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The Pillars of Digital Marketing

A marketing expert called Jay Abrahams suggested that successful businesses are structured like the Parthenon in Greece.

The roofline is the business and the pillars that support it are the marketing activities used to generate business. Here’s what that might look like:

He suggested that any business which relies entirely on one marketing tactic (or pillar) would be ‘at significant risk’ if that marketing approach were ever to dry up or become unprofitable. As you can see below one pillar doesn’t create a very stable business platform (Abrahams called it the "Diving Board"). And it’s a situation many businesses have found themselves in.

For example, when the telephone preference service was introduced it had a huge impact on those businesses solely relying on telesales. Another example was Kelkoo, a product comparison site. You may remember that a few years ago you couldn’t type in a product without their site being in the top listings on Google but then Google updated their search algorithm and they disappeared from view almost overnight. (Here’s a great article which explains what happened: Your Google Algorithm Cheat Sheet: Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird)

Another example is word-of-mouth. Many businesses have grown and even flourished through accidental word-of-mouth recommendations. However, without a structured referrals program in place, you are at the mercy of happenstance and, therefore, unable to predict next month’s sales figures.

Essentially, any number of circumstances could create difficulties for a company whose sole income stream is reliant on one form of marketing.

A much safer way of maintaining your income stream is to have several pillars of marketing supporting it. For example; direct mail, advertising, a website, joint ventures, telemarketing, word–of–mouth, etc.

If anything happens to one or two of the pillars it’s not going to kill the business because the remaining marketing activities will support it.

What this diagram doesn’t show is that not all the pillars will be equal – some pillars will be stronger than others. In other words, some marketing activities will be more effective. You would expect to find that the most powerful marketing approach is the one that you’ve spent the most time cultivating. However, in order to run a steady online business, you’ll need to create, develop and strengthen other approaches too.

draw out your business’s version of the Parthenon - what would it look like?

In reality, this is common sense but it certainly helps to draw out your business’s version of the Parthenon - what would yours look like?

Now, there’s a flaw in our diagram. The flaw is in the “Website” pillar. Here’s why…

Most businesses think of their website as another string to their marketing bow, another pillar in the Parthenon. That can be fatal for the website. The mistake hinges on the premise that simply putting a website on the Internet will automatically create visitors, leads, sales and a steady income. (Imagine you build a 5–star hotel in the middle of a beautiful forest complete with a spa, gym and amazing restaurant. Now imagine forgetting to build a road to it, or doing any advertising whatsoever. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise when, on the opening day, no one turns up.)

If nothing is done to attract visitors to your website it’s a pretty sure bet that you wouldn’t get many sales. That’s why it is necessary to view your website as needing the same marketing support as your business. Let’s use our Parthenon model to show that.

Now our website has become the roof and is being supported by a series of marketing activities; SEO, Email Marketing, Pay per Click, Social Media, etc..

What each of these pillars is doing is generating traffic to your site. However, you could equally add conversion-improving techniques like split-testing, improved copy, live chat systems and so on. Any activity which either creates traffic or improves conversions can be seen as supporting your website. Your website can, in turn, truly be seen to support your business.

Whether your website is there to support your business or it actually is your business you should make this model the heart of your online (and offline) marketing approach.



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