With so many businesses competing for customer attention online, now is the time to improve your digital marketing and online presence. With more noise and more competition for the end consumer, you need to ensure your business stands out from the crowd and gets noticed. It’s time to assess your current positioning, and develop a digital marketing plan to help your business reach customers online.
So what is digital marketing and why is it important?
Digital marketing involves using a variety of online channels to connect potential customers to your business (1). These online channels include social media, email marketing, webinars and free downloads, blogging, sponsored content, “Pay Per Click” advertising and SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) (2).
Digital marketing is more important than ever as more and more people are looking for services and products online rather than through more traditional routes such as TV and print advertising. Your goal is to identify where your customers are most likely to look for businesses like yours online, so that they can see you, learn from you, and eventually, buy from you. A good digital marketing plan will help you show up in the right places for the right people, you will improve your reach and brand exposure, which can have a direct and positive impact on your revenue.
Who are your customers and where do they live online?
Before figuring out where and how to market your business, it’s important to understand who your customers are, and what they’re looking to gain when they buy from you. This is more than just the product itself – are they looking to feel a certain way? Do they value buying locally or ethically? Are they seeking the most affordable option or the very best quality? Consider also how you compare to the brands of your competitors, and identify what it is that might make your audience pick you over them.
Even if your product or service has broad appeal, your target audience will never be “everyone”.
The first step in understanding your audience is to look at your existing clients, and look for similarities. Think about factors like age, gender, location, career, and buying behaviours (4) – where did they find you? Are they return customers? When you understand who your customers are, and why they want to buy from you, you’ll be able to better speak to them in your advertising, develop new ideas for product and service offerings, increase conversions, and find ways to extend your relationship with them to foster more repeat business.
But first, you have to find them. Different audiences exhibit different behaviours online. They spend more time on different sites and social media platforms, they respond positively to different types of content, and they all engage with online advertising differently. Some look to news outlets, blogs, podcasts, or other outlets for product and service recommendations. Others rely more on their friends and word of mouth. Some want content from businesses that includes a lot of information, while others want to smile at funny pictures of cats.
You should start by asking:
- Do they spend most of their time on Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn?
- Do they value free downloads? Would they benefit from information sessions and webinars?
- How can I encourage them to visit my landing page or webpage?
- Are they likely to find my business through advertising or Google searches?
Your answers to these questions will help you to understand and establish where you should spend your time and money marketing online.
Understanding your competitors’ digital marketing
A great place to start with digital marketing is to evaluate what your competitors do and why, especially if their digital marketing is more established than yours. Think about both your direct and indirect competitors who work in the same field as you, or provide services or products to a similar audience (5). Competitor analysis will take out some of the guess work for you, and help you develop a strategy that will hopefully get results for your unique audience. What messaging are they using to reach the customers you want to reach? Which social media channels do they post to the most? Are there businesses who aren’t reaching their audience effectively, and does that create an opportunity for your business?
By keeping an eye on industry trends and your competitors’ digital marketing strategies, you can cut out some of the trial and error of experimenting with ineffective marketing channels or platforms. That way you can use your time strategically, and focus on producing effective content and advertising (5).
Using digital marketing to stand out from the crowd and attract potential customers
While it is important to evaluate your competitors, you need to use that information to help yourself stand out from the crowd and speak to your potential customers.
There are some basic things you can do to refine your messages and engage with your audiences:
- Clearly define your key messages, taglines, and catch-phrases to ensure they speak to your unique audience.
- Provide information, videos or articles to address knowledge gaps in the marketplace, and highlight the benefits of your offering.
- Creating compelling promotions for your customers, both for those who are ready to buy, and those who are still researching.
- Provide additional value to your audience in the form of blogs, ebooks or podcasts that relate to their interests, and place your product or service in a larger context.
Eventually, you might also want a bit of outside help to take your digital marketing to the next level. With the help of designers, professional content creators, digital marketing professionals, or SEO specialists, you can also:
- Clearly define your brand and visual identity so that you can create cohesive content and offers which are easily recognised by your audiences. Your brand is more than a logo. It’s the colours, fonts, photography style, and tone of voice that people associate with your business.
- Use language that is both relatable to your target audience, and appropriate for the social platform you are using.
- Use SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) or SEM (Search Engine Marketing) to help your visibility on Google, and through advertising on the sites your customers visit.
- Design a website which has clear calls to action, a design that steers your customers towards making an enquiry or a purchase, and the technical tools you need to better engage with customers and track how they interact with your site.
- Ensure your website copy and content is clear and concise, so that readers can understand what it is that you do, and how you can help them.
Digital marketing is about more than just putting up a website and having a Facebook page
Fundamentally, great digital marketing is about effective communication. You need to know who you’re speaking to, where to reach them, and the kinds of messages that will generate a positive response. When you place an ad in the newspaper, put up a billboard, or stuff a flyer into a mailbox, you’re reaching people once with a single message. Digital marketing allows you to build a living, evolving relationship with your customers. Great online engagement will produce more sales, more incoming leads, and more chances to ensure that your customers will find you, and think about you first when they’re ready to buy.
- “The Ultimate Guide to Digital Marketing”, Digital Marketer, https://www.digitalmarketer.com/digital-marketing/
- Lucy Alexander, “The Who, What, Why & How of Digital Marketing, Hubspot, https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/what-is-digital-marketing
- Laura Donovan, October 23, 2019, “Digital Marketing vs. Traditional Marketing”, Business 2 Community, https://www.business2community.com/infographics/digital-marketing-vs-traditional-marketing-infographic-02252932
- Christina Newberry, October 31, 2018, “How to Define Your Target Market: A Guide to Audience Reach”, Hootsuite, https://blog.hootsuite.com/target-market/
Elena Kozlova, February 11, 2020, “How To Do Competitor Analysis and Improve Your Digital Marketing Strategy With SEMRush”, Semrush, https://www.semrush.com/blog/how-to-do-competitor-analysis-in-digital-marketing/