Digital Marketing

The Growing Importance of Online Marketing

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The digital revolution has transformed the world of business and most of the traditional marketing’s rules. Along with the new possibilities and tools, the buying behaviour has changed too. So, nowadays, more often than not, you can see consumers that start their buyer’s journey online – and many times end it there as well.

The digital era has left businesses with two options: adopt digital marketing as the new marketing standard, or fail. Because, not being present on the online map, is the same as not existing at all.

That’s why it is essential that companies understand digital marketing and the available digital tools, and learn how they can make use of them in the quest for growing their customers’ base, and consequently – their business.

In today’s article, we will help you do just that: we’ll explain the types of online marketing and its stages, list the type of content suited for each stage, and give you a step-by-step plan to starting your own digital marketing journey.

So, read on!

ONLINE MARKETING: WHAT IS IT AND WHAT ARE ITS BENEFITS?

Before we get down to the details of digital marketing and introduce some of the tactics you can use to strengthen your position on the market, let’s first define what digital marketing is and go over some of its benefits.

Digital marketing, otherwise referred to as online marketing, is a way to market products, services, and the brands that offer them using digital channels.

The tools that digital marketing utilizes are many, and although learning how to use them all might seem confusing in the beginning, they ultimately make marketing much easier than it ever was.

Let’s take a quick look at the key benefits of online marketing.

TARGETED REACH AND PERSONALIZATION

With digital marketing, the word “distance” seizes to exist. Companies can reach hundreds of millions of customers, regardless of their location. Moreover, having all information about everyone with an online presence, the internet makes targeting a piece of cake.

Businesses can stop wasting their efforts on the wrong audiences, and spend more time and resources marketing to qualified leads. The availability of information also makes personalization possible, which means a greater value for the customers, and a higher chance of conversion for the businesses.

REDUCED COSTS

Can you imagine how much it would cost reaching such a vast audience using the traditional marketing channels?

The numbers would probably be so big, that it would be impossible to imagine.

Cost efficiency is one of the top advantages of online marketing – sometimes the only cost of advertising is your time.

DATA GATHERING

As we already mentioned, the internet has all the information about everyone with an online presence stored. Including you, and your prospects.

Since all the interactions with your leads and prospects are recorded, you have an overview of the impact of your operations available at all times.

Of course, just gathering the data is not enough – you have to understand what this data means and use the conclusions you get to build more personalized relationships, optimize your strategies and always stay ahead of your competitors.

TYPES OF ONLINE MARKETING

Now that you know what online marketing is and why it is essentials that both online businesses and brick and mortar companies adopt it lets list and explain the main types of online marketing.

Note that all of these types should not be used in isolation – instead you should incorporate them all in an integrated marketing strategy.

SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION

Search Engine Optimization, or shortly SEO, is a process of optimizing websites to rank well on search engines, and thus bring free, organic traffic to the site.

The problem is that the algorithms that search engines use to rank content continuously change, so if a business is to stay relevant in the digital economy, keeping up with the best search engine optimization practices is vital.

CONTENT MARKETING

You’ve surely heard the phrase: “Content is king.”

There’s nothing untrue about that saying. Content is the single best way to provide value to your audience.

We know, we know – everyone talks about value.

Well, that’s because people only buy when they feel that they are getting something in return.

Moreover, content is the only way you can capture your prospects’ interest and nurture your leads, as usually, content marketing means delivering value without always selling.

SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING

In a world where almost every person that has internet access is a social media user, passing up the opportunities that social media platforms create for businesses would be a huge mistake.

Reaching out to the audience present on social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram or Pinterest allows businesses to increase brand awareness, drive traffic to their website and generate leads. Moreover, social media empowers companies to engage in two way communication with their audience, and thus improve customer engagement and satisfaction.

PAY-PER-CLICK (PPC)

Although working on your SEO is imperative in order to increase your organic traffic, you should not overlook the value of other types of traffic as well. Why? Because SEO takes a long time to yield results, while PPC ads allow your website to climb to the top of the search engine results page (SERP) almost immediately.

AFFILIATE MARKETING

Affiliate marketing is marketing through different blogs and sites relevant to your industry. A blog site that reaches your target audience can promote your products and services, and for every lead that makes a purchase through that blog, you pay them a commission.

