We\’ve all heard the dire predictions of what 2009 will mean to marketers and make no mistake about it, the news isn\’t great. I won\’t bother with a rehash of what others have reported because, quite frankly, it\’s too depressing to do so. What I offer instead is the proverbial silver lining in this dark, gloomy cloud we\’re facing: Digital marketing.

While traditional marketing budgets have shrunk over the past few months, digital marketing has proven to be a much more resilient form of communication in this same time period. In fact, most analysts are predicting at least a slight uptick in overall spending in digital marketing, notably email and mobile marketing, but nothing close to what had been initially projected before the economy was finally deemed to be in a recession.

Still, there are many reasons why companies should not only maintain but increase their digital marketing budgets in 2009, especially within the SMB (small-to-midsized business) space, to take advantage of its unique properties. These include:

Digital is still by far the cheapest of the mass forms of communication. TV and radio rates have not fallen nearly as far as expected, despite the weakened economy; print is in a death spiral and increasingly not a safe play for a decent ROI; and outdoor/out of home is still a niche play at best.

Digital marketing wins this in a landslide as well. Other forms of mass communication simply do not or are not equipped to give the level of insight that digital can when it comes to ROI. Digital by its very nature is trackable, with more and more sophisticated analytics becoming available on almost a daily basis to even the smallest of companies.

Digital penetration rates are now as high as more mature forms of mass communication, especially mobile phones, which should reach 100% penetration over the next few years according to most studies. Mobile marketers have only begun to scratch the surface of what is possible and although email marketing is much more established, it too still has potential growth opportunities. This is especially true in the SMB market, where there are many affordable digital marketing platforms from which to choose.

Not only can digital provide companies with a way to reach a mass audience, it also works extremely well in terms of market segmentation. Digital marketing is a natural for \”narrowcasting\” and customization of the message, which isn\’t economically viable in the other forms of mass communication. With a solid digital marketing platform, the message can be tailored to a specific audience or even an individual consumer in a matter of moments.

As any seasoned marketer knows, keeping and maintaining control of a marketing campaign is vital to its success. For a small company, this is even more critical because of tight budgets and lack of internal resources. With a digital marketing platform, such programs can be created and managed by even a single individual, while still maintaining the polish and feel of a much larger, more sophisticated marketing firm or company.

The bottom line is that 2009 is going to be rough on pretty much every business, with marketing budgets shrinking in kind. However, savvy companies, big and small, will recognize and embrace digital marketing as a key objective for the coming year. After all, just because the economy stinks doesn\’t mean marketing will cease all together. Companies will simply have to be much more selective and expect real results, which is exactly what digital marketing can bring them.

What other unique benefits does digital marketing offer companies? Feel free to list your own and/or discuss the ones noted above. Your feedback is always welcomed.

Steve Chipman, Chief Operating Officer, mobileStorm
Analog thoughts in a digital world