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What is Digital Marketing and how Can It Help My Business?

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What is Digital Marketing and how Can It Help My Business?

An age-old question that’s not that old. But this is a question that’s vital to the growth of any business.

In this digital age, technology is how people display their lives. It’s a means to unwind, conduct business, and distract.

It allows people to express their thoughts, find fame, and reconnect with an unreachable audience.

What if I told you that roughly three-quarters of adults in the U.S. go online daily? From those adults, 26% of them are online constantly and 43% are online several times a day.

Here’s why this should matter to you:

In 2018, the US Census Bureau estimated 327 million Americans living in the United States. If we were to remove those classified as eighteen years and younger (28.5%), that would leave us with an adult population of 233.8 million.

This means that 175,350,000 people (Three-quarters of 233.8 million) consume technology on a daily basis! And almost 45.6 million of those people are glued to their digital devices constantly.

If we were to add those between the ages of six and eighteen, you now have a population of 307 million who consume information via a digital device. This number is almost equivalent to the entire U.S. population in 2010.

Needless to say, using various digital marketing strategies are very important to businesses and entrepreneurs who aim to grow their company.

So, let’s take a deeper dive into this digital marketing space to provide insight into this “new” method of acquiring business for your company.

Digital Marketing Definition

The definition of Digital marketing is in the name – it’s any method of marketing that exists in a digital space. This digital space can be anything designated as “online” – ie. Websites, YouTube, Pinterest, Social Media, Apps, and more.

Another way of defining this term is by looking at the definition of marketing which is implementing a strategy to get your products or services in front of a targeted population.

Thus, digital marketing is implementing a strategy to get your products or services in front of a target population who consume information via digital sources (computers, tablets, smartphones).

Though it is simple in definition, executing a digital marketing strategy can be time-consuming.

But who said growing a successful business is easy?

Don’t get discouraged. Growing a successful business isn’t easy, but it can be done one step at a time!

Who knows, you may fall in love with the process, or at the very least, build your company to the point of being able to hire a digital marketing agency.

Why Does Digital Marketing Matter?

The easy answer is so that you can be found online, get better leads, make more sales, grow financially, and outrank your competitors.

But for those who don’t like easy answers, let’s drill down and see why exploring this type of marketing is essential for your business.

Getting a leg up on the competition

At the beginning of this article, you saw how many people in the United States consume information on a digital device (175.35 million/day).

From news to gifts to DIYs to entertainment and more, people are seeking information daily and they want that information now! The real question is, will they come to you for it, or will they go somewhere else?

Knowing this information opens up your business to the possibility of exponential growth. To some this can be exciting and encouraging, to others this may sound overwhelming. If this is exciting, skip the next paragraph and keep reading!

If you’re overwhelmed by this, don’t be. It’s a process and as our good friend Gary Vaynerchuck always says, “enjoy the process.” If that doesn’t help, keep reading. You may find that knowledge of this digital space may put your mind at ease.

But just knowing this information how many people use digital devices is not enough, taking action is a necessity since your competitors are looking for any edge they can get over businesses like yours.

The best part of seeing your competitor’s success is that they’ve taken the risk, tested the market, and provided you with a digital footprint that can be followed.

Sometimes, more importantly, for budding entrepreneurs is that you can also avoid the mistakes made by those who’ve gone before you.

Brand Awareness & Building Customer Loyalty

Another reason why digital marketing matters is brand awareness and customer loyalty. Throughout your company’s growth, you want customers to speak highly of you and what you offer. Additionally, you want those same customers to come back.

Developing a digital presence not only puts your services or products in front of consumers, but it also communicates a message about your brand and organizational culture.

This not only helps attract customers to you, but it also helps people buy into what you believe allowing you to make a much bigger impact on people’s lives than you ever imagined.