NATIVE ADVERTISING

As it is a truth generally accepted that people hate ads, and avoid them as much as they can, marketers came up with a savvy way to hide adverts in plain sight – a tactic they called native advertising.

Native advertising is actually placing ads next to other editorial content – while making the ads look just like the content they are placed next to.

EMAIL MARKETING

Many people believe that when social media became the new online marketing standard, emails lost their significance. However, emails have always been, and probably will always be one of the most effective marketing tools.

Email marketing allows you to communicate any kind of news, updates, or promotions to your customers, nurture leads and build powerful sales funnels that convert in a matter of minutes.

ONLINE PR

Whenever brands build relationships with influencers, key content writers, or online journalists, you can say that they are engaging in online PR. Online PR focuses on getting high-quality backlinks and driving referral traffic.

MARKETING AUTOMATION

Wow. So many things to consider, right?

And here we are, telling you that you should implement everything that we discussed so far in your marketing strategy. How is that possible?

Well, thankfully, you do not have to do all of these things manually. Instead you can automate them, using marketing automation software, created to help you prioritize and execute repetitive marketing tasks like social media or emails.

Do not confuse marketing automation with sending general messages to your following. When you use it right, marketing automation software helps you narrow your target audience down, create high-converting funnels and share more focused messages that are in line with your goals, without requiring your constant, undivided attention.

CONVERSION OPTIMISATION

Don’t mistake the term “conversion” with a particular event, such as a sale.

Conversion means nothing until you give it a meaning. In other words, you have to set your goals and what you want to accomplish, to be able to define what conversion means for you.

You conversion optimization strategy should help you state things clearer: people will not know what kind of action you want them to take unless you tell them. In other words, to optimize your conversion rates, you have to find a way to create a clear, inviting call to actions and clearly articulate your intentions.

ANALYTICS

Data means nothing until you make sense of it. Just gathering data, without using it as a basis for making wiser, more informed decisions does not help you in any way.

Data analysis allows you to understand what data means and improve your performance according to those insights.

Here are a couple of things to keep in mind when you are analyzing data:

  • Measure the results at every stage of the funnel, instead of looking at just the ending numbers
  • Use hypothesis testing to put the data into action, and use it to make decisions
  • Don’t forget the importance of context, as data itself does not always give you all the information you need

THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN B2B AND B2C ONLINE MARKETING

Usually, people associate online marketing with individual customers, although it can be used even in B2B relationships just as successfully.

However, there are a couple of key differences between the B2C and B2B marketing landscape that you should be aware of.

The Length of the Customer Journey

When you are marketing to businesses, you should expect slow and calculated decisions, unlike B2C decisions, which can be made even in just a few moments. That’s why when it comes to B2B marketing, nurturing your leads is essential – as your customers are in the evaluation stage for so long, you need to provide them with all the support they need to move to the next stage.

Buyer Motivation

The reason that B2B journeys take so long is that when making a decision, businesses have to make sure that it is the right thing to do for the whole corporation – and not just for one sector. This means that usually, before making the final call, a series of pitches are made at different levels of the hierarchy.

When it comes to B2C relationships, on the other hand, they start and continue solely because of the interest of an individual.

Marketing Focus

Another point of difference between marketing to B2B and B2C is the focus of the marketing message. When marketing to individual customers you should focus on the attributes of the product and how they can bring value, and when marketing to businesses you should focus on building a strong relationship.

THE STAGES OF ONLINE MARKETING

Ever since the beginning of marketing, marketers have used sales funnels to gain the interest of their prospects and convert them into leads. With the digital revolution, building sales funnels have become as easy as it can be.

Each sales funnel goes through three stages:

Interest and Awareness

When the prospects first discover your brand, they are at the top of the funnel. Each stage has its own challenges, and the biggest challenge in the awareness stage is standing out in the sea of online content, and grabbing your customers’ attention.

Evaluation

Customers in the middle of the funnel are considering your products and services and evaluating whether making a purchase will bring them the expected value. This is the part where you have to convince your prospects that your products are superior to your competitors’ and that you are their best choice.

Conversion

If you successfully push your prospects through the middle of the funnel, you will have them at its bottom, where they move from the phase of making a decision – to taking action.

