11th September 2022
The Who, What, Why, & How of Digital Marketing
With how accessible the internet is today, would you believe me if I told you the number of people who go online every day is still increasing?
It is. In fact, "constant" internet usage among adults increased by 5% in just the last three years, according to Pew Research. And although we say it a lot, the way people shop and buy really has changed along with it — meaning offline marketing isn't as effective as it used to be.
Marketing has always been about connecting with your audience in the right place and at the right time. Today, that means you need to meet them where they are already spending time: on the internet.
Enter digital marketing — in other words, any form of marketing that exists online.
At HubSpot, we talk a lot about inbound marketing as a really effective way to attract, engage, and delight customers online. But we still get a lot of questions from people all around the world about digital marketing. So, we decided to answer them. Click the links below to jump to each question, or keep reading to see how digital marketing is carried out today.
What is digital marketing?
Digital marketing, also called online marketing, refers to all marketing efforts that occur on the internet. Businesses leverage digital channels such as search engines, social media, email, and other websites to connect with current and prospective customers. This also includes communication through text or multimedia messages.
At this stage, digital marketing is vital for your business and brand awareness. It seems like every other brand has a website. And if they don't, they at least have a social media presence or digital ad strategy. Digital content and marketing is so common that consumers now expect and rely on it as a way to learn about brands. Because digital marketing has so many options and strategies associated with it, you can get creative and experiment with a variety of marketing tactics on a budget.
Digital marketing is defined by the use of numerous digital tactics and channels to connect with customers where they spend much of their time: online. The best digital marketers have a clear picture of how each digital marketing campaign supports their overarching goals. And depending on the goals of their marketing strategy, marketers can support a larger campaign through the free and paid channels at their disposal.
A content marketer, for example, can create a series of blog posts that generate leads from a new ebook the business recently created. The company's social media marketer might then help promote these blog posts through paid and organic posts on the business's social media accounts. Perhaps the email marketer creates an email campaign to send those who download the ebook more information on the company. We'll talk more about these specific digital marketers in a minute.
Why is digital marketing important?
Digital marketing helps you reach a larger audience than you could through traditional methods, and target the prospects who are most likely to buy your product or service. Additionally, it's often more cost-effective than traditional advertising, and enables you to measure success on a daily basis and pivot as you see fit.
There are a few major benefits of digital marketing:
You can focus your efforts on only the prospects most likely to purchase your product or service.
If you place an advertisement on TV, in a magazine, or on a billboard, you have limited control over who sees the ad. Of course, you can measure certain demographics — including the magazine's typical readership, or the demographic of a certain neighborhood — but it's still largely a shot in the dark.
Digital marketing, on the other hand, allows you to identify and target a highly-specific audience, and send that audience personalized, high-converting marketing messages.
For instance, you might take advantage of social media's targeting features to show social media ads to a certain audience based on variables such as age, gender, location, interests, networks, or behaviors. Alternatively, you might use PPC or SEO strategies to serve ads to users who've shown interest in your product or service, or who've searched for specific keywords that relate to your industry.
Ultimately, digital marketing enables you to conduct the research necessary to identify your buyer persona, and lets you refine your marketing strategy over time to ensure you're reaching prospects most likely to buy. Best of all, digital marketing helps you market to sub-groups within your larger target audience. If you sell multiple products or services to different buyer personas, this is especially helpful.
It's more cost-effective than outbound marketing methods.
Digital marketing enables you to track campaigns on a daily basis and decrease the amount of money you're spending on a certain channel if it isn't demonstrating high ROI. The same can't be said for traditional forms of advertising. It doesn't matter how your billboard performs — it still costs the same, whether or not it converts for you.
Plus, with digital marketing, you have complete control over where you choose to spend your money. Perhaps rather than paying for PPC campaigns, you choose to spend money on design software to create high-converting Instagram content. A digital marketing strategy allows you to continuously pivot, ensuring you're never wasting money on channels that don't perform well.
For instance, if you work for a small business with a limited budget, you might try investing in social media, blogging, or SEO – three strategies that can give you high ROI even with minimal spend.
Digital marketing evens the playing field within your industry and allows you to compete with bigger brands.
If you work for a small business, it's likely difficult for you to compete with the major brands in your industry, many of which have millions of dollars to invest in television commercials or nationwide campaigns. Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities to outrank the big players through strategic digital marketing initiatives.