To summarize, digital marketing matters because:

  1. ¾ of U.S. adults consume information online
  2. Your competitors know this and are executing a digital marketing plan
  3. It allows for exponential growth for your business
  4. It Increases brand awareness and customer loyalty
  5. It Impacts and influences people’s lives

History of Digital Marketing?

It can easily be said that the inception of digital marketing came with the birth of technology. More specifically, the time when people began using technology as a primary means of communication.

Digital marketing first hit the scene in the 90s with the launch of the very first search engine, Archie. This led to businesses seeing the internet’s potential and how they could expand their reach.

It didn’t take long for entrepreneurs to start studying consumer behavior as it pertained to the internet and how they could reach a larger demographic at a fraction of the cost.

Three years after the launch of Archie, the first clickable ad hit the web, and just like that, the rest was history. The business world went through the roof with the infinite potential of the web.

Almost 26 years after Ray Tomlinson sent the very first email to himself in 1971, the birth of the very first social media site hit the scene,

One year later, the birth of Google. Add another 5 years after Google’s launch and you enter into the era of myspace.

Myspace provided a way for users to interact and share their lives like never before. From who their top friends were, to their favorite music, books, and past-times. It gave people a way to live without the fear of rejection, or more importantly, by the click of a button, the ability to cut people out of their lives.

Communication became more unfiltered than ever before and the ideology of being your “true self” took on a life of its own.

This kind of engagement provided countless pieces of data which further fueled businesses to engage with their consumers directly. The ability to communicate to a niche market and build brand & customer loyalty became a very achievable goal.

One year later, FaceBook hit the scene and has more or less become the leader with regards to social media engagement. They further solidified their place after buying Instagram for a whopping $1 billion on April 9, 2012.

Fast-forward to the present day and you’ll come to a time where the thought of a digital-less world is unthinkable. And just as unthinkable are businesses who do not take the time to carve out a piece of this digitally captivated pie.

Here’s a timeline created by on the evolution of Digital Marketing:

How do I start my digital marketing journey?

The simple answer to this question is, “it depends!”

If you’re an established business with the ability to invest large sums of marketing dollars into advertising ($4,500/month or more), then you may be at a stage to do one of two things:

  1. Hire an in-house marketing director
  2. Hire a digital marketing agency

If you’re closer to being a startup, then roll up your sleeves and prepare to get your hands dirty.

Step 1: Study your core demographic

Knowledge is power! It gives you confidence, dictates action, and allows you to invest wisely.

Before jumping into the various outlets that support a digital campaign, you should first understand how your consumers interact with those outlets.

For example, if you’re selling affordable jewelry to a demographic between the ages of 14-21, you’ll want to first know what social platforms they use on a daily basis.

Similarly, if you’re marketing high-end jewelry to an older demographic, you’ll most likely gravitate towards a completely different marketing channel/platform.

In addition to knowing basic information about your target demographic, it would be worth knowing your ideal customer profile along with the ideal buyer persona.

An ideal customer profile is a general profile that can apply across the board, to all your consumers. For example, women between the ages of 18-34 who love denim.

From there, you can further narrow it down to a buyer persona. Doing this gives you a smaller, niche market, but one that is itching to buy your product.

An example of a buyer persona would be, Jewish women between the ages of 18-34 who love modest, below the knee, denim clothing.

Once you have an understanding of your core demographic, you are now better equipped to know where to spend your marketing dollars.

As it stands right now, here are some popular platforms along with the demographics of people who use it:

YELLOW = #1 | ORANGE = #2 | BLUE = #3
Source: Survey conducted Jan. 8 to Feb. 7, 2019, by the Pew Research Center

Step 2: Learn the platform & Research your competitors

Now that you know where your customers spend their time, you can start learning the various platforms they use daily.

Often the platform you choose (ie. YouTube, Facebook, Instagram) gives some analytical data but not much to craft an ideal marketing campaign.

Doing research on best practices and how others have found success in your industry for your ideal customer profile or even buyer persona will give you a leg up on your more, lethargic, competitors.

