Your business is set up. Your product is ready to sell. Now you need to get people to buy the product you worked so hard to bring to market – and that requires a comprehensive digital marketing strategy.
Developing a marketing strategy is no joke. It requires deep analysis and an understanding of best practices across multiple channels. It’s so complicated, in fact, that it often makes more sense to outsource the process than attempt to do it in-house. We’re here to help you understand some key concepts and basics in our Digital Marketing 101 primer, to get you on the right track.
We’ll give you an overview of the major digital marketing channels and what you can accomplish with each of them before introducing you to two key concepts: the marketing funnel, which will help you understand how marketing actually works to encourage purchases, and the eCommerce pyramid, which explains the hierarchy of foundational elements for a successful marketing strategy. But, before anything else, you need to understand your target audience.
Ask yourself: Who is my customer? Your efforts in any and every marketing channel are only effective if they’re geared toward the right audience. Understanding your core customer demographic(s) will help you target your marketing efforts more specifically, increasing return-on-investment (ROI), and lifetime value (LTV).
If your company is pre-launch, you’ll have to start with a competitive analysis to figure out your direct, aspirational, and adjacent competitors. Determine their audiences. Find out what they’re doing right, what they’re doing wrong, and what you can learn from them. Post-launch companies can rely on data to determine who their best customers are.
In either case, build out customer personas based on major demographics (gender, age, location, education level, etc.) and behaviors (hobbies, likes, dislikes, etc.). These personas help you remember who you’re talking to so you can make messaging more personal across channels. Speaking of channels:
Major Digital Marketing Channels
1. Social Media Advertising
Major social networks (like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Pinterest, etc.) offer paid placements for advertisers to get their brand in front of users with interruptive ads. These ads come in many forms, depending on the platform and interface, and can be targeted to specific users at a broad or granular level based on demographics, interests, behaviors, and more.
Social media advertising is critical for growing brand awareness by introducing previously unaware potential customers to new brands and products, but can also be used to encourage familiar users to purchase through retargeting or remarketing campaigns. Retargeting ads are served to users based on parameters like which pages a user visited on a brand’s website, how long it’s been since they visited the website, whether they added products to their cart but didn’t buy, how they interacted with a brand’s social media accounts, and much more.
2. Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
Complementing social media ads are search ads, also known as search engine marketing (SEM). While social media ads are typically interruptive, search ads appear alongside relevant searches, allowing brands to capitalize on user intent. Advertisers can bid on related search terms to get their ad in front of users who are demonstrating an interest in something relevant to what they’re selling. SEM can also be divided into new acquisition and retargeting.
3. Lifecycle Marketing
Lifecycle marketing (including email and SMS marketing) offers brands a way to communicate directly with users who’ve expressed interest in their products or services by giving an email address or phone number in exchange for updates. This channel can be a key revenue driver for eCommerce and B2B companies alike, as long as they follow best practices.
Make sure you segment your list based on demographics, interests, or behaviors in order to provide relevant, personalized content to your various customer groups. Create automated sequences that are triggered based on time spent on sites or on user actions.
4. Organic Social Media
Social media is every brand’s opportunity to build a community of loyal, engaged followers. By developing an online persona and interacting with users, brands can grow awareness and build trust.
Brands should consider which platforms are the best forums to interact with their audience. For instance, eCommerce companies might favor Instagram for its photo-centric interface, while B2B companies might be more active on LinkedIn, where content is more professionally focused.
5. Influencer Marketing
Brands can partner with internet tastemakers to reach communities of social media users. Acting as brand advocates, these influencers introduce brands to new audiences, increase awareness, and establish credibility through third-party validation.
When it comes to influencer marketing, authenticity is key — and authenticity begins with picking the right influencers for your brand. Partnering with the wrong influencers will not only generate poor results but can actually tarnish your brand reputation.
6. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process by which brands can make their website more discoverable on search engines. By appropriately structuring URLs and targeting relevant keywords with landing pages and/or organic content, brands set the stage for search engines to find their website relevant to search queries related to their products or services.
7. Content Marketing
Every brand has the opportunity to publish content as a way to drive engagement and establish trust among consumers. By educating users on products and services, brands can stay top of mind and reshape purchase cycles.
Quality content can also be repurposed for use across other channels, like email, social media, influencer-related platforms, and more.
Digital Marketing Best Practices
With a clear target persona or set of personas in mind, a sound digital marketing strategy identifies the right channels to focus on, and fits them into an effective framework. That starts with an objective.
Setting SMART Goals
Success cannot be achieved or measured without reference to a goal. Clearly, the overarching objective is to grow the business, but that will require a sequence of smaller accomplishments to get there (and to sustain growth). The go-to mantra is to set SMART goals, like the ones below:
- Be specific. Will your social media feeds, for example, be focused on driving awareness or driving sales?
- Be measurable. In the above case, will the KPI be likes, follower numbers, engagement (comments), or clicks and purchases?
- Be achievable. If the goal is to increase sales, is the fulfillment system in place to support a surge in orders without compromising customer experience? If the goal is to build the community, are the community management resources available to engage with members and add value?
