Business Owner’s Guide to Digital Marketing
The ultimate introduction to digital marketing for small businesses.
What is digital marketing?
Digital marketing is another name for your company's online marketing efforts.
The goal of all marketing is to connect with your audience in the right place at the right time with the right message. With Americans spending more than 7 hours every day online, many companies choose to focus their marketing efforts on digital (a.k.a. online) channels (rather than offline channels like TV or radio) to reach potential customers where they’re spending most of their time.
Your company’s digital marketing efforts might include a variety of online branding assets and marketing activities — from websites, social media and email, to blogs, search engines, virtual events and more.
The best digital marketers understand how each digital asset and tactic supports the company’s overall goals. And the results you get from each channel can be used to inform your ongoing marketing strategy.
Outbound marketing vs. inbound marketing
Outbound marketing uses interruption-based methods while inbound marketing is focused on providing value to potential customers.
When advertising got its start in the late nineteenth century, marketers tried to reach as many people as possible, as often as they could, with their brand’s message — whether or not people wanted it. In today’s digital environment, with 90% of Americans online each day, old-school interruption-based marketing is both ineffective and irrelevant.
Inbound marketing — using timely, relevant content to drive web traffic and convert customers organically — has become the preferred strategy of both marketers and consumers.
Rather than disrupting people’s lives with unwanted sales messages, inbound marketing strategies position your business to be found by potential customers who are already looking for products or services and are likely to make a purchase. The success of inbound marketing comes from providing value and nurturing relationships with potential customers as they go through each stage of the buyer journey.
Inbound Marketing Tactics
Your website is your brand’s face to the world and your customers’ experience here can make or break your relationship with them. In fact, 88% of people say they won’t return to a website if it doesn’t meet their standards. To attract new customers a website must look professional, be mobile-friendly, and offer valuable content that’s optimized for search engines (SEO). The best-performing websites are also consistently tested and tweaked to optimize conversions.
Social media channels like Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and Twitter can drive web traffic and create opportunities to communicate with current and prospective customers. Digital marketers tend to use a combination of social media channels, customizing content for each platform. With almost 4 billion people using social media around the world, marketers can target specific audiences based on their geography, demographics and personal interests.
When happy customers tell other people about your product or service, it’s called word-of-mouth marketing. Word-of-mouth marketing typically takes place via social media and blogs, where users post and share information about brands they like, as well as in online reviews and recommendations. A recent study revealed that 83% of people are more likely to purchase a product or service based on a recommendation from a friend or family member.
The blogs, graphics, photos, videos, interactive tools and other items that populate your website, social media and other marketing assets are considered your content. Content that educates your target audience, answers their questions, and meets their needs will draw qualified leads to your website when they search online for topics related to your business.
When used as part of an inbound marketing strategy, email can be a highly effective way to deliver helpful, personalized content that your target audience will want to receive. In fact, 60% of consumers say they’ve made a purchase as a result of a marketing email they received, while only 12.5% said they would consider using the ‘buy’ button on social media.
Retargeting is a type of online advertising that uses information (cookies) collected from website visits to serve people ads after they leave your site. Statistics show that 97% of people who visit a website never return, so retargeted ads can help recapture visitors’ attention and bring them back to your site.
Live events can be a powerful way for a brand to showcase its personality and connect with its target audience in a meaningful way. Marketers use online conferences, seminars, workshops, live podcasts and live video streams to generate new leads, nurture strong relationships with their prospects and customers, and increase their overall sales and revenue. In a recent study, 85% of consumers reported that they are more likely to purchase a product or service after attending a live marketing event.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of optimizing your website and its content to help your business show up naturally (a.k.a. “organically”) at the top of search engine results. And since 93% of all online experiences begin on a search engine and over 40% of revenue is captured by organic traffic, SEO can play an important part in your content marketing strategy.
Paid ads that appear in an online platform and resemble the platform’s editorial content are considered native advertising. Examples of native ads include sponsored articles, boosted social posts, and PPC ads that are ‘native’ to Google’s search results. When done well, native ads provide valuable content that encourages potential customers to visit your website.