In addition, we would take it one step further by learning how others target your ideal customer’s buyer persona. This is often done by researching successful competitors who have inspired you to take this journey.

If your industry is extremely niche, it doesn’t hurt to do a quick google search of the keywords or phrases you believe customers would type to find your products or services. If you find a potential competitor, learn more about them. If you find nothing, then you may just be a pioneer in that specific market.

Here’s a quick tip on how to easily research competitors and how they engage with your targeted demographic:

  • Analyze their website and ask why and how
    • Why did they choose this layout? Why did they choose these images? How did they communicate their message?
  • Subscribe to their email list
    • This helps you see how they market to their customers. Take note of the first email you receive, how long does it take before you get the second, and what kind of emails are they sending.
    • What are the goals of the emails? Is it to inform, get you to engage with them (by following them on social), or a call to action?
  • Finally, follow them on the platform(s) you’re looking to jump into
    • Begin engaging with them and their others who follow them.
    • DO NOT push your products or services in the comments section! But join the conversation by comment and responding to others. This will make them check out your profile and you will slowly begin to grow your base.

Now that you’ve done some preliminary research to further direct your digital marketing steps, you’re ready to move to the next step.

Step 3: Set aside money for a digital marketing budget

This is the part where most people get sad – either because money is tight or it’s tough to invest in something that you may not fully understand.

It’s easy to solve the latter – keep learning!

Whether it’s be reading more articles like this, watching explainer videos, or even consulting with a digital marketing agency. Once you feel confident in your ability to understand (to a degree) this new marketing avenue for your business, you’ll be able to decide how much to budget for it.

If money is tight, that too can be easy to solve by making more sacrifices in your life so that you have more means to invest. Here are some quick examples that may or may not help:

  • Cut your coffee consumption to 0-1 cup a day
  • No expensive or fancy meals
  • Cook from home
  • Cut back on entertainment
  • Stop buying expensive clothing or jewelry
  • Cut your vacations
  • Get rid of any unnecessary memberships
  • Get a less expensive apartment or car

Making some or all of these cuts will put a good amount of money back into your pocket that you can invest in your business to help grow it. Additionally, to make this part of your life easier, make sure to communicate with your friends and family so they too can support you on this journey by not inviting you to things.

Once you’ve figured out what you can spend on digital advertising, you’re primed and ready to pull the trigger.

Step 4: Take the leap

This can be a scary moment for any entrepreneur or small-business owner. It’s ok. You’re not alone!

Be encouraged to know that you and everyone else on this journey are in the testing phase of your newly crafted digital marketing hypothesis!

In the end, you can research till you’re blue in the face, but the goal is to run forward and not run in place.

In taking this leap, there are some common pitfalls that you should be aware of.

Pitfall #1: Instant gratification

One common pitfall to avoid will be your want for instant gratification. Remember, the journey is what you want to enjoy. Results and good analytics take time to develop. So patience truly is a virtue.

By letting your digital marketing campaign run its course, you’re giving yourself a better chance to get analytics that will inform your next campaign.

Pitfall #2: It worked the first time, why isn’t working again!?

Another pitfall to be wary of is the idea that, just because it worked the first time, it doesn’t mean it will work again.

Not everything tried and true applies. Especially when you consider such a volatile market where everyone is looking for the newest trends.

If you have a campaign that is successful! That’s awesome! Be encouraged that the journey you took paid off! However, this may not always be the case and it shouldn’t be the measure by which you set your expectations for future digital marketing campaigns.

Pitfall #3: Let’s dump more money into it

If all it took was money, then life would actually be easier. This pitfall goes in line with the two above it. If you have a campaign that isn’t working, dumping more money into it isn’t necessarily the right move.

However, if you did invest too little into the campaign, maybe upping the budget could help. But if you’re reaching a good amount of the population, there’s some engagement, but conversion is low, then it could be something else that needs fixing.

