Talk About a Term that's Wide in Scope...

What is digital marketing? It encompasses marketing that targets the digital environment where your customers and prospects live, work, and play. It makes use of electronic devices, such as personal computers, smartphones, tablets, game consoles, and more. This type of marketing can also involve apps, email, social networks, and websites. Stop and look around for a moment. Did you check your email? How about your phone? Did you post a picture of the burrito you just ate to Facebook while you were having lunch in your new favorite restaurant? Did you Tweet about a new pair of headphones? Or maybe you played some Candy Crush or whatever the hot mobile game du-jour is at the moment? Essentially the entire world has gone digital and uses mobile devices. As such, marketers have too for the obvious reason that is where their customers and prospects reside. The fact is the world is a digital one and will remain that way for the foreseeable future (and perhaps beyond). Marketers who want to be successful should wisely to focus their efforts on all things digital. Now of course there is much to it than that, starting with having the ability and knowing how to deliver a cross-channel marketing experience in the digital space. But make no mistake about it. Marketers need to become, if they are not already, true masters of the art and science of digital marketing.

An Array of Channels and Options

The digital world encompasses a variety of different channels for marketers to target and reach their customers and prospects.

Social Media Marketing (SMM)

Almost everyone is on social media. For years, people and businesses have had profiles on Facebook to stay in touch with their friends and contacts. Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, and Snapchat are both finding success with younger audiences. Youths seem to enjoy taking photos or recording brief moments of their lives to share with others. LinkedIn gives work professionals a place to connect with colleagues and business associates online. People love compiling photos and images that reflect their tastes and hobbies on Pinterest. Twitter gives a chance to briefly sum up your thoughts and share them as well as any links to stories and things you find intriguing. Google+ has also emerged as a social media platform for people to connect on and share their thoughts, lives, and news with each other.

With SMM, companies promote their products and services by sharing news, information, and engaging with followers, customers, prospects, fans, partners, and even competitors on social media platforms. SMM can increase your brand awareness and give your marketers a place to connect with highly-targeted prospects. You can even engage with these prospects directly by conversing with them online.

Understand that each social media platform is different, and they all have their own unique features and strengths. Instagram and Pinterest, for example, rely upon visuals. Facebook allows you to highly target customers based upon the groups they join and the pages they follow. Twitter gives you only a limited amount of space to make a point, but the right hashtags can help your Tweet show up in multiple streams.

Tencent QQ, Vero, and QZone are newer social media sites that are gaining in popularity. Goodreads and Tumblr have both withstood the test of time. SMM is not going anywhere anytime soon, if ever. Over time, more and more platforms will emerge with different features. Marketers will have to adapt their methods to make the most of the platforms available.

Content Marketing

The old saying goes that content is king. It is the beating heart of every marketing campaign. Content marketing gives you the chance to connect with prospects and customers and tell them the story of your brand. Hopefully, you have the capability to reach the right prospects and customers with the right content at the right time. The more personalized your content is the more likely it will interest, intrigue, and hold your audience’s attention. However, your content must provide some sort of value for its audience. They need to take something away from it, as that builds up your brand in their minds and increases the likelihood of them interacting more with you and doing business with your company.

Content can take a variety of forms, including but not limited to emails, landing pages, infographics, ebooks, white papers, banner ads, videos, texts, radio and TV commercials, newsletters, press releases, articles, blogs, and digital post cards. It can be used across a variety of channels. It is important that all of your content, regardless of its format or type, uses a consistent voice and messaging that properly reflects your brand and business. With content, you are having a conversation with customers and prospects. Think hard about the impression you wish to make.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO refers to the process of optimizing content and websites so that they appear more frequently in search results for search engines. It depends heavily upon using researched keywords and keyword phrases in your website copy and the content that will show up in a search. However, the process also involves organic link building and creating linkable assets to place in your content.

Pay-Per-Click (PPC)

PPC advertising refers to paying for each click on a link to a website. Search engines and most social media site offer opportunities for PPC. Your ads will appear in the feeds of the prospects and customers that you target. The more effective an ad the more success you will achieve.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is a type of PPC, though many marketers set it apart in its own category due to how important it can potentially be. It involves paying a search engine for showing marketing messages within its search results for specific keywords.

Display Advertising

Place relevant ads on third-party sites to reach more prospects. Such ads can include banners, boxes, video ads, and interactive ads that link back to one of your websites.

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketers earn a commission for promoting your products and services. It is a performance-based type of marketing, as the more visitors and customers these marketers bring in the more you will earn. Note that many bloggers are also affiliate marketers, as they use their blogs to promote different products and services.

Email Marketing

This is one of the oldest and best-known forms of content marketing. Through various interactions with your customer base, you collect information about their preferences, permission to contact them, and their email addresses. You can build an entire email mailing list, or perhaps more than one.

You can email prospects and customers offers, information about your products and services, news about your company and events, about webinars and conferences, customer success stories, links to case studies and white papers, and more. You have to strike the right balance and not send customers too many emails but also not too few. Also, like all content, emails need to provide some type of value and be as personalized as possible to increase their chances of being read and not deleted right away.

Text Messages

While marketers can reach their audiences on their phones via other channels, text message marketing can be more direct and to the point. You can send only a brief message, and it needs to be concise and effective. Short message service (SMS) refers to text messages that are simply text. Multimedia messages (MMS) refer to messages with various types of media, including videos and gifs. Both can be used effectively in your marketing strategies.

TV and Radio

People watch TV and listen to songs on the radio using their digital devices all the time. Some have Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and iTunes on their phones and tablets for just those purposes. Smart TVs, while not mobile, are even considered digital devices, due to their internet connection, and can do all of the above.

Also, keep aware that you can still reach your audiences on TV and radio, so as they are the appropriate channels for your business. Also remember that, as always, your advertising must be relevant, offer value, and strike the right cord to forge a connection with people.

Cross-Channel Orchestration Is Imperative

Cross-channel marketing, or multi-channel marketing, involves marketing using a variety of different channels. One might argue that in the new digital world a marketer has to use multiple channels to keep up with what audiences want. Social media, email, the web, text, TV, radio, depending upon your targeted customer base, you might need to be employing all these channels and more.

Of course, not every channel is appropriate for every audience. You would not likely engage with B2B customers with TV or radio for instance, but those channels might work well for a B2C customer base. The more data you have about your customers and prospects’ preferences, positions, and interests the better you can craft a marketing strategy with the right content and using the right channels.

Customers, however, like jumping from channel to channel. They can go from social media to the web to email in no time at all. You have to keep up with them and provide a seamless customer journey across all your channels. All your channels need to be aligned with your voice and messaging. A disjointed customer journey across different channels turns customers off. Therefore, you must strive for consistency in your digital marketing across all the channels you are using.

Marketing is storytelling. How jarring and confusing would it is if the story you were being told was changed up every so often? If the details were different? If the tone and voice changed? Your audience would not be able to keep up. In fact, they might not understand the message you’re trying to get across and not stick around to hear how the story ends.

So, the story of your brand must stay consistent from channel to channel, interaction to interaction, and across all your content. Also bear in mind that the customer journey should be a pleasant one. Content needs to be easily read, viewed, and digested. Websites should be easy to navigate, ads easy to understand, and graphics pleasing to the eye.

If digital marketing is having a digital conversation with your customers, you want to make the best impression possible so they keep talking to you.

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