We live in a world where our careers largely define us, where the average person experiences about 12 job changes in their lifetime. That translates to a job (or even full career) change — and possibly, a new identity — every few years. Many people are recently flocking to join the tech industry during a career pivot, as UX, data, and software roles are in high-demand, even within this competitive job market.
Although we’ve established that job change is incredibly common and that change is new and exciting, impostor syndrome can still creep in. When transitioning roles or industries, you might feel like your experience isn’t relevant, you don’t know the lingo, or you’re the new, inexperienced kid on the block. Whatever impostor-like thoughts are sneaking into your brain, understand that this, too, is normal.
Let’s talk about what impostor syndrome is, the different forms it may take, examples of impostor syndrome in action, and how to combat it.
Impostor syndrome: what is it?
Impostor syndrome is when a person doubts their accomplishments, doesn’t feel good enough, and has a persistent internalized fear of being found out as a fraud. It feels like inadequacy, constant self-doubt, and like you don’t belong where you are. Impostor syndrome is overwhelming, isolating, and prevents you from being your best. This could look like being afraid to ask questions in a meeting, not seeking out mentorship, or not negotiating a salary you deserve, etc. Over 70% of people claim to experience impostor syndrome. So, if you experience any of these symptoms, you’re certainly not alone.
Now, let’s break down the different identities and behavior patterns of impostor syndrome, and how to overcome them.
The Super Person
A Super Person takes on too many tasks and feels like they have to execute every single one flawlessly — this person will always think that they could’ve done more. People exhibiting Super Person tendencies feel like their worth is attached to how they perform and not in who they are, so they push themselves harder and harder to exhaustion.
This can look like raising your hand in a meeting to volunteer taking on yet another task in addition to the three other extra projects you’re managing, plus your regular workload. As a result, you’re overwhelmed by all the tasks you’ve taken on and all the time needed, so you end up working 70 hours versus your usual 50.
While it’s great to work hard and perform well, it’s important to know that you are more than your output and performance. The Super Person is chasing an unhealthy, unsustainable “high” that will only wear them down and let them down. Take a deep breath, relax, grab coffee with a coworker, or take a walk. The world won’t come tumbling down if you decide to trust others, have faith in their capabilities, delegate tasks to them, or take much-needed time for yourself. It’s all about balance!
Experts have a deep-seated belief that they are not as smart or as capable as others think they are. Their confidence can be validated not by what they know but by how much others perceive their apparent expertise. This type is often found in a first or junior-level role or when someone moves into a more senior role within a completely new company or industry.
This can look like prematurely taking the lead in a meeting and faking the answer to a question you don’t know the answer to rather than saying, “That’s a great question, I don’t know, but I’ll let you know by the end of the day.” By faking it rather than admitting your knowledge gap, you’re jeopardizing your reputation instead of strengthening it.
It feels great to feel prepared and know all the answers to all the questions, but you don’t need to know everything — you just have to be smart enough to find people who can help. We easily forget that “I don’t know, but I’ll find out” is a great answer (while also showing a little humility)! You know more than you think you do, so give yourself a little grace. And remember, no successful person really got to where they are without others’ help and expertise.
The Natural Genius
Natural Geniuses feel like they should know things without being taught and believe their coworker’s success comes so easily to them. If something isn’t effortless or requires minimal learning, they think it’s wrong, not meant for them, or that they’re a failure. Natural Genius is a form of impostor syndrome where people feel like they have to get things perfect on the first try – if they don’t, they feel shame and embarrassment.
This can look like getting frustrated while exploring a new field, like digital marketing, at General Assembly. The course is difficult and takes a lot of work, but all you see is that everyone else seems to get it so easily. So, you quit and pick a different “easier” focus. Meanwhile, you wonder what digital marketing would have been like despite getting a new job or achieving other goals.
Manifestations of Natural Genius impostor syndrome prevent people from trying new or difficult things and don’t allow them to learn from failure. Remember that success takes time and hard work; you might even fail the first couple of times before getting it right. Consider yourself in good company with Michael Jordan, who didn’t make the varsity basketball team in high school. You, too, can push through challenges and build resiliency. Don’t let your Natural Genius expectations get in the way of hard-won success.
A Soloist avoids help at all costs; they feel like working on a team diminishes their success. They feel like they have to do everything on their own to prove their competence. For them, asking for help is a terrible thing that would reveal their worst fears, that they are a fraud, not smart or good enough, and don’t deserve to be where they are.
This can look like taking on a project that you have no capacity to take on — it’s due at the end of the week, and your coworkers ask if you need help, but you say no. You’re stressed, overwhelmed, your other tasks suffer, and to top it off, the project doesn’t turn out as well as you wanted it to.
Independence can be empowering, but it can also be isolating. You might miss out on collaboration, camaraderie, and learning new skills. Diversity of opinion doesn’t cheapen success; it makes your work better and more well-rounded. Invite people in, share your knowledge, and listen to others. Asking for help isn’t a weakness; it’s a strength.
Perfectionists simply feel like they have to be perfect and errorless, or everything will fall apart. It’s hard for them to believe others’ praise or their success. Perfectionism is a form of impostor syndrome that manifests as feeling like you have to be impeccable and present yourself and your work in a particular way. There is a sense of safety in having people see them in an ideal, faultless way, and when that safety is compromised, they think everything could fall apart.
This can look like taking the lead on a project and delegating tasks to teammates, but then taking over because you don’t believe that their work will be good enough. You might micromanage people and drive them away. You may wonder why you don’t have close relationships at work.
While perfectionism gives a false sense of security, it holds people back, inhibits success, and strains relationships. Extend yourself some grace and kindness, and don’t focus on the little things or controlling others’ behavior. Sometimes “good enough” really is good enough!
Going into a new field is scary — no matter how much experience you have or how hard you’ve worked, self-doubt and impostor syndrome can take over. You may have found yourself nodding your head to one or more of these behaviors or identities. As previously stated, 70% of people suffer from imposter syndrome, so you don’t need to feel alone. Now that you have an awareness of the type(s) of impostor syndrome you may tend toward and tips on how to combat debilitating self-doubt, you’re in a better position for a smoother transition to a successful career in your new chosen field.
Brooke McCord is a certified Career Coach at Ama La Vida. She enjoys working with people who are ready to take the next step in life and helps others work through the things that hold them back. Featured in publications like Chief Learning Officer and as a regular speaker on the topic, Brooke specializes in battling impostor syndrome. Whether it’s figuring out what people want next, helping them overcome impostor syndrome, or building up general confidence, Brooke helps her clients achieve their ultimate goals and get to where they want to go!
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“digital marketing refers to any marketing methods conducted through electronic devices. This includes online marketing efforts conducted on the internet. In the process of conducting digital marketing, a business might leverage websites, search engines, blogs, social media, video, email and similar channels to reach customers.” This definition includes what I like to call the digital marketing ecosystem.
What’s in the digital marketing ecosystem?
These are the core types of digital marketing around which to plan a digital marketing strategy:
Website / landing pages
Search engine optimization (SEO)
Search engine marketing (SEM)
Photos and visuals
Social media marketing
What is the role of digital marketing?
The digital marketing process starts with determining goals. Are the marketing efforts focused on building brand awareness? Generating and nurturing leads? Increasing conversions? Increasing sales? Increasing website traffic? Be sure the goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely — SMART goals.
For B2B companies, goals tend to be centered around lead generation and lead nurturing. Prospective clients are drawn in via content or inbound marketing and the sales cycle is typically longer. Marketing efforts lead prospects to eventually have a conversation with a member of the sales team. In B2C companies, digital marketing goals are focused on leading the customer through the buyer’s journey as quickly as possible resulting in a purchase. Marketing efforts lead buyers from website visit to sale via CTAs (calls-to-action) and drip email campaigns.
