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You might think digital marketing is already “mainstream,” but the bulk of marketing budgets still goes toward offline activities such as trade shows, radio, TV, and direct mail. According to a research study conducted in Australia and New Zealand, around 61% of marketing budgets is still spent on offline activities.

Perhaps the most interesting finding in the study shows that a business’ likelihood of investing more in online marketing depends on the size of the company’s overall budget. The study divided respondents into three groups:

  1. Small companies, which I’ll call the Fearless Rookies, are far more likely to invest in digital marketing than their large counterparts: They earn less than $2 million annually but invest an average of 55% in digital.

  2. Mid-sized companies, which I’ll call Juniors, earn between $2 and $19 million spend around 46% of their marketing budgets online.

  3. Large companies (the Old Fogies) spend dramatically less than the Fearless Rookies and Juniors. Although they bring in more than $20 million annually, they spend an average of just 33% of marketing money on digital initiatives.

Surprisingly, the study found that a considerable number – 20% – of marketers aren’t tracking their ROI on digital channels at all, and only 8% are using these metrics in real time. So while many companies are beginning to embrace digital marketing, there’s still a lot of room for growth.

What can your company learn from this? Wherever your business falls on the revenue scale, there are lessons you can take from companies in each of the other categories:

  • Old Fogies (Large companies, annual revenue of $20 million or greater): With an average of just 33% spent on digital marketing, it’d be easy to slam large companies as lumbering, slow-moving giants holding onto their dated, old-fashioned offline marketing expenditures. But large companies often have long histories, and their longevity is due – at least in part – to those same cautious, restrained practices. That said, there’s clearly more payoff available if they’d embrace digital marketing and the metrics that come with it. It’s often more difficult to measure ROI with offline marketing initiatives, but the increased accountability available with online marketing metrics should provide incentive to make the leap. If your online campaign isn’t getting results, you’ll know it quickly – and can change your tactics accordingly.

  • Juniors (Mid-size firms, $2-$20 million annually): These companies tend to spend 46% of their marketing budgets on digital campaigns – a respectable number, even though it shows that they’re still depending on traditional marketing more than digital. For Juniors, the perfect ratio depends on the industry and target demographics. If you fall into this group, you probably have the most freedom to tweak your online/offline expenditures and experiment with campaigns in both avenues. The ideal ratio likely isn’t far from this average, and as long as you’re tracking results carefully and updating your strategies over time, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find what works best for your company.

  • Fearless Rookies (Small companies, less than $2 million annual revenue): Unsurprisingly, startups reported spending the largest portion – 55% – of their marketing budgets on digital strategies. The survey didn’t ask why, but I’m betting it’s because these small ventures tend to be less concerned with tradition and more concerned with near-immediate measurements to let them know whether their marketing is working. Small also means they’re more agile, so when something isn’t working, they can pivot a lot faster than their Old Fogey counterparts. But the Rookies can still learn a lot from the Fogies: When you find something that works, figure out why. Look at the numbers from all different angles. If you can find the principle that works for your business, you can stick to that principle but change up the campaigns (some of which might include those Old Fogey-beloved traditional offline marketing activities).

For most industries, the best marketing strategies incorporate at least some online and some offline tactics. The key to finding that ideal ratio is in measuring your results. As long as you’re not in that 20% of survey respondents who aren’t tracking ROI at all, I’m confident you’ll find the right mix.

Distribion’s platform simplifies the process of executing and managing campaigns in multiple channels at once – for companies of all sizes, from Old Fogies to Fearless Rookies. More importantly, Distribion’s measurement and analytics dashboards deliver actionable metrics. Learn more about our platform, then contact us for a personalized assessment of your business’ needs.


About the Author: Sharon Eliza Nichols created the Facebook group “I judge you when you use poor grammar.”, which grew to almost 500,000 members. She turned the content into two books, “I judge you when you use poor grammar.” and “More Badder Grammar!”, which have sold 90,000+ copies. Sharon has a law degree from the University of Alabama School of Law, she’s been featured in The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, and she works in marketing in Virginia.