Digital Marketing - An Introduction (1 of 4)
Should you be on Facebook, are you Tweeting or Blogging? These are the sorts of questions faced by many professional services firms as they consider how best to make use of the options opened up by each new development in digital marketing.
More and more channels and better tools and analysis are further extending the range and effectiveness of the digital marketing techniques available to firms. The practical issue for firms is not whether or not to use these new methods, but rather how best to do so?
This series of 4 articles looks at the uses of digital marketing tools and illustrates ways in which they can assist your overall marketing efforts
First it may be helpful to clarify some of the differences between traditional marketing initiatives and those offered by digital marketing.
Traditional marketing uses methods such as direct mail, brochures, or printed newsletters to ‘push’ out messages to clients/prospects (Outbound Marketing). In contrast a digital marketing approach offers opportunities to the same audience to engage with the firm in a two-way process of communication and exchange of information (Inbound Marketing).
Because of the differences in the methods employed and in the skills of the personnel who deploy them, the two approaches are often regarded as separate activities. However digital marketing is not a process of replacing traditional marketing tools with new ones, but rather part of a process aimed at improving a firms overall marketing programme.
Unfortunately many businesses approach digital marketing as a new way to market rather than a way to improve their marketing. This point is made by way of emphasising that digital marketing is not about simply adopting new platforms and tools which firms can use to carry out their marketing programmes, but is aimed at promoting more effective communication, collaboration and participation with existing and prospective clients/customers. One way of viewing digital marketing technologies is to regard them as creating a process of ‘engagement’
Digital Marketing Tools.
A range of marketing channels are available for forms of digital marketing, such as E-Mail marketing, PPC, Podcasting, Blogging and Social Media.
In embarking on a digital marketing strategy, it is not necessary to employ all channels, but rather to concentrate on those that are most appropriate for the nature of the firm’s activities.
The selected channels should also reflect your firm’s capabilities and markets, in terms of existing resources, knowledge base and nature of target audiences. The size of firm, and nature of its products or services will also be clearly of relevance in these decisions.
Ultimately, all of the chosen digital markets initiatives should not be considered in isolation, but should complement existing activities and be integrated into an overall marketing strategy.
The Business Case for Digital Marketing.
Having shown that digital techniques can be a valuable component in a firm’s overall marketing strategy, there still remains the practical issue of deciding the interrelated questions of the specific initiatives to be chosen and the budget needed for them.
A starting point is to define and establish your ambitions for digital marketing efforts. Initial actions might be to sign up for e-newsletters or brochure downloads as a way of gaining some awareness of the firm’s presence and role. More extensive or ‘branded’ programmes can be introduced, either in the light of the results from small-scale actions, or if the initial budget is large enough to support a much broader range of projects.
In deciding the initial programme of action, it is important to establish how the results of the programme are to be identified. An old adage with advertising was that only about 50% proved effective, but the difficulty was in knowing which 50%. It is still the case that quantifying the results of marketing efforts can be difficult in some areas. With digital marketing this should be less of a problem. Because of the ‘engagement’ nature of most initiatives, virtually all interaction can be tracked, measured and quantified.
It is also important to have a realistic timeframe in which to assess the results of such new marketing initiatives. Firms can lose presence or market share quite quickly as a consequence of any adverse external influences, but the process of establishing your presence and brand recognition in the market takes time. Depending on the size and capabilities of your firm, digital marketing can be a ‘slow burn’ process, So don’t expect your door to be beaten down simply because you set up a Twitter account. And remember that other firms are also seeking to ‘engage’ with clients/prospects. So your messages, posts, tweets and updates need to be interesting and relevant.
Digital marketing in itself is not a panacea that will meet all of a firms needs. But it can be a valuable tool in creating brand awareness, in delivering more effective programmes and engagement. For these reasons it should be embraced as part of your overall marketing strategy.
In subsequent articles I will deliver practical guidance on implementing a digital marketing plan – Getting Found – Converting – Analysing.