After goals have been determined, an overall digital marketing strategy or plan is mapped out. Digital marketing campaigns are the building blocks by which the overall marketing plan is achieved.
How does the digital marketing process start?
In the customer journey, awareness of your brand is the first step. When consumers begin research to make purchases, where do they typically start? By doing a search online via Google or another search engine. The results serve up websites or other online properties which match their search terms or keywords. This starting point is where you can take proactive steps to help consumers become aware of your brand.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a method of improving your ranking among search results. The higher you rank, the more visible you are to a consumer. SEO best practices include optimizing for keywords and search terms. Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is paid advertising to rank higher in search results. SEM may be used together with SEO to increase visibility in search results and drive traffic to a company’s website. If you’ve taken all the appropriate steps to optimize your site, your brand can rank high among the organic results. It’s not a guarantee which is why many brands take advantage of a mix of SEO and SEM efforts.
Content marketing is another avenue which contributes to SEO efforts and by which a brand may be found. What is content marketing? The use of content to educate, inform, and draw in potential clients or buyers. This includes blogs, articles, videos, podcasts, social media posts, webinars, downloadable resources, etc. Using content can lead prospective customers to take a desired action, such as exchanging their email address for a resource or to receive a product discount. To develop the right content marketing strategy, draw upon the SMART goals which were established.
What role does social media play in content marketing? Social media posts can distribute and share content. Social media posts can direct prospects to where you want them to go online. Deciding the channels on which to have a presence depends on who the company wants to reach and connect with. Social media channels, such as Facebook, enable people to build a relationship with a brand. In the buyer’s journey, social media brings awareness of a brand as well as nurture consideration. Further in the journey, social media is a useful tool for brand advocacy.
A company is able to run ads on social media networks for not only brand awareness but also for targeting specific audiences. Most companies will have the Facebook pixel installed on their site. When a prospective customer visits the website and leaves, the pixel enables retargeting via ads in their social feed. Websites typically have cookies installed so that the companies can benefit from targeted online advertising. Their ads are served to potential customers as they move around on the internet visiting other websites.
While visiting a website, an offer for a discount may be made to the potential customer in exchange for their email address. The site visitor gives the company their email address and chooses to opt in to receive messages. The potential customer then receives a series of emails designed to lead them through the buyer’s journey and get to the end goal of a purchase. Or in the B2B space, a piece of content or other resource is offered in exchange for contact information. This begins the lead nurturing process with the end goal of a closed sale.
Each piece of the digital marketing puzzle fits together to make a whole digital marketing strategy which meets a company’s marketing and sales objectives. It’s a digital marketer’s responsibility to determine the right mix which will achieve campaign and overall marketing goals. Along the way, the mix may have to be revised or course-corrected after reviewing metrics and data. This is the beauty of digital marketing — data and metrics are readily available to guide decisions and planning. “Old-school” offline marketing couldn’t offer this. Not only can ROI be determined more accurately, missteps are less costly because the strategy can be revised mid-campaign rather than waiting for results after it’s all said and done. Digital marketing can be effective for any business in any vertical.
Digital Marketing Example
Ansley needs a new vacuum cleaner that cleans not only her carpeting but also works well for her hardwood floors. She searches on Google by typing, “vacuum cleaner for carpet and hardwood floors” and “best vacuum cleaner for carpet and hardwood floor.” ABC Vacuum Cleaner Company is served up at the top of her search results due to their SEO. Ansley clicks on the link which directs her to their website. She looks at a couple of their products and decides she needs to do further research.
Part of her research is asking for recommendations from friends and family on her social media. Ansley goes to Facebook to post that she needs recommendations. While scrolling through her Facebook feed, she sees ads for the specific products she had viewed on ABC’s website. In fact, the ads have an offer of a 10% discount. She clicks on the ad and is led to a landing page which asks for her email address to send her the discount code. Ansley shares her email address. She receives the 10% discount code as promised. She also begins receiving carefully timed email messages in a sequence, crafted to lead her through the buying process.
After doing additional research and visiting other vacuum cleaner companies’ sites, Ansley feels confident that she has enough information to make a purchase. She buys from ABC because they’ve educated her about all the product features (through the email marketing drip campaign) and offered free shipping. ABC’s goal was met by converting a prospective buyer.
Every business is trying to find that edge that sets them apart from competitors. Digital marketers are constantly looking at new channels and techniques that haven’t yet reached a point of oversaturation, and with more advertising dollars being spent on online mediums, these are becoming increasingly difficult to find.
2020 has brought its own set of challenges for digital marketers. Email service providers have reported a four point increase in open rates, conversion rates have plummeted in certain industries, and for the first time ever both Google and Facebook have reported quarterly declines in ad revenue.
While the goalposts have shifted, there have been a number of emerging digital marketing trends that we’ve seen innovative marketers adopt with early signs of success. Here we’ll discuss 7 digital marketing trends that every business should explore.
1. Conversational Marketing
We’re increasingly seeing conversational marketing make its way into businesses’ digital marketing mixes. While this is not a brand new trend in 2020, it’s definitely something that more businesses are trialling as barriers to entry are reduced and customers become more comfortable with the interactions.
It’s difficult to put an exact definition on conversational marketing, but the term essentially covers the use of conversations between brands and customers to personalise each step of the buyer journey. It commonly involves using targeted, personalised messaging combined with chatbots to engage with users via your website, your social media marketing pages, and anywhere else where conversations with customers take place.
In today’s always-on world, innovative marketers have looked to adopt conversational marketing to provide customers with an instant stream of personalised information. The effectiveness of such messages is unquestionable, with message platform open rates north of 70% and clickthrough rates averaging around 20%. Customer service is also becoming more comfortable with assisting clients via conversational marketing, with surveys showing that 54% of customers would prefer to choose a chatbot over a human if it saved them time.
Despite this, the potential of such technology is still being realised. Take Facebook Messenger for example, where over 1.3 billion people use the platform. Facebook has 9 billion advertisers, yet the last reported number of chatbots was just 300,000.
Chatbots are moving beyond a mere text offering as well, with voice-based chatbots with advanced speech recognition capabilities set to become commonplace in 2021. We’ve also yet to see smart speakers such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home introduce conversational ads delivered by these devices. With voice search growing year on year, most believe it is only a matter of time.
There isn’t a trend that has captured the imagination of digital marketing publications more in 2020 than personalisation. It’s usually a bit of a concern if too many marketers are all focusing on the same idea, but there’s no doubt that there are some definite benefits to having customers experience your products and services through a personalised lens.
We’ll see many businesses try to personalise experiences for each individual customer with one key aim: conversions. As competition for customer attention continues to increase, any friction one can remove from the customer’s decision journey is an advantage. A web experience that focuses on showing you listings based on your preferences and previous activity will reduce the path to purchase and help to increase retention and customer loyalty.
When we think of personalisation we immediately think about some of the titans of the industry. Netflix has a hand-picked selection of shows for me at any moment, as does Amazon when it comes to products, or Spotify when it comes to songs. There’s also examples such as Cadbury, who recommended products for customers based on their Facebook profile, or even new influencer marketing tools like Influencersphere, which recommend Instagram influencers for your business based on your account.
A Gartner study showed that companies making investments into personalisation technology are outselling competitors by 30%, and while many of us won’t be able to create recommendation engines, personalisation efforts can still be useful and effective. Companies such as conversational platform Intercom have adopted personalisation into their selling by sending prospects video demos of how their software looks when embedded into their website. There’s also software such as Bonjoro that allows you to easily send a quick personalised video to your customers or prospects to delight and convert.
