What exactly is Digital Marketing? How does it differ from traditional marketing? Should you try to become an expert? What are some pros and cons? Is it expensive? Does it really work - how can I tell?
Digital Marketing Basics
Before we go any further let's separate traditional marketing channels from digital marketing channels.
Traditional Marketing Channels (examples)
- Flyers / Brochures
- Print Ads
- Direct Mail
Digital Marketing Channels (examples)
- Social Media
- Email Marketing
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- PPC (pay-per-click advertising)
- Display Advertising
If you compare these lists, it should be apparent that digital marketing only focuses on online (aka. digital) channels, and mainly concentrates on online content and interactions.
Can Traditional Marketing Complement Digital Marketing (And Vice Versa)?
Large companies with substantial marketing budgets often mix many traditional and digital marketing channels because they have the resources to do so. On the other hand, most small-to-medium-sized businesses operate on a much smaller budget; therefore, they tend to focus their marketing on traditional or digital (not both).
The bottom line is, ROI should drive your marketing channel choice; therefore, if your existing marketing channels (traditional or digital) are not profitable, then it's time to mix it up (try something else).
Digital Marketing Channels In More Detail
To better understand digital marketing, and why it is important, let's look at a few digital channels and how they impact your business.
Many businesses underestimate the power of a great website. Even, if you sell your products or services offline (e.g. physical store), a well-built website is still an essential tool in closing a sale.
For example, your sales representative may initiate the first contact, but most buyers will still do their own research before buying from you. In other words, after hearing from your salesperson (or a representative), they will most likely go to your website.
This is where an old or inadequate website can break your sale. Irrespective of how good your salesperson (or a representative) is, if your website is contradicting in any way you will lose the sale. For example, if your representative positions your company as a high-quality alternative, but your website screams low-quality (e.g. outdated content, hard to use, doesn't adapt to mobile phones, etc.).
In today's world, a great website is a must! No excuses, website-related software and services are very affordable.
2. Social Media
Facebook, Yelp, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, and YouTube- these are all social media channels we use every day. More importantly, your prospective and existing customers are using them every day.
Without a presence on social media, you are alienating the vast majority of your customers.
Of course, you should not try to be on every single social media platform, but being active on a select few can make all the difference to your business.
3. Email Marketing
An email has been a large part of our daily lives for decades, so email marketing is naturally a well-known channel.
Is email marketing still effective? Some business leaders get the impression that email marketing doesn't work anymore, because we are bombarded with spam every day, but email is still a very effective digital marketing channel.
Yes, we are bombarded with spam every day, but a well-crafted email marketing campaign still does extremely well.
In one of our previous articles, we discussed that email marketing outperforms many marketing channels, and consistently delivers a high ROI. However, this is only the case if the email marketing campaign is well planned, executed, and conversational.
Blasting your contacts (customers/subscribers) with the same generic messaging or promotional material is called "spam"; therefore, such campaigns will most likely end up in a spam folder.
On the other hand, we have "conversational email" campaigns, which are personal, relevant, and timely. These type of campaigns result in more opens, higher click-through rate, and higher sales.
Email marketing is still one of the most cost-effective digital marketing channels, but your emails have to be personal, relevant, and timely.
Related: Why Email Marketing Still Matters
4. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
For many businesses, Google is their primary source of website traffic; therefore, most of their leads and customers come via Google Search.
If you are not familiar with SEO, the primary objective of search engine optimization (SEO) is to improve search engine ranking by optimization a website and other online assets. Why is SEO important? Because higher ranking usually results in more traffic (website), and more traffic results in more customers.
SEO tactics take time to materialize, so it can take 6+ months to see significant improvements.
5. PPC (Pay-Per-Click Advertising)
Over 500,000+ websites are created every single day, so standing out from the crowd is difficult. Irrespective of the industry you are involved in, or how narrow your niche is, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of alternatives.
Think of PPC ads (and ads in general) as the quickest way to leapfrog your competition. In essence, you are paying Google, Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms that support PPC ads for the right to display your business/product/service above your competition.
This is why PPC ads are an excellent option for businesses struggling to get their product or service in front of potential customers. Additionally, they are a good option for companies looking for immediate results. For example, we need to increase our weekly sales by 20%.
Digital Marketing (Pros And Cons)
Digital marketing is by no means perfect, so let's look at some pros and cons that are applicable to most businesses.
- Everything is measurable in great detail
- ROI is easy to calculate
- Value / Bang for your buck (when compared to traditional marketing channels like TV, Print, Radio, etc.)
- Targeting (ability to target ideal customers with great precision)
- Most digital ads are affordable (can support small budgets)
- Easy to replicate (e.g. email campaign, ad campaign, etc.)
- Easy to scale (e.g. throttle campaigns that produce great results)
- Terminology can be confusing
- Some level of experimentation is required (not all campaigns will work)
- May need a digital marketing expert to achieve above-average results
- Digital marketing is constantly evolving, so keeping up with the latest trends is important
We may be bias, but in our opinion, digital marketing pros far outweigh the cons, and the industry supports this view - digital marketing spending has exploded over the last decade, while traditional marketing channels like TV, Radio, and Print are declining every year. Considering how reliant we are on the internet and all things digital, it should not be a surprise why digital marketing is replacing other forms of marketing.
Should You Become A Digital Marketing Expert?
Expecting business owners and executives to become experts in all business functions is unrealistic and probably not the best use of their time; therefore, the answer is no.
If you are a business owner or an executive, don't strive to become an expert in digital marketing. Instead, learn the basics and form a solid foundation. Your goal should be to learn enough to have an educated conversation around digital marketing objectives, KPIs, channels, analytics, and ROI.
It's always tempting to try and do all the work yourself, but as is the case in most fields, hiring a specialist/expert will produce much better results. That being said, if you have zero budget for marketing (not recommended), then you may have to tackle digital marketing yourself, but it will be difficult.
A four-year college degree cannot create an expert, so don't expect a few "how-to" videos or articles to turn you into one.
How we deliver marketing materials may have changed/evolved over the years: posters, flyers, billboards, magazines/papers, radio, tv, and now the internet, but the importance of marketing has not.
Simply put, digital marketing is the next evolution of marketing and advertising. Finally, the channels we discussed (website, email, social media, etc.) are only scratching the surface of what is possible, so we are only at the beginning of this digital marketing revolution.