Digital marketing is not a ‘nice to have’ in today’s competitive markets – it’s a must have. Marketing is a fundamental business function, but it’s often the first place small and medium-sized businesses look to cut costs. Despite shrinking budgets, marketers are still expected to deliver on lead generation, advertising, public relations, content creation and social media targets. In this guide, we’ll show you how to build an effective digital marketing strategy regardless of your budget or skill level.
Digital Marketing 101
First thing’s first: what is digital marketing? It’s a broad term that’s often used to describe anything and everything a marketer does in their day-to-day work. The following definition from HubSpot shows just how all-encompassing the concept is:
Digital marketing encompasses all marketing efforts that use an electronic device or the internet. Businesses leverage digital channels such as search engines, social media, email, and their websites to connect with current and prospective customers.
While almost everything has a digital component these days, from events to advertising, there are very specific ways to use these digital channels to drive growth. Smart Insights further defines digital marketing using the 5Ds that provide opportunities for buyers to interact with businesses and, in turn, for businesses to reach and learn about their audience:
- Digital devices: The connected devices that audiences use to engage with a brand or business’ website or app, including smartphones, tablets, laptops or desktop computers, smart TVs and gaming consoles.
- Digital platforms: The websites or applications where interactions occur, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google and YouTube.
- Digital media: The communication channels used for reaching and engaging audiences, including advertising, email, messaging, search engines and social networks.
- Digital data: The demographic and behavioural information businesses collect about their audience based on online interactions (e.g. link clicks, email opens, page visits, form submissions, etc.). Data privacy legislation like CASL and GDPR now require businesses around the world to secure and protect this information.
- Digital technology: The tools and solutions businesses use to create, distribute and manage content and execute on their digital marketing strategy.
Regardless of how you define digital marketing, what your martech stack looks like or the channels and tactics you use. Digital marketing is all about finding balance between authentic messaging that accurately reflects your brand and leveraging the efficiencies and scale of technology. The biggest mistake marketers can make is getting caught up on technology itself.
Yes, martech provides us with countless opportunities to simplify time-consuming processes, streamline our marketing automation and collect audience insights we otherwise wouldn’t be able to. But your brand is what you’re communicating, and without thoughtful messaging, defined buyer personas and clear business goals, you could be spending time on content and channels that don’t convert. That’s why you should have a clearly defined mission, vision and values.
The Digital Landscape
Technology has fundamentally changed the marketing landscape. Looking back to the days of traditional advertising, businesses were competing for space on billboards, magazine pages and broadsheets. Everything from the size of your ad and the number of places it appeared affected your brand awareness and, ultimately, your sales.
But a lot has changed since then, nothing more so than how we communicate with our audience. The internet has replaced the printed page. As technology changes, so do the strategies we use to reach potential customers. From inbound marketing to omnichannel experiences, the common foundation underpinning these popular methodologies is content. If you want to engage your audience, you need to create content that appeals to them and make it easy to find.
Creating content is not enough, though. You need a digital strategy to distribute and manage your content and align your marketing activities to achieve your business goals. Here’s a high-level overview of some core channels that should be part of your overall digital marketing strategy:
Social media is much larger than the popular platforms we think about and use on a regular basis; any interactive website or application that facilitates networking, virtual expression and content creation and sharing can be considered social. This is why social media represents such a huge opportunity for marketers. We’re expected to go where our buyers are and, increasingly, that place is online and on social media platforms.
Targeting the right platforms can drive lead generation and audience engagement. If you don’t do your due diligence, though, you could be marketing in the wrong places. As yourself the following questions to determine which social media sites you should be focused on:
- Who is my target audience?
- Where do they spend their time online?
- Where can I drive the most engagement?
- Which social platforms make the most sense for my business?
- Which social platforms are likely to provide a high ROI?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of increasing the visibility of your website to attract organic (non-paid) traffic. Before you can start generating leads, you need to attract visitors. You can use both paid and organic methods to increase your website traffic, including paid social, PPC, organic social and blogging, but inbound marketing is primarily about organic results. These channels should (1) attract visitors by offering relevant, engaging content and (2) drive them to a landing page or a website page with a content offering and a form.
Here are some potential goals and performance metrics to track in terms of your SEO strategy:
- Improve visibility and rankings on search engine result pages (SERPs)
- Increase page one keyword rankings
- Increase website traffic
- Increase the amount of time visitors spend on your website
- Reduce bounce rates
Landing Pages, Forms and CTAs
Gated content is a crucial part of content marketing and the inbound process, enabling you to collect valuable lead intelligence on your audience while also building brand awareness and providing buyers with the information they need. When used effectively, landing pages, forms and calls-to-action (CTAs) can accelerate the sales process for new customers and build brand evangelism with existing customers. In both cases, these tools help provide a better user experience, which is a top priority for many businesses today.
When developing your content strategy, here are some key considerations to keep in mind:
- Is your website easy to navigate?
- Is your site architecture clear?
- Are conversion paths evident to visitors?
- Are you using headings (h1, h2 and h3) tags to tell readers and search engines what your content is about?
- Are CTAs on your website engaging and clear?
- Are you asking too few/too many questions in your lead forms?
Even though email gets a bad rap, email marketing is still one of the most popular and effective channels for marketers. Once you’ve collected information on your audience—who they are, where they work, what their responsibilities are, what they want to learn more about—you can use this information to segment your contacts and deliver relevant, targeted content.
Targeted content is more likely to produce the results you want (e.g. form submissions, link clicks, resource downloads and more) to move potential customers through the buyer’s journey. Or, if you’re segmenting your existing customer base, you can deliver an exceptional user experience by providing them with the information, tools and resources they need to succeed.
For a complete overview of digital marketing in 2018 and beyond, and the tools and resources you need to develop an effective digital marketing strategy, download our free Digital Marketing Field Guide. In it you’ll get worksheets that help you craft your value proposition, buyer personas and more.