Marketing 101: The Ultimate Guide to Digital Marketing

Digital Marketing icons around a megaphone

There are a few different ways to market digitally, and each is made up of other smaller, specialized strategies. You can’t simply take one approach when you want to improve your digital marketing strategy. You need to consider all the pieces.

In the early days of digital marketing, we often focused on getting as many eyeballs as possible. The more people we could reach, the more successful we were! But now that’s changing.

With the rise of mobile devices and social media, the general public is more informed than ever before. And because of that, we’re seeing a shift in how marketers reach their target audiences. It’s no longer about throwing a bunch of information out there and hoping some sticks; it’s about creating authentic relationships with your customers.

Whether your marketing campaign is online or offline, you need to be strategic to create meaningful connections with your customers and prospects.

In this post, we’ll break down what digital marketing is and discuss the best way to execute the most impactful strategies, as well as what you should expect from your digital marketing campaigns.

We’ll start with our definition of digital marketing. Then we’ll go over some of the most important (and arguably fun) parts of digital marketing that could help skyrocket your business both locally and internationally.

What is digital marketing?

Digital marketing entails using digital channels to promote or market your business and its products. These digital channels include websites, social media platforms, search engines, email, apps, and video.

By using one or more of these channels, you can create a strong presence online that helps you reach your target audience and grow your business.

Digital marketing has many benefits for businesses and consumers alike. For businesses, it allows you to reach a new audience that you wouldn’t have been able to reach if you weren’t using digital marketing strategies. It will enable consumers to learn more about the businesses they interact with through their computers or phones.

Digital marketing strategies can also be very cost-effective because most of the tools used in a digital marketing strategy are free or very inexpensive. This makes them ideal for small businesses that need to stretch their advertising budgets as far as possible.

What are the stages of digital marketing?

The digital world is a particularly powerful tool in the context of the buying process. Here are the three stages of digital marketing:

The research stage

Your customers are looking to understand their problems and decide which solutions to pursue at this stage. They're searching, reading, and learning in an effort to educate themselves. And they can do it all without ever talking to a salesperson.

The evaluation stage

During the evaluation stage, the customers are trying to figure out what solution is right for them, and which companies they should consider working with. They're comparing your offerings with those of your competitors, as well as any alternatives that might be available to them.

The purchase stage

Now, the customers are trying to seal the deal, either with you or someone else. They're asking questions, getting answers, and ultimately deciding how much they're going to spend and when they're going to make their final decision.

In every one of these stages, your website plays a leading role. Either it's helping you connect with potential buyers by answering their questions and providing value, or it's actively driving people away because it's not meeting their needs.

Understanding your customers

Who is your customer? What are their age and location? Are they male or female? What are their interests, hobbies, and pain points? Do they have children, dogs, or cats?

These questions can seem overwhelming at first, but once you break them down into smaller chunks, you’ll be able to answer them with more clarity.

Start by identifying your target market. If you’re just starting, this may be a best guess based on the research you’ve done. If you’ve been in business for a while, look at your current customer base to determine what demographics they fall into. The more specific you get with your audience information – including psychographics – the easier it will be to understand what they want.

For example:

  • A female-owned bakery will probably reach out to moms who are interested in kid-friendly recipes.
  • A dog-walking service might target apartment renters who struggle to leave work early enough to walk their dogs before dark.
  • A photographer might target couples planning weddings who want help capturing the memories.

Once you have a clear picture of who your customer is, you can start to make adjustments to your marketing strategies and campaigns. If you’re collecting data on your customers, dig deep into categories like gender, age, location, income, and education. This information can help you make necessary changes to your marketing strategy so that it’s more effective in reaching those key demographics.

The alternative is a manual process. You’ll need two teams: one focused on outreach and one focused on promotional content. The first team will be responsible for getting in touch with potential customers (i.e., creating a lead list) and scheduling meetings. The second team will be in charge of creating promotional materials like videos, blog posts, or infographics that showcase the features of your product or service in the most engaging way possible.

Each of these teams will have different goals based on the sales funnel stage they’re focusing on.

Digital marketing channels you should focus on

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search engines use complex algorithms to rank websites and web pages based on several factors. The objective of SEO is to optimize a brand's website so that it appears higher in Google's organic results, the free, non-paid results. These unpaid listings are called organic results because they appear naturally at the top of a search engine results page (SERP) instead of paid ads that sit above organic results.

If your site is new, you may benefit from "technical SEO," which includes basic steps like adding alt text to images, fixing broken links, managing redirects, and so on.

If you have an online store, you need "local SEO." This involves claiming your Google My Business (GMB) page and optimizing it for relevant searches.

If you're selling content marketing services (or anything else), you need "content SEO." This means creating lots of high-quality content that people want to read and share.

SEO is a relatively simple concept to grasp, but it is also somewhat complicated to execute because it involves so many moving parts. For example, Google's algorithm relies on over 200 factors when deciding where a page should rank in organic search results. To make matters worse, these ranking factors are constantly changing with each new algorithm update that Google rolls out.

