People have been talking about the power of digital marketing for years. I've come to realize, though, that most of that talk is all about aligning with the terms rather than creating a real strategy. Want proof?
A report by Smartinsights.com, Managing Digital Marketing, shows that 50% of marketers have active digital programs yet operate without any strategy at all. Before we move on, let’s define what we mean by all of the different "marketing" terms we hear used interchangeably today.
According to Wikipedia, here is the delineation of some common terms:
- Digital Marketing is an umbrella term for the targeted, measurable, and interactive marketing of products or services using digital technologies to reach and convert leads into customers and retain them. It also goes on to say that digital marketing is an effective way to create a relationship with the consumer that has depth and relevance. (I particularly like the “create a relationship” part of the definition!)
- Content Marketing is described as a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
- Inbound Marketing is promoting a company through blogs, podcasts, video, eBooks, enewsletters, whitepapers, SEO, physical products, social media marketing, and other forms of content marketing which serve to attract customers through the different stages of the purchase funnel.
What we should be talking about?
Basically, whether you call it digital marketing, content marketing, or inbound, it's all about the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling. It's "non-interruption" based marketing.
It's about being relevant and providing value, and building long term, sustainable relationships. If your head is spinning, take a few minutes and check out the State of Inbound Report, published by HubSpot. It will help you begin to make more sense of today's best practices for marketers. Why does this matter?
We just talked about 50% of marketers are practicing digital marketing, but have no plan or strategy in place. It's kind of like driving a car without a map — you just wander around hoping that you get where you want to go. We know we need to be relevant, non-interruptive, AND we need a plan so we can measure our investment.
Whether you call it digital marketing, content marketing, or inbound, it's all about the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling.
I'm certain that having the ability to recite these marketing definitions isn't critical to the success of any organization. What does matter, however, is that you understand the digital ecosystem better, and how every action drives or hopes to drive the reaction you are looking for.
To be able to understand that this piece of content you generate, or social media post, drove this particular outcome, which contributed $XX to the bottom line of your business is how you begin to refine your strategy.
Instead of memorizing marketing terms, your strategy should focus on these four things:
1. Blogging: Creating New Regular, Relevant Content
If we can agree on one thing, we need to agree that content should be at center of your digital strategy. Why? Content drives search and getting found in search is how you are going to attract more visitors to your website. Attracting is the first step in developing your inbound marketing plan.
I will often be quoted saying “if we can’t drive visitors to your site, then you don’t stand a chance on converting them into new customers”.
One of the most essential parts of your blogging strategy needs to start with a content marketing strategy, or a road map. Create a quarterly calendar and stick to the plan. This will get you more than half way there!
If your blog could use some tweaking here is a blogging cheatsheet. One key takeaway is the more content you publish the more website traffic you will see. It's really that simple.
2. Social Media: Connecting With Your Audience Online
You have taken the time to write new content, now you need to focus on making sure that post/page gets as much visibility as possible and a great way to achieve this is by leveraging your social media platforms to share your content.
Which social media communities you engage in is highly dependent on your business and even more so, understanding where your buyer personas are hanging out. For example, I can tell you that for a manufacturing company like Palmer Retail Solutions, their target audience does not spend a great deal of time on Facebook, so we focus our sharing strategy on LinkedIn and Twitter.
We know this because we use HubSpot's social media tools, and we can tell each month how many leads each platform is driving by monitoring their analytics. Find our where your customers are hanging out and that's where you want to focus your social strategy.
3. Content Offers: Convert Interested Visitors into Leads
Now that you are creating new content regularly, sharing your content across the social platforms that engage your target audience, think of your website as your store front.
All of these activities are intended to drive the visitor back to your website and create more opportunities to engage further with your prospect or customer. If you know what is important to your buyer, than you should create more content offers that allow visitors to be educated, connect with your content on a deeper level, and enrich their relationship with your brand.
For example, we provide an offer at the end of this blog. If my information is valuable, you will likely click it and fill out the form. If not, I need to work on my strategy!
4. Lead Nurturing: Continuing to Build a New Relationship with Your Leads
According to HubSpot, 50% of leads are not ready to buy at the time of their first conversion. Lead nurturing has become an integral part of a successful marketing strategy specifically when building relationships with potential buyers across multiple channels.
In other words, your job isn't done when visitors respond to your content offer, in fact it has just begun. Nurturing your new leads with smart messages and more relevant content is the key to moving these contacts through the buyers' journey.
The consumer today is more savvy than ever and they are looking to build trust with your company before they decide they want to do business with you. By segmenting your leads, you are able to tailor your message with very specific follow up communication increasing your conversion opportunities.
Digital marketing works, I see it every day, but you can't make the power of digital marketing work if you get hung up on the terms and don't dig into the strategy. Digital isn't about tearing everything up and starting over, rather it's about embracing new technologies and methodologies allowing you to grasp new opportunities. It's about testing and measuring everything you do so that you know what works and stop doing the things that drive no results for your business.
Originally posted March 6, 2016 and update on November 16, 2017.
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