3. Smarter Bid Strategies
There’s a lot more to Google Ads than just keyword bidding these days. The introduction of Smart Bidding allows advertisers to leverage Google’s machine learning and automate their bidding based on their advertising goal. It then looks to optimise towards a goal by adjusting bids based on a range of user signals, including location, time of day, audience interests and the type of device used.
Many ‘traditional’ digital marketers have steered away from smart bidding with a preference to own more control of their client’s budget. However as Google becomes more and more precise in their ability to predict, this is becoming harder to ignore. There is simply no match for a real-time bidding engine that works 24/7 to bring you the best results.
Facebook has followed suit, announcing a strategy at the end of 2019 called the Power 5. The Power 5 tools place great emphasis on simplifying your ad account setup in order to best leverage the platform’s machine learning and drive better results.
These shifts to account simplification mean that the barrier to entry for new advertisers is significantly reduced. Take Google for example, where advertisers are now able to use the latest Smart Bidding strategies by simply providing a list of keywords to target and some ad creative to support this. The use of such technology puts greater emphasis on the quality of products and services and the usability of the website to ensure performance targets are achieved.
In a Smart Bidding digital marketing landscape where we are all optimising towards ROI, it will become increasingly difficult to cut through the noise and have your message seen. This is likely to continue a shift back to the importance of effective creative that can stand out and pique your audience’s interest.
4. Interactive Content
Content marketing is here to stay. While buzzwords come and go from surveys looking at marketers’ focus for the year ahead, content is one of the few constants in every top digital marketing strategy.
The content marketing trend to watch relates to interactive content. I’m sure you’ve all had some kind of experience with interactive content, whether that be a poll, a quiz, a survey or something else. Interactive content is an attempt from marketers to cut through the clutter of content now available at our fingertips. Instead of writing another blog post on a topic, interactive content gives marketers the opportunity to keep their audience engaged for longer and have a more long-term impact on their decision making.
DemandGen found that interactive content delivers twice the engagement compared to that of static content, and we’ve seen the top platforms follow this trend as a means of keeping users engaged for longer. In the video marketing space, Facebook has rolled out video poll ads while YouTube announced in June 2020 a new ad format that turns video ads into shoppable experiences for viewers.
While the future of interactive content may lie in augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) experiences, there are some easy ways to see if interactive content will work for your content marketing strategy. Companies such as Typeform offer free, easy solutions for making quizzes while we can all run polls across Instagram Stories or Facebook Stories.
5. Marketing Automation
A study by Invesp found that 63% of marketers planned to increase their marketing automation budget in 2020, and despite everything that’s gone on throughout the year it’s hard to see a more pertinent use of these funds.
Never has there been a greater emphasis on marketing to your existing leads and customers. With advertising budgets reduced across the globe there’s been a shift in focus from organisations towards keeping customers engaged in an effort to increase lifetime value.
Marketing automation can cover all stages of the customer journey, although where it is most commonly utilised is at later stages of the customer lifecycle to prompt interactions that help us to gauge how warm the prospect is. This has seen marketers look to break apart the customer journey and create an omnichannel marketing experience, in which they include themselves as part of the conversation by means of email, content, social, push notifications, and retargeting. It also allows marketers to personalise the messages customers are receiving and to segment based on previous behavior.
While this is commonplace among larger organisations, there is an increasing number of self-serve platforms that are bringing these capabilities to businesses of all sizes. Software such as Kit allows Shopify store owners to automatically send emails to customers based on their purchasing behaviors, while self-serve email marketing providers such as Mailchimp allow you to retarget customers you have sent emails to on Facebook with a few clicks. All signs point to a more even playing field in which those failing to automate are left behind.
6. More AI in Marketing
Applications of Artificial Intelligence (AI) are already widespread in marketing, and Gartner recently predicted that 80% of digital technology will be built on an AI foundation by 2021.
AI is already being leveraged to help B2B marketers score leads, converse with customers via chatbots, and improve conversion rates through variation testing. OpenAI’s GPT-3 technology has written content articles published by many organisations (including The Guardian) and companies such as VWO are A/B testing GPT-3 copy against human copy to determine which has a better impact on conversion rates.
As the data gathered from marketing campaigns and platforms continues to increase, AI in marketing looks set to grow exponentially. We’ll soon be able to hyper-personalise campaigns at scale, provide comprehensive persona research, and even use predictive scoring that could estimate the future value of your existing customers. This will help marketers to seamlessly create an effective infrastructure for their marketing strategy to be built on, allowing teams to focus on delighting the customer at all stages of the purchasing journey.
The bar is rising in digital marketing. Technology has made it easier than ever to connect with customers online, and with customers’ attention being increasingly divided, digital marketers are required to do more than just ‘show up.’ Audiences are expecting more of brands, and we need to shake up our digital marketing strategy in order to delight them in new and exciting ways. It’s time to take action before you get left behind.
A question I often get asked by students is, “What is the best digital marketing book?”
It’s not easy to answer; the majority of digital marketing books don’t have a long shelf life. The information around best practices needs to be fluid as algorithms change, tactics lose their effectiveness, and the platform rules constantly shift.
While digital marketing books that are rich on tactics continue to be updated and recycled, there are a number that have managed to withstand the test of time. Included in the list below are also the books that every digital marketer should read for developing a well-rounded understanding of behavioral psychology, growth mindset, and a few other areas that will help you stay ahead of the pack.
1. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini
It may have first been published in 1984, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a list of best marketing books that doesn’t include this ageless text.
Widely regarded as the marketer’s bible, “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” provides a succinct and effective outline for understanding what leads to us making decisions. Cialdini uses storytelling and real-world examples to seamlessly guide readers through six principles of persuasion of which many a marketer have called upon to compose email copy, frame social media ads, and devise practically every memorable marketing campaign in recent history.
While you can’t expect to learn specific channel tactics from this digital marketing book, the application of reciprocity, consistency, social proof, authority, liking, and scarcity will ensure your digital marketing strategy is laser-focused on achieving conversion outcomes.
2. Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins
Claude Hopkins was a man far ahead of his time. While A/B testing and statistical significance are commonplace in today’s digital marketing world, Hopkins was teaching early interpretations of these all the way back in 1923 in “Scientific Advertising.”
I find myself regularly returning to this book when looking to return to fundamentals surrounding ad creative and influencing buyers. At just 120 pages, you can almost read it in one go and won’t find a page that doesn’t offer a quick tip applicable to effective digital marketing today.
3. Expert Secrets by Russell Brunson
You will find iterated teachings of “Expert Secrets” within countless social media and digital marketing courses across the internet. Yes, it may have been published 4 years ago (which is like 40 years in digital marketing) but its valuable content is likely to remain a mainstay in the years ahead.
The appeal of “Expert Secrets” is that it provides a practical framework that takes the guesswork out of email marketing, content marketing, and copywriting. It helps you recognise expertise in areas and how your intimate knowledge of a subject can lead to the development of a successful business. Author and ClickFunnels founder Brunson is one of the most recognised figures in the digital marketing world, and the book really reads as a collection of the best practices he has discovered through the constant refinement of his own digital marketing strategy.
While everybody will have unique takeaways from this digital marketing book, I am constantly revisiting his tips towards the end on conducting the perfect webinar. He outlines the structure, the perfect timings between sections, and evergreen tips for keeping audiences engaged — a must read!
4. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal
I read this book cover to cover on a plane trip from Sydney to Los Angeles and it’s fair to say it had me, well, hooked!
“Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products” is an excellent product and marketing book for learning what it takes to create habits in consumers. You’ll learn how to create triggers, get customers to take action, reward them, and encourage investment following the fundamentals adopted by many of the world’s leading technology companies. There are few digital marketing books that will provide you with better end-to-end insights into optimising the user journey of your audience.
It’s packed with relevant examples of these techniques in practice and I found it refreshing that author Nir Eyal ended the book with some wise words on how to apply these teachings ethically while keeping your consumer’s well-being top of mind.
5. Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk
In my opinion, this is the best book that’s been written on social media marketing strategy thus far. “Jab Jab Right Hook” was my first exposure to the teachings of Gary Vee, and his celebrity status should be of little surprise to those who have read about the common sense approach he preaches here.
The book asserts the importance of social media marketing in today’s landscape while providing a winning blueprint for developing an engaging community that will reward you in the long run. We all want sales, but it’s through adding value to our audience first that we earn the right to ask for something in return.
The audiobook is read by Gary Vee himself and he frequently deviates from the script to adding yet another nugget of social media gold. Whether you’re wanting to learn about creating content specifically for a social media platform or how to build an Instagram following from scratch, you’ll find something here to put into practice.
6. Content Machine by Dan Norris
“Content Machine” is an absolute must read for anyone looking to develop an epic content marketing strategy that drives commercial success.
The book details the exact content marketing strategy used by Norris to build a 7-figure business that was fuelled by an outstanding blog. You’ll learn that there is far more to winning the content marketing game than just creating the most blog posts, and the search engine optimization techniques and tools mentioned by Norris remain as relevant as ever in today’s digital marketing landscape.
7. Lean Analytics by Benjamin Yoskovitz and Alistair Croll
I won this book at a startup event and I’ll admit that the title didn’t win me over at first. However, after a colleague recommended it I decided to give it a try and couldn’t put it down.
I haven’t come across a book that better equips you for doing digital marketing in a tech startup than “Lean Analytics.” You’ll learn how to measure, but more importantly what to measure depending on the stage and focus of the company.
If you’re intimidated by digital marketing jargon such as AARRR, CAC, CTR, and Virality, then this should be your first step. It’s as close to a startup digital marketing textbook as I have found, and will equally help B2B and B2C marketers level up.
8. Permission Marketing by Seth Godin
Any book by Seth Godin is a worthwhile read, but few have influenced my own approach to marketing strategy more than “Permission Marketing.”
While other digital marketing books will jump straight into tactics, Seth’s 1999 guide focuses on the importance of building a relationship with your customer over time. Marketing is most effective once your audience has given you permission to market to them, and to get to this stage we need to provide consistent value from the get-go.
A true highlight of this book for me was the variety of case studies Godin uses in detailing the evolution of marketing over time. You’ll certainly walk away with plenty of things to try for yourself.
9. StoryBrand by Donald Miller
In the words of Donald Miller, “Pretty websites don’t sell things. Words sell things.”
There are plenty of great books on copywriting, including classics like Gary Halbert’s “The Boron Letters” and David Ogilvy’s “Confessions of an Advertising Man.” My personal recommendation however would be to start with “StoryBrand” for a more holistic and modern take on how to delight your customers with your digital marketing creative.
Too often businesses position themselves as the hero in the story. What customers really need is a guide who can help them successfully solve their problems. Miller will help you use content to make your customer the hero of your story and how to create your digital marketing assets accordingly.
10. Getting Everything You Can Out of All You’ve Got by Jay Abrahams
This book helps us understand how incredibly simple it is to have an impact on the commercial success of a business.
While they’re not specifically about digital marketing, the teachings of this book will help shift your mindset to one that is always on the lookout for internal growth opportunities. You’ll end up with a range of ideas surrounding email marketing, search engine marketing, social media promotion, and conversion rate optimisation.
Abrahams helps us to identify the value of our customers, what we can do to increase that value, and how to find more of our ideal customers. So simple, yet so very effective!
11. Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug
It’s a mistake to consider a user who gets stuck on our website as foolish. If a potential buyer is unable to complete an action on our website, then it’s on us to change.
“Don’t Make Me Think” is a book you’ll find on virtually every UX designer’s bookcase and with so much of digital marketing depending on an excellent user experience, this is a book we simply can’t ignore. The journey from an ad click to conversion depends on reducing friction, limiting distractions, and maximising accessibility. You won’t find a better guide to achieving this than Krug’s classic, which remains the go-to resource on web design 20 years on from its first publication.
12. Hacking Growth by Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown
It’s only entered our vernacular in the past decade, but growth hacking has quickly made its way to the top of every company’s digital marketing wishlist. Growth hacking focuses on finding faster and more cost-effective solutions to success, and it’s only fitting that the godfather of the movement’s work makes the list of must-read digital marketing books.
Sean Ellis coined the term growth hacker in a blog post back in 2010, and went on to co-author “Hacking Growth” seven years later alongside renowned marketer Morgan Brown. The book walks through the humble beginnings of some of today’s biggest companies — Airbnb, Facebook, Uber — and the methodology behind their unprecedented growth.
You won’t find a better methodology for attaining, retaining, engaging, and motivating customers than “Hacking Growth.” It will completely change the way you approach your digital marketing strategy and help you to use data to deliver driving cost-effective results.
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As the owner of a startup, you are going to wear many hats. The roles you’ll assume may include project manager, paralegal, bookkeeper, and perhaps most challenging of all — digital marketer. Becoming a successful digital marketer requires some strategic and technical skills that might be a bit new to you since there’s a dizzying array of digital marketing tools at your disposal. From search engine optimization (SEO) management, to ad builders, to analytics packages, choosing and integrating the right set of digital marketing tools will be one of your first hills to climb.
The quality of your digital marketing will help shape the perception and ultimate success of your business, so establishing and growing a well executed digital presence can’t be overstated. To illustrate just how far the exposure of your online presence can reach, take a look at a these statistics:
According to Verisign as of August 2020, there were 370.1 million domain name registrations across all top-level domains (.com, net, .org, .co, etc.) and domain name registrations grew by 15.3 million (up 4.3%) vs. August 2019.
According to Hubspot as of January of 2020, there were 2.6 billion monthly active Facebook users, and roughly two-thirds of U.S. adults report that they are Facebook users.
In 2023, Instagram is projected to reach 120.3 million monthly active users in the U.S., up from 107.2 million users in 2019.
In an always-connected world that contains a vast multitude of digital properties, the challenge is obvious. How does your startup break through all the noise that currently exists online? Moreover, how can your business gain customers with so many other companies online vying for attention? The simply put but less easily achievable answer to digital marketing for startups is proper planning and precise execution.
This article will walk you through some of the most important steps in creating and managing a successful digital marketing plan for your startup. While the methodologies presented here are based on years of research and practical experience, it’s important to note that this is not a comprehensive guide to all of your digital marketing practices. The concepts offered here should be individually researched, vetted, and planned out. Deeper dives into these and other digital marketing topics are also part of General Assembly’s Digital Marketing Course.
Quick note: Throughout this article, we’ll use the term digital property instead of website when the concept being presented extends to both websites and mobile applications.
Marketing Funnel Overview
Before we get started, let’s take a look at a fundamental marketing concept. Many people have heard the word funnel used in one business context or another. A marketing funnel is a representation of how customers engage with your brand through all of their interactions with you. A customer’s life cycle generally starts with finding a business, then utilizing that business, and then (hopefully) becoming a repeat customer and a brand advocate. The most effective marketing campaigns are deliberately built around a specific phase in the marketing funnel. As your company and your digital marketing mature, make sure to focus on the specific area of the marketing funnel you are planning campaigns for.
