertising is not the most sustainable way to grow, let me clarify that I do believe that ads can be an important and effective part of any marketing strategy. The problem isn’t that companies use ads to drive awareness, it’s how they use them.
Why relying too much on ads is risky
There are a number of reasons why I think it is wise for any marketer to diversify their acquisition strategy and go beyond advertising. The most obvious reason is cost. Advertising is expensive and as it becomes increasingly saturated in some industries, it also becomes less affordable.
The main problem with saturation is that ads are becoming increasingly ineffective.
With the average person seeing up to 4,000 ads a day, banner blindness is a real problem and people are becoming desensitized to what companies are putting out there.
Not to mention the fact that people are increasingly using adblockers to get away from all the madness.
With ads becoming more expensive and less effective, the trend definitely points towards a need for diversification when it comes to customer acquisition. But this is nothing new.
There is another, much bigger reason why you shouldn’t rely too much on ads.
If you’re using advertising as part of your marketing strategy, chances are you’re running online ads. If you’re running online ads, chances are you’re relying on either Google or Facebook, or both, for a good chunk of it.
Facebook has gone through great lengths in the past year to force companies to go the paid route, rather than rely on organic traffic, with Facebook Pages experiencing a significant plunge in organic reach over the past years.
We’ve reached a point where Facebook and Google account for a majority of the online ads market, with their shares continuously growing.
This poses some serious long term issues. Many companies out there are relying on just a couple of channels to drive their traffic and generate leads. These channels might be a perfect fit now, but who knows how long that will continue? It is never smart to put too many eggs in just one or two baskets.
Still, many companies owe a huge part of their growth to just Facebook or Google ads. The problem is that it only takes one little algorithm change to turn all of that upside down.
If you’re dependent on Facebook or Google ads, you need to ask yourself if you really want your growth to depend on just 1 or 2 ad monopolies at a time where headlines like this are popping up left, right and center:
How you should be using online ads
As I mentioned before, I don’t think that there is anything inherently wrong with using ads to drive awareness for your product. It’s just important that you have a clear strategy in which you use ads the right way.
The first thing you should do, is get a clear overview of all the ad channels that are available to you. It is worth experimenting with different paid channels and see if you can spread your risk. Even if they perform slightly less well, it can still be worth diversifying in the long run. Bing, Twitter, Quora and LinkedIn are just some examples of other platforms that you could explore. Most niches also have specific online ad channels that often work very well as they drive a relevant audience.
The other thing you should do is view advertising and performance marketing as an accelerator pedal to the rest of your growth. A long term marketing strategy will rely on, content, SEO, events, branding, social media, referrals, email, CRO and a great deal more. Your online ads are just a accelerator that can enhance the performance of all your other channels. This is known as the halo effect.
After all, the key to marketing lies in creating as much value as possible so that you build a strong brand and thought leadership that attracts the right people to your product.
More on that next week…