What is Digital Marketing

By Christina

Sep 23, 2019

Marketing is the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably (source Chartered Institute of Marketing). 

This definition emphasises you should be focusing your marketing efforts on your customer, while at the same time implying a need to link to other business operations to achieve profitability.

Digital marketing is no different, it also embraces this philosophy and is a really effective way to attract, engage, and impress customers when they are online. 

What is digital marketing?

Digital marketing envelops all marketing tactics that use an electronic device and the internet.  Businesses use digital channels such as search engines, websites, social media, email, and other websites to connect with current and prospective customers.

To perform digital marketing well, an understanding of marketing is still necessary to create a clear picture of how each digital marketing campaign supports a companies goals.

Digital Marketing Examples

  1. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
  2. Content Marketing
  3. Social Media Marketing
  4. Pay Per Click (PPC)
  5. Affiliate Marketing
  6. Marketing Automation
  7. Email Marketing
  8. Online PR
  9. Inbound Marketing
  10. Strategy
  11. Benefits
  12. Budgets
  13. Measuring Effectiveness
  14. Results
  15. Transformation of Marketing

Here's a quick rundown of some of the most common digital marketing areas and the channels involved in each one.

1.  Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

This is the process of optimising your website so it appears higher in the search engine results pages.  The higher a website can get the more traffic it receives.  The channels that benefit from SEO include websites, blogs, and infographics.

There are a number of different areas to SEO which all help generate the right traffic to your website.

These include:

  • On page SEO - This type of SEO focuses on all the content that exists on a website.  By researching keywords for their search volume, intent, ranking difficulty, and competition, you'll be able to make an educated decision about what content to produce which targets the best keywords for your website and budget. 
  • Off page SEO - This type of SEO focuses on all of the activity that takes place away from your website.  This is were inbound links come into play.  The number of publishers that link to you, and the relative authority of those websites affect how highly you rank for the keywords you care about.  This takes quite a bit of time, as you'll need to build relationships with real people, writing articles for their websites which then link back to yours.  By generating external attention, you can earn the backlinks you need to move your website up on all the right search engine results pages.
  • Technical SEO - This type of SEO focuses on the backend of your website and how your pages are coded.  Image compression, structured data, CSS file optimisation, duplicate content, links and server errors (to name a few), are all forms of technical SEO that if not carried out can reduce your potential to get to the top of the search engine results.

2.  Content Marketing

Content marketing is all about the creation and promotion of content for the purpose of generating brand awareness, traffic growth, lead generation, and customers.  The channels that can play a part in content marketing include:

  • Blogs: Writing and publishing articles on your company blog helps you demonstrate your industry expertise and generates organic search traffic for your business, it also enables you to target a greater number of longer tail keywords.  This then gives you opportunities to convert website visitors into leads and sales.
  • Ebook and whitepapers: Ebooks, whitepapers, and similar long-form content helps to educate your website visitors further, as they are more comprehensive than a blog.  People who want access to Ebooks and whitepapers are prepared to hand over their email address to do so, enabling you to keep in touch with them
  • Infographics: Sometimes it is more beneficial to show rather then tell someone something.  Infographics are a form of visual content that helps website visitors visualise a concept quickly.

3.  Social Media Marketing

This channel is used to promote your brand and your content, helping to increase brand awareness, drive traffic, and generate leads for your business.  Social media channels include:

  • Facebook.
  • Twitter.
  • LinkedIn.
  • Instagram.
  • Snapchat.
  • Printerest.

4.  Pay Per Click (PPC)

PPC is a method of driving traffic to your website by paying a publisher to display your advert.  Each time your advert is clicked the publisher charges you.  The best known PPC provider is Google Ads, which allows you to be seen at the top of the search engine results.

Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn all have facilities to allow you to advertise within their platforms. 

