I love this business. And I have for more than 18 years – more if you count all the geekery I did before officially launching ForeFront. And one of the reasons for my affinity is the ever-changing nature of the industry, which works well with my attention span.
Everyone here learns on a daily basis, which is a must to stay relevant. And the work we do has evolved as well; we’ve gone from simply designing and developing websites to using multiple tools to promote businesses – better known as “digital marketing.”
The folks over at SAS have a pretty succinct definition:
Digital marketing, the promotion of products or brands via one or more forms of electronic media, differs from traditional marketing in that it uses multiple channels and methods that enable an organization to analyze marketing campaigns and understand what is working and what isn’t – typically in real time.
Digital Marketing (Or Whatever You Want to Call It)
Great, so now we have a formal definition that sort of explains things, but there’s a lot more to it than that. Truth is, as an agency, we’ve been doing a lot of these things for years, long before some smart person coined the phrase, “digital marketing.” We called it web marketing, SEO, web promotion and other phrases with less panache. It all happened organically for us, we were simply doing everything we could to promote our clients’ businesses. In the process, we’ve gotten bigger, smarter and much better. Clients expect more than simple web development, as well they should.
So, Why Does It Matter?
Simply put, competition. More than 18 years ago, simply having a website put you ahead. Today it’s estimated that there are 1.5 billion websites. Yet there are still people that launch websites with zero promotion and wonder why users aren’t finding them (Shopify stores, anyone?). There’s only room for 10 websites on the first page of search results, and depending on your business, it could be a real dogfight to get there. And without good search placement, it’s like you’ve created a Yellow Page ad (remember those?) but just had them insert it on some random page. People might find it, but only through dumb luck.
But it’s not JUST about promotion. Sometimes, it’s also about playing defense. In the old days (just a decade or two ago), businesses had tremendous control over what was being said about them, simply because they were able to control all the messaging. Now, thanks to social media, review websites, blogs and unlimited digital access, consumers can take control. Effective digital marketing can stay ahead of negative comments and help to ensure that businesses project the correct image.
Why Not Just Stick With Traditional Marketing?
Depending on your niche, your industry and many other factors, that might be all you need. Or it could be a good blend of traditional and digital, or it could even be 100% digital. The fun thing is that digital marketing can be a great equalizer! A well-executed campaign can allow a small business to compete with companies many times their size, effectively leveling the playing field.
But the most compelling reasons (at least to the big geek inside of me) have to do with what’s now capable with today’s marketing tools. I’m sure you’ve heard of the Nielson Ratings system, which is used to gauge TV viewership. It’s done by random sampling; they will collect “diaries” from around 2 million households and use those results to guesstimate everything. It’s an extremely inexact science, to be sure.
Compare/contrast that to the following:
- We can determine exactly how many people visited your website, how long they stayed and what pages they visited
- We can determine what channels sent traffic to your site, and which ones were most effective
- We can determine exactly how many people opened a marketing email, and how many interacted with it
- We can hyper-personalize digital messages to extremely niche audiences
- We can automate a chain of events triggered by user interaction – open an email, send an offer, send a follow up, display a specific ad
And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Add to it the fact that ROI is more easily proven and far superior to most traditional methods, and the case for digital marketing becomes even more compelling.
Another key point: we interact with users where they spend most of their time. Certain demographics spend over 9 hours per day on social media. 88% of online purchases read product reviews. We all spend way too much time on emails. Digital marketing can target all of those areas and more.
But How Will I Know If It’s Working?
That all depends on the metrics you are measuring. A good digital marketing agency will take the time to figure out what conversion truly means for your firm and custom-tailor a campaign to achieve it.
Important note: there is no such thing as a copy and paste technique.
If someone is proposing a canned plan to you, run. We’ve seen far too many campaigns that were hastily thrown together using some “tried and true formula” that were nothing but wastes of time and money. Even worse, it creates distrust for our entire industry. It’s the price you pay for having such a low barrier to entry – any hack can claim they are an SEO or PPC expert and make outrageous false promises.
Always Ask for the Analytics, Reports & Stats
Our clients know our campaigns are working because they receive comprehensive reports each month, covering everything we did the previous month, the current results, and what we plan to do the following month. And because we tie our campaigns to conversions, there’s no hiding. Stats are wonderful for hiding truths (“look, we drove 1000 new visitors to your site!”) but you can’t fake real conversions. Either the phone rang or it didn’t, either the contact form got hit or it didn’t, either you sold more or you didn’t. Cut and dry. That’s how you’ll know if it’s working.
Do we have success with our digital marketing campaigns? We have tons of great success stories (contact us and we’ll be happy to brag), but perhaps the most telling fact is that it’s the one thing we do that clients actually request to spend more. After all, if you’re making your money back 5 to 1 (and sometimes much more), wouldn’t you invest more?
Can’t I Just Do It Myself?
For the most part, yes! Some aspects are much more difficult than others (setting up a retargeting campaign versus firing off a tweet), and you’ll want to make sure you’re using proper techniques (we offer general consulting services and even social media consulting for do-it-yourselfers) but if you’ve got the time go for it! For most, however, the time investment and expertise needed make it something that they prefer to outsource.
As mentioned previously, a good digital marketer will return your investment many times over, so it’s money well-spent. But if you’re still determined to go it alone, here’s a great place to start: Digital Marketing Checklist!
So What Tactics Should I Use & How Much Will It Cost?
These are such good questions, and very difficult to answer. I’ll start with a cheeky response: we have no idea until we know what you want to accomplish, how competitive your industry is, your reach, what state your site is in, and how quickly you want results. Remember, there is no “one size fits all” here.
Realistically though, most of our campaigns include at least these tactics:
- On-page optimization and UI/UX site updates
- Off-page SEO for Google traffic
- Paid Ads/AdWords/PPC
- Blog articles
- Social media
- Content marketing
When it makes sense, we also use:
- Retargeting marketing
- Email marketing/Drip campaigns
- Reputation management
- Chat tools and chatbots
Obviously, we cannot know what techniques will work best for your campaign, but that should give you a good idea of what goes into it.
How Much You Should Budget for Digital Marketing
Price is a lot tougher to estimate. We have campaigns running for as little as $1000 per month, and we have others that are in the high teens. To some degree (and this is the ONLY comparison I will make to traditional marketing), it’s a little like the old days, where spending more gets you more reach and frequency. In the case of digital marketing, most of the time a higher spend gets you faster results. The big difference is that (for 99% of businesses) there is a point of diminishing returns where the ROI starts to go down.
There’s a lot here, and we’d be happy to break it all down for you! Feel free to contact us and we’d be happy to take a look at your specific situation and make some recommendations!