- Be realistic. What are the benchmarks for success for similar companies in your sector or area? There needs to be a logic behind, and reference for, the results you target.
- Be time-bound. Put milestones for measurement in place, at which point you can adjust or suspend a campaign, and establish a clear end point at which you can evaluate performance and use the insight to plan future campaigns. Without a clear finish line, it is easy to be pulled into a “sunk cost” trap of trying to make a floundering campaign come back to life.
With these goals in place, you can proceed to developing more sophisticated target personas in order to define market segments.
Segmenting Your Audience
Broadcasting everything you have to everyone becomes expensive. Your budget is much better spent if you can allocate resources to where they will deliver the most ROI. That means segmentation.
Traditionally, campaigns have been targeted at demographic segments, such as gender, age, and income. That’s why so many brands are relentless in their pursuit of the millennial digital native or the ethical Gen Z shopper. However, behavioral segmentation is arguably a much better indicator of potential lifetime value (LTV). Knowing that a customer is a 21-year-old man, for example, tells you that they might be a prospect for your razor blade. Knowing that they clicked your Facebook ad and watched your video, on the other hand, tells you that they are ready to buy right now. It’s easy to see which one is a priority for your marketing budget.
Psychographic segmentation introduces emotional and contextual factors that simple demographic targeting might miss. That’s especially important for brands that champion a particular lifestyle or ethos, whether it’s diversity, sustainability, vegan, or organic. Less subjective is geographic segmentation, a crucial consideration for small businesses, which allows you to focus your budget where it can have the most impact (locally).
The more you know about your target persona, the more granular you can be in allocating them to defined segments. This allows you to match your digital marketing campaign with the most effective channel. Bear in mind, however, that this might evolve as the prospect moves through the marketing funnel.
The Marketing Funnel
The marketing funnel is a fundamental concept that maps out the customer journey from awareness to purchase. At each stage, the number of customers advancing on this journey will diminish, but the ones who do advance will become more and more informed, engaged, and intent on buying what you’re selling.
In order to effectively guide customers through this funnel, you’ll need a comprehensive marketing plan. The major channels mentioned above address different stages of the funnel in different ways (some address multiple), but your efforts across all channels should work together to clearly communicate brand value with consistent messaging.
No two marketing funnels are identical. Yours will depend on your industry, product, and target audience. Even when you settle on a funnel that works, your strategy should be fluid for two reasons: The marketing landscape is always shifting, and with data comes new insights.
At the top of the funnel — its widest point — you have the awareness stage. This is the stage at which potential customers are just learning about your offerings and typically have little intent to purchase. The best tools for growing awareness are digital ads, influencer marketing, content marketing, and social media.
Next is the consideration stage, in which customers are familiar with your brand or products and want to learn more before they open their wallets. You’ll want to utilize retargeting strategies across search and social ads to bring users back to your website, as well as use nurturing strategies like email marketing to deliver informative content that educates and encourages purchases.
The ultimate goal of your marketing strategy is to earn purchases. By the time your campaigns have influenced a potential customer to buy, you need to be sure your website is ready to facilitate their purchase action quickly and fluidly. Make sure your website is designed with an ideal conversion flow to move users along from product pages to checkout with as little friction as possible.
Sadly, there’s no time to celebrate once you’ve earned a purchase. It’s just as important to retain existing customers as it is to generate new ones (and a lot less costly). Purchasers have already demonstrated the ultimate interest in a product or service by opening up their wallets — your marketing machine should be built to keep them coming back for more. Brands can leverage similar methods they used in the consideration stage for the purposes of retention, as well as loyalty programs, to increase customer lifetime value.
The Ecommerce Pyramid
Whereas the marketing funnel shows how potential customers move through their journey toward purchase, the eCommerce pyramid illustrates how different elements of your product, branding, and marketing strategies build upon each other.
Once you’ve developed an air-tight product strategy, you need to solidify your messaging, brand story, and value props. All of these elements should be clearly communicated with a website optimized for conversion, leveraging content to drive purchases.
It may seem counterintuitive to develop your conversion and retention strategies before acquisition, but think about it this way: Building and launching acquisition campaigns before you have a system to convert and retain the customers you acquire is like pouring water into a sieve.
Draw up retargeting strategies and automated email sequences based on user behavior in advance so you don’t have to scramble to nurture and retain customers once they’re flooding in through acquisition campaigns.
When you’re ready to grow your business, it’s time to launch digital ads. But (and we can’t stress this enough) turning on acquisition is like throwing gas on a fire, so make sure you’re ready to handle the heat with your conversion and retention tactics.
The tip of our pyramid narrows down to how you position your brand to benefit from social proof. Encourage and take advantage of user reviews, positive press, and your social community’s activity to help solidify brand presence and generate the third-party validation that will ultimately allow your brand to sell itself.
Digital Marketing, Made Easy
If you’ve made it this far, you’ve no doubt realized that digital marketing isn’t something you can commit only a small percentage of your workday towards. If you are ready to level up your company’s digital marketing efforts in order to continue to grow, it’s time to talk to the experts. Search for resources near you. Reach out today to schedule a free consultation with Hawke Media’s team of digital marketing strategists.