Digital marketing also referred to as online marketing or web marketing, is the practice of using digital means to make people aware of a product or service being offered. Although digital marketing commonly comes in the form of online ads, marketing is not quite the same as advertising. Advertising is letting people know that a product is out there, whether or not they might be interested in it. It’s like standing on a street corner with a giant poster and a bullhorn, letting anybody who happens to nearby know that you are in the neighborhood and have something to sell. Marketing, however, is strategic advertising. It’s intentionally advertising to a select group of consumers who may be interested in what you have to offer. Instead of standing on the street with a bullhorn, it’s more like a nursery advertising flowers and shrubbery to a gardening club. Inbound Marketing is a superweapon in the digital marketing landscape today.
History of Digital Marketing
Digital marketing arguably began in the mid-1980s when a company now known as Channel Net but then known as Soft Ad Group came up with a strategy for marketing automobiles to consumers. Readers of certain magazines could fill out a form found inside the magazine, mail it in, and get a floppy disk in the mail. The floppy disk contained ads for automobile companies and offers to test drive them for free.
The growth of digital marketing grew in the 1990s as more and more people and companies caught onto the burgeoning Internet. In connecting people of various interests from different regions all across the world, it presented a whole new array of opportunities to connect people with products and services. Still, many companies and businesses relied heavily on television commercials and magazine advertisements.
During the early 200s and especially after 2010, as the Internet became more ubiquitous and most people, especially in developed countries, had email accounts, social media accounts, and regular Internet access, digital marketing grew astronomically and developed more sophisticated techniques that were more in sync with the Internet rather than traditional marketing that did not use the Internet. Now that online shopping has flourished and continues to grow, with sites like Amazon beginning to surpass retailers like Wal-Mart and Target, and with major companies offering their products both online and in brick-and-mortar stores, digital marketing has become a necessity for companies to remain competitive. This principle is not only true for major franchises but small, local businesses as well. Many small businesses have thrived by offering their unique products for sale all over the country and even all over the world. However, for new consumers to hear about them, they must use digital marketing.
How to do Digital Marketing?
We need to leverage digital technologies such as websites, blogs, social media, email, and mobile apps to reach new customers, and engage existing customers in a “cost-effective” way. Here, I highlight cost-effective as small businesses cannot afford to spend millions on digital marketing.
Well, everyone says you need to have a website, and probably you have one. There are billions of websites on the internet. What advantage will you get by having a website? Believe me, the website is the foundation of digital marketing. You need to have a place to direct traffic, collect leads, and provide information to customers. You may choose to have your website, have an e-store, or even a free blog will do. But, you need to have a place on the internet where you will direct traffic.
- Content Marketing
A business owner or marketer should ask himself, “why should customers come to my website?”
This question seems simple, but once you start listing down the reasons, you may be surprised to find out that there are not enough reasons why customers should visit your website or blog. If you are selling something, thousands of other businesses are selling the same thing. Unless you have something unique to offer (and very few businesses offer something unique), you have to rely on other ways to attract customers. Content marketing is a way to attract customers. Content marketing can be defined as a way to create and distribute valuable content to attract and retain an audience. In content marketing, a business creates video, blog, social media posts, ebooks, and other materials that benefit the audience. The business does not explicitly promote a brand or product, but stimulate interest in its products and services. For example, a business in solar energy can create content on how solar energy is environment-friendly, how people can save money by installing a solar panel. People consuming that content will be motivated to install a solar panel. But, the business does not explicitly promote its products. So, a business owner should remember that content marketing is not an advertisement. It is sharing useful material with an audience that stimulates interest in its products or services.
- Content Marketing
A business owner or marketer should ask himself, “why should customers come to my website?”
This question seems simple, but once you start listing down the reasons, you may be surprised to find out that there are not enough reasons why customers should visit your website or blog. If you are selling something, thousands of other businesses are selling the same thing. Unless you have something unique to offer (and very few businesses offer something unique), you have to rely on other ways to attract customers. Content marketing is a way to attract customers. Content marketing can be defined as a way to create and distribute valuable content to attract and retain an audience. In content marketing, a business creates video, blog, social media posts, ebooks, and other materials that benefit the audience. The business does not explicitly promote a brand or product, but stimulate interest in its products and services. For example, a business in solar energy can create content on how solar energy is environment-friendly, how people can save money by installing a solar panel. People consuming that content will be motivated to install the solar panel. But, the business does not explicitly promote its products. So, a business owner should remember that content marketing is not an advertisement. It is sharing useful material with an audience that stimulates interest in its products or services.