How to Approach Digital Marketing for Your Startup
“Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning.”
– Thomas Edison
As a startup, your initial marketing efforts will be focused on the top and middle sections of the marketing funnel: awareness, consideration, and conversion. Begin your digital marketing plans by identifying the funnel section you’re targeting. And while you should give proper thought and planning to each digital marketing strategy you will use, it’s acceptable, and even advisable, to use several strategies at the same time. We’ll take a closer look at strategy planning and execution in a moment.
In this part of our journey, we can think of your digital marketing program like a building. What you put together can look really nice, but if it’s not built on a solid foundation, you could be wasting time and money on a structure that will ultimately fail you. The following three steps are a high-level guide for constructing a solid and well-functioning digital marketing program for your startup. We’ll start with describing the foundation, then the framing, and lastly we will touch on the wiring, the walls, and decor.
1. The Foundation: Create Your Personas
The American Marketing Association defines marketing as “the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.” As digital marketers, the ways in which we accomplish this lofty mission are where our skills, talents, and creativity are put to the test. Too often, would-be digital marketers approach campaign planning by looking at their industry (or the world) through their own eyes instead of their customer’s. Without exception, empathy, or the ability to understand someone else’s situation or feelings, is a primary and fundamental skill for every marketer.
Creating personas offers a way to step outside of yourself and create a typical customer you can view the world through. There are many ways to develop personas. Most personas are created using the demographics, behaviors, and attitudes of some of your typical customers, and may also include a picture to add to the subject’s realism. Xtensio provides a free online template you can use to build personas with. Lay your digital marketing foundation with a group of personas that represent the various facets of your business.
One very effective tool for building personas involves creating empathy maps that help you diagram how a customer thinks and feels about the industry your business is in. Empathy maps are built with data that you gather through both qualitative research (like surveys and interviews) and quantitative data (like web analytics or testing tools). UX Booth has a very good guide for developing empathy maps that you can use to build your personas.
2. Define Your Marketing Strategies
Marketing strategies map out exactly how you want to execute your digital marketing. Before you start planning your marketing strategies, however; you need a clear picture of your business objectives and your marketing objectives; the measurable goals you have for your business for a specific timeframe. Business objectives define the goals you have for the business, and may include areas outside of digital marketing in your business. Below are a few examples of measurable and time-based business objectives:
Our business objective is to sell 20 new software licenses in the 3rd quarter.
Our business objective is to increase sales on custom t-shirts by 10% during the month of November.
Our business objective is to gain 10 new clients this year.
Marketing objectives are goals that support the business objectives. Your objectives are the maps for your digital marketing to follow, so make sure you have realistic business objectives before you start this journey. The timelines will be the same, but the measurements will be based on the digital marketing activities you engage. Below are some marketing objective examples to support the business objectives above:
Our marketing objective is to drive 1000 visitors to our website in the 3rd quarter.
Our marketing objective is to drive 2500 visitors to our custom t-shirt landing page.
Our marketing objective is to increase the number of visitors who fill out our contact us form by 50%.
Defining marketing objectives requires data in order to understand what goals are feasible and realistic. Since most startups don’t have a statistically significant dataset of their own yet, we can use industry standards to build our marketing objectives. Per technology industry standards, we know that roughly for every 100 visitors to our website, we can expect 2 licenses sold (more about conversion rates later). This means we will need at least 1000 visitors to our website in the 3rd quarter to sell the 20 software licenses we need to. Granted, this is a high-level example, but the point here is you will need to use some detective and math skills to arrive at goals for your marketing objectives. Knowing your objectives will be necessary for the campaign-building tools inside of social media and Google Ads.
Remember, when you put objectives and strategies together, your business objectives inform your marketing objectives; and your marketing objectives inform your marketing strategies.
Choosing Strategies to Use
It is important when building out your digital marketing strategy to prioritize your efforts. You can apply an 80 / 20 rule to define your marketing strategies where 80% of your marketing efforts will be conversion strategies and 20% will be awareness and consideration strategies. The digital marketing analytics you collect will over time reveal the specific approaches that work best for your business.
Awareness and Consideration Strategies
Awareness and consideration are strategies that are designed to get the word out about your business and more specifically, your business’s value proposition. Well established businesses often use awareness and consideration strategies to bolster themselves to what are called love brands.
Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization (SEO, also called Organic Search) is the practice of optimizing web pages to rank best on search engine results pages (SERPs). Google has over 200 considerations for how it ranks pages with updates to its algorithms happening all the time. Keeping up with these changes can be a daunting task, but the value of a high ranking on Google cannot be understated. Make optimizing your SEO for branded searches (i.e. for your company’s name) your first priority and then focus on applicable keywords for your website. Tools like Google’s Search Console can help you make sure your digital properties follow best practices for SEO.
An important note about SEO:While search engine optimization is certainly a viable top-of-funnel strategy, organic search should be a standard and ongoing practice for every startup. Your rank with Google not only increases your brand’s visibility and reach, but it also promotes trust and confidence in your brand. Kent SEO expounds on five compelling reasons why SEO is so important:
User-friendly websites that result in faster and more responsive pages.
More customers from your increased exposure.
Better conversion rates from your increased exposure.
Increased brand awareness with higher rankings.
Ability to bypass competition with higher rankings.
Content Marketing involves creating social media and blog posts that help establish yourself as an authority or thought leader for your industry. One of the best ways for startups to break through the pack in their industry is to focus their content on niche topics and capitalize on the niche keywords. In this way, writing for the web and creating social media posts combines both strategy and purpose. Your posts should always make use of the keywords you are targeting while reflecting the proper tone and voice for your audience. If you are using Google Analytics to measure your digital efforts, make sure to add UTM codes to links in your social media posts so you can track the effectiveness of the traffic that comes to your digital property. You can use a tool like the Google Keyword Planner to help you decide what keywords will be most effective for your posts.
Social Media Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing is a more recent phenomenon amongst digital marketing strategies, and as such, there are a lot of differing opinions on approaches and effectiveness. According to Linqia, nearly 39% of marketers increased their influencer marketing budgets in 2019.
One of the major pitfalls to watch out for are people who use fake — or even paid for — followers to try and pass themselves off as influencers. Startups also have to be careful about the bonafide influencers they partner with. Certainly not all influencers are a good representation of all brands. Ensure that having an individual influencer promote your brand does not damage your reputation. If you are considering influencer marketing, give some thought to the type of influencer that will fit your brand and marketing budget best, and then thoroughly research the influencers in that category.
Social media influencer categories are not an exact science and there is no governance around these definitions, but below is a generally accepted hierarchy of social media influencers:
Elite Influencers While top-tier celebrity personalities with over 50 million followers have the largest reach and arguably hold the most sway over consumers, celebrity endorsements are also the most difficult and most expensive endorsements for a startup to secure. Media personality Kylie Jenner has over 197 million followers on Instagram, and according to Business Insider, she commands an astounding $1.2 million per sponsored post. While $1.2 million is well out of budget for most startups, major established brands find top-tier influencer endorsements invaluable, especially when one post from someone like Jenner can garner over tens of millions of engagements.
Mega Influencers Mega Influencers with over 5 million followers are lofty goals for most startups as well. YouTube personality Casey Neistat has over 12 million subscribers to his channel, and he will often demo products like drones for brands that have mass appeal. You may want to look for a mega-influencer if your product or service has a relatively high price point.
Macro Influencers While engagements with Macro Influencers (people with over 50,000 followers) can still be relatively expensive, these can be good potential fits for influencers that match your brand identity or niche. DJ Jazzy Jeff’s promotion for Serato Studio is a perfect example of a macro-influencer matching a niche market.