HOW TO GET STARTED

So far, we went over two imperative marketing truths:

  1. People consider buying from you, only when you convince them that your business and products bring them value
  2. Content is the best possible way to deliver value

We also went through the customer journey and its three stages and explained how your prospects’ awareness of your brand and their interest differ in each stage.

So, now it is time that we combine all this knowledge together and explain how to create your online marketing strategies.

#1. DEVELOPING A CONTENT STRATEGY

By now, you should understand that the prospects at the start of their customer journey are not interested in the same information as those at the middle – or the bottom. A content strategy is merely choosing the right kind of information to present to your customers at the right stage of their journey.

Let’s go over the funnel stages again and list the content that works best with each one of them.

Awareness and Interest Stage: EBooks, Blog Posts, Infographics, Short Videos

The awareness stage is all about free information, packed in different forms. Regardless of what kind of content you decide to create – be it an EBook, a video, a webinar, or a blog post, what you need to do is to spark the interest of your prospects by sharing free knowledge that helps them solve some dilemma or problem.

Evaluation Stage: Testimonials, Case Studies

Let’s say you successfully got people’s interest. Great!

But that does not mean that your job is done. If you don’t push them through to the bottom of the funnel, chances are many of them will remain stuck in the middle.

The best way to convince people that they need your product is through peer pressure and social proof.

People do not believe brands and advertisements as much as they believe other people.

Action Stage: Promotions, Discounts, Limited Time Offers

Leading your customers to the bottom part of the funnel does not mean that they will become your customers. Some of them will buy your product on their own, but others need the extra push. That is when introducing a ticking clock offers such as discounts and promotions can come in handy.

#2. DEVELOPING A SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION STRATEGY

Long gone are the days when you could stuff your content with keywords and any kind of backlinks and see your website appear on the first search engine results page. Now, if you want to stand out, you have to design an SEO strategy.

This strategy is closely related to your content strategy, since, in order for your content to be relevant, you don’t only have to provide quality, but also build it using the SEO best practices.

Every successful SEO strategy is a puzzle consisting of four pieces:

Technical SEO

Technical SEO is the process of optimizing your website, so it is compatible with search engine guidelines, and providing the best environment so search engines can crawl, index and rank your page effortlessly. The purpose of technical SEO is to solve any technical problems your page might have, to make the site mobile friendly, create an intuitive structure of your content, and increase the loading speed.

In other words, technical SEO focuses on improving your page so your visitors can have a satisfactory customer journey.

On-Site SEO

After making sure you have a good content structure on your site, you can apply on-site SEO which consists of keyword research, keyword dense page titles, clear, descriptive URLs, keyword dense content and precise call to actions.

Let us give you a piece of mind: On-site SEO is much harder to implement if you first don’t optimize your technical SEO.

Off-Site SEO

Off-Site SEO is built through online PR, and its purpose is establishing your brand’s authority. However, when it comes to link building you should not focus on the quantity, but on the quality. In other words, what you want are links coming from relevant sources, and the best way to get such links is to first create high-quality, valuable content.

Content

You might have noticed that we mention content in each section of this article. It seems that content is king after all. Content is not only blog posts like many people assume. Generally speaking, there are three types of information you should give through your webpage’s content:

  • What’s your business and where it is located
  • What makes you better than your competition, and why a visitor should engage with your business
  • Relevant information that positions you as an authority on the market

#3. DEVELOPING A SEARCH ENGINE MARKETING STRATEGY

Developing your SEO marketing strategy has a few stages.

First, you have to find out what the “what” and the “why”: what people are looking for and why they need to find their information.

Then, it is time that you satisfy those needs by building relevant content that will answer their questions and pick a channel to optimize for.

And finally, once you have all of this down, it is time that you optimize the content. To do this, you have to imagine the customer journey and decide when and where to place a call to action. Make sure that you don’t limit yourself and optimize only for your search traffic – instead, the goal of your optimization should be making a conversion.

#4. DEVELOPING A SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGY

The biggest mistake you can make is underestimating social media marketing. And, you’d be surprised to know how many marketers do.

Many people think that being present on social media is enough. They’ll post an image or a short tweet and cross their fingers waiting for engagement.

However, it’s not as easy as it might seem.

