Forget the latest marketing trends and buzzwords – here are five digital marketing basics you should get to grips with first
Optimisation, conversion, SEO, social media and brand consistency – five components of digital marketing mastery. Photograph: Walker And Walker/Getty Images
The digital landscape of today often either scares off marketing professionals who feel they aren’t high-tech enough to implement a successful online strategy – or tempts them to leap into the complicated but fancy world of high-tech CRM.
The reality lies somewhere in the middle. A good digital marketing plan isn’t difficult, but it relies on a foundation of basic tools. Make sure you have these areas strongly in place before expanding your digital marketing outreach.
Brand identification and consistency
What is the story you are telling your customers? Understanding what your brand stands for is the north star that should guide all your online activities, says Matthew Childs, senior vice-president at GSD&M advertising agency. “It will help you decide what words, phrases and concepts you’ll use in search engine optimisation (SEO).” Your digital design and content should be consistent in clearly identifying your brand across all channels, including website, mobile apps, social networks and email.
Around 89% of consumers use a search engine to find information on products or services before buying, according to a recent report from Fleishman-Hillard, and 70% of purchase decisions begin with a search. Childs calls search engine marketing (SEM) the low-hanging fruit of paid digital marketing. “It has the clearest ROI of anything digital – you only pay for it when someone clicks to your website.” Creating original content that is informational and useful to your potential customers is an important part of any digital marketing plan.
This is the digital marketing silver bullet if there ever was one, says Guy Martin Smalley, Founder of Bowery Creative in British Columbia, Canada. If a website doesn’t have valuable, original content, it won’t perform well. Marketers also need to ensure that content is optimised for email contact, different browsers and mobile devices – the fastest growing way people are consuming digital media. “Search engines punish websites that don’t have frequently updated content,” Smalley says. “The simple solution? Set up a blog, and reach out to other bloggers and webmasters to feature your content on their sites.”
Social media outreach
Social media helps create a conversation between you and your customers. Its interactive nature is key – you want to grow a discussion about your industry, business and products. Social media can also play a big role in getting your email marketing up to speed, as it allows you to invite members of your social community to sign up for news, giveaways or more information.
Communication strategist Simona Stefanescu, owner of Simona Media, suggests that companies pick two or three social media platforms and concentrate on mastering those. “Determine which serves your purpose better. Facebook is king – the largest social media platform in the world, available in most countries. For the businesses based on visual, Pinterest works better. For those based on information, Twitter may be a good choice. Location-based entities may benefit from FourSquare or Yelp.”
Stefanescu adds that Google+ has seen a fast rise over the last few months, to become the second most used platform in the world. “It may be a good option because it combines features of all other social media platforms.”
Sales leads and conversion
All of your marketing should be geared towards capturing customer information, says Ini Augustine. The CEO of SocialWise Media Group notes that it takes at least seven separate touches for a customer to respond. “One site visit isn’t going to help you long term,” says Augustine. “Invite new visitors to sign up for your newsletter, download a white paper, or Fan you on Facebook.” This builds a customer base across many mediums that can be cultivated over the long term.
Analytics software such as google analytics has opened up a whole new world of demographic targeting. “Google analytics users can see exactly where their visitors are coming from geographically, what sites are referring traffic to them, and what search terms are resulting in traffic, sales or conversions,” says Smalley. “Google analytics is free, easy to learn, and in my opinion, an indispensible digital marketing tool.”
Once these basics are in place and mastered, you can move on to more high-tech CRM. Although it may sound counter-intuitive, a digital marketing plan cannot rely on technology; it’s about your message and overall strategy. Technology simply provides the tools.
“Digital media does not automatically sell your product, or bring you business just because you promote it online,” Stefanescu says. “Digital media is constant networking communication, information, listening, and customer service enhanced.”
Shelley Seale is a freelance journalist and author based in Austin, Texas.