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Where to Invest Digital Marketing Dollars in 2019—The Last Mile

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By now, your 2019 marketing budgets are likely locked and loaded. You’ve probably gotten approval for your marketing efforts and costs in 2019, but maybe there’s time for one last pitch, one more stretch goal for the year. What should you focus on when you’ve covered all the rest—the basics and the next level marketing activities?

We’ll cover the “last mile” areas to invest in for your 2019 digital marketing budget, treading ground reserved for those with perfected websites, smoothly automated communications, multi-channel demand generation machines, and brands built so wonderfully they’d make Don Draper blush.

How We Got Here

In our two previous Where to Invest Digital Marketing Dollars in 2019 posts, we covered the bare basics of what you and your digital marketing team should be covering and the next level tactics you should focus on once the basics were covered. Here’s a quick recap and level-set of what we covered before.

Our Framework: 70-20-10 Rule.

We’ve borrowed Beth Comstock’s “70-20-10” rule as a framework for approaching where to break down and focus your marketing efforts in 2019. Here’s a quick synopsis of that rule:

  • 70% of time spent on “Now”
  • 20% of time on “Next”
  • 10% of time spent on “New”

Every organization is different, so this is not a hard and fast rule, but rather a guideline. A quick paraphrase would be to figure out your priorities (what are your “Now”s, versus your “Next”s and “New”s), then figure out the basics there and voila—that’s where you start. Your intermediate concerns are what follow, though you may have some Intermediate tactics in your Now priorities, and some basics in your Next bucket—and that’s okay.

Let priority (hopefully dictated more by impact than fire-alarm urgency—but let’s be honest, we know someone is pulling a fire alarm early in 2019, and we’ll be fighting that fire) help guide your Now and Next, and ease of accomplishment guide your Basics and Intermediates. There’s nothing wrong with crossing some goals off the list and getting some quick wins early on, so you can build on that success throughout the year.

The Basic and Intermediate Tactics

Here’s a quick recap of what the 70% “Now” focus should be if you’re just getting started:

When you’ve completed those, our intermediate and “Next” marketing tactics should be budgeted around these initiatives:

Advanced Tactics Guaranteed to Factor Into Your 2019 Digital Marketing Plan

You’ve covered your basics and moved on to conquer the intermediate, more-intensive marketing activities. What now?

It’s a little bit more of the same: investing in technologies to improve your reporting, automation, and technology integrations. After that, it’s time to double down on all the things you’ve focused on—and do them better.

That’s right—doing digital marketing better is an advanced tactic for 2019. Not because we don’t know better (we do) or because we didn’t have time before (we didn’t, but that’s no excuse), but because the last mile is truly the toughest. Time and again in our discovery meetings with marketers just like yourselves, the same things come up again and again: “we’ve invested in that before, but…there’s not been a lot of effort spent there lately.”

Replace the that before in the sentence above with whatever you’d like—email, content, SEO, social, analytics—any marketing activity or tactic likely could fit that in your organization. I’m willing to bet that several do. Hard-working, smart people with the best intentions neglect the things that bring them success all the time, and your marketing department is no different.

That’s why our last tactic for 2019 is to lean in. Once you’ve gone 80% of the way there (some say that’s the easiest part), I’d encourage you that your victory lap in 2019 shouldn’t be a victory lap at all—it’s doing the hardest 20% remaining, and getting to a true finish line.

Our four recommended advanced digital marketing focus areas for 2019 are:

  • Chatbots
  • Automated reporting
  • Business intelligence
  • Doing all the little things—only better

Let’s take a look at what each of those means and how we’re going to use them in ‘19.


Here’s a Dirty Little Secret about chatbots—most aren’t as advanced as you think or have been told they are. It’s not all predicated on machine learning. In fact, you’re going to have to write scripts and program question tracks. It’s actually a lot like setting up your marketing automation, particularly your email workflows. You’re going to need to understand if/then scenarios and build answer trees accordingly.

You know how much goes into your email automation, so what do you do here? The very best way to get started with chatbots is to define your focus—start small and mostly with the most impactful areas, and build from there. You’re going to need to plan—identify the where and what it gets applied to first, second, third, and so on.

Finding a good partner with features that fit you is also crucial; the ability to control hours of function, types of responses, 24/7 response with live chat possibilities, and the types of content that can be incorporated could all be factors in the type of chatbot service you select.

All in all, chatbots can be an incredibly effective tool once you’ve got your best opportunities set up and a friendly, usable website established. Approach integration with the same detail and zeal as you do your automation workflows, and you’ll be heading in the right direction.