  • Facebook allows you to customise video, image post or slideshows, which Facebook will publish to the news feeds of your targeted audience
  • Twitter allows you to place a series of posts or profile badges to your target audience.
  • LinkedIn allows you to pay to send messages directly to specific users.

5.  Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is where you receive a commission to promote someone else's products or services on your website.

6.  Marketing Automation

Repetitive marketing tasks can now be automated because of the development of some great marketing software.

Things that can be automated include:

  • sending out emails to multiple subscribers,
  • shrinking or expanding contact lists,
  • social media posts

7.  Email Marketing

Companies use email marketing to communicate with their customers and subscribers.  It is used to inform, educate, promote, give discounts, invitations and to draw people back to their website.

The type of emails you've probably received and can use yourself include:

  • Blog updates
  • Newsletters
  • Follow-up emails after a visitor has downloaded something from your website.
  • Welcoming new customers
  • Holiday promotions
  • Tips or advice aimed at customer nurturing.

8.  Online PR

It is the same as traditional PR, but in the online world.  You earn coverage with digital publications, blogs and other content-based websites.  Areas you can concentrate your PR efforts on:

  • Reporter outreach: Talk to journalist within Twitter, it is a great way to develop a relationship with the press, giving you opportunities to use the media when you have something worthy of sharing.
  • Online reviews of your company: When someone reviews your company online, it is good practice to respond.  Either by thanking someone for their positive review, or engaging with someone who leaves a negative review.  It helps to humanise your brand and protect your reputation.
  • Comments on your blog: Responding to the people who are reading your content is the best way to generate conversations, and get seen as the expert.

9.  Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing is were your customers come to you, instead of you interrupting them with adverts.  Examples include:

  • Blogging vs.  pop-up ads
  • Video marketing vs.  commercial advertising
  • Email people who have given you permission to tell them about your product, vs.  emailing people from a bought in email list who don't know anything about you.

10.  Strategy

When marketing your business you need to come up with a plan of action - what needs to be done and when.  In the digital marketing world this is called a digital marketing strategy, starting with customer segmentation, through to where to position your company, product or service.  This involves selecting your target customer groups and specifying how you will deliver value to these groups as a proposition of services and products.  This defines how your business will deliver your company image (brand) product and services through content, visual design, interactivity, sharing, rich media and how this will integrate with the businesses off line presence.

An effective digital marketing strategy should:

  • Be aligned with your businesses plan and vision over a period of time - say 3 to 5 years.
  • Use clear objectives for your business and brand development and the online contribution of leads and sales.
  • Be consistent with the types of customers who use and can be reached through digital channels.
  • Define a compelling, differential value proposition.
  • Specify the online and offline tools to be used to attract visitors to your companies website, or to interact through other digital media, such as email, Facebook, Instagram etc.
  • Support the customer from the first point of contact right through to the buying process.
  • Managing your online customers lifecycle through the stages of attracting visitors to the website, converting them into customers and retention and growth.

Digital media can be used as follows:

  • Advertising medium.  Display ads on publishers websites and social networks can be used to create awareness of a brand and demand for products or services.
  • Direct-response.  Targeted search advertising enables you to drive people to your website when those people show intent to buy, such as searching for a flight to a destination.
  • Platform for sales transactions.  Allowing a person to book or pay for something they want from your website.
  • Lead-generation methods.  Tools can provide help to identify and follow up purchases.
  • Distribution channel.  The platforms you can use, website, facebook, instagram, email etc
  • Customer services.  Follow ups and upselling
  • Relationship-building.  Digital has made it far easier for you to interact with your customers to better understand their needs and publicise relevant products and offers.  As an example, you can use an email newsletter and tailored alerts about special deals to encourage repeat purchases.

