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 with a comprehensive 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 of digital marketing 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, we need to make sure you understand your…
First things first – you need to ask yourself one thing: who is my customer? Your efforts in any and every marketing channel will only be 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 ROI and 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 will help you remember who you’re talking to so you can make your messaging more personal across all channels. Speaking of channels…
Major Digital Marketing Channels
1 – Social Media Advertising
Major social networks (like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Pinterest… the list goes on) 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 broken into new acquisition and retargeting.
3 – Email Marketing
Email offers brands a way to communicate directly with users who’ve expressed interest in their products or services by giving an email address 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 trigger based on time or user action.
4 – 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 access their communities of social media users. Acting as brand advocates, these influencers introduce brands to new audiences, increasing awareness and establishing 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.
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 searches 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 and more.
The Marketing Funnel
The funnel is a fundamental marketing 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 that works harmoniously. The major channels mentioned above address different stages of the funnel in different ways (some address multiple), but your efforts across all channels should clearly communicate your 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 come 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 products or services 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, where customers are familiar with your brand or products and want to learn more before they open up their wallets. You’ll want to utilize retargeting strategies across search and social ads to bring users back to your website, as well as 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 from you, 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 comes 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 your brand presence and generate the third-party validation that will ultimately allow your brand to sell itself.