To succeed in marketing your business, you must connect with the right people at precisely the right time. That means meeting customers where they are—and increasingly customers are online. They’re shopping online, conducting pre-purchase research on products and services, and spending serious amounts of time reading reviews and testimonials from satisfied and not-so-satisfied customers.
That’s why digital marketing—that is, marketing that exists online—is pretty much mandatory today. It’s the best way to reach new customers and engage with existing ones.
So, what is digital marketing anyway?
Digital marketing is essentially any marketing that involves the internet and electronic devices. We’re talking about your website, outbound emails, videos, social media, ads, blogs, online brochures and lead generation tactics (free resource downloads, for example). In other words, it’s all the ways an organization promotes its services and products online.
It’s no longer just nice to have a website; it’s mandatory. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and other social media platforms have been around for years, but they’re still a must-have tool for connecting with consumers.
Beyond those staples, technology is enabling some super cool ways to capitalize on consumers’ love of being online. We’re seeing Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions that pull data from various sources, and then analyze consumer behavior and search patterns so you can gain insight into what your consumers want—and give it to them.
AI-based Chatbots allow you to answer questions and connect in real-time, 24/7 with website visitors—without you having to assign an actual person to respond to chat requests. Big data—the massive amounts of customer data being generated online—can now be captured and parsed, enabling marketers to create custom, extremely personalized content, including emails and ads that target a specific locality or demographic.
Should you be investing in digital marketing?
In a word, “Yes.” People are online and that’s where the money is.
However, cost also comes into play for many businesses. Traditional marketing—such as T.V., newspaper, and radio ads, direct mail, telemarketing, billboards and signage—are expensive. They still work, and companies will continue to invest in them, but if yours is a small or new business, you likely don’t have the budget for that type of marketing.
Digital marketing is less expensive, enabling you to reach a larger audience more easily and quickly. Plus, it’s a bit more flexible and allows you to pivot as needed when a specific campaign isn’t working without too much financial loss. For example, pulling a Facebook Ad is much less painful than trashing thousands of printed postcards.
With all the budget-friendly (some free) apps and tools available, it doesn’t take an expert to get started, either. For example, you can set up social media accounts for nothing—and then post videos you’ve taken and edited with your smartphone. You can use Constant Contact or MailChimp to create professional looking emails, and you can build ads with tools like SpyFu and SEMrush without a bit of design experience.
The No. 1 rule of digital marketing
You MUST make a good impression.
When people visit your website, they decide whether they want to do business with you in seconds. How your website looks and functions is critical to keeping people there. If the copy on your website is bad, people will leave before they know anything about you.
When you share blog posts and other content, if it’s not high quality and beneficial to them, they won’t read it. When people check out your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so on accounts, if your posts are filled with errors, controversial statements and poor content, people won’t see you as professional or credible. If your ads aren’t well-designed and well-written, people won’t click on them.
Bottom line: It is not enough to just start digital marketing. You must do it well. That means working with professional web designers and copywriters.