11.  Benefits

Digital marketing can be used to support these aims:

  • Identifying - the Internet can be used for marketing research to find out customers' needs and wants
  • Anticipating - the Internet provides an additional channel by which customers can access information and make purchases - evaluating this demand is key to governing resource allocation to e-marketing
  • Satisfying - a key success factor in e-marketing is achieving customer satisfaction through the electronic channel, which raises issues such as: is the site easy to use, does it perform adequately, what is the standard of associated customer service and how are physical products dispatched?

The Internet can be used to achieve four strategic directions:

  • Market penetration. You can use the Internet to sell more existing products into existing markets.
  • Market development. You can use the Internet to sell into new geographical markets, taking advantage of the low cost of advertising internationally without the necessity for a supporting sales infrastructure in the customers' countries.
  • Product development. Digital products can quickly be developed and delivered by the Internet.
  • Diversification. The Internet supports selling new products which are developed and sold into new markets.

12.  Budgets

As with anything, it really depends on what elements of digital marketing you're looking to add to your strategy.  If you are paying someone else to do the work, remember there is an expectation to received a minimum wage, the better the person is at doing their job the higher their hourly rate will be.  Then there is the advertising budget, this can be cheap as chips or really expensive depending on what you are trying to achieve.

To save cash, you can do the marketing yourself but make sure you keep a record of how much time you are spending on it and how much each hour is worth to you if you were doing something else in your business.  This helps you decide when it's time to hand over to someone else.  You can learn to do SEO yourself, you are probably already using social media so that won't be much of a learning curve, you should be the expert in your product or service so you shouldn't have any problems sorting out great content, it may just take you a bit of time learning to write if you haven't written an essay since leaving school.

If your budget is really tight you can sort out cheap hosting with Wordpress and create a site on their platform too.

If you want to advertise or buy email lists, then these are going to cost money.  It all comes down to how quickly you want to be seen and how often.

Using someone who knows what they are doing means you get your product to market faster than you can if you have to learn how to do marketing first.

13.  Measuring effectiveness

I'm sad to say, in this day and age there are still too many businesses who obsess over their position in the search engines instead of how many sales they are getting.  To me a successful marketing campaign raises sales by a desired percentage, an unsuccessful campaign is being in the number one position yet having no sales - an absolute pointless waste of time and energy.

14.  Results

It often feels like you see results faster with digital marketing than with offline marketing because it's easier to measure the ROI.  But it simply depends on the scale and effectiveness of your digital marketing strategy.

Spending time building buyer personas to identify the needs of your audience, means you create the right content.  Concentrating on the quality of that content will attract and convert readers to customers, only then will you see strong results.  But depending on the amount of competition you have, you could be looking at 6 to 18 months to start seeing results.

If you decide to go down the route of paid advertising, then the results come even quicker, but it's recommended to focus on building your organic reach using content, SEO, and social media for long term sustainable success.  Once you stop advertising, you disappear, whereas content, SEO and social media posts are there for a long time working hard for you.

Transformation of Marketing

With over 3 billion people around the world regularly using the web to find products, entertainment and friends, consumer behaviour and the way companies market to both consumers and businesses have changed dramatically since 1991 when the first website went live.

Businesses can now chat to their customer via chat facilities on their websites and email which is virtually instant instead of by phone or letter.

Whereas advertising was limited to TV, radio, cinema and publications, it has now extended into websites, blogs, vlogs, apps, social chat rooms and more.  Whereas a sales person had that one chance to capture you when you walk through the shops door, now when you look at a product on a website, it will follow you around the internet at every given opportunity, and the website will have several things in place to encourage you to buy. 

The best thing to come out of digital technologies is the ease in which lists can be kept (mail, customers, suppliers etc) up to date.  And measuring results is far more effective then ever. 

But as Google relentlessly innovates and now has billions of pages indexed in their search engine as well as other successful services such as web mail, pay-per-click (PPC) adverts and analytics.  For businesses to succeed in the future they will have to adapt to these fast paced changes.

The main challenge will be to identify which digital marketing techniques will fit an organisation and how to integrate that effectively with traditional marketing communications.

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