The term “digital marketing” is used so ubiquitously that it’s almost become meaningless, nothing more than a synonym of marketing. But there is a difference between “digital marketing” and “marketing” even though the two have become so entwined.
Digital marketing is any form of communication aiming to persuade people to purchase a product or service that occurs through some form of digital device. But, that definition still begs the question “what kind of devices are considered digital? The telegraph? Radio? Television? At Starn Marketing, we’d argue that none of those are channels for digital marketing — though they can be used for traditional marketing. Instead, we classify marketing efforts as “digital marketing” when they occur through an internet-connected device. By our definition, standard TV commercials are not digital marketing, but YouTube ads are because audience targeting and segmentation are a key differentiator between traditional and digital marketing. With a commercial on TV, a billboard and a radio broadcast, you can only target and segment down to location. With internet devices, you can get down to behavior and way more granular pieces of information than just where they might live.
Why Digital Marketing?
At the beginning of 2019, the average amount of time people spend online every day was 6 hours and 42 minutes which amounts to over 27% of every year. That time spent constantly connected to the internet is shaping how people are making purchase decisions: 81% of B2B purchase cycles begin with a web search and 35% of product searches start on Google. For a B2B company to meet their prospects where they are at, they have to have an online presence, and utilizing digital marketing can help them ensure their company’s content is getting in front of the right people. You can get way more targeted, way more contextualized, way more personalized with your messaging when you’re using digital marketing compared to traditional forms of marketing.
Methods Through Which Digital Marketing Occurs
If you want your company to grow over time, you need to be findable online; you need to make your content available where people are looking for it — search engines. One of the best ways to be found online is to optimize your content for organic search. Make sure your website follows SEO best practices, produce indexable content like blogs frequently and put effort into link building. It can take time for your organic SEO efforts to take off, but once they do, you’ll continue to get value from them in the long-run.
Referrals occur when you have other sites link to you. You can get referrals by forming affiliate marketing or co-marketing partnerships with other companies, guest posting on other websites or creating high-quality content that garners backlinks. If you think about it from the user perspective, it provides trust because you are being referenced by another company, but also Google uses [referrals] as a valuable signal that other companies trust you.
People are spending a lot of their time on social media today, and it’s a great way to stay in touch with your audience. [social media] can be another way for people to consume your content off of your website where they are already spending their time. More and more social channels are now providing a way to start conversations and for people to convert directly through social media. For B2B companies, LinkedIn is typically the primary social platform to reach your buyer personas, but Twitter, Instagram and Facebook could also be effective. Find what platforms your target audience is active on, and then create content that’ll resonate with them.
Email can help you keep in touch with your contacts, promote relevant offers and nurture leads through the buyer’s journey. If you were to go back 10 years, before social media, before some of these other channels were being leveraged, email was the thing. Today it’s not the top dog when it comes to channels within digital marketing, but it’s still highly important. Even though a lot of communication is moving to social media, email is still one of the primary drivers for external communication, whether that’s with clients, prospects or partners.
Paid search has similar benefits of organic search: it helps you get found online. However, instead of providing long-term results for your company, paid search only benefits you as long as you’re actively paying for it. It can be used as a bridge before you’re able to rank for a keyword. You can use paid to supplement your SEO efforts and make sure you’re able to be found for the terms that matter to your business. Since you are paying for this traffic, you want to get the most value that you can out of it, so normally it’s best to take someone to a page where it’s easy for them to convert.
Paid social enables you to expand the reach of your content or hone in on specific audiences. Paid social is the most targeted that you can get with digital marketing. LinkedIn and Facebook both enable you to set extremely specific parameters around who you want your ad to be shown to, and since social content doesn’t have a very long lifetime to begin with, the trade-off between short-term and long-term costs and benefits of paid and organic aren’t as comparative for social as they are for search.
Digital marketing is here to stay and B2B companies need to leverage it if they want to grow. It’s one of the most powerful methods to get your message to a wide audience in a targeted, personalized way, something that wasn’t really possible before the advent of all these channels. However, for digital marketing to be used effectively, you need to understand who you’re trying to reach with your marketing communications, and then take a strategic approach to attracting them to your business and nurturing them toward closing as a customer.