Digital Marketing, Digital Marketing Strategy, Digital Transformation, Emerging Technology, Social Media Metrics and Measurement, Social Media Strategy

Prioritizing Digital Marketing Investments: Innovation, ROI, Hygiene

Bottom Shape
Digital marketing investment priorities

Krista Neher

Sep 15 2020

One of the biggest challenges that businesses have is in prioritizing their digital marketing investments.

There is no end to what you could do in digital marketing, the question is what you should do. We consult and train global businesses of all sizes, and they all face the same challenge: where should we focus our efforts to drive the best results?

The Most Common Mistakes Businesses Make

There are a few mistakes that we see businesses make when it comes to their digital marketing choices.

  1. Focusing too much on new innovations. It is easy to get distracted by shiny new things. And there are a lot of them. We’ve worked with businesses who have invested 50% of their media budget in a new channel that they had no experience with. We’ve seen businesses investing 40% of their budget into new technologies that they haven’t worked with yet.
  2. Not optimizing what already works. Digital marketing isn’t a “set it and forget it” approach. You can always grow your results by optimizing and improving. This isn’t the most fun or sexy thing to work on, but it will drive guaranteed ROI. Many businesses don’t spend enough time improving what they are already doing before they want to move on to the next new thing.
  3. Ignoring hygiene tools. There are a number of things you just have to do. And they have to be done well. This is your hygiene. A website that looks modern and functions well. A basic email strategy. A presence on major social networks. These are things you can’t afford to not do, regardless of the ROI. They are basic expectations for your business.
  4. Over investing in hygiene tools. Every business needs a website but it may not be a business driver for all businesses. Don’t over invest your time and resources into a website with lots of bells and whistles if it isn’t a key part of your customer journey.The Hero, Hub Hygiene Model addresses these issues.

The Innovation, ROI and Hygiene Digital Prioritization Model

We created the Digital Prioritization Model to help businesses understand where they should focus their efforts.

Let’s start at the bottom of the pyramid.

Hygiene. These are the basic things that your business needs to do to meet basic customer expectations. They are different for every business. For most businesses a website is hygiene. A Facebook Page or LinkedIn Page is often hygiene. These are things you need to do, like having a phone number and email address that are just base expectations.

ROI. ROI tactics are things that are already doing and you know work. This could be your email marketing, digital advertising, SEO, etc. These are things that grow your business and you have confidence that they work. By optimizing and improving areas that are known to create value, you can easily grow your ROI.

Innovation. Innovation tactics are new experiments that you have not done before. It doesn’t have to be something shiny and new. Only something new to you. For an established large company hero could be AI, AR or a new advertising channel. For your business it could be LinkedIn ads if you haven’t done them yet, or SEO if it hasn’t been a focus yet.

Digital Investment Prioritization - Hero, hub, hygiene

How to Prioritize Based on the Digital Investment Model

How you prioritize your spending will depend on your digital maturity. For example an established business that has been doing digital marketing for many years may focus mostly on Hub and Hero. A new business may focus on hygiene first.

Hygiene – 10% – 20%

For most businesses hygiene should be a small investment and focus on efficiency of execution. If something is truly hygiene you want to do it well but it doesn’t have to be perfect. For example if the goal of my Facebook Page is to have a presence as a business, but I don’t actively use it for customers, I don’t need the best Facebook page.

ROI – 60% – 80%

The ROI Hub should be the focus of your digital marketing efforts. Leading digital businesses are always evaluating, optimizing and trying new things in the things that they already know work. They don’t chase every shiny new object. They spend most of their time working on better.

We see many businesses don’t spend enough time here. Old school marketing focused on “launching” things. Not continuing to optimize. We see this too often where a Facebook campaign is “launched” and then reported on. You can grow ROI (guaranteed) by simply optimizing existing campaigns.

Innovation – 10% – 20%

Innovation doesn’t have to mean something that is game-changing. It is something new to you. It could be a new ad channel or experimenting with AI or Chatbots. The key here is to set clear goals and measurement so that at the end of a test you know if it is successful and can move to the ROI bucket.

For example I worked with a business that put 50% of their advertising budget in Snapchat one year, and 0 the next. When I asked why they said they didn’t know if Snapchat had worked. First, if something is new find quick and easy ways to test. Most businesses can’t afford to put 50% of their media budget at risk. Second, they had no measure of success. They didn’t set a clear benchmark or KPI for what success was, so after investing, they actually just didn’t know if it worked, or if it worked better v.s Facebook.


Hygiene – Focus on efficiency of execution.

ROI – Focus on optimization and improvement.

Innovation – Test with small investments with the goal to move to ROI.


Want to learn more? Check out our digital marketing strategy course.

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