The best way to think about SEO is as a conversation between two parties - a brand and a consumer - conducted in an online setting. The brand's goal is to convince the consumer that it has precisely what they are looking for, while the consumer's goal is to find what they are searching for by quickly scanning the results of any given search query.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM or Paid Ads)

Search ads are used for new customer acquisition and are a great way to find customers actively searching for products or services like yours.

You can pay money to get your website listed on the first page of Google's search results. With paid search, you have more control over who sees your ad and where they see it, but it comes at a price. That price is based on a bidding system; whoever bids the most per click gets top placement in the search results. The bidding process works well for people who have a product or service that they know buyers are searching for; otherwise, you risk wasting money on clicks from people who aren’t interested in buying from you.

Because users type their own search terms, you can use keywords to get in front of specific audiences, rather than relying on audience segmentation and optimization algorithms. Additionally, search ads are typically cheaper per click than social media ads, making them more accessible to small businesses with limited ad budgets.

In addition to finding new customers, you can also use search ads for retargeting audiences. Automation tools like Google Ads allow advertisers to target searchers based on previous actions they’ve taken on your site. For example, an advertiser could target a searcher who previously added items to their digital shopping cart but didn’t make a purchase with a special deal on the items left in their cart. Alternatively, you could target someone who abandoned their online form halfway through with an ad for the service or product they were interested in.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the options, don’t worry—there’s nothing wrong with starting small and scaling as you go along. If you want to grow faster or try something new, you can always add in display advertising and video ads later on.

Social Media Marketing

As a business owner, your goal should be to build a community of loyal, engaged followers. Social media is the perfect channel to achieve this goal because it allows you to interact with your customers online. Many people's followers on social media are some of their closest friends.

To interact with your customers on social media, you need to know where they are and how they like to communicate. If you don’t already have an active social media presence, it’s time to start building one!

For brands to get the most out of social media, they need to shift from sharing marketing messages to developing relationships with followers. Brands can do this by being human and engaging directly with users. For instance, some brands have used video posts to respond to customer inquiries or complaints rather than relying on written comments alone. This allows customers to put faces and voices to the people behind the brand.

But which social media channel should your business use?

Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter encourage brands to use paid advertising to reach users who might not otherwise know about them. The potential downside is that these ads can be costly, especially if they aren’t well-targeted or are served to the wrong demographic.

In addition to Facebook and Twitter, many brands also have a presence on Pinterest and TikTok aimed at younger users. The blend of video, images, and text on these sites makes them highly appealing for promoting products and services.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is still the best digital channel for ROI and engaging with customers. Direct mail may have been the king of the marketing world once upon a time, but consumers now spend more time reading email than they do reading physical mail.

And it's no secret that people love email. According to Hubspot, 78% of marketers have seen increased email engagement over the last 12 months.

Some email marketing forms have gone extinct with the rise of social media, but other forms simply adapt to our changing behaviors and needs. They morph into something new that reflects how we communicate and consume information today.

Some benefits of email marketing are:

  • Engagement:  There’s a good chance your customers are using email and are eager to hear from you. An email is also a personal form of communication, which means it has a higher open rate than social media, blog posts, or paid ads—and it gives you more opportunities to build brand loyalty and engage with your target audience.
  • Brand awareness: When people think of your brand, you want them to think of consistency and helpful information that adds value to their lives. Email can help you accomplish this! You can build an engaged audience that looks forward to receiving your messages with email marketing. The more they interact with your content, the more likely they are to purchase from you in the future.
  • Conversions: Email marketing is one of the most effective channels for converting leads into customers. In fact, email generates $42 for every $1 spent.

Influencer Marketing

As the influencer marketing landscape evolves, brands have an increasing number of options for selecting the right partners.

In some cases, a high-profile celebrity may be the perfect fit — especially if they are genuinely interested in your brand and your product or service. But high profile celebrities aren't always the best influencers to work with.

The same is true for micro-influencers. Just because someone has a significant following on Instagram doesn't mean they're an excellent fit for every brand.

To find the right influencers for your brand, you need to understand your target audience and where they spend time online. From there, you can begin evaluating influencers and using data to decide who will drive the best results for your brand.

Picking the right influencer is essential. Your partnership needs to feel authentic. If a particular influencer doesn't align with your brand values, they become less effective as marketers and may even deter customers from engaging with your brand.

To achieve ROI from influencer marketing without compromising brand integrity, marketers must select influencers who share the same values and style as their brands. Here are some things to consider when finding the right partner for your business:

  1. First, build a list of potential candidates by searching relevant hashtags and topics. Look for content creators who have already organically posted about your competitors — that is, they don’t look like ads.
  2. Next, use an analytics tool like Klear to find the most closely aligned influencers with your brand based on variables like audience demographics, engagement rates, follower growth, and location.

Choosing the best digital marketing strategy for your business

Digital marketing is based on strategy and planning. Simply throwing money at a website just because it looks nice will not help your business grow. The same goes for posting random social media content without having an overall strategy in mind.

To be successful online, you need to create an effective digital marketing plan that will help you reach your goals and achieve results. More often than not, this is achieved through testing and reiterating your strategies until you find something that works and generates a positive ROI for your brand.

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