Digital Marketing – What Is It and How Do You Get Started?

What is digital marketing?

You could call it simply marketing on the internet – but it’s so much more.

The game keeps changing for people wanting to market their business. How do you attract attention when your customers often don't even watch TV without looking at their phone at the same time?

Getting started with digital marketing may look difficult at first, but with the right attitude, and a few basics, you’ll be up and running and building your audience in no time.

In this article, we’ll talk you through the possibilities digital marketing opens up, and recommend some first steps on your journey.

How is digital marketing different to traditional marketing and what are the opportunities for small business?

Tried and tested marketing principles like knowing your audience, developing your brand, attracting attention and making sales haven’t gone away – in fact, they’ve been supercharged thanks to the new digital tools on our laptops and phones.

For small businesses, digital marketing offers the chance to accurately target, reach and engage customers in a cost-effective way, all from your office or couch.    

It’s a mindset that rewards storytelling, authenticity and experimentation, and offers the chance to build a loyal, engaged audience.

Digital Marketing: The top three tips

Here are our top three tips for getting started with your digital marketing strategy:  

One – Tell your story where your customers are

Smartphones, search engines and social media are the new playing field for businesses to connect with customers. To win their attention, you need to be in the game.

The days of taking out a billboard and hoping your customers drive past are over. Search engines like Google and social networks like Facebook or Instagram offer businesses of all sizes easy-to-use tools to target and reach customers directly and effectively.  

Two – Experiment for the best results

When you’re dipping a toe in the water, it’s a good idea to experiment with different audiences, content and offers to test your approach. Keep track of key results like clicks on your links, likes, comments, replies and traffic to your website, to learn what works and what doesn’t and adjust as you go.  

Three – Research the channels and build your audience

Social media is a 24/7 conversation that offers invaluable insights into your customers, what’s important to them and how they feel about products, brand and your competition.

Customers value hearing from brands directly – 59% trust direct communication with a brand through email or social networks, as opposed to 41% who trust advertising and marketing material.

Most importantly, remember that social media is literally social. Listening to your customers and confidently having conversations online is a big opportunity – 39% of customers say they’re unlikely to become emotionally attached to a brand unless they’re communicating via social media.

The Beginners’ Guide – getting started with digital marketing

Digital marketing can seem overwhelming at first, but help is at hand. Here’s a simple guide to some of the most common digital marketing platforms, why you should give them a go and the first steps you should take.

Website

What is it? Your website is your home base, where you get to tell your story and showcase what you have to offer, completely on your own terms.    

Why should you try it? Your website should be the first thing prospective customers find when they google your business and be the number one source of information on your product or service. Make it easy for your customers to find answers to any questions, and how they can get hold of you quickly and easily.

Take the first step Have friends and colleagues visit your website  and ask them the following questions:

  • Was it easy for them to find you online?
  • Could they quickly understand what you’re offering?
  • Did they have a positive impression?
  • Could they find information about why they should choose you?

Honest feedback from people you trust is a valuable steer on what’s working and what needs fixing.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

What is it? SEO is a set of building blocks to make sure your business appears as close to the top of a Google search as possible.

Why should you try it? The old joke goes “The best place to bury a body is on the second page of Google, no-one ever looks there.” It’s in your interests to be near the top of search results for your business name and your industry.

Take the first step SEO basics include using keywords people search for to find your site in your website’s headings and the content as well as publishing new content regularly.

Email

What is it? Building your own list of customers and prospects and sending them regular offers or newsletters.

Why should you try it? It’s really effective – email marketing has a return on investment of 122%, more than four times any other platform. Owning your own database of customers’ email addresses, who’ve signed up to hear from you, is permission marketing gold.  

Take the first step Before you send your first email, think carefully about putting your audience first, and making sure your content will engage or solve their problems. The more value you can offer, the more likely your customers will be to open, read and act on your newsletter.

Paid search

What is it? Paid search means your advertisement appears in the most valuable real estate there is online – at the top of Google search results. You specify the search terms or target audiences you want to appear alongside and Google serves them up for a fee.

Why should you try it? When your customers are searching online for products or services like yours (often with credit card in hand!), your pitch and a link to your site will be right alongside what they’re searching for.

Take the first step Get started by running a trial. Google makes it easy to set your ads up, target your audience and run a campaign for very little investment up front.  

Social media

What is it? At its heart, social media is a two-way conversation – people now expect to be able to talk with a business in the same way as friends and family without leaving their favourite app.

Why should you try it?  It’s where your customers spend their time, with 42% of people globally belong to a social network. The upside for you is building your brand, forming relationships with your customers and effectively targeting your audience for very little outlay.

Take the first step If you haven’t already done so, reserve your business name on the major social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, even if you don’t intend to use them straight away. Then listen. Get a feel for the conversations people are having, to find out what works, what doesn’t and people’s expectations before joining the conversation yourself.  

Video  

What is it? There’s more to video than TV ads. Product explainer videos and live video streaming are just two of the new formats customers prefer to engage with online. There are plenty of places to share them – your website, your account on a video sharing site such as YouTube or Vimeo, a newsletter and your social media accounts.

Why should you try it? Customers are 85% more likely to buy after watching a product video, and they expect to be able to watch a product in action rather than simply reading about it. Video will add a new dimension to your story.  

Take the first step Most people have a camera capable of shooting HD video in their pocket. If you don’t want to call in the experts, experiment with making your own. ‘On the fly’ video can have a realness and authenticity customers react positively to.

Remember, lighting and sound are key. Shoot somewhere where there’s plenty of natural light for crisp, clear pictures. Be mindful of sound, avoid wind, cars and any noisy machinery and use a microphone if you have one.

If digital marketing seems a daunting task at the outset, start small. Put some time in the diary each week to research and set up social media accounts, review your website or create a content plan to share compelling emails that deliver on your marketing goals.

You'll find more advice and guides at www.bomamarketing.com