When you are developing a social media strategy, there are four stages you have to go through if you are expecting any success:

  • Social listening is the activity of monitoring your customers and responding to all customer concerns you might find on the web.
  • Social influencing is quite self-explanatory. Becoming an influencer means establishing authority on the web, usually through sharing appealing and valuable content.
  • Social networking is the same as networking in real life – it consists of associating with influencers and authorities brands present on the platforms.
  • Social selling is the act of driving sales from existing customers and turning prospects into leads

Although each one of these stages is a puzzle part without which social media success cannot be guaranteed, the first stage, social listening, is the most significant, as it is the source of all data that allows you to perform every other step well.

#5. DEVELOPING AN EMAIL MARKETING STRATEGY

Email marketing is everyone’s favorite for a reason: you can use it for branding, customer retention, sales, getting referrals, driving traffic and many other purposes. In other words, you can use it for communicating any kind of information, in any stage of the customer journey.

Generally speaking, there are three types of emails:

  • Transactional emails are usually sent by automated systems as a response to a trigger event such as signing up.
  • Relational emails are sent out in order to nurture leads and retain your current customers.
  • Promotional emails are used for generating sales.

These types of emails are not excluding one another: you should use each one, depending on the funnel stage your customers are in. However, no matter what type of email you send, there’s one thing you should keep in mind.

Although your email marketing efforts usually bring you profit, that is not its purpose.

Instead, when you are thinking about the way you should develop your email marketing strategy, you should be thinking about the way you can most efficiently and effectively make your leads move from one stage of their customer journey to the next one.

#6. DEVELOPING A CONVERSION OPTIMIZATION STRATEGY

When we’re talking about a conversion optimization strategy, we’re not talking about driving new traffic to your page, but about optimizing what you already have.

As with every other strategy, this one too is developed in a couple of stages:

  • Decide what you’ll optimize and set your goals, both short-term, and long-term
  • Gather and analyze the data
  • Create a hypothesis and different variations that you are planning to test
  • Run the tests
  • … Analyze. Again.

Note that these stages are not linear – instead, think of optimization as a circle: after the final stage ends, the first one begins again. The process of optimization should not be a one-time thing, but a usual thing you do all the time.

THE IMPORTANCE OF MOBILE FOR ONLINE MARKETING

Although creating mobile-friendly content is part of technical SEO, we decided to create a separate section to accentuate its importance.

Nowadays, people gravitate toward using smartphones for many of the tasks they used to do on other internet-enabled devices: communication, online research (price comparisons, product reviews), and even online shopping.

With smartphones becoming a necessity rather than an accessory, if you don’t have a mobile website, you’re not only missing out on the opportunity to be better ranked on search engines, but you’re also risking your customer satisfaction levels.

WHEN TO EXPECT RESULTS

Now that we have explained the basics of online marketing, its types, and strategies, you must be wondering how long it’ll take for each of the online marketing strategies to yield results.

Although it depends from case to case, there are a few general rules that’ll probably be true for you too.

With PPC for example – what you pay is what you get. So, the results are more or less immediate.

SEO, on the other hand, takes a little longer. With SEO, you should expect to get similar results as you get with PPC around a year after you’ve collected enough long-tail keywords.

Finally, content marketing takes a long time to yield results, but it also requires your continuous attention and activity.

So, stay focused, and be patient. The time that you need to wait to see the results will be long forgotten once the traffic and leads start flowing in.

SETTING YOUR ONLINE MARKETING BUDGET

The time has come to answer the burning question: how much does it all cost?

Well, it all depends.

It can cost nothing… and it can cost a fortune.

First, you should decide is whether you will outsource your online marketing or you prefer to do it yourself. Naturally, outsourcing costs more.

If you do it yourself, the next thing you should consider are the available online marketing tools.

If you are a small business, then free tools will do, but as you grow, you’ll notice that you need more data, options, and better support – so chances are you’ll have to switch to some of the paid versions.

Final Notes

The question whether you should build and implement a digital marketing strategy, is the wrong one to ask. How you can go about implementing it, should instead be your focus.

Whether you’re a startup, or a company with a loyal following, online marketing can only open more opportunities for your business. The good thing about it marketing is that you can everyone can afford it, regardless of their business’ level of development.

However, there is one cost that cannot be avoided, and you should be prepared to bare. And that cost, is your time.

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