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  • Lindsay

There’s No Such Thing as Digital Marketing?

A couple of years ago I attended a lecture from a talented Marketing Professor. He made the statement that there was no such thing as digital marketing. There’s just marketing, he argued. How can you distinguish tactics and make it out like it’s somehow different to other areas of marketing? The more I’ve thought about this, the more I’ve realised he’s absolutely right. If you ever think in terms of digital marketing, you could be doing yourself a disservice.

What is Marketing?

I think if businesses want to gain more success from marketing, then it’s vital to understand what marketing actually is. It’s not communication or promotion or social media. In the words of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, “Marketing is the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.” This definition shows how marketing is about your customers and how you operate as a business. Any idea of a website or social media or any other digital marketing tactics are merely a way of executing how your company decides to convey the important message of who it is and what it does. Therefore, by this very definition, digital marketing is just the tactical means of pushing out your marketing messages via digital channels. It’s one piece of a much larger programme of activities.

I’ve had a very successful career in marketing, but this has only happened because I’ve always considered the strategy first. What do you want to achieve and how are you going to achieve it? Only then should you decide what tactics to use, and only then should you perhaps look at digital elements.

Whenever I see anything discussing digital marketing, I now immediately worry about the huge fundamental part of marketing that might be missed out, and I question how does this all align with non-digital methods? If you use a digital marketing agency, how are they fitting into the much larger concept of marketing? Are you really using all the channels you could be and how are they all working together?


In my marketing book, I say not having a strategy is like getting eleven people together and then telling them to go play football, without any idea of who is playing in what position, who they’re playing against or even where they’re playing. We all know it would be very hard to win a match if the team didn’t all work together and there wasn’t some thought process behind it. So why would we ever be able to market effectively without knowing who we’re targeting, how we’re targeting them and what ultimately we’re trying to achieve? It’s a very similar thing. A strategy is the foundation to the rest of your marketing activity. Like building a house, you’d never consider putting the windows in first, so why do you jump straight into social media without any consideration for the fundamental elements of your marketing?

If there is such a thing as digital marketing, then surely it refers to when a strategy has been developed and the tactics need to be chosen. The digital marketing elements are just the parts of the strategy that are executed in the online world.

If you want your marketing to be effective, then you need to not view marketing as silos of activity and instead start to see it for what it really is: a way to satisfy your customer requirements profitably. Yes, there may be some elements of digital marketing in the mix, but there should also be a lot of other stuff too. If you don’t have all the other stuff, then you’re undoubtedly missing some massive opportunities.

To find out more about building a robust marketing approach, take a look at my book “How to Write an Effective Marketing Plan.”

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