Sure, successful digital marketing requires quality software, computers, networks, and data. But tools are no substitute for savvy.
Perhaps the greatest challenge is figuring out how to get smart about digital marketing when Amazon has hundreds of books on the topic and Google has millions of articles. Where would you even start?
In our experience with dozens of clients across multiple industries, we find successful digital marketing has seven core components:
- Content strategy
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Social media strategy
- Marketing automation
- Sales enablement
Read on for a concise introduction to these essentials of digital marketing:
1. Start with goals
Digital marketing requires a thoughtful combination of hardware, software, and messaging. You don’t just throw a bunch of these variables at the marketplace and hope for the best.
You need a strategy built on well-defined, realistic goals. You start by envisioning your optimum outcome and working backward, identifying the tools, tactics, people, and other resources you’ll need to land where you want to be. Use the SMART model:
- Specific: “Increase lead generation by 20%” vs. “drive more leads.”
- Measurable: Target achievements that can be quantified and expressed in hard numbers.
- Achievable: Base goals on statistical likelihood and historical data vs. rose-colored scenarios that have little chance of happening.
- Relevant and results-driven: Don’t settle for a vague sense of achievement. Push for real-world improvements to your business.
- Time-bound: Give your goals deadlines in weeks, months, quarters, and/or years.
2. Create a content strategy
Content — articles, videos, webinars, eBooks — is one of the tenants of digital marketing. You’ll use content to attract customers, build trust, establish thought leadership, and achieve favorable search engine rankings.
Content strategy should include:
- Your customers’ major pain points and your plans to ease the pain with helpful, actionable and credible content.
- Buyer personas describing the challenges of your most common customers.
- Assessments of which kinds of content best serve your buyer personas.
- The primary steps in the buyers’ journey — awareness, consideration, and decision.
- Awareness content focuses on helping people and making your brand top-of-mind with your audience.
- Consideration and decision content are more product- and solution-focused.
- Targeted social media — use platforms where your target audience hangs out and engage with them there.
Related: 3 Steps to Creating a Content Inventory for the Buyer’s Journey, from HubSpot
3. Search engine optimization (SEO)
People will be searching for your services online. They’ll either find your website or one belonging to a competitor. Your strategic approach to keywords, backlinks, social media shares, and other SEO tactics will improve your odds of achieving higher rankings on the search engine results pages (SERPs) of Google and other search platforms.
The world of SEO is ever changing because Google and its brethren never stop tweaking their algorithms. Hence, it’s crucial to stay on top of the latest SEO trends.
Check out the strategic-SEO content we’ve created here at Blue Star:
- 3 SEO Factors You Can Manage or Improved Ranking
- How Your Website’s Structure Affects Your SEO
- 5 Major Google Penalties and How to Avoid Them
- Google AdWords — How It Works, Why You Need It, When To Use It
- 9 Questions to Ask SEO Companies Before Hiring
- Free download: Crash Course in SEO: Tools to Help Your Business Thrive
4. Craft a social media strategy
Using social media to boost your business is nothing like posting on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram in your free time. Your business goals should energize your social media strategy.
Here are four potential goal areas:
- Brand awareness: Posting shareable and entertaining social media content can raise your profile, though it might not add to your bottom line in the short run.
- New business: Attracting customers with social media is a tricky business because people use social channels to socialize, not to buy things.
- Thought leadership: Establishing your brand as an industry expert can build trust and affinity among current and potential customers.
- Customer service: Many brands have made social platforms primary customer-service areas.
Each of these goals requires a distinct approach to social media. Tactics that thrive on Twitter can flop on Facebook — it all depends on how your customers use social media content.
5. Enable marketing automation
Automating everyday marketing tasks can lighten the workload and let you get a lot more work done. Automation can:
- Pull in contact information from your CRM software.
- Notify you when a prospect downloads your eBook.
- Set up an email to follow up with them later (and perhaps offer additional content or set up a meeting).
- Inform sales about new leads.
Marketing automation software can do a lot more — it just depends on what works best for your business. It comes in two flavors:
- Platforms like HubSpot and Marketo that provide large feature sets covering a broad range of marketing functions.
- Cloud-based apps that provide highly specific services like SEO keyword research, online collaboration and data analytics.
If you work with a developer who knows how to optimize application programming interfaces (APIs), you may be able to stitch together a collection of smaller SaaS tools that provide better functionality than the big platforms at a lower price. But depending on your needs and budget, you may be better off with an automation platform.
6. Help sales find and nurture prospects
Digital marketing provides a perfect opportunity to mend the rift between marketing and sales. Marketing software and strategic content can generate interest in your business and allow you to pass the best leads on to your sales team.
Digital marketers should set time aside for old-school analog activities: talking to salespeople and customers to get a clear idea of what buyers want. Often, you can build a piece of content around answering a specific customer question. When customers type that question into a search engine, they can find your content and you can win their trust and appreciation.
Sales enablement varies widely depending on the product, service, vertical, or industry sector. It’s most important in B2B marketing, where longer sales cycles and larger transactions are commonplace, but it has a role in all sales.
7. Document everything with analytics
Digital marketing leaves data footprints everywhere. That can help you prove that your efforts are paying off, and it can steer you away from areas where you’re getting no traction.
At the very least, you need Google Analytics, which tracks a broad spectrum of web stats like:
- Traffic to your website
- Page views on your website
- Bounce rate
- Average time on site
- Top pages
These stats aren’t created equal. Ideally, you want data that makes the most direct connection between website visits and completed sales. You can have huge site traffic but no sales, or lots of targeted sales with low traffic. High bounce rates mean people are quickly clicking away from your content, while average time on site tells you how well you’re keeping people engaged.
Top metrics for social media include:
- Engagement rate
- Click-through rate
Instead of getting caught up on follower counts, you really want to measure how your social efforts translate into building affinity with your company. That’s where engagement and click-through rates prove their worth.
Top metrics for email include:
- Open rate
- Click-through rate
- Unsubscribe rate
Open rate tells you how well your email subject headers are working, while click-through and unsubscribe reveal readers’ enjoyment and appreciation of your content.
Need a hand mastering digital marketing?
You have to be an expert juggler to succeed at digital marketing. Thoughtful, in-depth articles on your site do no good if people can’t find them on Google. CEOs can pull the rug out from under you if you can’t quantify your achievements and prove you’re making progress.
At Blue Star Design, we help companies overcome the doubt and confusion that often haunt digital marketing efforts. Talk to us if you're not sure where to go next.
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