Stepping into Digital Marketing

The Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) hosts live webchats, covering a variety of topics that build leadership capabilities and promote cross-border cooperation. A recent webchat explored best practices for those curious about using digital marketing.

Marketing has always been about connecting with your audience in the right place and at the right time. In today’s world, you need to meet consumers where they are — the internet. It is easy to think that digital skills are only important for big companies with many resources, but today’s global marketplace is increasingly about being part of the online marketplace. Whether building an audience on social media, blogging about sustainability efforts or shipping products to customers around the world, the digital landscape is only projected to grow faster and with wider reach in the coming years.

Before you can decide that digital marketing is the right approach for your business, you need to understand what digital marketing is and how it can help set you apart from traditional marketing efforts.

What is digital marketing, and why is it important?

Digital marketing is a way that you can communicate a message to your customers through a digital medium. It includes all online efforts to market your products and services, whether you’re targeting potential audiences via computer, tablet or smartphone app. If you follow brands on Twitter, groups on Facebook or influencers on Instagram, you’re experiencing digital marketing every day — and most likely every time you open your email.

The fast pace of marketing in the digital space reflects that people around the world are being influenced increasingly by what they see online. Not only are things like banking and buying groceries available with a few clicks, but most people consume more media online today than in any other form. With the need to communicate to your target audience now and in the future, there’s a good chance that your target audience is probably living in the digital world.

How can you use digital marketing to help you stand out?

As you consider the level of digital marketing that makes sense for your business and organizational mission, there are three main areas to think about before you begin any digital marketing actions. You can think about these areas in three steps:

  1. Know your business goals

Step one is being clear about the goal you are trying to achieve online. This is important to know because it can help you choose which platform to use to reach your customers while helping you decide what kind of content you should make. The most common objectives include building awareness, driving traffic to your website, downloading an app or giving a “call to action” to do something specific — whether that’s buying something or signing up for email updates. Once you have established your digital marketing goals, you can then focus on the objectives that will get you there. For more specifics on goal setting, check out “Setting and Achieving Goals.”

Each of these objectives you select will have different key performance indicators (KPI’s), which are metrics that can help you gauge your progress in meeting goals. For example, if your goal is to increase sales, then a key performance indicator would be conversion rates — the percentage of web visitors who visit your landing page and how many of those web visitors buy or take a specific action on your website. Each objective will have different sets of metrics to gauge their performance.

  1. Understanding your audience

Step two is knowing how to tailor your message to your target audience. Because your target audience is the specific audience you are really trying to reach, you should know all you can about audience members and how they would best access your message. Look at traditional demographic factors like age range and location. Know where your audience members spend their time online, how they prefer to communicate with one another and how they choose to consume their media. After figuring that part out, then you can determine how your brand should portray itself in order to be well-received by the target audience.

By digging deeper into customer preferences, you will have a better understanding of your audience’s behavior. You will know what members like or don’t like, as well as other aspects of their lifestyle that help you tailor your message in specific ways. For example, teenagers are known for spontaneity, so it’s best to use new and upcoming platforms to reach them. Young adults are drawn to lifestyle platforms like Instagram that they can easily check throughout their day, though older adults prefer to watch long-form videos on Facebook.

  1. Determine how you are unique

Step three is establishing your “value proposition,” also known as the business “rite of passage.” This is a statement that explains how your product or service solves a customer need and delivers specific benefits, explaining to the ideal customer why he or she should do business with you and not with the competition.

From this unique value proposition, you can develop a marketing campaign or plan as you engage with your audience online. Taking your unique attributes with you online can give you an advantage as you reach your target audience in a way that no one else can. With so many things competing for your audience’s attention, breaking through the noise of other distractions is key. A great way to clarify your value proposition is to ask yourself:

  • How can we make sure our efforts are different from others in the market?
  • What are all of the reasons that people have for purchasing a product like mine?
  • What problems or needs are motivating the buying decision?
  • What specific outcomes are my customers seeking?

Your value proposition will then help you discover the ways that you can branch out and be different because of what you uniquely offer to your target audience. This will help you stand out in such a large landscape where so many businesses are competing for market share.  

Understanding the digital landscape is important because knowing which medium to use and the right timing of your messaging can make the difference in whether or not people see your content at the right time and take action to buy your product or engage with you.

Do you need to pay for digital marketing?

Different types of digital media: Paid media - some form of advertising that has been paid for, allows the targeting of audiences who might not be aware of the company, helps to reach a broader audience; Owned media - media the brand manages itself, includes Facebook / websites / podcasts, also platforms that loyal followers of the brand will return to for routine content; Earned media - describes when others are talking about your brand without being paid, customers tagging you on social media or posting about your product

Using social media channels to reach your customers can result in some confusion, as the ability to reach your current following for free may conflict with the need to run a paid targeted ad that will help you be seen by lots of other people as you try to build your brand. In all, digital marketing media can be categorized into three types:

  • Paid media is something that we have paid for, typically an advertisement for which we have given money to be shown to others. This could be banner ads, in-app ads, video ads that precede other videos on YouTube, or even sponsored results on a search engine. Paid media allows you to target audiences who might not be aware of your company and can help you to reach a broader audience, often converting to lots of earned media if the content really resonates with people.
  • Owned media is the media the brand manages itself. Some examples of this would be a Facebook page, a website, an Instagram account or a collection of tweets. For some businesses, owned media also can include podcasts, original videos and other multimedia productions. It also includes platforms that loyal followers of the brand will return to in order to get content and updates.
  • Earned media describes when others are talking about your brand, your media or your activities without you having paid or exchanged anything for their doing so. For example, a customer may post on Instagram about your product. You did not pay them; you only sold them a great product. Based on your unique brand attributes, people can really help to boost the awareness of your brand online.

If you’re trying to build more brand awareness or pick up new business leads, consider paid media in order to tap into the bigger pool of people on the internet or social media that are not already followers of your business or customer network.

In the digital marketing space, getting comfortable with social media, running ads or even implementing tools like chatbots can make a significant difference in boosting your brand awareness. But remember, all this communication all comes back to introducing people to your company and convincing them to choose your product or service for their needs.

Continue thinking about how to position your message most effectively; read “Strategic Approaches to Your Marketing”  for a great framework to use as you lay out a marketing plan.