What is Digital Marketing? – its importance in the online age
Digital Marketing is Everywhere
Digital Marketing is a ubiquitous term on the internet. It can be found everywhere these days. It can mean so many things and it’s often misunderstood. The term first crept into our lexicon back in the 1990s and has only soared since. So what the heck is digital marketing and why should you care?
Simply put, digital marketing is the promotion of products and services using electronic media. For example, an ad banner across a website is digital marketing—one of the earliest forms in fact. It all started with a simple image that someone could click on which would then bring them to sales page of some sort. Today, digital marketers can target potential customers based on whether they visited a website, clicked on an ad or even abandoned a shopping cart. If a person takes an action online, someone is collecting that data—that behavior—to better understand how to market to them. Today’s digital marketing is about precision targeting.
Customers and Clients are Helping
Marketers aren’t doing all the work. Today, marketers are getting a lot of help from potential customers and clients themselves. People today freely share their interests, hobbies and lives via social media. Facebook is the shining example of how social media platforms offer both a great way for people to connect AND a great way for businesses to laser target their market. In fact, if you want to target women interested in knitting, cats and beach homes, you can because they have self-identified through their actions on Facebook.
Imagine the magazine rack at the store. There are normally at least two to three dozen different magazines on the shelf. Now 100x that number and then imagine being able to segment the population into one magazine topic or to compile several interests together to better understand customer wants and needs. This is essentially what the internet has allowed via digital marketing. When someone visits The New York Times, Home and Garden, or ESPN online, Google tracks the activity and can place ads specifically designed for that person. Have you recently shopped for something online only to find it following you on every page? That’s Google personalizing your ad content, also known as remarketing.
The point is this: people are expressing their interests online and their actions are captured by companies like Facebook and Google. Facebook sells access to their users and allows the savvy digital marketer to target groups of people based on their interests. If Google sees that you’re searching for running shoes, then Reebok ads show up on many of your favorite sites because they have paid for remarketing ads across millions of different websites.
Let Facebook Do the Work: Casting a Wide Net
If you are having trouble dialing in your target market, you could target a really large market and then let Facebook’s algorithm do the work for you. For example, you could target golfers for your new golfing wizz-bang product. That would be millions of people. But, as people click on your ads they are giving Facebook information on who your target market really is. The more people who click through on your broad targeting campaign the better Facebook can narrow that group until you have found golfers who are also interested in NASCAR, Budweiser and shuffle board. Essentially, what Facebook is doing for you is pooling together the people who actually buy your stuff and then it searches out other people who are similarly aligned in their interests. Your market went from Golfers (millions) to the types of people who actually buy your product (thousands). And Facebook did the work.
The Fundamentals of Today’s Digital Marketing
The intricacies of digital marketing can be overwhelming: Google AdWords, Facebook ads, blogs, Ecommerce tools, web design, landing pages, squeeze pages, lead magnets, trips wires, email lists, email marketing, social media contests and giveaways, Facebook pixel, mobile marketing, YouTube ads, search engine optimization (SEO), conversions, metrics tracking and on it goes. It’s easy to miss the forest because there are so many digital marketing trees.
Despite all the tactics and techniques, there are essentials to digital marketing that can be broken down simply.
Placing ads is one of the oldest and most proven ways to get a message in front of prospective and existing clients. Digital marketing advertising is similar in some ways to traditional print, radio and TV advertising but there are some big advantages to digital advertising. Ads online can take the form of an ad banner on your favorite website, a blog sponsoring products related to their niche, videos on YouTube, or purchasing a sponsored spot on a Google search. Below are six benefits to advertising online versus traditional outlets:
- Extremely targeted ad placement
- Track results precisely and instantly
- Better measure on ROI
- Less intrusive – online ads done well nest with existing content while also capturing attention
- Ads are tailored and relevant to surrounding content
- Target and retarget people who have proven their interest in your product or service
And these are just some of the major benefits. It is oftentimes less expensive. The price of a TV commercial to get a desired number of impressions to people who may or may not be your target market can be very high. Conversely, getting a video commercial on a YouTube channel in front of people you know are more closely aligned with your market is significantly less money. Plus, you can track your success rate by click throughs and conversions. Now you can finally see that advertising is an investment through dollar and cents measurements instead of an expense with no concrete, measurable results.
Social Media: Paid and Unpaid
Social media outlets are extremely powerful tools for many of the reasons I’ve mentioned above, such as laser targeted advertising. You can pay for advertising on all the major social media outlets, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. And which you should choose depends on who your customer is and where they hang out. With paid advertising, you can start very small ($5 a day) and watch the results and then adjust in a matter of minutes. You can do split testing to see which ad works best and you can track your results.
Building up a community or tribe is often called organic traffic and requires no direct ad spending. When you establish yourself on a social media platform and gather a group of likeminded people, you have created a place for a tribe to grow. The people who follow you don’t want to be “sold” all the time and don’t really want ads either. What they want is engagement and value. The best method for fostering an awesome community is to provide them with tons of useful stuff, such as great blogs, contests or giveaways and other great content to help them. Every once in a while, you can ask that they check out your new launch or offer—this is organic traffic generated without paid advertising and can be a huge boost to business.
People today are inundated with advertising and information. The whole point of content marketing is to create valuable content, not eyewash, so that you deliver useful, entertaining and attractive content to people for free. Not only do you get to provide your tribe with cool and useful info, but you also get to build your authority, create a dialogue with your audience, and create opportunities for new insights into products and services.
Everyone has a blog and for good reason. A blog gives you a platform to communicate your ideas and value to people. People are crossing the street while they look down at their smartphone—they are all consuming information online. If you share a great blog article which also happens to have a tasteful call to action, they people don’t feel sold because you have given them value and in return they will want to do something for you.
Videos are great. Facebook has livestreaming and many others are following suit. YouTube has been in the video business since 2005. YouTube is the second largest search engine next to Google—how amazing is that?. That should tell you videos are popular and powerful. Creating videos personalizes you and your business. It is also more engaging by its very nature. There are free how-to videos on just about everything. Those are great examples of content marketing. People learn how to do something that really helps them and then you have an opportunity to ask them to look at your product, service or special message.
Email marketing is a form of content marketing (if you’re doing it right) but it merits its own category because of how important it is. Building your email list by providing a bunch of free value creates a group of loyal and interested people who like what you have so say and perhaps what you have to sell. The key to nurturing a great email list is to give them real value, just like you would in a good blog post. A great way to mix in your sales or marketing is a simple ask in the postscript line. “PS: I’ve just released a new book on pet care. If you want to get a free chapter, click here.”
Growing and nurturing an email list will create a massive increase in business, following and organic traffic. If you are successful, people will share your emails with friends and your reach will spread further than you had ever anticipated without paying for ads.
Digital marketing can get complex but it doesn’t have to. The basics of digital marketing are the basics of marketing. Know your customer and know where to find them. Are they on social media and if so which outlet? Know how to communicate your message—copy writing is just as important, perhaps more so, than it was before the internet. Keeping your digital marketing simple will help focus your efforts and see results. Once you have established a successful digital marketing presence, then it may be time to implement or hire someone to implement the more complex, technical and broad digital marketing strategies. You must also know what your key goals are for any digital marketing campaign. Without defined goals then you won’t know which metrics will track your success.