So, what types of content assets can you use in your marketing campaign? There are varieties of content assets, ranging from social media posts to mobile apps. Some commonly used content assets are blog posts, video blogging (Vlogs), social media posts, ebooks, podcasts, and email newsletters. Creating blog posts, social media posts, and ebooks are easy. You may be tempted to ignore Vlog and podcasts. But remember that videos are more engaging. Nowadays, very few people like to read. They want someone to tell them gist, in an interesting manner. According to consumer reports, 54% of internet users want videos from their favorite brands. You can also share interesting videos on YouTube and attract more audiences to your website. Also, It is beneficial to be aware of the current online marketing trends as this may assist you in creating your own campaign or in understanding what the third party firm is suggesting.
- Social Media
Gone are the days when people used to visit the company’s website to get information. I do not say that websites are dead and you should not create a website. You must have a website, otherwise, where will your customers land? But, only having a website is not enough. A business needs to have more digital assets and more interesting ones. There are 3-4 billion social media subscribers, and each one has 2-10 social media accounts. Can you risk to ignore such a large potential customer base? Social media is the best way to engage customers and reach more people, even those you did not plan to reach. Social media channels increase traffic to your website and blogs and allow you to directly interact with your existing and potential customers as well as your distractors. Social media platforms include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Myspace, Whatsapp, Wechat, Snapchat, ShareIt, Instagram, and so on. You do not need to be on all possible social media. Do not try to be everywhere if you cannot manage it.
If You may not have enough time to quickly respond to customers’ comments. If You may not have time to regularly post on all social media platforms. You can use automated tools to make your task easy. There are plenty of free tools available on the internet that can make your life easy. A simple Google search will give you an idea of available tools. For example, Hootsuite allows us to schedule content publishing in advance. BuzzSumo and Mention provide quick insight into your social media popularity and tell about current trends.
- Email Marketing
Many people think that email marketing is already dead. Gmail automatically sends promotional emails to the Junk or Promotion category, and you never get to see that. Many marketing gurus advise to not to spend time and money on email marketing. But the reality is different. You should not ignore email marketing. It is still the most effective and cost-effective way to market your products.
Email marketing is cheap and it gives the highest ROI. So, why to ignore email marketing when you can get customers quickly and with little investment?
Email marketing does not mean bombarding junk emails in your customer’s inbox. Successful email marketing communicates with customers regularly. Do not send emails to those who are likely to mark it junk. Do not send irrelevant messages that compel the recipients to mark it junk. For example, if you send information on baby food to a college student, he is likely to mark your email junk. If people mark your email junk, it affects your reputation. Email service providers keep a close watch on the email senders and content. If many people mark your email junk, the email service provider will consider you as a spammer and your email will land in junk mailbox of the recipients. So, you will lose the attention of audiences who were likely to read your email and take positive action. Remember, it takes time to build a quality email list. But, it is worth the time and efforts.
- Search Engine Optimization
Research shows that 93% of total traffic on the internet comes from search engines. Most of the visitors to your website come from search results. People search some keywords or phrases on Google, Bing or Yahoo, and search engine throws some results. A user clicks on the result to get what he wants. Usually, people limit exploring search engine results up to 2-3 pages. No one looks at the 100th page of the search result. Many people do not look beyond the first page of the search result. So, you will get traffic from the search engine if your website is listed in the first 1-2 pages of search results. Search engines (such as Google or Bing) use their algorithms to rank pages. They look at Title of the page, Meta tag, keywords, and content. Your webpages should be optimized for search engines, otherwise, you will struggle to get the right traffic to your website. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) refers to optimizing your webpages for search engines. You can do it yourself, or take the help of professionals.
SEO is a continuous process. It includes many things including keyword selection, content relevance, and mobile compatibility. You may not see the result of SEO immediately. But over some time, it will increase the visibility of your digital property, brand awareness, traffic, and eventually, conversion.
Learn more about Dos and Don’ts of digital marketing.
How much time need to spend behind Digital Marketing?
Digital marketing is time taking process as you need to engage with the audience. No matter how many hours you spend on digital marketing, there is a scope of doing something more. But, being an entrepreneur, you cannot remain glued with mobile/computer 24/7. The optimal time it takes to conduct digital marketing depends on several factors including the size of the market you are targeting, the number of digital channels you are using for marketing, the number of staff, money spent on digital marketing, etc. You will need to spend time on marketing as well as analyzing the results. It is a good idea to spend time analyzing results and use that information to improve your digital marketing activities. If you are using social media marketing, you need to check social media pages more frequently. Your customers are not going to wait for 24 hours to get a response. If you are slow on responding to a comment on social media, you are likely to lose that customer. You should check social media pages at least once every couple of hours.
Remember, digital marketing has also become a crowded space. Every company has a formal or informal digital marketing strategy. Every company is doing some digital marketing, even if they are not controlling it. This makes it even more important for businesses’ time on digital marketing. Even if you have dedicated staff to do digital marketing, you should find some time to check analytics and see how your digital marketing efforts are paying off. I recommend spending some time daily on digital marketing.