Automated Reporting

We’ve talked about the importance of reporting already, but automating your reports can be a huge time-saver for your staff and stakeholders. If you’re like most marketers, reporting can feel tedious and difficult—finding the right metrics, reviewing, analyzing, drawing insights and crafting recommendations, and finally, preparing a smart, informative report—all that can be quite daunting indeed.

Automating some (if not most) of those functions can be the key to being able to move someone from playing a “data gopher” role and pivot them to more of an analyst and consultant role. Their time is spent less on pulling information and building reports, and more on analyzing data, drilling down into insights, and bringing practical recommendations for the business out of the metrics.

Make no mistake, though—the glory and usefulness of automated reporting is not easy to achieve. Take a look at your marketing technology stack today. How many platforms are you using for advertising? What about content management? Budget allocation and management? Web analytics? Project management?

Automated reporting can be extremely powerful when it incorporates not just marketing results, but business results—from sales, budgets, and return on ad spend to operations, overhead costs, and business production, building up to trying ROI modeling for marketing (and other) activities.

Starting small can again be the right approach. Find a cheaper or free tool (Google Data Studio is a great place to start), and work towards building some basic, functional automated reports (Web Traffic and Google Ads Paid Search results are great ones to start building in Google Data Studio). See how much time you save, who uses automated reports (the ability to schedule and send periodic reports is huge), what they like and don’t like, and build on your “Care. Do. Impact” approach (thanks Avinash!).

Then build and automate some more.

I could write all day on the benefits of automated reporting and advanced business intelligence (in fact, check out our existing blogs on this topic), but the point is, if your team is looking for a way to advance to the next level after you’ve covered your foundations and built around user experience, automating reporting and finding ways to build trust in your results is crucial, and time certainly well spent. You might find yourself needing a new role (data analysts are in high demand for a reason, after all) or making best friends with your IT and technology departments, but those investments will be worth it when stakeholders start receiving automated reports showing off your amazing results.

Business Intelligence

Related to reporting automation is business intelligence. One of the biggest challenges in marketing can be justifying budgets, time, and effort spent. Another headache can be proving value—not just return on ad spend or positive traffic and conversion numbers, but sales. Revenue. Cost per acquisition. These numbers supercharge marketing budgets and bring power and authority to marketing teams.

Closed loop reporting is the holy grail in marketing—going from tactical budget to engagement to conversion result to product/service sold to dollars gained is huge. The impact cannot be overstated—both in your ability to optimize your best tactics, channels, and content, as well as in justifying the necessity of your operations, be they brand or demand generation focused.

Furthermore, advanced business intelligence platforms, once properly integrated with appropriate datasets and producing automated reports, are often able to take advantage of more advanced technologies like machine learning. Imagine not only having automated reports and true ROI on every marketing dollar spent…but being able to have predictive modeling that can extrapolate what happens when more money is invested. Moving from reactive to proactive is a move only the tightest marketing departments can boast. Make no mistake—business intelligence and predictive analytics togeher are God-mode for modern day marketers.

Doing All the Little Things—Only Better

If chatbots, and automated reporting, and marketing championing business intelligence and closed-loop reporting aren’t too much for you…first off, you’re amazing. Elite. Welcome to some rarified air. Pat yourself on the back—you’ve done good, pardner.

Where to now? “And when Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer.”

Eh, not so fast. If you’re here, then you’re really most likely right back at the beginning. Not to start over from scratch, mind you—but here you are, fully armed with automated intelligence, optimization of every dollar at your fingertips. So it’s time to do just that—optimize.

Don’t be like Alexander and cry because you did it all. Go back to the territories you conquered, and improve. Or, if you started small and drove home massive improvements in confined areas (an excellent approach when doing it all seems overwhelming), pick another area and go be great there now.

We’re never truly done as marketers. Technologies change, our businesses grow and advance, and customer behaviors evolve. So too must we change, ever-evolving, always optimizing and growing. Whether it is communications strategy or improving UX and UI, or tightening up your analytics or reviewing and improving lead scoring, the savvy marketer is always “on,” keeping pace with the changes and reacting accordingly.

If you’re here in this rarified air, you’re in the Last Mile, the hardest 20%. Only the great live here. You’ve got the plan, from the basics to best of the best. Give yourself some props for 2018, and get ready to go be amazing next year.

dustin clark headshot

As the Digital Marketing Director for Element Three, Dustin works with the Element Three digital marketing department to determine the best combination of data analysis, marketing technology, and storytelling for driving our clients' bottom line. His background in journalism, digital communication, and ecommerce positions him as a unique voice in the cluttered digital marketing industry. When he's not writing about the forefront of digital marketing, you can find him jamming with a guitar or at home with his wife and two children.