In the world of business development and branding, going digital is all the buzz. So just what is digital marketing and how can we use it to grow our businesses?
Digital Marketing Defined
Digital marketing is the advertising and promotion of businesses and their brands through digital media channels. Digital media, at the moment, includes websites, social media, radio, television, mobile and even forms of traditionally non-digital media such as billboards and transit signs. Essentially any marketing media that is delivered electronically is considered digital marketing.
This leaves only various forms of person-to-person (P2P) marketing, print advertising and direct marketing outside of the digital marketing umbrella. Even then, print ads, direct mail, print directories, billboards and posters are all starting to connect to their digital counterparts. With items like URL landing pages, QR codes, web banner advertising, online directories and text codes, traditional marketing and advertising almost always has a digital marketing connection.
Why the Focus on Digital Media?
The shift to digital media is being driven by marketing agencies, business owners and consumers alike. The ever-increasing demand to show quantifiable results makes going digital a dream for the digital marketing agency. Most digital media, including websites, social media and mobile advertising is much easier to track than traditional marketing media such as print advertising.
For business owners, many forms of digital advertising are very low cost. Having a web presence, engaging customers in conversations through social media and e-mail marketing are low cost alternatives to print advertising and direct mail. These digital channels are available to businesses of any size, and help to even the playing field for start-ups, small businesses and independent consultants seeking new business.
For consumers, the fast pace of life makes digital advertising a must. When consumers are in need of goods and services, gone are the days of thumbing through a phonebook to find them. Now, we whip out our mobile devices or head to our computers for answers – and we find them fast.
Using Digital Media to Build Your Business and Brand
No matter what size your business is – large or small to medium sized business / enterprise (SMB or SME) – you can effectively market your business through low-cost digital channels. The foundation of your marketing efforts will be your website. Invest wisely in your website, and be sure that it does the following:
- Adequately represents your business and brand (look and feel, messaging)
- Adequately speaks to your target audience
- Can be found by searchers on top search engines
- Is up-to-date and easily navigable
- Provides multiple channels for customer communication
- Connects to other marketing efforts
It is recommended that you work with a professional web design firm that is skilled in web development and search engine optimization. Because your website is the foundation to and from which all other digital channels will lead, it should be considered one of your top business investments.
Once you have your website complete, the next steps would be to launch regular monthly or bi-monthly e-mail campaigns, and connect with customers via social media. If you are truly on a shoestring budget, these are efforts that can be done in-house (by someone with the proper knowledge) or for a low cost by an outside digital marketing agency. Be sure that all of your efforts lead customers back to your website where they can fully engage with your business, products and services, and choose the channels through which they contact you.
If you're interested in getting aggressive with search marketing, you can set aside some digital marketing dollars for search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising. Many businesses today rely heavily on being found online to gain new customers. A common misconception among business owners is that simply having a website means that customers will find it. Not so. Your site must be built with specific key words and phrases, meta data, page content and linking strategies that will help it reach top search rankings.
Because many key words and phrases have stiff competition for top search rankings, you will need to supplement your organic search engine optimization efforts with pay-per-click advertising. Getting established with pay-per-click advertising campaigns can be a little daunting, but with a little time, effort and instruction, that too can be accomplished in-house, or for a reasonable cost through an outside digital marketing agency.
Beyond e-mail, social media marketing and search engine marketing, you can venture into a host of other digital marketing efforts. Mobile advertising, radio, television, electronic billboards and much more are available as marketing outlets. Whatever digital efforts you choose, they should all connect and tie into your foundation – your company website.
If you have the means, a wise investment would be to engage the services of a digital marketing agency to assist in your marketing efforts. Today, many digital agencies offer multiple levels of service to accommodate businesses large and small.