Digital 101: Understanding the What and Why of Digital Marketing

The silver bullet of marketing, the secret sauce that skyrockets your business to the top, the last thing you’ll ever have to consider to get your message out to your customers…these three phrases do not accurately describe digital marketing.

To be fair, those three phrases don’t describe any form of marketing or advertising at all. Those three phrases describe a perfectly controlled world where your message is right in front of the right person at the right time every time. I’m sorry to burst your bubble but that’s not reality, despite how much marketers would like it to be.

So why bring it up? Recently, I was reading an article that had to do with why digital marketing isn’t the magic potion that everyone claims it to be and how some dealers are doing just fine without it. After reading the article it was clear to me that the problem wasn’t digital marketing itself but how people view it. Knowing this I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about what digital marketing is, what it isn’t, and how it should be worked into your current strategy.

What Digital Marketing Is

Digital marketing refers to a very broad spectrum of services from paid search, to content marketing such as display banners or online video advertisements, it includes on site content marketing such as blogging, social media campaigns, and that’s simply scratching the surface. The benefits of digital marketing are vast in that it’s easy to track, easy to target, and generally much more cost effective than its traditional counterparts.

With that in mind, digital marketing has become much more prevalent in the past few years as more and more people are spending time online either via desktop or mobile applications (tablets, smartphones, etc.). Studies show that online usage is continuing to grow and trends suggest that this isn’t likely to slow down anytime soon. With so many people utilizing this new medium to gather information or simply kill time, there has been a tremendous boom in advertising efforts to get in front of viewers anytime they’re online. Digital marketing provides us with fantastic opportunities to do so, but in order to be effective, there are some considerations that need to be taken which I will cover towards the end of this writing.

Overview: Digital marketing allows you to get your message to a vast audience in a trackable, cost efficient, and more easily targeted manner in a growing space that allows people to generally choose the content that they view as opposed to having it shown at random with the hopes of investment.

What Digital Marketing Isn’t

A growing market has made way for confusion, false promises, and fear among those who don’t understand it as to what role digital plays in the overall marketing layout. While each business and market will vary by differing factors there is one truth that holds constant across industries and location, digital marketing is not a silver bullet or perhaps more aptly put a cure all. Too often we think that a campaign set once and forgotten will drive customers into showroom floors with cash in hand…wouldn’t that be nice.

The truth of it is that just like traditional marketing; strategy plays a big role in digital as well. You still have to consider what messages your viewer will receive the best and will result in action (again considering the funnel, there may be many messages), where is the best place to show each respective message, and what is the ultimate goal of the efforts. These are simply a few considerations that will require deep thought, not a twenty minute sit down meeting and they must be revised on a regular basis as the way people search and what they search for information is constantly changing.

Another big thing to consider has little to do with the messaging you put out in any marketing outlet is your reputation. Regardless of the offer, the promise, the promotion, if you’re business has a history of not providing a positive experience with past customers you’re value is minimized which is tough to overcome and must be done internally. Your message may be strong but if it isn’t reflected at your place of business, it only holds power until the customer steps foot in your location.

How Should Digital Marketing Be Worked Into Your Current Strategy?

Digital marketing, while admirable on its own, doesn’t have to be the only driver in your arsenal and depending on your business type perhaps it shouldn’t be. Another misconception that we commonly find is that many people are under the impression that when they accept digital marketing, other mediums go out the window. To address this, let me ask you a few questions:

  • Do you have a television and do you watch it?
  • Do you have a radio (any kind) and do you listen to it?
  • Do you read the newspaper?
  • Most importantly, how would your customers (current/potential) answer these questions?

My guess is that there was a “Yes” answer to at least one of these questions and I would bet that your customer base would say the same. So it’s important to recognize that while digital is a growing medium, it’s important to still consider that your traditional mediums are still being consumed by viewers. Long story short, keep these mediums in mind and don’t neglect them as you more than likely have an audience outside of digital that is looking for what you have to offer.

As with all marketing mediums, not all digital outlets are created equal and they all have their respective roles. For instance, it is important to consider the journey of the buyer from a start to finish perspective or a top to bottom funnel. If you’re starting at the top of the funnel (people who have just begun looking for information) it’s important to simply let them know you’re there with branding efforts (content marketing and branding). If you’re looking lower in the funnel, product specific advertisement may be your ticket to getting more people to consider you as an option for their final purchasing decision.

Where Do I Start?

The journey to an all-around good marketing campaign starts simply by taking the first step to analyze your current situation. Are you happy with your efforts? Is there room for improvement? Where are we missing out on? These are a few questions that I would consider to get started. Additionally there are numerous sites out there that provide extremely valuable information as primers to digital marketing (as well as traditional). I would also encourage you to look to a marketing agency, I just so happen to know of one if you’re interested. When considering a partnership be sure to get information such as what the agency specializes in, what their strategies generally look like or how they build them, what the goals of their efforts are, etc.

The digital world may be frightening at first but if done right the payoff is worth the risk.


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