Business owners often ask me how to get started with digital marketing. The best answer I can give them is this: “The best way to get started in digital marketing is to just get started!”
I don’t mean to sound facetious with this response. I simply mean that digital marketing is relatively easy to learn, very cost-effective, and allows you to finely-tune your target audience more than ever before.
If you’re new to digital marketing, let’s start by having a look at what digital marketing is before diving into how you can leverage it to increase sales.
What is Digital Marketing?
It wasn’t very long ago (although it seems like it was) that the most popular ways of advertising your business was through radio and TV ads, or in print through magazines, newspapers, postal flyers, and the yellow pages.
With the advent of the Internet, businesses discovered a new way of reaching new customers with organic content that people could share with their networks. It’s not really that much different than traditional advertising, in the sense that you’re promoting products and services to potential buyers, but rather adapting those same principles to the digital (or online) world.
This means leveraging the three most common ways that people consume information online: email, search engines, and social media.
Email marketing is awesome because you’re emailing your offers to people who have already expressed an interest in your business. They could have done this by filling out a form on your website, subscribing to your newsletter, or by buying something.
One of the most important aspects of email marketing is getting permission to email your audience or customers your offers. There are two types of consent that pertain to email marketing: implied and expressed.
Implied permission happens when someone completes a business transaction or engagement with your company. An example of consent is when someone purchases a product from you, and you email them a receipt or follow-up email about the product or transaction. If they trust you enough to do business with you, then it’s implied that you can send them further emails about that transaction.
Expressed permission must be received from a customer to be able to send them email messages. You’ll likely the seen a little checkbox on the bottom of a company’s contact form that says you give the company permission to send you offers and information you “might find interesting”. By checking the box, you’re giving them expressed consent.
The rules around permission can sometimes be complicated. Different rules apply to different locations, as well as if you sell to consumers or other businesses. It can be helpful to have the help of an email marketing professional to help to navigate the legal landscape. They can also give you the best tips on how to grow your email database quickly, giving your email marketing campaigns all the more punch.
Search Engine Marketing
These days, people find things using search engines such as Google or Bing, which uses complex algorithms to determine which website will be most helpful to you. The most helpful websites are listed on top, in descending order. Results can go on for pages and pages – but chances are your customers won’t need to look past page 1 to find what they’re looking for.
For example, Google “coffee shop near me”. The result will be a listing of the nearest coffee locations to your current location. If you’re a coffee shop owner – or the owner of any business that location is important to your customers – this is crucial to winning the search engine game.
Improving the quality of your website content for search purposes is called Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Effective SEO can involve many small strategies, but here are three key things you can do to get started:
- Keyword research: Keywords are frequently used words or phrases that your customers use when searching for a business. Search engine algorithms prioritize websites that utilize these keywords within its content, especially in prominent places (such as titles and headings).
- Integrate Links: Linking with other websites is also important to search engines. There are three types of links that you should have a mix of in your content:
- Inbound: Links to other pages within your website to show search engines that you can help people in a variety of ways
- Outbound: Links to other reputable websites to demonstrate that you offer quality, relevant content within your niche industry
- Backlinks: Links to your site from other websites, which illustrates that others in your niche are willing to share your content
- Offer great content: If people come to your website and leave (or “bounce”) quickly, this is recorded as your website’s bounce rate. A high bounce rate tells search engines that your content isn’t valuable, interesting, or relevant to your audience. It could also suggest poor quality content. Great content will keep people on your website longer, giving you a lower bounce rate and higher search rankings.
Another way to become more visible to search engines is through paid ads. These are also known as pay-per-click (PPC) ads, so named because you only pay when someone clicks on the link in your ad.
Ads are based on strategic keyword use, so better quality keywords will result in more visibility for your brand. How you rank on the results page depends on the bid for ad placement. It’s beyond the scope of this blog to go deeply onto the bid process, but Google offers a wealth of information to help you get started.
Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing is a powerful tool to reach thousands – possibly even millions – of people right in their social media streams. Two of the most popular social media platforms, Facebook and Instagram, give you the option of organic marketing or paid advertising.
Organic marketing means setting up a business page in the platform and publishing content for your followers to engage with. You can build up your followers by following other related pages (where your audience also hangs out), using relevant hashtags, and sharing the content with your networks.
Paid advertising will allow your content to be seen on any timelines based on your audience’s interests, behaviors, and demographics. You create this customer profile based on the characteristic of your current or past customers, and tailor your overall social media marketing strategy to reach your audience when they’re most active online.
Once you start reaching enough people, and they start sharing your content with their networks, your message could literally go viral, raising your brand visibility beyond your wildest expectations. That takes time, however, and a good deal of consistent effort, but you can still run a successful social media campaign whether or not you start trending.
Does digital marketing really work?
It sure can! With the right digital marketing tactics, you can significantly raise your brand awareness and increase revenue at a relatively low cost. You can do a lot of digital marketing for free, but the paid services give you the opportunity to make a significant impact on your revenue. As always, we’re here to answer all your questions about digital marketing and how to integrate different strategies into one effective solution.