What is digital marketing and why should you care?

Posted By:
Lifeline Design

You may have heard of digital marketing, but what is it exactly? More to the point, why should your business care?

How marketing used to work 

To understand digital marketing, first we need to look at the way traditional marketing operates.

The old fashion way of doing marketing was, and is, a percentage game. First, you'd create an ad like a direct mail flyer or offer, a spot in a publication, a radio bit, or even a television commercial. Then, you'd pay for the privilege of using whatever medium you chose to reach as many people as you possibly could, and it would be dispersed to the public through that medium. 

This was the way it's been done from since the creation of the printing press, up to today. In all that time though, advertisers never quite worked out all of the kinks.

The problem with traditional advertising is that it's unpredictable. You send your ad out there, hoping that the right people (your target customers) hear or see it, but you have no way of knowing that for certain. Sure, you can tip the odds in your favor (advertise in trade magazines and papers popular with your customers, run commercials during extremely popular shows) but at the end of the day, there is a lot of luck involved. You're always going to be wasting money sending your ad to people who will never want or need your product or service – dollars down the drain.

Then you have to compete to grab eyeballs. As a society, we've become very good at tuning out what we don't want to see - and no offense, but that probably includes your ad. 

There is a reason people call it "junk mail.” Nobody really wants a mailbox full of ads. Half the time they go directly from the mailbox to the trashcan. Heck, entire industries owe their existence to the fact that people don't want to see ads. Netflix is popular not just because it lets you watch the shows you want to see when you want, but that you can see them without commercials!

After all that, even if you reach the right people, even if you get their attention, it can be hard to tell how well your advertising really worked. How many sales did it really push? How many people looked at the ad and threw it in the trash? Compared to the cost of making and placing the ad, how much money did you really make? 

Digital marketing is all about finally working out those kinks.

Why digital marketing is better

Digital marketing is all about knowing who your advertising to and how they respond. Instead of playing a numbers game like dice, it's more like playing darts. You know where your target is, you know what you're trying to do, and you know when you've missed, and when you've hit the bulls-eye.

With digital marketing, you can specifically groom your message and address it to specific people. You can focus in on your target market, and even identify the customers who are most ready to buy. You can even create a marketing flow that is designed to take spark interest in unready, or so called "window shopping” customers, build a relationship with them, and be poised to reach out to them when they finally are ready to buy.

The end result is that you see a higher return on every advertising dollar spent, and have the information you need to further refine and perfect your message.

So how is it done?

Digital marketing is a complex field, and there are too many techniques and specifics to list here. But I can take you through the general types of digital marketing.

Pay-Per-Click advertising:
Pay-per-click, or PPC advertising, is a type of digital marketing where advertisers pay a fee each time one of their ads is clicked. Typically, you work with data rich sites such as Google or Facebook to place your ad during relevant searches or to customers who fit a specific profile. 

What's particularly powerful about PPC is that is is extremely cost effective and direct. Instead of paying for an ad that nobody may care about, you only pay when someone actively clicks on the ad, demonstrating their interest. Then, you can track that customer to see all kinds of useful info, including obvious things like if they made a purchase or not, and less obvious things such as the amount of time they spent on your site, what kind of browser they were using, and so on.

You can even run A/B PPC campaigns that randomly surface two versions of an ad, that way you can compare which type of message is more effective. It's like having your customers take the Pepsi challenge, and they don't even know!

Search Engine Optimization:
More commonly known as SEO, this is the art of making sure your site ranks at the top of relevant search requests. When someone types in a search request for the product you sell, you want to make sure you appear right at the top of the results, not your competitors. 

The value of a high Google page rank cannot be underestimated. In less than 2% of all search results will someone advance to the second page. It's unfortunate, but if you're not visible on the first page, you might as well not exist. 

SEO is a long term strategy that involves a mix of technical work, and forward facing web content. There is no way to suddenly cannon to the top of Google's page rankings overnight. But, with consistent work and dedication, you can reliably climb the ranks and ensure key placements. This is a marketing 

Content Marketing:
Content marketing is all about generating organic interest in your website, brand, and product. It's part of SEO, but deep enough to warrant it's own conversation. The goal is to create content that resonates with your potential customers, builds your brand and reputation, while slowly positioning your business as the natural choice when a visitor is ready to become a customer. 

There are many facets to content marketing, many of which you're likely familiar with. Blogs, newsletters, e-books, and white papers are all different types of content marketing. As are guides, hints & tips, video tutorials, entertainment articles, opinions, quirky social media posts and more. 

While publishing your own mini-magazine would have been something far beyond the reach of most businesses a few years ago, new mediums and technology afford even smaller businesses the opportunity today. In cooperation with a digital marketing agency, you can produce quality content that will not only help you climb the page rankings, but improve and enhance the image of your brand.