For instance, you might identify certain long-tail keywords that relate to your product or service, and create high-quality content to help you rank on search engines for those keywords. Search engines don't care which brand is biggest — instead, search engines will prioritize content that resonates best with the target audience.
Digital marketing is measurable.
Digital marketing can give you a comprehensive, start-to-finish view of all the metrics that might matter to your company — including impressions, shares, views, clicks, and time on page. This is one of the biggest benefits of digital marketing. While traditional advertising can be useful for certain goals, its biggest limitation is measurability.
Unlike most offline marketing efforts, digital marketing allows marketers to see accurate results in real time. If you've ever put an advertisement in a newspaper, you'll know how difficult it is to estimate how many people actually flipped to that page and paid attention to your ad. There's no surefire way to know if that ad was responsible for any sales at all.
On the other hand, with digital marketing, you can measure the ROI of pretty much any aspect of your marketing efforts.
Here are some examples:
With digital marketing, you can see the exact number of people who have viewed your website's homepage in real time by using digital analytics software, available in marketing platforms like HubSpot.
You can also see how many pages they visited, what device they were using, and where they came from, amongst other digital analytics data.
This intelligence helps you to prioritize which marketing channels to spend more or less time on, based on the number of people those channels are driving to your website. For example, if only 10% of your traffic is coming from organic search, you know that you probably need to spend some time on SEO to increase that percentage.
With offline marketing, it's very difficult to tell how people are interacting with your brand before they have an interaction with a salesperson or make a purchase. With digital marketing, you can identify trends and patterns in people's behavior before they've reached the final stage in their buyer's journey, meaning you can make more informed decisions about how to attract them to your website right at the top of the marketing funnel.
Content Performance and Lead Generation
Imagine you've created a product brochure and posted it through people's letterboxes — that brochure is a form of content, albeit offline. The problem is that you have no idea how many people opened your brochure or how many people threw it straight into the trash.
Now imagine you had that brochure on your website instead. You can measure exactly how many people viewed the page where it's hosted, and you can collect the contact details of those who download it by using forms. Not only can you measure how many people are engaging with your content, but you're also generating qualified leads when people download it.
An effective digital marketing strategy combined with the right tools and technologies allows you to trace all of your sales back to a customer's first digital touchpoint with your business.
We call this attribution modeling, and it allows you to identify trends in the way people research and buy your product, helping you to make more informed decisions about what parts of your marketing strategy deserve more attention, and what parts of your sales cycle need refining.
Connecting the dots between marketing and sales is hugely important — according to Aberdeen Group, companies with strong sales and marketing alignment achieve a 20% annual growth rate, compared to a 4% decline in revenue for companies with poor alignment. If you can improve your customer's journey through the buying cycle by using digital technologies, then it's likely to reflect positively on your business's bottom line.
It’s easier to adapt and change a digital marketing strategy.
A lot of work goes into developing a marketing strategy. Generally, you will follow through with that strategy until completion, allow it to take effect, and then judge its results. However, things do not always go according to plan. You may realize halfway through that a calculation was off, an assumption was incorrect, or an audience did not react how they were expected to. Being able to pivot or adjust the strategy along the way is highly beneficial because it prevents you from having to start over completely.
Being able to change your strategy easily is a great benefit of digital marketing. Adapting a digital marketing strategy is a lot easier than other more traditional forms of marketing, like mailers or billboard advertising. For instance, if an online ad isn’t delivering as expected, you can quickly adjust it or pause it to yield better results.
Digital marketing can improve your conversion rate and the quality of your leads.
As digital marketing makes it simpler to measure your marketing efforts, this makes improving your conversion rate simpler as well. Being able to measure the effectiveness of each tactic helps you develop better strategies. Continuously refining your methods improves your conversion rate. Investing in online marketing ensures that everything is optimized for the highest amount of conversions.
Additionally, all leads do not offer the same value for your business. Digital marketing provides an opportunity for you to target a specific audience that will yield higher quality leads that are more likely to become customers. Connecting your business with the most valuable leads will directly improve your conversion rate.
Types of Digital Marketing
1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
This is the process of optimizing your website to "rank" higher in search engine results pages, thereby increasing the amount of organic (or free) traffic your website receives. The channels that benefit from SEO include websites, blogs, and infographics.
There are a number of ways to approach SEO in order to generate qualified traffic to your website. These include:
On page SEO:This type of SEO focuses on all of the content that exists "on the page" when looking at a website. By researching keywords for their search volume and intent (or meaning), you can answer questions for readers and rank higher on the search engine results pages (SERPs) those questions produce.
