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What is Digital Marketing? (+ How To Do It)

  • Diane FanucchiDiane Fanucchi

If you have a business of any kind, you’ve probably been told you need some kind of digital marketing plan.

After all, we’re living in a digital age, where the average consumer spends a considerable amount of time online. If your business doesn’t have an online presence – and a digital marketing plan – you’re missing out on an opportunity to reach people where they’re spending time. 

You’re also less likely to be found or come to mind when someone needs your product or service.

If your business is an online-based business, whether that’s ecommerce or an information business, then digital marketing is even more essential.

You likely know all this is true, but chances are you have a number of questions, starting with “what exactly is digital marketing?”

Let’s begin by looking at a brief definition of digital marketing.

What is Digital Marketing?

In short, digital marketing is any marketing that uses some kind of electronic device. It can include advertisements, such as Pay-per-click ads, but also encompasses various forms of online or mobile content.

Much of digital marketing uses the written word in some way, but audio and video are also key components. 

It takes many forms and focuses on various goals, but the defining factor is how it is accessed. People consume digital marketing on computers, tablets, and smartphones. They do it at home, at the office, and on the go. 

Social media posts, podcasts, blogs, and emails are forms of digital marketing, and they all incorporate what people are doing on a daily basis. A good social media strategy includes and coordinates various formats and platforms.

Another important component of many kinds of digital marketing is that they can be interactive. 

For instance, when potential customers comment on your blog posts or social media profiles, they’re not just hearing a message, but also responding to – and potentially shaping – that message. 

This makes your customers feel heard and engaged, and they provide you with valuable information that helps you serve them better and customize your message to their needs.

Clearly, digital marketing takes many forms and has rich potential for reaching your audience and converting them into clients or customers. 

It also helps build your brand, so you can be identified, trusted, and remembered.

What Are the Different Types of Digital Marketing?

There are many types of digital marketing you can choose from. You’ll want to use more than one, but you don’t have to do everything all at once

Let’s look at just a few popular options.

1. Social Media 

Nearly everyone has heard of social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. The number of platforms grows at a dizzying rate, and different ones better meet the needs of different demographics and types of businesses.

Most social media posts are brief and snappy in nature. They often make liberal use of visual images, video, and sometimes sound.

Social media marketing can accomplish many objectives. You can use it to build brand recognition, reach and understand your target customer, and engage with them in an interactive way, almost like a conversation.

It also comes with ways to keep track of who you’re attracting, and what is and isn’t working.

2. Content Marketing

Content marketing includes blog posts, articles, email newsletters, and case studies. It focuses on customer relationships and authority building. 

Less focused on making an immediate sale than other types of digital marketing, it takes a long-term, informational approach. Audiences who are increasingly wary of being sold to may appreciate this type of digital marketing.

You provide useful “non-salesy” information that helps people get to know your brand and trust you as an authority in your field. 

Ideally the content you provide is engaging enough that people will consume it for its own sake, but also persuasive enough to help you reach your long-term goals of wider recognition, more sales, and customer loyalty.

3. Email Marketing

Marketing emails can take many forms, some more directly promotional than others. But they are targeted to a particular audience and received with the customer’s permission, such as through an email opt-in list.

Since the emails arrive in a prospect’s inbox, email marketing can be a more direct way to approach prospects than waiting for them to come searching for you. 

And since you already know what they’re expecting when they sign up, you know what type of content will likely appeal to them.

4. Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Ads 

This encompasses various types of ad copy on various platforms. Facebook ads are one example.

Like the name says, you only pay when someone clicks on your ad. 

These tend to involve a much higher upfront expense, but may also yield quicker results than some other digital marketers’ tools. 

Your budget, timeline, and goals will help determine whether PPC ads are worth investing in, especially when you’re starting out. Dagmar Marketing offers PPC marketing for local businesses. Check them out to gather more information.

5. Mobile Marketing

While you’ll want to make sure your digital marketing methods are optimized to work well on mobile devices, there are other types of marketing specifically for mobile devices.

Some examples include text message marketing and in-app ads. 

Again, people spend considerable time on their smartphones, wherever they happen to be. So, mobile marketing is another way to reach people where they’re already spending time.

What are the Benefits of Digital Marketing?

1. More Cost-Effective Than Other Methods

Compared to print and television advertising, direct mail campaigns, and other forms of traditional marketing, most forms of digital marketing cost less, and have the potential to deliver a much better ROI.

You can reach more people for the same amount of investment in time and money. 

Also, you can start with the less expensive options, such as content and social media marketing, and add in more formats as your following and budget increase.

2. Not Constrained By Geography

Since people can go online anywhere in the world and see the content you place there, you’re not limited to a particular part of the country or even the world.

You can reach people globally for no extra expenditure of time, effort, or money. 

Of course, you can target some of your digital marketing efforts to a local market if you choose to, but you aren’t limited by any kind of physical barriers in who you can reach.

You also aren’t constrained by time barriers. If someone isn’t tuned in when a radio or television ad airs, you don’t reach them. But with many digital efforts, you can reach people when they’re ready. 

3. Helps Build Authority, Brand Awareness, and Relationships

Much of what you put on the internet stays there to be consumed when and where your audience wants, so they’ll likely keep thinking of you when they’ve read your post, article, email, or ad. 

They’ll come to know and trust you over time, and they’ll also know where to find you when they need you.

And since they can comment, respond, and even help shape your message, they’ll feel heard, seen and valued. They may even become ambassadors for your business who will want to tell others about their good experiences.

4. Produces Measurable Results

Whether it’s comments, shares, clicks, spending, or responses to marketing emails, you get detailed information on what’s working, what isn’t, and why.

Some results come in specific metrics, so you don’t only see responses, but can also access a tangible record of the actions, purchases, and revenue that result.