Challenges in Digital Marketing
- Cluttered market
Digital marketing has become such a common Internet experience that many people have trained themselves, sometimes even unintentionally, to not look at ads. Some companies have attempted to circumvent this problem by offering rewards, such as frequent flyer miles or tokens of virtual currency, in return for people viewing their ads. However, even people who do this rarely pay attention to the things being advertised. They click on links, enter their email address, and collect the rewards without even stopping to think about what is being advertised. Some businesses use YouTube as an advertising venue because users frequently are required to watch ads before they can access the videos that they want to see. However, this particular audience has also trained itself to not pay attention to the ads. That is not to say that YouTube is a bad form of advertising and should be avoided. However, it is not enough.
Others have tried to get around this problem by using leads that are somehow shocking or otherwise intense. They may use language that is highly emotional or that, in an underhanded way, plays on people’s fears. This, too, is largely ineffective, as sophisticated consumers who will put their money into purchasing your product are rarely enticed by ads whose language immediately turns them off before they even know what is being offered.
You have to find new ways to rise to the top so that people who care will look at your ads. It will happen by letting people know that you can fulfill a need that they have. So, avoid all of the clever “ploys” that try to make your ad stand out like an outdated neon light in the middle of the Las Vegas strip. Instead, get straight to the heart of the message. What need do people have that your product or service can fulfill?
- Less Keyword Focus
You could associate certain keywords with your ad, and Google would automatically show your ad to people who used those keywords in their searches. If someone put in just the right words in a Google search, your ad would shoot to the top. That is no longer the case. Google has changed its marketing approach as well as the algorithms that it uses, so it now directs users to sites that address the overall topic rather than a few keywords.
With that in mind, your website needs to be more of a resource for consumers rather than just a place where you can tell them what you have to offer. Build content on your website around the topics that your product or service deals with. For example, if you want to advertise a certain vitamin and nutrient mix that may help people with early-stage Alzheimer’s, you will need to have plenty of accessible, easy-to-understand information about Alzheimer’s disease and how this particular mix can help slow its progress. In this way, Google can go through your site and direct people to it based on the phrases that they type, not just the keywords.
- More ad blockers
The general public is sick of advertising. Without ad blockers, just a few minutes online can result in so many pop-ups and new windows with ads that the Internet speed begins to slow down.
One solution to this problem is called native advertising. Native advertising is when marketers put their ads on major sites and design the ad to look like it is a part of that site. For example, on the BBC’s main website, towards the bottom of the page, you will frequently see links that will take you out of the BBC portal and onto another website for a company that has something to sell. Instead of looking like traditional ads — don’t think in terms of a giant image with a promo code — the link takes the person to useful information. It may be a blog post or an article that the person may find particularly useful or enlightening. When that person’s interest is piqued, he or she may decide to learn more about your product.
- Increased advertising costs
Advertising has proven to be exceptionally lucrative for Internet mainstays like Google and Facebook, and they are keen to make the most out of it to increase their bottom lines. They have been pushing up the cost of advertising, so you can expect to have to fork over more money to reach your target audience.
For digital marketing to remain profitable for your company, you will need to make sure that those dollars are going towards your target audience and not to random people who won’t be interested in what you have to offer. There are new programs that can help make sure that your advertisements still reach your target audience.
- Ad Fraud
Ad fraud is a scam in which a “company” tricks advertisers into buying a worthless service. They may say that their service will generate a certain number of clicks, and then utilize a horde of low-wage workers at an overseas “click farm” to click the link so many times. They may stuff websites with keywords that will artificially improve their position in a search engine results page. Marketers are then enticed to place ads on those pages, but no one will visit those pages or see the ads. There are many other types of ad fraud, all of which fill the pockets of scammers while making a sharp dent in your marketing budget.
To avoid ad fraud, the best course of action is to stick with reputable companies that have a solid history of abiding by a code of ethics.
- Lack of expertise in data implementation
Many companies are very good at data collection. They have sophisticated techniques in place that enable them to learn about their target audience. However, they don’t know how to move from data collection to data implementation. In other words, they don’t know how to use that data to attract that particular audience. As many as 40% of marketers don’t know how to draw insights from the data that they have collected!
To get around this challenge, you may want to hire a company or service that specializes in data implementation or find software or other technology that can automatically turn data collection into data implementation. You can also seek out training, via seminars, webinars, workshops, etc., that can help you learn how to effectively use the data that you have collected to attract that target audience to your product or service.
- Location is under-utilized
The phenomenal success of Pokémon Go in 2016 made one thing very clear: People don’t want to be a nameless face in a giant pool. They are actively seeking out local experiences that meet them where they are instead of trying to get them to join something new.
Many companies don’t do enough to attract people based on their geographical location because they are more focused on outdated marketing norms, such as keywords. However, marketing to people based on their location makes them feel as if they are part of an experience rather than just a computer being targeted with another ad. They are more likely to feel appreciated and click on the ad because it has a more personal touch.
Overcoming the aforementioned challenges will be crucial for your business to stand out as the digital age advances and more and more companies are vying for people’s attention.