The Digital Marketing Frontier
How did we get here so fast? It doesn’t seem long ago that a mobile phone was simply one that didn’t have a cord attached to the wall, you set your schedule around the day and time your favorite TV show was on, and term paper research was done in the pages of a book inside a library. Today, everything we would ever want to know or see is at our finger tips and through DVRs and on-demand services, we dictate when to watch our favorite shows.
Initially, most people thought taking a phone call in a group of people was rude, but now when we get together our phones are out on the table and often used as an interactive piece, showing a video, photos of our family, answering a question or settling a debate. Just as with the appearance of the printing press, daily newspaper, radio broadcast and color television, leading companies see the Internet as a vital platform to reach their consumers and get their message into the home. Digital marketing is the latest trend in branding to the masses, and the options online continue to evolve and grow. So what is it and how does a business get started?
Let’s start with a few definitions. First, what exactly is digital marketing and what is not considered digital marketing? Traditional print, billboards, TV, and radio do not fall into the digital definition because these mediums do not provide instant data on exactly how many impressions your ad created. It’s not to say these mediums are not effective marketing platforms; it is just more difficult to track the number of direct respondents from the ad and exactly how many people saw it. Some consumers will respond to a call to action (coupon, specific offer), but ask yourself an honest question – when was the last time you walked into a business and told the person at the counter the reason you are in their store was because you saw their ad on page seven of the newspaper, heard their radio spot at 3:45 this afternoon, or saw their commercial on the morning news? It happens, but not all consumers are going to share this information and it was probably the combination of seeing multiple ads in multiple platforms that ultimately lead them to the storefront. This is called top-of-mind awareness and is the ultimate goal for any company of any size. The short of it is that digital marketing is a term used for a group of interactive products that target specific audiences using measurable digital technologies.
Some of these technologies include social media marketing which places display ads and content inside Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms as a way to connect directly with consumers who have shown interest in your products. Utilizing hashtags like “#McDonaldsbreakfast” allows companies to directly reach out to people who enjoy their goods or service, and also allows them to monitor real-time feedback from consumers. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and website ranking allows businesses to be listed in a general web search. This can be done both by a paid service and organically, the latter being much more difficult. If you want to be the first business listed on a Google search of “Used furniture Seattle,” the search engine will guarantee your spot for a price. The more the search term is used and the broader it is, the higher the price. “Used furniture Seattle” will cost you much more than “Used Sealy Queen Mattress Seattle.” Hiring a professional SEO company will also help with your rankings as a good company stay on top of the algorithms each search engine uses to rank sites for relevance.
Getting your company exposure organically is difficult but can be accomplished with some devotion. Search engines used to be keyword-focused, meaning the number of times “Used furniture Seattle” appeared on your site would determine your page rank. Today, the ranking system is based on the frequency of updates to the site and if it is optimized for mobile phones. This is why when searching for a small business website, you will often see that business’s Facebook page ranked above their homepage. This is often because they are far more active on their social media sites and perhaps have not updated their business webpage in months or sometimes years. Businesses can tie social media feeds into their homepage, update photos and include blogs or articles and various other content which will all help increase the ranking organically.
Email marketing is a way to reach a large number of consumers with the same message without the costs of printing and postage in traditional direct mail marketing. Traditional direct mail allows you to choose specific postal routes that have a general income level and household demographics, but email marketing can get much more specific. The platform that Living Local 360 utilizes gives us access to over 90 million email addresses. We then break these down into the city or area the client wants to target. From there we can narrow the field even further based on income level, gender, size of family, interests, college education level and many more categories. Data from an email campaign will show you exactly how many inboxes the message was delivered to, how many opened the email, and how many interacted with an offer inside the email. This gives you a real-time cost analysis on what it costs per impression (person seeing your message) and lead (person accepting your offer or showing interest). These platforms also contain physical addresses so you can narrow down direct mail follow-up pieces and send those only to consumers who have shown interest in your product, saving you money and knowing you are targeting only warm and hot leads.
A more recent trend that you’ve probably noticed is retargeted Internet Provider (IP) advertising. For example, you go to Amazon.com to look for a new digital camera. You leave the site without purchasing an item and go next to CNN.com or ESPN.com and low and behold, there’s a side banner ad with the products you were just looking at. This is also common on social media sites if you have been discussing products through posts. Retailers are able to follow your web visit history using your IP address. New websites are now formatted with a blank ad space that companies can purchase and use the information they have gathered on your interests and retarget an ad tailored specifically to your search. This will become more and more popular with small business as they will be able to effectively buy space on some of the most popular national websites without having to fork over a huge amount of money to the site itself and reach consumers not in your target area.
Much like other mediums, there is a balance between reaching your consumer effectively and overwhelming them with ads to the point of discontent with your brand. If you sat down to watch the evening news and got five minutes of news content followed by twelve minutes of commercials, would you pay any attention to that or would you change the channel? The same applies to radio. Stations need to make money through advertisers, but they also need consumers to consume the media around which the advertisers have spent their money. With all the new opportunities seemingly appearing every month with digital, it will be easy for companies to over saturate and frustrate potential customers. But as with other mediums, digital will eventually balance out the right amount of ads per experience.
One unique way to accomplish this is through digital content marketing. Digital content marketing starts with really rich content that people actually care about – including killer images. Then it’s delivering that content when and where your customers want it in hopes they like it and tell all their friends and followers. Building trust in your brand is key to growth, and a referral of your product or service from a trusted friend or family member is the golden ticket of marketing. Making sure readers can see the article on a device that they use every day, especially the one attached to their hip, is vital. But above all, don’t overwhelm people with your sales pitch. Keep it simple and teach them something so they consider you a valuable resource not just a company pushing product.
The unique thing about marketing through digital channels is that it goes way beyond messaging. Given all the ways brands can connect with consumers online, whether in social environments, via mobile apps, paid media or blogs, each interaction leaves an impression of your brand. So in many respects, digital is marketing.
So how does one get started in the digital world? If you have a homepage for your business, you’ve already started. If you don’t, it’s really about time! Typically local business websites don’t have to go into great length. Your company’s contact information and location, a little background on the company, and the products and services you offer give people what they need to know. Your professional website gives an impression that you are a legitimate business. Many consumers, including middle-aged men and women, are interacting more and more with social media. Have your page include fun content, “friends only” offers, events you're hosting, sales, or partnerships with the community you support. Again, the frequency of posting will help your social media sites and feeds remain relevant; stagnant pages will disappear from most consumers’ news feeds. Most businesses can handle these platforms without being overwhelmed, but if you’re ready to take the next step in reaching your digital audience it’s best to seek out a professional company whose expertise is in this field. You wouldn’t have your plumber fix your computer and the same applies to your marketing efforts – find an expert you can trust.
Digital marketing is another platform to get your brand and message in front of your audience. The great advantages to digital is the ability to track exactly how many times that message is being seen and make adjustments to not only where the message is seen but perhaps the message itself. Your digital ad might not be performing as you had hoped, but if you make the change from a 1-800 number to a local number on the ad, you will be able to track and see if it’s the message that needed changing, not the medium.
We are tied to our phones and tablets, and it doesn’t look like that will be ending anytime soon. Reaching customers on the devices that are in front of their face from the time their alarm goes off in the morning to the last status updated before bed is paramount in staying competitive in the digital age. Savvy marketers are already looking for what’s coming next. Nothing will remain as it is as technology continues to expand. The digital world is here and your consumer is living in it all day. Time to go say hello!