Step 5: Analyze and adjust

Analyzing and adjusting is a key part of any successful business plan and that includes the digital strategies you have in place.

Staying on top of your analytics continues to give you an understanding of how people are interacting with your marketing campaigns. Additionally, it gives you the ability to see the tide change.

As you run once campaign after the next, and slowly tweak and adjust to make it better or to even try out new strategies based on trends or research, you will begin to see how your demographic’s interests will change.

This gives you the continued ability to be relevant to their lives and their buying habits. Analyzing your data and making informed adjustments is crucial to the success of your campaigns and your business.

Now it’s time to wash, rinse, and repeat!

How much of my budget should I invest in digital marketing?

This is both an easy and difficult question and once again, the answer is it depends. Some will say invest as much as you can while others will say to be conservative. We like to say invest as much as you can that makes sense for your business and then ramp up.

Stop comparing your budget to others

As a start-up, you can’t compare yourself to companies that have been in the game for years. As a matter of fact, you can’t even compare yourself to those who are even a little ahead of you.

Why? It’s simple. They’ve had more time to work, test, and refine their digital marketing strategies.

So rather than looking at what everyone else is doing and finding reasons why you can’t do it, put your head down and figure out what it is you can do.

Be realistic in your budget

When it comes to budgeting for your digital marketing efforts, you should figure out how much money to invest, in order to get a return on investment (ROI).

Often this can be accomplished through an informed process of trial and error. Informed being the key phrase. This process is like gambling but different in that the odds are in your favor if you did the research.

Acquiring clients isn’t as simple as throwing up a website and creating various social accounts. Those initial steps are part of the process, but that’s only the beginning.

It is crucial for small business owners to think through how much money can they realistically invest in marketing their business that gives them a real shot at acquiring customers.

For most entrepreneurs, this funding source will depend on your personal budget. This means it is very important for you to take account of your personal income and expenses.

Utilizing free tools such as can be useful in analyzing how and where you spend your money. From there, you can cut unnecessary expenses and redirect those funds to your business.

My business has grown, now how much should I spend?

Once your business is able to pay for itself, you’re in good shape. This means you can stop paying out of pocket and start funding your marketing efforts from your business.

As you conduct research, you’ll hear and see that companies spend anywhere from 7% to 10% of their annual revenue on marketing. From that spend, companies allocate anywhere from 40% to 50% of that budget to digital marketing.

However, those percentages are flexible in that companies should spend what makes sense for them. After all, these numbers are based on the average digital spend of a variety of companies in a variety of different industries.

If you calculate your companies annual revenue and see that 7 or 8% is much more than your company can afford, then go with a lower number. Similarly, if you find that you can spend more, that’s great too!

Normally digital campaigns are deemed successful because of the revenue those campaigns generated, so allocating a larger sum of your budget to digital marketing can’t hurt. Especially if you’re continuing to stay on top of trends and listening to your target audience.

Additionally, as a startup, allocating 50% of your total marketing budget to digital might seem like an insignificant amount. If that’s the case, don’t feel like you have to stick to any hard rule, feel free to spend 100% of your budget to digital – after all, it’s your business!

For ease of access, here’s a quick scale showing annual revenue and what a 7% or 8% marketing budget would be:

How do I measure my digital marketing efforts?

Measuring your digital marketing efforts is a major piece of the puzzle. Unfortunately, it does take patience so that the strategy has time to work; or in some cases not work at all.

Allowing these digital campaigns to run its course gives business owners the ability to get solid analytics that will inform future campaign decisions.

Here are a few steps to take that will help you measure your digital marketing efforts:

Step 1: Evaluate the goals for your digital campaign

Running a digital campaign without any goals leaves you with an inability to assess its success or failure. The first question to ask before running any digital campaign should be, what’s the purpose of this specific campaign?

This question not only helps assess its success or failure, but it helps design and craft the campaign in a way that will give it a better chance to succeed.

