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What is digital marketing?

Put simply, digital marketing is the promotion of products or services by any electronic media, including computers, mobile phones, tablets and game consoles. However in the last few years it has become synonymous with marketing carried out via the internet, and most people now only think of digital marketing in this way rather than its original, much broader definition. With this in mind, this article focuses on using the internet to market your business.

Why should you be doing digital marketing?

Digital marketing is both an opportunity to find new customers and engage more deeply with existing customers to increase their loyalty and frequency of purchase. In addition to these obvious benefits, digital marketing can also help you to evolve your products or services by providing valuable feedback from your prospective online market on what it would buy. If you are not already marketing online you are neglecting a growing share of your potential market and putting your business at the mercy of existing and new competitors who may spot and exploit the online opportunities before you!

How’s your digital marketing hub?

The hub of your digital marketing activities is your website, and most of your online marketing will be designed to attract visitors to your website to carry out a specific action such as subscribing to your email newsletter, signing up for a event, making an enquiry or buying online from you. Because your website is one of the first ‘touch points’ between your business and your prospects it’s crucial that it meets their expectations, otherwise you are undermining your own marketing efforts. Nowadays it is expected that your website will work on a wide range of devices, including computers, tablets and smart phones (responsive websites). If you haven’t rebuilt your website in the last few years it’s unlikely to meet modern standards and current expectations.

Attracting visitors to your website

So how do you attract visitors to your website? Here’s a summary of the main methods in use today:

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

SEO is about structuring your site page contents in such a way that people find your website when using Google or another search engine to search for a specific phrase. While there are a few technical points to consider there’s no secret to good SEO. You just need to understand the problems and desires of your target market and create frequently updated, good quality content that they will find useful. It’s for this reason that so many websites now have a blog or news section. It can take up to six months for any improvements in your pages’ positions to appear in search engine results. Unlike Pay Per Click Advertising, SEO needn’t cost you anything more than your time if you do it yourself. And unlike PPC the end results can last many months or even years with no extra cost or effort.

Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising

If SEO sounds like hard work, you can place adverts on Google and other search engines instead. Your adverts are only displayed when someone searches for the keywords you specify and you only pay when they click on your ad. Unlike SEO, a PPC campaign can start working for you within hours, and so this is a great way to drive traffic to a new website or one that has not yet been search engine optimised. However unlike SEO you pay for every click that comes from your advert to your website so it’s essential that you set a budget and measure your spend and the results. Currently Google dominates the UK search market with around 90% market share, and for this reason most advertisers use AdWords, Google’s PPC advertising platform. Other search engines include Bing (6%) and Yahoo (3%). If you’re looking for quick results and want to turn your ad spend on and off like a tap, PPC can be a great method if used carefully.

Social media

Social media marketing is a means to communicate with your target audience online and engage in a two way conversation. The most popular social networks include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube and Pinterest. However there are hundreds of others. Knowing your audience and understanding the profile of each social network will allow you to quickly identify the most relevant for your business. Broadly speaking, Facebook is better for consumer brands while LinkedIn is more suited to business to business and professional services. Twitter manages to encompass just about every audience type whereas Google+ tends to have a more ‘geeky’ user base. With Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ you can have a dedicated page for your business in addition to your own personal profile page.

The idea behind social media networks is that you build your followers by posting insightful, valuable, useful or entertaining content which is then shared with others, thereby raising awareness of your business, its products/services and expertise outside your circle of influence. Obviously social media can also be used to attract visitors to your website, for example by linking to a blog article or press release on your site. Increasingly the trend seems to be towards ‘curating’ existing content already found on social media for the benefit of your followers rather than the harder task of creating original content that demonstrates your expertise. In any case, short headlines with strong calls to action and attention grabbing images tend to work best.

Most social media networks also offer their own versions of PPC advertising but rather than your adverts being displayed based on search phrases, you control who views your ads based on the their demographic profile such as age, occupation, location, interests etc. Under pressure from its shareholders to earn more profit, Facebook is now severely limiting the number of your followers who can see your business posts in an attempt to get you to ‘boost’ your post and pay to reach your own followers. This has led to a backlash against Facebook from many established brands.

Email marketing

Email marketing is a great way to stay in touch with both prospects and customers and has a higher return on investment than just about any other marketing method. Despite this it has a poor reputation caused by a minority of organisations who don’t ask for permission before sending unsolicited email (also known as spam). To avoid being labeled a spammer yourself, always seek someone’s permission to email them first and build your own email marketing list from scratch rather than buying a list. Both your response rate and reputation will benefit! Many people now read email on the move using smartphones so it’s important that your email campaigns display well on mobile devices as well as computers. Rather than sending your email campaigns through Outlook, there are many ‘self-service’ email marketing systems available online which for a small cost allow you to create and send visually rich email campaigns and track subsequent recipient behaviour such as open rates and click-throughs. Popular systems include MailChimp, Constant Contact and DotMailer to name a few. At Cognique we have our own system used by ourselves and our clients.

Other online marketing methods exist, among them external link building. But increasingly Google and other search engines are treating aggressive link building with caution, preferring to see a more steady increase in links from other sites to your own as a sign of authentic popularity. For this reason I recommend clients avoid any ‘forced’ link building initiatives.

Measuring return on investment

The advent of the recession in 2008 saw many businesses looking for ways to spend less on marketing but still achieve the same results. Generally speaking digital marketing is easier to measure than many traditional forms of marketing such as newspaper, magazine and radio advertising so it’s no wonder many marketers and business owners now invest more in digital marketing.

Here’s just a few ideas how you can measure return on investment:

  • For PPC campaigns measure click-throughs to your website and subsequent conversion by signing up to an event or newsletter, submitting an enquiry or buying online.
  • For social media look at the level of engagement including such measures as the number of fans, followers, page likes, retweets, repins, web mentions, and sales levels.
  • For email campaigns measure click-through rates to your website and any subsequent activity.

How to create your digital marketing strategy

  • Know your audience, their needs and problems
  • Check your website is fit for purpose (hint: see the link below to our free website audit service)
  • Decide on your marketing methods
  • Set your goals and decide what to measure
  • Create and execute a 90-day activity plan
  • Measure your results each month and adjust your activities

Integrate = into great!

I spend a great deal of time talking to business owners about their marketing and I am always surprised how many are reliant upon a single marketing method to bring them new business. This is a dangerous strategy! Ideally you should be using digital and traditional marketing methods in an integrated way that is relevant to your market. If you have tried other methods in the past and they haven’t worked for you, don’t dismiss them forever. Get a second opinion from an expert – before your competitors do.

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