Adept co-founder Danielle Walton examines the marketing "toe-dip" phenomenon and why it sets up marketing for failure.  

 Originally published in Columbus CEO on  March 29, 2019.

The inevitable marketing toe-dip. Until recently, I’m not sure I actually recognized it as a thing.

What is it? It’s when business leaders decide to do digital marketing, and begin evaluating how to test out “marketing" with as little risk as possible.

After running a digital marketing agency for 10 years, this pattern of business leaders toe-dipping to avoid risk became more and more apparent. We began to wonder why this approach is so prevalent. So we commissioned a research project to evaluate the perceptions of business leaders when it comes to digital marketing. The research revealed that most business leaders

  • feel challenged with understanding digital marketing
  • are concerned about the upfront costs to onboard an agency
  • do not understand how to measure it
  • believe that digital channels aren’t applicable to their industry
  • lack a defined marketing strategy tied to business goals

Based on this set of beliefs, it became clear why a business leader would toe-dip. The unknown is scary and can be costly. But here are the inherent flaws with that approach when it comes to marketing:

  • Knowing your customer is critical. Effective marketing requires an understanding of who your customer is and why they buy from you. Most business leaders think they know this; however, in most cases, those assumptions are not correct. Marketing without clear customer insights is toe-dipping and typically leads to failure.
  • Good data is necessary to make good decisions. Not only does the marketing process take time, but the accumulation of data is critical for making good decisions. Imagine if every person who has successfully lost weight said, “if the data doesn’t show that I am losing 10 pounds every month for the first three months, then it’s clear it doesn’t work for me.” There is something to be said for allowing data to accumulate over a period of time before final decisions are made. Toe-dips do not allow for this.
  • Expertise matters. Marketing channels are often labeled as unsuccessful and tossed to the curb simply because the new intern tried "that social media thing and it didn’t work” or “the agency ran paid advertising and it didn’t work.” It is a disservice to test a marketing channel one time with one approach or one provider and decide the channel doesn’t “work” in your industry. Toe-dips are often a one-time gig set-up to fail.
  • It’s never “one thing.” We all look for the “silver bullet” when in reality we know it doesn’t exist. It is rare that one marketing channel works perfectly by itself to grow a business. Typically it requires multiple channels working together to support the path to purchase. Toe-dips don’t allow for this approach.

At Adept, we believe it’s time to change the odds. It’s time to remove the toe-dip by sharing the risk with our clients, by partnering to achieve the desired goals together and guaranteeing the results. We won’t work with clients if we don’t believe digital marketing will work for them. Because, in our experience, that is the only way to get what we all really want: growth.