Pretty much everyone is online these days. Some 85 percent of American adults use the internet daily, and about a third — that’s about 100 million people — are online constantly. Another third are hurrying home to go online, and the last third are on a plane with terrible wifi.
Combine all those eyeballs with the comparatively low price-point for most online ads, and digital marketing is quite simply impossible to ignore if you’re trying to sell any kind of product or service.
It’s not hard to understand what digital marketing is — the idea of promoting goods and services through online, mobile, and other digital channels is right there in the name (it’s increasingly rare to hear someone use “digital marketing” to describe efforts to sell their fingers).
But how do you go about it? And why should you? Answering those questions is trickier.
That’s especially true if you’re just making your first foray into digital marketing. Sure, there are a million YouTube videos on the topic — and honestly that’s not a terrible place to start. But trying to develop a digital marketing strategy that actually helps grow your business takes a relatively sophisticated understanding of the tools and techniques available to you.
If you do it right, digital marketing can help sell goods and services, build brand awareness or connect with new audiences — all in ways that are more efficient and effective than traditional marketing methods. And it can employ everything from smartphone apps to social media platforms, search engines, newsletters, or even old-fashioned websites.
We can’t create a digital marketing strategy for you. But take five minutes to read this post and you’ll have a better idea of what’s possible, and how to make it happen.
Like we said, everybody’s online. Your business needs to be too. That’s true if you’re selling an online service to customers all over the world. And it’s just as true if you’re a brick-and-mortar business selling mainly to people in your town.
What really makes digital marketing unique — as opposed to legacy mass media like magazines, television or billboards — is the ability to target particular market segments. Plus you can track the efficacy of your marketing efforts with real precision. It basically takes the guesswork out of advertising.
Now, you’ve surely heard about the ethical concerns over social platforms collecting personal data and all that jazz. We suggest you do your own research and figure out what you’re comfortable with.
Our goal here is to explain how a modest investment in digital marketing can provide a serious boost to your business, whatever it is.
Types of digital marketing strategy
The first step to developing a digital marketing campaign: figuring out where (or how) it’s going to happen. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it covers most of the landscape.
1. Content marketing
This refers to creating content (videos, graphics or articles) that people will find useful or interesting enough to consume online — for example, um…this blog post.
It can help establish your expertise or authority on a given topic, direct traffic to your website or social page, or maybe just entertain folks to create positive brand association. It all depends on your goals and target audience.
SEO, or search engine optimization, is making sure that your company or content shows up on search engines (mainly Google) when people use certain search terms, and ideally on the first page of results. To be clear, it’s not the same as buying the ads that look like search results.
SEO isn’t an exact science. In fact, search engines are highly secretive about how their algorithms actually work. But there are best practices that help websites and content rise to the top — and SEO is a standard component of today’s digital marketing toolkit.
3. Social media marketing
This dovetails with content marketing, because it’s about using social media platforms to engage, entertain or inform potential customers, clients or audiences.
You’ve likely seen brands being goofy, eye-catching, or downright annoying on your favorite social platforms. Social media marketing defines your brand’s online personality — for better or worse.
Major platforms you need to be aware of include TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube.
4. Pay-per-click marketing
Pay-per-click marketing, or PPC, drives traffic to your website through ads on a third-party platform. The advantage is you only pay for clicks — rather than general exposure.
And this is where targeted marketing has really taken off. Online platforms know a lot about their users, meaning advertisers can pick and choose the specific market segment they want to reach, whether that’s an age group, geographic region or music taste.
Some major PPC options are Google Ads, paid ads for Facebook, sponsored messages on LinkedIn, and promoted posts on Twitter.
5. Affiliate marketing
This is pay-per-click marketing in reverse. Instead of paying other platforms to host your content, other platforms pay you to host theirs.
Examples include native marketing on websites or email newsletters. One catch here is you generally need a lot of traffic to interest advertisers or make this a core business.
6. Email marketing
This is why you get so many bleeping emails every day. Email marketing is the practice of generating leads through inboxes. It can be very cost effective, but requires a lot of skill to pull off.
It includes promotional emails, post-purchase follow-ups, product updates, and monthly newsletters.
7. Video marketing
Once more, pretty self-explanatory. It refers to a segment of marketing that is devoted to online video content. Many social platforms have also seen the increased engagement that videos derive and, as a result, are switching to a video-first mindset.
Digital marketing benefits
There’s a reason digital marketing has devoured traditional advertising. It’s more effective — in terms of cost and actually growing your business. Here’s a quick rundown of the benefits.
Flexible reach: The internet is as big as you want it to be — or as small. Digital marketing allows you to define the borders of your campaign, as opposed to having another publication or vendor set those boundaries.
Measurable results: The data-driven nature of online interactions means that everything is trackable, from clicks per page to how long people stay on your website once they're there. You can literally see your return on investment.
Direct connection: Digital platforms allow for instant access to customers, meaning marketing campaigns that are more responsive, timely and personalized. By engaging your audience where they work and socialize, you’ll also build more trust.
Want to know how to do digital marketing?
Here are a few basic things to consider when putting together your own digital marketing strategy or campaign.
Define your goals. Who do you want to reach? How many conversions do you need every month? What other metrics of success are you hoping to achieve?
Research your target audience. Where does your target audience live online? What social platforms do they frequent, what newsletters do they read, and what websites are they visiting? That’s where you want to be seen.
Conduct keyword research. What is your target audience searching for? Identifying these keywords — and then using them prominently in your marketing — is crucial to making sure your brand gets on their radar.
Establish a budget: Although digital marketing costs comparatively less, all of these options still have a price tag, or at least a time commitment. Plan accordingly.
Create engaging content. It may seem like people will watch or read anything online, but it’s hard to create content that attracts a large audience. Remember to emphasize quality over quantity. One piece of viral content is worth more than a thousand duds.
Optimize for mobile. Regardless of what you’re creating, make sure it can be easily viewed on mobile devices — the primary way many people view media these days.
Act on your data: Watch your digital metrics closely and use them to inform your next campaign or content placement.
Does digital marketing work for all businesses?
The short answer is yes, so long as you’re smart about it.
There’s an important distinction between business-to-business (B2B) digital marketing versus business-to-consumer (B2C) digital marketing.
With B2B, you should center your marketing efforts around high-quality lead generation that will guide people toward a sales rep who can build a long-term relationship.
With B2C, focus on helping the customer as quickly and efficiently as possible — usually by having them buy your product or subscribe to your service.