Micro Influencers Local musicians, community activists, regional figures, and content providers can provide excellent endorsements with the right match. Partnering with a cooking personality like Tiffy Chen who has over 12,000 followers and 12 million likes on TikTok, having could bring excellent results for your business.
Loyalists These are followers, customers, fans, etc. that have moved all the way along the marketing sales funnel and are now devoted to your brand. Promoting advocacy campaigns with these influencers can prove invaluable when your startup has enough traction to start looking at bottom of the funnel strategies.
Every digital property should have a conversion point (sales, downloads, contact us, etc.) and conversion marketing strategies should be geared towards getting visitors to that conversion point with as few distractions as possible. For example, a Facebook ad that features a product should send people to a product page where that item can be purchased directly. Likewise, a Google Search Ad for a service business should lead users directly to a page that contains information about the service and a contact page to sign up or get more information.
Your conversion rate can be thought of as the number of conversions you have divided by entries to your digital property. So if you have 1000 entries to your website that resulted in 100 purchases, your website’s conversion rate is 10%. Conversion rates are very site specific, so a 1% conversion rate may be phenomenal to some sites, while 50% may be perfect for others.
While SEO is technically a strategy for free placement on a SERP, Search Engine Marketing (SEM, also called Paid Search) is where you pay for SERP placement. SEM still employs the techniques of choosing the proper keywords, however, your SERP listing also comes from outbidding competitors for space on a page. SEM can get expensive for popular and generic (“broad”) keywords, so it is important to capitalize on the niche keywords mentioned earlier to give you the best results. Since SEM is most-often a conversion strategy, paid ads should almost always send users directly to a landing page to complete the conversion.
There are several bidding strategies for running SEM ads, but the most common is the cost per click (CPC) method. With the CPC method, you pay when a person clicks your ad according to the current rate for a keyword. This rate fluctuates during the day, so the number of times your ad is shown and the cost when someone clicks the ad is all factored by a search engine’s algorithms. Each click then counts against the ad budget you set for the ad.
Social Media Paid Advertising
Social media paid ads on channels like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and now even TikTok are a lot like SEM. Like SEM, placing ads on social media requires keyword research, ad design, and bidding. The advantage of social media advertising is the ability to target ads on a much more granular audience than SEM. In addition to the areas and keywords that you can target with SEM, social media ads allow you to narrow your target audience by demographics like marital status and ethnicity; and sociographics like gender identification, religion, and political affiliations. Building these precise audiences comes from the massive amounts of data social media platforms collect. As people interact with social media, they contribute data points that provide the basis for the campaigns we create.
Much like Google Ads, the most common bid strategy for social media is cost per click (CPC); although some businesses choose the cost per mille (CPM) method where you essentially pay for the number of impressions (views) your ad gets. The CPM method can be advantageous for brand awareness campaigns. You can look at the potential effect of different bidding strategies as you are setting up social media marketing campaigns.
Retargeting / Remarketing
Social media advertising, email marketing, and display ads all work extremely well for retargeting strategies. Retargeting is basically a marketing campaign that launches based on a user’s previous behavior. For example, you can trigger ads for specific people on Facebook based on what they did on your site. So if a person visits your site, places an item in a cart, but does not complete the purchase, you can have an ad served on Facebook for that product and/or send the visitor a personalized reminder email to come back and complete the purchase.
While the terms “retargeting” and “remarketing” are sometimes used interchangeably, the main difference is retargeting is mostly about serving ads to potential customers based on cookies while remarketing is usually based on email.
3. Measure and Optimize
One of the most important aspects of digital marketing is having a mechanism to measure success and there are several tools you can integrate into your digital properties. While Adobe Analytics, Chartbeat, and Decibel are all good paid solutions, Google Analytics is a free digital analytics solution and the most-used analytics package in the world. According to Nerdy Data, there are 3.4 million instances of Google Analytics installed across the web.
One the most important aspects of a digital analytics tool Google Analytics is its ability to measure the effectiveness of your marketing channels. Marketing channels are the various ways visitors get to your digital property (SEO, SEM, social, etc). For example, using the UTM codes mentioned earlier, you can track social media channels to their conversion points and you can see how different social media posts result in different online behaviors. Google Analytics also allows you to measure other important online behaviors for your properties like:
How many times were specific pages visited?
What was the average time spent on a specific page?
How many times did visitors leave a specific page without any other site interactions?
The key to digital marketing for your startup is the proper planning and precise execution of top and mid funnel marketing strategies. Start your marketing plans by creating empathy maps to and building personas that represent your potential customers. Understand your business objectives, and let those inform your marketing objectives. Use your marketing objectives to guide your marketing strategies.
The top of funnel (awareness and consideration) marketing strategies we covered included search engine optimization, content marketing, influencer marketing, and display advertising. The mid-funnel (conversion) marketing strategies we covered included search engine marketing, social media advertising, and retargeting.
Remember that proper measurement is a mandatory component to any of your marketing efforts. Measurement advises how your current efforts are performing and informs you how to proceed with future marketing strategies.
Lastly, startups need an effective way to select and integrate the digital marketing tools they will need. Gathering your marketing tools under one umbrella creates what is often referred to as a marketing technology stack (or martech stack). While companies like Mailchimp, Hubspot, and Constant Contact are excellent email service providers, they are also fully integrated digital marketing platforms that allow you to manage almost every aspect of your digital marketing strategies in one place. Companies like these are excellent ways to gain a prebuilt martech stack.
Whether you’re looking to learn to do your own digital marketing for your business, get into the life of a digital marketer, or add new skills to your existing arsenal, there are plenty of free and affordable resources out there to help you learn your CPCs from your CPMs, and how to master the tools of the trade.
Below is a list of our favorite resources and certifications to help you learn digital marketing in 2020!
Guides + Blogs
Search Engine Optimization is key to any digital marketing strategy, and Moz is the go-to free resource for all things SEO. It’s got everything you need whether you’re a complete newbie to keyword research and optimization, or an experienced digital marketer looking to refresh your skill set.
Our pick: The One Hour Guide to SEO is a quickfire lesson in 6 easy-to-digest videos, covering all the need-to-know SEO essentials in just one hour.
Content Marketing Institute
Explore blogs, resources, and guides on all things content marketing with the Content Marketing Institute. They also have a killer daily newsletter that you should definitely sign up for to keep on top of all the latest trends in content marketing.
Best for:Content marketing
Our pick: Getting Started in Content Marketing is a “back to basics” series designed to get you started, offering content marketing essentials, processes to implement, and helpful templates.
Ahrefs is one of the best hubs full of tutorials, case studies, and opinion pieces from some of the best in the industry. Check out some of their great free tools for when you’ve mastered your SEO skills!
Our pick: Once you’ve learned the SEO basics, one of the best free tools out there is the Ahrefs SEO toolbar, a chrome extension that allows you to do top level SEO audits of any website with the click of a button.
An icon in the digital world, Neil Patel hosts an amazing comprehensive suite of educational content on anything and everything you need to learn digital marketing.
Best for:SEO, content marketing, email marketing, social media, e-commerce, and search.
AdEspresso Academy includes step-by-step guides to learn both Facebook and Google Ads that are easy to understand, as well as regular webinars, blogs, and downloadable ebooks full of great free content.
Best for:Facebook Ads and Google Ads
Our pick: On the Academy page, there’s a great list of 6 easy steps to getting on top of Facebook Ads; start with an eight part guide that covers everything from setting up an account, all the way through to reporting and optimisation.
Social Media Examiner
With guides, studies, webinars, and a great podcast to help you keep up to date with the world of social, Social Media Examiner is your hub for social media knowledge.
