While advertisers continue to spend money on digital marketing services, understanding what they need from those services is what can help you accelerate this line of your media business.

At the upcoming Selling Digital Marketing Services Conference in Chicago, Corey Elliott, Executive Vice President, Local Market Intelligence at Borrell Associates, will present recent findings from his company’s Local Advertiser Survey.

We caught up with Elliott to hear details about the survey and other insights including why it’s crucial for local media to be actively selling digital marketing services. Here’s our interview with him.

What are customers saying they need most from digital marketing services today?

It isn’t any one thing unless you consider help to be the one thing they need.

As we read their responses from our surveys, the main questions they have about digital services are around social media and search. With social media, it’s, “What should I do?” and with search, it’s more “Am I spending too much or not enough?”

But I think moreover they need to understand how all of this – digital marketing services, advertising, promotions – work together holistically. That’s not an ask of digital marketing services per se, but as the world of advertising changes, they do understand that these services play a vital role in influencing a customer to do something.

What are some of the major highlights from Borrell’s Local Advertiser Survey?

Well, it is early on yet for this year’s survey. By the time of the conference [in September], we will have a good base. But the early results are showing us some of what we would expect. Local businesses are very interested in measuring results, and they are not being satisfied with the metrics from a few years ago (CTR, etc.). They want it tied to sales or even visits. Also, right now, social media is mentioned the most when we ask where they advertised/marketed last year. Second is events. Which tells us, it is still very much about building that personal relationship with a customer.

Any new projections of local digital service expenditures and what do they mean?

I can’t see them going anywhere but up. Nearly all businesses are now involved in some sort of digital marketing, and it seems like a big, hungry baby that needs feeding on a regular basis. What we suspect will occur more and more is that businesses will realize the amount of time they’re spending managing digital — and that their expertise really isn’t in marketing — and outsource more of it. Businesses that don’t will probably be small and remain small.

When you start to tear apart digital services a bit – then you might see some things growing faster or slower than others. Online video production and app design will rise fast through 2026 while email management might begin to taper.

Why do you believe that DMS is a critical area for media companies to be actively working and selling in?

That’s a great question. It’s simple math. If you’re a media company, what percentage of all ad buyers in the market are buying your core product advertising? It’s probably less than 25%. Now, what percentage do you think are buying digital marketing services? It’s 90%. Don’t you want to be selling something the market is buying, and then perhaps engage them in a discussion about magnifying their digital marketing with a flight of TV commercials, radio spots, or newspaper ads?

I use another example.  First – let’s put digital services, advertising, and promotions into the same bucket. These are all things you could spend your money on to influence someone (a potential customer) to do something. Now, imagine you just opened up a local business. You are ready to spend your first “influencing” dollar.

Are you going to spend it on a newspaper ad – or your website? If you said website – then you also have to pay someone to host it.

Now the second dollar: Social media presence or radio ad?

Now the third dollar: Going to figure out your loyalty club email list or put an ad in the yellow pages?

Thought about this way, local businesses end up spending a lot in digital services before more traditional advertising and marketing enter the realm of consideration.

You can register for the Selling Digital Marketing Services conference and see the full agenda here.