This article was originally published on MarTech Advisor on June 18, 2018.

Since when is being average the goal? Never. The reality is, successful marketers are outperforming the competition each and every day. They know exactly how well their marketing is performing and have a strategy built on constantly adapting to changes.

The promise of digital marketing is faster and more precise targeting that makes it easier to reach your audience.

Is your marketing high performing or just average? If you don’t know the answer, how would you go about assessing it? To help answer these questions, I want to dig a little deeper into why most digital marketing is average, and in turn, why very few companies are seeing outstanding results from their digital marketing.

The promise of digital marketing is faster and more precise targeting that makes it easier to reach your audience – all at a lower cost. This means that every company should be gaining new customers and spending less to get there. Yet, most are not experiencing this.

The reality is, the majority of companies have fallen into the trap of average digital marketing and settling with the status quo. They aren’t differentiating themselves from the competition or reaching their audience more cost-effectively than before. It’s a good reminder that you need to be taking bold steps that make you stand out from everyone else.

Many companies have settled and placed their trust in marketing channels that are not incentivized to spend their money efficiently, which coincidentally means more revenue for the channel, not their advertisers. You wouldn’t do this with any other part of your business, so why are you letting Google drive it? Or Facebook? Or Amazon?

You aren’t alone. Everyone is doing this.

A study by Adobe Digital Insights that looked at The State of the Digital Union found that while companies increased their spend on search by 42 percent, they have only seen an 11 percent increase on visits to their websites.

In addition, with less time spent on websites – down six percent year over year, to 22 seconds – this means companies have less time to engage with consumers and ultimately, less time to convince them to buy.

Tipping the Scale

While you think you are allowing marketing services to optimize your advertising and return on investment (ROI) on your behalf, the real result is that you are taking the easy way out and they are maximizing their revenues, not yours. Think about it this way: The Googles, Facebooks, Amazons, etc., all have the same goal as you do, which is to make money.

In 2017, Google and Facebook owned nearly 60 percent of online advertising revenues. According to eMarketer, in 2017 they projected that Facebook would earn $17.37 billion in US ads, while Google earned $35 billion of the $83 billion that was spent.

The scales are tipped and not in your favor.

eMarketer, Forrester and others project that digital ad spend in the United States will increase to $120 billion by 2021. We’re talking big money. The relationship is a bit symbiotic, but my point is that the scales are tipped and not in your favor. Their revenues are going up, faster than nearly any other industry. It is projected that Google will earn $45 billion by 2019 and Facebook will increase to $25 billion. And this is just for U.S. ads.

So why would these companies want to maximize your revenues, if they are in business to make money? The short answer is: They don’t. Or they want to do it just enough to appear that there is a good ROI. But it can and should be better. There are new techniques that give you flexibility with potentially better optimization, but they are giving these same tactics to your competition.

Blazing New Trails

Who is differentiating themselves? Who is winning? No one, because everyone ends up the same – average – and you are no better than anyone else.

This is what is happening when you don’t do your homework, get into the weeds and focus on the fundamentals of marketing. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. And it doesn’t have to be. The scales can tip back in your favor. Just look at Mattel and P&G. Last year Mattel revised its digital marketing strategy and increased spend by 40 percent. The focus now is on where they think their customers are: You Tube Kids. They found that kids aren’t watching TV as much as they used to, so they are shifting much of this budget to reflect this trend.

To be successful in digital advertising, you have to get granular.

On the other side of the spectrum is P&G. They decreased their digital budget this past year by $140 million. They found that their spending in this area wasn’t effective. So they cut back to focus on channels that give them a better ROI.

Both companies realized that to be successful in digital advertising, they have to get granular, control their own message and attack it. The old adage from John Wanamaker is, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” P&G and Mattel are flipping this notion and have taken a step back to understand what is best for each of their brands.

It’s hard work to blaze new trails and have the discipline to run marketing at a granular level every single day and every hour, which is what technology has enabled us to do. Even though the rewards can be high, many have still not incorporated this discipline into their marketing strategy. Know your brand, know your customers and leverage digital advertising as it was meant to be – to scale, acquire new customers and win at the lowest possible cost.