Best for:Social media marketing
Our pick: While we typically hear a lot about Facebook and Instagram, it’s not often people talk about the power of social media marketing on LinkedIn — a no brainer for B2B companies. This guide to LinkedIn ads is a great starting point for anyone new to LinkedIn ads, and provides a huge number of helpful Linkedin articles and strategy templates.
Search Engine Land
What started as a major resource for all things search-related, Search Engine Land has now branched into email, social, and retail. It offers free webinars, how-to guides, handy resources, and tools for auditing to help you understand almost all aspects of digital marketing.
Best for:Search, Email, Social and Retail
Our pick: Google Ads can be confusing (don’t worry, we get it!) but this beginner’s guide to paid search is incredibly easy to follow and understand, with things like glossaries for common terms and how to do keyword research — a must read for those who are new to paid search!
UnBounce is a landing page building platform, but also has a very good resource and learning centre to help you understand everything you need to know about landing pages, conversion optimisation, and where landing pages sit within the wider digital marketing landscape.
Best for:Landing pages and conversion rate optimisation
Our pick: Never given landing pages a thought until now? This 8 module introduction is a great way to understand the fundamentals of landing pages, why they matter, and how to use them.
While there’s plenty of free guides, resources and blogs out there, a certification can help you stand out from the crowd when looking for a job as a digital marketer, or give you an easy to follow holistic overview of a topic, coming out with the confidence to action your learnings. Here’s our picks for the best online certifications out there:
Google Analytics Academy + Google Digital Garage
Get certified in Google Ads, Google Analytics, and Google My Business while also completing non-certification short courses in more niche areas, or explore courses on topics like Google Shopping and YouTube.
After utilising the library of free resources Facebook offers through their learning centre (there are over 90 courses!), you can apply your knowledge of social media marketing and beyond to their Blueprint Exams and obtain a Facebook certification in a few key areas. The best part? They’ll guide you through exactly what you need to learn for each course.
Cost: $150 USD
With both short courses and certifications, HubSpot Academy is globally recognised, and has many different digital marketing courses to help you learn digital marketing essentials, covering almost all areas including social media marketing, SEO, and business analytics.
Hootsuite Academy offers socially focused certifications and courses with an exam at the end of each certification. As a leading social media platform, the Hootsuite brand is very well respected within the industry, and their certifications are too.
Cost: $99–$999 USD
And lucky last, we can’t go past one of the best resources for learning digital marketing — General Assembly! GA offers part-time and full-time digital marketing courses, as well as short hands-on workshops across all areas of digital marketing, and is one of the industry’s most respected education providers. Want to know more? Get in touch!
Digital marketing can’t be ignored, no matter what industry, business, or location you’re in. However, there isn’t just one option — the opportunities are endless. Whether you’ve got a small budget and are looking for something incredibly cost efficient to help launch your new startup, or a big brand with even bigger budgets looking to make some serious noise, there are many different channels, platforms, and types of digital marketing you’ll be able to use for your digital marketing strategy and learn while becoming a digital marketer yourself.
Before we jump into the different types of digital marketing, it’s important to know why this space is so exciting, and why you should care about the wide world of digital marketing. What makes us so excited?
It’s affordable. Most forms of paid digital marketing are incredibly cost efficient, and allow a much more targeted approach to your marketing spend. While costs can vary across platforms, there’s something that fits everyone’s budget. Facebook ads start at a low $1 per day! If you’re not utilising digital marketing for paid (e.g. content marketing — we’ll get to that), you can distribute your content for free through your own digital marketing channels.
It’s targeted. Speaking of targeting, digital platforms take advantage of the ability to know exactly who’s online and to show them specific messaging. Traditional marketing involved a lot of hopingyour message was seen by the right people, but digital gives us the confidence to know.
It’s full of data. Ever seen a television advertising report? There’s not a lot of reliable data, nor actionable data. Digital platforms give you the ability to see who’s seeing your content in real time, whether it’s through running a paid campaign on Google Display Network, or checking your website data through Google Analytics.
Yep, there’s plenty to be excited about (we could write a whole article just on that!), so where do you begin? Below are 11 types of digital marketing to consider.
Social media marketing
Search Engine Optimisation is one of the most important tools in digital marketing — so what is it? It’s optimising your online content to appear higher in search engine result pages (SERP), and it’s free. SEO tactics are used to increase your organic search position on sites like Google and Bing, and take advantage of one of the best things about search: incredibly high intent levels. When thinking about intent, there aren’t many traditional or digital marketing channels out there that give you the ability to get in front of potential customers who’ve shown such high intent to convert (we’re talking way down the funnel). Customers are telling you what they’re looking for, and SEO helps your business give them exactly what they need in that moment.
A quick crash course on SEO. Search engines rank results by three main factors: quality, relevance, and authority. So we’re making relevant content, giving users a quality experience, and building authority throughout — simple right? SEO is generally split into two types, content-related and technical, both of which are of utmost importance for your digital marketing strategy and for gaining what’s considered golden in digital: free traffic to your website.
2. Content Marketing
Content marketing actually encompasses a lot: social media, blogs, video content, and emails just to name a few. However, it’s the concept of content marketing that many are referring to when looking at jobs in this field, or building out a digital marketing strategy for their business. Content marketing is simple: it’s giving information and solving problems through high quality and useful content; whether that’s a blog just like this one, or a quiz on what type of bread you are (maybe not so useful!), it all falls under the field of content marketing.
Generally used as a “top of funnel” approach within marketing, content marketing is a way to establish your authority and influence user behaviour later on in the journey. It’s also a part of many other digital marketing tactics like blog posts for SEO (did someone say authority building?). Ever heard the phrase, “content is king”? There’s a reason for it. Almost all types of digital marketing rely on good content at the core, and you’ll find better success across the board if you start with your content first.
3. Social Media Marketing
Social media isn’t new (we’re sure you’ve read your fair share of content on social media marketing), but there are constantly new platforms entering the market, new formats, and new ways to make the most of one of the most popular platforms out there (more than half of the world’s population are on there!). You’ve got two options: where to play and how to play.
Let’s start with the where. With so many platforms out there, picking the right social media platforms depends on your digital marketing strategy as well as where your customers typically are. Are they a younger more savvy audience spending their days scrolling through TikTok, or are they an avid Twitter user? Figure out who your customers are, and you’ll know where it makes the most sense to put your efforts. Wondering what the top social media platforms are? We’ve got you:
Secondly, the how. You’ve got two options when it comes to social: organic (publishing your content on social media regularly for free) or paying for ads to reach specific audiences. Organically, using social media helps brands build their community, keep their audiences updated, and humanize the brand (for a level up, read about social listening as a business tool), while paid social advertising gives brands a way to reach very specific audiences in a social context, and to push them to complete a desired action, all for a very affordable cost. As one of the most long-standing and in-demand skills in digital marketing, social media marketing is a must have for any business or aspiring digital marketer.
4. Paid Search
We’ve covered SEO; paid search operates on the same premise. Paid search is used for immediate returns when you don’t have time to invest in a long-term digital marketing strategy like SEO, and encompasses paying to get your business in front of people when they search for specific related terms. Most of the time, this is a PPC (pay per click) solution, meaning you only pay when someone clicks on your search listing. Sounds great right? It definitely is. However, with users showing such high intent, it means big competition for that top spot, which can often come with a hefty price tag depending on the terms your bidding on. You’ll need to think about things like quality score (yep, Google is judging you) and specific landing pages to ensure you keep your costs down.