Off page SEO:This type of SEO focuses on all of the activity that takes place "off the page" when looking to optimize your website. "What activity not on my own website could affect my ranking?" You might ask. The answer is inbound links, also known as backlinks. The number of publishers that link to you, and the relative "authority" of those publishers, affect how highly you rank for the keywords you care about. By networking with other publishers, writing guest posts on these websites (and linking back to your website), and generating external attention, you can earn the backlinks you need to move your website up on all the right SERPs.
Technical SEO:This type of SEO focuses on the backend of your website, and how your pages are coded. Image compression, structured data, and CSS file optimization are all forms of technical SEO that can increase your website's loading speed — an important ranking factor in the eyes of search engines like Google.
This term denotes the creation and promotion of content assets for the purpose of generating brand awareness, traffic growth, lead generation, and customers.
The channels that can play a part in your content marketing strategy include:
Blog posts:Writing and publishing articles on a company blog helps you demonstrate your industry expertise and generates organic search traffic for your business. This ultimately gives you more opportunities to convert website visitors into leads for your sales team.
Ebooks and whitepapers:Ebooks, whitepapers, and similar long-form content helps further educate website visitors. It also allows you to exchange content for a reader's contact information, generating leads for your company and moving people through the buyer's journey.
Infographics:Sometimes, readers want you to show, not tell. Infographics are a form of visual content that helps website visitors visualize a concept you want to help them learn.
Audio or visual content:Television and radio are popular channels for digital marketing. Creating content that can be shared online as a video or heard on the radio by listeners can greatly broaden your potential audience.
3. Social Media Marketing
This practice promotes your brand and your content on social media channels to increase brand awareness, drive traffic, and generate leads for your business.
If you're new to social platforms, you can use tools like HubSpot to connect channels like LinkedIn and Facebook in one place. This way, you can easily schedule content for multiple channels at once, and monitor analytics from the platform as well.
On top of connecting social accounts for posting purposes, you can also integrate your social media inboxes into HubSpot, so you can get your direct messages in one place.
The channels you can use in social media marketing include:
Many marketers will use these social media platforms to create a viral campaign. Partnering with a popular content creator or taking part in a trend that’s currently resonating with a wide audience is a strategy of viral marketing. The purpose is to create something shareworthy in the hopes that it will organically spread across a social media channel.
4.Pay Per Click (PPC)
PPC is a method of driving traffic to your website by paying a publisher every time your ad is clicked. One of the most common types of PPC is Google Ads, which allows you to pay for top slots on Google's search engine results pages at a price "per click" of the links you place. Other channels where you can use PPC include:
Paid ads on Facebook:Here, users can pay to customize a video, image post, or slideshow, which Facebook will publish to the news feeds of people who match your business's audience.
Twitter Ads campaigns:Here, users can pay to place a series of posts or profile badges to the news feeds of a specific audience, all dedicated to accomplish a specific goal for your business. This goal can be website traffic, more Twitter followers, tweet engagement, or even app downloads.
Sponsored Messages on LinkedIn: Here, users can pay to send messages directly to specific LinkedIn users based on their industry and background.
This is a type of performance-based advertising where you receive commission for promoting someone else's products or services on your website. Affiliate marketing channels include:
Hosting video ads through the YouTube Partner Program.
Posting affiliate links from your social media accounts.
This is part of the relatively new wave of influencer marketing. Creating a campaign with the use of influencers can be a highly effective form of affiliate marketing. Finding the right content creators can take your digital campaign to the next level.
Native advertising refers to advertisements that are primarily content-led and featured on a platform alongside other, non-paid content. BuzzFeed-sponsored posts are a good example, but many people also consider social media advertising to be "native" — Facebook advertising and Instagram advertising, for example.
Marketing automation refers to the software that serves to automate your basic marketing operations. Many marketing departments can automate repetitive tasks they would otherwise do manually, such as:
Email newsletters:Email automation doesn't just allow you to automatically send emails to your subscribers. It can also help you shrink and expand your contact list as needed so your newsletters are only going to the people who want to see them in their inboxes.
Social media post scheduling:If you want to grow your organization's presence on a social network, you need to post frequently. This makes manual posting a bit of an unruly process. Social media scheduling tools push your content to your social media channels for you, so you can spend more time focusing on content strategy.
Lead-nurturing workflows:Generating leads, and converting those leads into customers, can be a long process.You can automate that process by sending leads specific emails and content once they fit certain criteria, such as when they download and open an ebook.