Often these goals are twofold. One goal can be on a macro level and is often measured by the campaign meeting a variety of micro-goals.

For example, a macro-level goal for a digital marketing campaign could be to drive more qualified leads for your specific area of business. Micro-level goals that inform the macro goal could be, the # of people to download the free E-Guide, email acquisition, post share count, etc.

Seeing the success of these micro-goals will provide you with relevant information about people who are actually interested in your product or service.

Here are more examples of macro goals for various digital campaigns:

  • Lead generation
  • More sales
  • Higher call volume
  • Increase in website traffic
  • Increased foot traffic (brick & mortar stores)
  • More product downloads

Some examples of micro-goals that would inform the macro goals are:

  • How many people are commenting on your post
  • Number of likes
  • Number of follows
  • Number of subscribers
  • Number of shares
  • Number of @ mentions
  • Number of clicks or post interactions

In the end, setting a goal for your digital marketing campaign is crucial for you to assess its success.

Step #2: Assess whether you’ve engaged your ideal customer

If the ideal customer persona you designed this campaign around is not engaging with your post, then it’s time to analyze, assess, and tweak.

It’s important to know that your product or service isn’t for everyone. The more niche you can get, the better handle you have on giving your customer base exactly what they want.

As proud of the graphic, video, or copy you crafted is, if it has little to no engagement, then it may not be working.

If you believe your digital marketing campaign fits your ideal customer, then you’ll need to asses and tweak that ideal customer persona. Doing so will give your campaigns a higher chance of success.

In the end, the goal is to develop a digital plan that actually engages with your core demographic.

Step #3: Yes or no, did your campaign meet your digital marketing goal?

In the end, this is the primary question everyone should ask about their digital marketing efforts. Though there may be some variance in a person’s answer, the reality is that the campaign was either a success or not.

Regardless of the answer, the mindset of an entrepreneur or business owner is everything. If the campaign hit the goal, great! What improvements should you make if any, is it repeatable, what’s next?

If it didn’t hit the goal, then what can you learn from it? Did it hit another, unintended goal? Did it have something to do with the campaign or was it the target demographic? Was the budget adequate?

The goal of understanding a failed campaign is to learn and not make the same mistakes again. Rather, research, adjust, and launch another campaign that has a better chance of hitting the intended goal.

Quick Tip: Check weekly, not daily

The #1 thing that can derail a digital campaign is the need for immediate results. This is due to neurotic business owners or campaign managers checking the results every single day, hour, or minute.

Like any good stew, you need to give it time to simmer. So be patient.

Checking your results on a week by week basis will still quench those results-driven cravings while giving you a better picture of how the campaign is producing.

Additionally, you should let your campaign run for at least two weeks before touching it. This will give you a better sense of what to tweak rather than pulling the plug too early.

What should I look for in a digital marketing agency?

Often business owners don’t recognize the necessity to hire a digital marketing agency because they get pulled in so many directions.

So rather than being proactive about their growth, they grow from putting out small fires everywhere. This is like a person running downhill at full speed – Sooner or later their feet will give out and they will fall hard.

The hunt for a digital marketing agency should actually be at the onset of your business. From the point in which you’re ready to buy a domain, get hosting, and put up a website. This will ensure you have a website that’s designed and developed to better engage your target demographic.

Nowadays, anyone can build a pretty website, but does it actually engage your base? Additionally, is it primed and ready to scale with your company?

Here are some bullet points to aid you in your search for a digital marketing agency – Most of the responses should be a simple yes/no answer:

  • Trustworthiness – From your conversation with them, do you believe they can deliver?
  • Competence – Do you like their work?
  • Do you feel like it’s a partnership or is your company another project?
  • Do they have an easy to understand process?
  • In the end, do you feel good about them?

Read the article, Four key things to look for when choosing a digital marketing agency for more detail and some more tips to help decide.

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