Why marketing should be investing in both the digital and the physical

  • Rachel Ainsworth

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past ten years (and specifically a cave with no Internet) you don’t need to be told about the importance of digital. Whether it’s the demise of the high street travel agent and the high street bank, the growth of online shopping, or the relationships we maintain in the virtual world, digital has impacted all our lives. It’s therefore unsurprising that a high proportion of respondents in ITSMA’s latest survey of marketing executives at technology companies and professional services firms anticipate spending, in 2019, even more on digital marketing than they did in 2018.

However, despite this focus on digital marketing, the second most likely area for increased spend—out of the sixteen digital and offline tactics considered—is “executive briefing and innovation centres”. B2B firms clearly recognise the value of the physical experience in building relationships and clients understanding what a firm has to offer. Like upmarket travel agents, innovative high street banks, and forward-thinking stores, leading technology companies and professional services firms continue to encourage online activity (for example, ensuring buyers can find all the information they might need on the firm’s website) but then pull out all the stops to create exciting and engaging experiences in the real world.

We heartily support this approach—and even anticipate opportunities with great returns from this investment. Based on our experience of analysing firms’ websites from the perspective of the buyer, we believe most firms are failing to leverage the impressive real-world experience in their online content. Few firms effectively use photos and videos to convey what it might be like to engage with them on a deeper level. They fail to provide website visitors with a good sense of what sets their approach and their people apart from the competition and seldom leverage insights from sessions with clients in thought leadership. Translating the physical into the digital would ensure many more potential clients would experience at least a hint of the power of the physical experience.