Campaign tracking and reporting:Marketing campaigns can include a ton of different people, emails, content, webpages, phone calls, and more. Marketing automation can help you sort everything you work on by the campaign it's serving, and then track the performance of that campaign based on the progress all of these components make over time.
Companies use email marketing as a way of communicating with their audiences. Email is often used to promote content, discounts and events, as well as to direct people toward the business's website. The types of emails you might send in an email marketing campaign include:
Blog subscription newsletters.
Follow-up emails to website visitors who downloaded something.
Customer welcome emails.
Holiday promotions to loyalty program members.
Tips or similar series emails for customer nurturing.
With sponsored content, you as a brand pay another company or entity to create and promote content that discusses your brand or service in some way.
One popular type of sponsored content is influencer marketing. With this type of sponsored content, a brand sponsors an influencer in its industry to publish posts or videos related to the company on social media.
Another type of sponsored content could be a blog post or article that is written to highlight a topic, service, or brand.
8.Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
When a potential lead is searching for a product or business that is related to yours, it’s a great opportunity for a promotion. Paid advertising and SEO are two great strategies for promoting your business to capitalize on those future leads. Search engine marketing is another way to increase website traffic by placing paid ads on search engines. The two most popular SEM services are Bing Ads and Google Ads. These paid ads fit seamlessly on the top of search engine results pages, giving instant visibility.
What does a digital marketer do?
Digital marketers are in charge of driving brand awareness and lead generation through all the digital channels — both free and paid — that are at a company's disposal. These channels include social media, the company's own website, search engine rankings, email, display advertising, and the company's blog.
The digital marketer usually focuses on a different key performance indicator (KPI) for each channel so they can properly measure the company's performance across each one. A digital marketer who's in charge of SEO, for example, measures their website's "organic traffic." In small companies, one generalist might own many of the digital marketing tactics described above at the same time. In larger companies, these tactics have multiple specialists that each focus on just one or two of the brand's digital channels.
Here are some examples of these specialists:
In short, SEO managers get the business to rank on Google. Using a variety of approaches to search engine optimization, this person might work directly with content creators to ensure the content they produce performs well on Google — even if the company also posts this content on social media.
Content Marketing Specialist
Content marketing specialists are the digital content creators. They frequently keep track of the company's blogging calendar, and come up with a content strategy that includes video as well. These professionals often work with people in other departments to ensure the products and campaigns the business launches are supported with promotional content on each digital channel.
Social Media Manager
The role of a social media manager is easy to infer from the title, but which social networks they manage for the company depends on the industry. Above all, social media managers establish a posting schedule for the company's written and visual content. This employee might also work with the content marketing specialist to develop a strategy for which content to post on which social network.
(Note: Per the KPIs above, "impressions" refers to the number of times a business's posts appear on the newsfeed of a user.)
Marketing Automation Coordinator
The marketing automation coordinator helps choose and manage the software that allows the whole marketing team to understand their customers' behavior and measure the growth of their business. Because many of the marketing operations described above might be executed separately from one another, it's important for there to be someone who can group these digital activities into individual campaigns and track each campaign's performance.
Does digital marketing work for all businesses?
Digital marketing can work for any business in any industry. Regardless of what your company sells, digital marketing still involves building out buyer personas to identify your audience's needs, and creating valuable online content. However, that's not to say all businesses should implement a digital marketing strategy in the same way.
B2B Digital Marketing
If your company is business-to-business (B2B), your digital marketing efforts are likely to be centered around online lead generation, with the end goal being for someone to speak to a salesperson. For that reason, the role of your marketing strategy is to attract and convert the highest quality leads for your salespeople via your website and supporting digital channels.
Beyond your website, you'll probably choose to focus your efforts on business-focused channels like LinkedIn where your demographic is spending their time online.
B2C Digital Marketing
If your company is business-to-consumer (B2C), depending on the price point of your products, it's likely that the goal of your digital marketing efforts is to attract people to your website and have them become customers without ever needing to speak to a salesperson.
For that reason, you're probably less likely to focus on ‘leads' in their traditional sense, and more likely to focus on building an accelerated buyer's journey, from the moment someone lands on your website, to the moment that they make a purchase. This will often mean your product features in your content higher up in the marketing funnel than it might for a B2B business, and you might need to use stronger calls-to-action (CTAs).
For B2C companies, channels like Instagram and Pinterest can often be more valuable than business-focused platforms like LinkedIn.