What is Digital Marketing and How Do I Get Started?
Digital marketing, online marketing, internet advertising…whatever you call it, marketing your company online is a big deal these days. After all, internet usage has more than doubled over the past decade and this shift has massively affected how people purchase products and interact with businesses.
So, what is digital marketing? Digital marketing is like any other type of marketing—it’s a way to connect with and influence your potential customers. The real difference is, you connect with and influence those customers online.
What is Digital Marketing?
Basically, digital marketing refers to any online marketing efforts or assets. Email marketing, pay-per-click advertising, social media marketing and even blogging are all great examples of digital marketing—they help introduce people to your company and convince them to buy.
Here are some of the most common digital marketing assets and strategies businesses use to reach people online:
Digital Marketing Assets
Almost anything can be a digital marketing asset. It simply needs to be a marketing tool you use online. That being said, many people don’t realize how many digital marketing assets they have at their disposal.
Here are just a few examples:
Branded assets (logos, icons, acronyms, etc)
Video content (video ads, product demos, etc)
Images (infographics, product shots, company photos, etc)
Written content (blog posts, eBooks, product descriptions, testimonials, etc)
Online products or tools (SaaS, calculators, interactive content, etc)
Social media pages
As you can probably imagine, this list just scratches the surface. Most digital marketing assets will fall into one of these categories, but clever marketers are constantly coming up with new ways to reach customers online, so the list keeps growing!
Digital Marketing Strategies
The list of digital marketing strategies is also constantly evolving, but here are some of the strategies most businesses are using:
Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is actually a broad term that covers any type of digital marketing where you pay for every user who clicks on an ad. For example, Google AdWords is a form of PPC advertising called “paid search advertising” (which we’ll go over in a second). Facebook Ads are another form of PPC advertising called “paid social media advertising” (again, we’ll get into that shortly).
Paid Search Advertising
Google, Bing and Yahoo all allow you to run text ads on their Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Paid search advertising is one of the best ways to target potential customers who are actively searching for a product or service like yours.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
If you don’t want to pay to show up in the SERPs, you can also use search engine optimization (SEO) to try and rank pages or blog posts on your site organically. You don’t have to pay directly for every click, but getting a page to rank usually takes quite a bit of time and effort (for a more in-depth comparison of paid search and SEO, check out this article).
Paid Social Media Advertising
Most social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Snapchat will allow you to run ads on their site. Paid social media advertising is great for building awareness with audiences that might not be aware that your business, product or service exists.
Social Media Marketing
Like SEO, social media marketing is the free, organic way to use social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter to market your business. And, just like SEO, organically marketing your business on social media takes a lot more time and effort, but in the long run, it can deliver much cheaper results.
Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)
Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the art and science of improving your online user experience. Most of the time, businesses use CRO to get more conversions (leads, chats, calls, sales, etc) out of their existing website traffic.
Content marketing is another fairly broad digital marketing term. Content marketing covers any digital marketing effort that uses content assets (blog posts, infographics, eBooks, videos, etc) to build brand awareness or drive clicks, leads or sales.
Ever get to the bottom of an article and see a list of suggested articles? That’s native advertising. Most native advertising falls under content marketing because it uses content to attract clicks (“you’ll never believe what happens next!”). Often, native advertising can be a bit hard to spot, since it is usually mixed in with non-paid content recommendations…but that’s kind of the point.
Email marketing is the oldest form of online marketing and it’s still going strong. Most digital marketers use email marketing to advertise special deals, highlight content (often as part of content marketing) or promote an event.
Affiliate marketing is essentially paying someone else (a person or a business) to promote your products and services on their website.
As you can see from the list above, there are a lot of different ways to market your business online, which is why many businesses either hire an agency to manage their digital marketing efforts or pay for an in-house marketing team and marketing automation software to cover their marketing needs (for an in-depth comparison of these options, check out this article).
Does Digital Marketing Work?
Digital marketing is a great option for any business. At Disruptive, we’ve used digital marketing to help all kinds of businesses grow—from mom-and-pop shops to internationally recognized universities and beyond. That’s the beauty of advertising online. If you know who you want to target, you can use digital marketing to target anyone, anywhere.
The core of every successful digital marketing campaign, however, isn’t a guide. Regardless of which strategies you choose to use, here are 4 questions you need to answer before you get started with digital marketing:
1. How Much Do You Need to Make?
To figure out what you need to spend on digital marketing, you first need to clarify what your goals are. How you approach digital marketing can vary quite a bit depending on whether your ultimate goal is to drive clicks, conversions or leads, sales, revenue or a certain return-on-investment (ROI).
When you get right down to it, the ultimate goal of any marketing effort should be ROI. After all, if your digital marketing spend isn’t driving profitable revenue for your business, why are you marketing online?
Clicks and even conversions are great, but your company doesn’t make money from clicks (in fact, you actually spend money on clicks) or conversions. It makes money from sales.
With that in mind, the first thing you need to determine before you decide what your digital marketing budget should be is to decide how much revenue you want to drive. Once you know that, you can use that information to determine how much ad spend it will take to reach that revenue goal.
2. Who Are You Marketing To?
Once you know how much money you want to make from digital marketing, you need to identify who you are marketing to. This is critical, because different buyer personas require different marketing tactics. And, even more importantly, different buyer personas turn into different types of buyers.
So guess what? If you don’t understand your buyer personas, you can’t create an effective digital marketing strategy!
If you’ve got a sales team, talking to sales can be one of the fastest ways to get a decent buyer persona together. After all, they’re the ones who talk to your customers the most, right?
However, even talking to your sales team and doing a little research isn’t enough to really get at the level of detail you need to put together an effective digital marketing plan. To do that, you need to get on the phone and call your actual customers.
Ask how they found you, why they converted and what convinced them to pay you. This information will give you a ton of insight into your marketing and sales process that you can use to both improve the performance of your advertising and choose your marketing budget.
3. What are Your Customers Worth?
Typically, people look at buyer personas as a good way to craft an effective marketing strategy. Buyer personas are great for this, but they are also an important part of putting together an effective digital marketing plan.
Digital marketing is the marketing of the future. In addition to all of the benefits we’ve discussed throughout this article, you can track the results of your digital marketing efforts with incredible accuracy, which means it is easy to see which strategies are producing profitable results and which ones need some work.
Incidentally, if this article has convinced you that you need digital marketing (or need to up your digital marketing game), but you’d like some help identifying the right approach, let us know here or in the comments! We love helping businesses grow with digital marketing.