This information can help you decide how to adapt your efforts for optimal effectiveness.

5. Digital Marketing is Adaptable and Responsive

Once you have the specific information mentioned above, you’ll have a clearer idea of how to adapt your message and strategy to better meet the needs of your audience – and better achieve your end goals.

You can make some of these changes quickly and on short notice, because of the nature of digital efforts, which are accessible, dynamic, and easy to adjust.

6. Lets You Reach People Where They’re Already Spending Time

As we’ve already shown, people spend time in the digital world anyway. They visit websites, read blogs, visit social media sites, check email, and use their smartphones for pretty much everything.

If you incorporate your marketing into what people are already doing, you’re taking advantage of a rich resource. 

If you don’t, you not only miss out on opportunities, but will likely get overlooked in favor of businesses who do fully utilize the digital space.

How to Plan a Digital Marketing Strategy

For digital marketing to be effective, it’s crucial to have a well-crafted digital marketing strategy . Here are some steps for designing a digital marketing strategy that works.

Step 1: Identify Your Marketing Goals

Before you invest time and money in a marketing plan, you want to know what your initial goals are. Where possible, these goals should be measurable and time-specific.

This way, you’ll be clear on what you’re trying to achieve and also have a better idea of what components to include in your strategy. 

And you’ll be able to see which parts of your strategy deliver those results most effectively.

Of course with any marketing plan your ultimate goal is to increase sales or revenue. That said, there are many other goals you may want your digital marketing efforts to achieve.

These could include:

  • Building authority: becoming known as a knowledgeable and trustworthy expert in your field
  • Brand recognition: your company and product become easily recognizable and stand out from the crowd
  • Customer loyalty: instead of making one purchase, your ideal customer will continue to do business with you, and even provide referrals
  • More subscribers: increase subscribers for your email list or other service
  • More traffic: increase traffic to your website or activity on your blog and social media accounts

Once you know what goals you want to work toward, this can help you decide what kind of marketing to do, how to measure the results, and how to adjust your efforts based on those results.

Step 2: Understand Your Target Audience

To effectively reach your target audience, you need to know who they are. There might even be a few smaller segments within your larger audience, but you want to know what each of them is like, in detail. 

This will help you craft your message and choose your channels.

This detailed picture of your target audience is often referred to as a customer profile. It includes things like their age, gender, income, hobbies, values, and key problems you can help them solve.

The better you know who you’re doing business with, the more adept you’ll be at finding them, communicating effectively with them, and giving them good reason to choose your products or services.

Step 3: Choose Your Marketing Channels

Once you know your primary goals and your target audience, you’ll have a better idea of the digital marketing channels and formats that have the most potential for you.

You’ll want to know where your prospects spend time and money. Which social media channels do they use? Do they prefer short or long content? Do they spend more time reading, watching, or listening?

If, for example, your target audience is young professionals who think Facebook is for their parents, you might not want to spend a fortune on Facebook ads or spend much of your marketing efforts there.

If they don’t read much, you may decide to forgo a newsletter or long-form blog posts. 

You’ll want to answer questions such as: 

  • Where do they spend time online? 
  • How do they like to consume information? 
  • What channels do they use?
  • What gets their attention, builds their trust, and leads to results?

Of course you’ll also need to take the specifics of your business into consideration. What is your business size and type? How big – or small – is your budget? How much time do you have to implement your plan? Are you just starting out or looking to grow? 

After taking all of this into consideration, hopefully you’ll have a much clearer idea of where to focus your digital marketing efforts. Of course you’ll have to make some educated guesses, but it gives you a place to start.

Step 4: Set Clear Benchmarks for Success

Since you already have clear goals in place, you also want to set clear ways of measuring if, how, and where you’re reaching those goals.

You’ll want to have a plan to use all the metrics available to you to check in frequently and see how you’re doing and where you need to adjust.

Some goals, such as a certain number of additional email subscribers or sales numbers, will be easier to measure.

Others, such as brand and authority building may be less tangible and take more time.

However, if you decide ahead of time what specifically to look for you’ll have a better idea of the quality of your results, and what changes to make as you go forward.

Step 5: Develop and Launch Your Strategy

Now that you have a strategy mapped out, it’s time to start putting it into action.

With your goals and benchmarks defined, and a detailed understanding of your audience, you’ll have a clearer idea of what to do first.

Craft your message, choose your channels and marketing types, and get started somewhere.

Some steps of your strategy, such as creating your website and ads, and initiating your social media pages, will be fairly quick to put into place. 

Others, such as content marketing, email campaigns, and social media engagement are ongoing, and you need to be consistent about keeping those strategies going.

So start somewhere, then keep implementing each aspect of your strategy until you have all of your initial elements in action, and monitor each of them to see how they’re doing.

Step 6: Adjust and Optimize Your Strategy Over Time

One of the obvious benefits of any digital marketing strategy is that you can make changes along the way. The nature of digital marketing means you’ll get ongoing feedback and can make adjustments fairly quickly, easily, and inexpensively.

You know where you want to go, and how to measure what that should look like, so if some of your strategy isn’t delivering as well as you’d hoped, you can change course. If something is working surprisingly well, do more of that.

Your digital marketing plan, like your business, is a growing, changing, dynamic entity. 

The beauty of it is that you can shape it as you go along, armed with the information the digital world so readily provides.

Ready to Create Your Digital Marketing Plan?

Now that you have a better idea of what digital marketing is, some of its popular forms, and specific ways it can benefit your business, you probably can’t wait to get started.

Maybe you’re starting to form your digital marketing strategy, or at least some idea of how to do digital marketing in a way that fits your business.

You may have an idea of which channels you’d like to try first, and some of the steps you can take to plan and implement your strategy. 

Whatever your first step might be, we encourage you to go ahead and take it now!