Still confused? Let’s say I want my business to show up when someone searches for “digital marketing services”; I’d bid on the chance to be seen for that keyword and tell the search engine how much I’m willing to spend to get someone to click, which will be cheaper if I have a quality website. Think of it as an almost instantaneous auction between advertisers that happens every single time someone searches.
5. Display Advertising
You know the banners you see on websites encouraging you to take notice of whatever they’re selling? They’re utilising display advertising! Advertising your business through any sort of visual — images, video, GIFs, text — on publisher websites can be one of the most effective types of digital marketing for reaching the masses in contextually relevant places. Want to show your banner to a female business-savvy audience? Buy up some banners on women’s networking websites!
Often referred to as “more valuable than gold”, an email list is the holy grail for any business. Build a strong email list, and you’ve got a free platform to reach a qualified audience every single day. The question is though, what do you do with your email list and how can you make the most of it? That’s where email marketing comes into play.
Email marketing allows you to keep your subscribers updated with useful and relevant content — new collections, sales, or sharing your blogs each week for example, are all great ways to help you find success on the platform. The biggest rule to remember? While promoting your products and services seems like a great idea, there’s a fine line between useful emailing and spamming your audience, so use email marketing strategically! Start with the basics, newsletters and updates, and work your way up to creating a powerful automated and segmented email series, built for purposes like onboarding, or winning back lapsed customers.
7. Messenger Marketing
We hear a lot about 1:1 marketing, and digital platforms helping brands achieve more personalised messaging to their audiences. Well, messenger marketing takes that to a whole new level. Rising in popularity over the past few years, brands have utilised conversations to build personal relationships with their customers in a place where they feel comfortable, helping push them to convert, or answer any questions that might influence their decision.
Messenger marketing is something that can be used either manually, or in combination with chatbots to automate much of the conversational workflow. With the proliferation of messaging apps like WhatsApp and WeChat, plus the fact that almost all social media platforms have their own direct messaging features, many brands are using messenger marketing as a way to qualify leads, or to provide 24/7 customer support without needing to pay a team to be available at all times. With over 2.6 billion people using messenger apps worldwide, it’s imperative to think about how your brand can utilise the medium to connect with your customers.
8. Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing sometimes sits within influencer marketing, content marketing, or both, and involves paying commission to content producers for any conversion events that are attributed to them. Let’s say we ask a publisher to write a content piece for our business with a link to buy our product. We might offer the publisher 10% off all sales that come through their site, and they become an affiliate for our business.
You may have seen this happen through tracking links (e.g. the long URL string that helps a business track where their sales come from) or a special discount code. There are many affiliate marketing networks globally, some more general and some specific to a niche like fashion or tech. There’s also the option to start your own affiliate network, which takes a bit of work, but can cut out the fees that go along with signing up with a pre-existing network.
However you choose to do it, affiliate marketing is loved by digital marketers. It encourages publishers and content creators to produce original content for your brand, and you only have to pay if a sale happens. How good does that sound?
9. Influencer Marketing
We’ve all heard of the Kardashians making millions of dollars per post. So where does influencer marketing fit within the digital marketing landscape? Typically influencers help a brand with social proof and brand awareness, almost like a paid form of word-of-mouth referrals. We’re hoping that if an influencer tells their loyal audience to buy a product or service, they’ll trust the recommendation. Digital Marketers have found a plethora of uses for influencers, whether it’s the typical payment for posting that many are familiar with, a collaboration on a product, or a guest writer on a company blog. Any time you’re using someone for their credibility and audience, you’re engaging in influencer marketing.
When selecting influencers, think about who influences your audience. Who do they listen to or turn to for advice? Align your passions and brand values with someone who feels the same way — this is where the magic happens! Want to make the most of your influencer marketing efforts? Call out your influencers in your paid advertising to further push the social proof for your brand.
10. Video Advertising
Ever find yourself in the black hole of YouTube? You’re not alone. Over 2 billion people per month are right there scrolling with you. Often falling under the category of content marketing, utilising video as part of your marketing is an easy way to reach people not only when they’re looking for content to watch (#dogvideos anyone?) but also when they’re looking for reviews, how-to guides, and product information. The same way people use search, they’re using video!
As with many other types of digital marketing platforms, you have two options: paid and organic usage. With organic, we’re treating video similar to how we would our website and our socials — keeping people up to date, and sharing useful relevant content. With paid advertising however, we’re taking advantage of contextual moments to deliver relevant video content. For example, if I’m a new health food company, I could target people watching workout videos with a relevant message.
11. Audio Advertising
With podcasts on the rise, and music-listening habits shifting thanks to major players like Spotify and Apple Music, we’ve got a new medium to play in and for reaching our audiences. Branded podcasts can fall under content marketing, too. With more basic options like inputting audio ads within podcasts relevant to your business, or more advanced options like audio ads targeted to specific demographics, interests, or contextual moments on Spotify, the world of digital audio advertising is only just beginning. While we’re still looking at ways to track listens that result in purchases or sign ups, there is a big opportunity in audio advertising that opens up a new creative way of thinking and reaches audiences in key moments throughout the day.
The world of digital marketing really is endless, with new platforms, ideas, and new types of digital marketing popping up daily. While it’s always hard to know where to start, we recommend starting with you, your business, and your customer. Who are you talking to, where do they spend their time, and what makes sense for your business? There’s plenty out there, and now is the perfect time to jump in!
Whether you’re a business owner that’s ready to begin marketing your product or service online, or you’re a marketer looking for guidance on how to develop a comprehensive digital marketing strategy, this guide is for you. Creating a digital marketing plan is critical to success for any and all businesses in today’s digital world. No matter your industry or vertical, your target audience is online in some capacity. If your brand isn’t out there to seize the opportunity, your competitors will be. According to Google, 54% of consumers say they made a purchase from a brand that was new to them in 2020. That new brand could be yours! Developing a strong digital marketing strategy allows your brand to be there at the right time, in the right place, with the right message, for the right target audience.
Before you can develop a comprehensive digital marketing strategy for your brand, there are a few things you need to know to build a strong foundation. Let’s cover the basics.
The 3 Digital Marketing Pillars
There are three different pillars within digital marketing, all of which are important to invest in and tap into when developing a full-funnel digital marketing strategy: paid media, owned media, and earned media.
Paid media: Any advertising you can put money behind.
For example: paid search, social media, youtube, display ads, affiliate marketing, influencer marketing, print, radio, etc.
Owned media: Marketing that your brand has complete ownership and control over.
For example: email marketing, your website (think: SEO and content marketing), social media such as your brand’s organic Facebook page or Instagram page, your physical store, events, etc.
Earned media: What you earn for being a good brand. It’s the hardest to obtain, but sometimes can be the most powerful.
For example: word of mouth referrals, reviews, good PR, etc.
Within the owned media pillar, one large area of focus for many brands is SEO. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. At a high level, SEO allows search engines to understand what your website is about (Check out Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO). This way, when someone searches for something that is relevant to your website, the search engine is able to show your site as one of the many “organic” results. Organic simply means it’s not a paid listing; rather, it’s a listing occurring “organically” from Google or whatever search engine you are using. Within SEO, there are two big branches: technical SEO and sitewide SEO (this can encompass on-site SEO, off-site SEO, and local SEO). It’s critical to your digital marketing strategy to incorporate SEO optimizations and learnings, alongside considering your site’s user experience and design, as your website is typically at the center of all digital marketing efforts and it is the cornerstone to online success. As they say, “All roads lead to Rome.” Your website is Rome. 🙂 Prioritize it.
The Digital Marketing Lingo
There are a few key terms you’ll want to become acquainted with and consider with regards to your brand before developing a digital marketing strategy:
Conversions: The ultimate goal you are trying to achieve (sale, lead, call, appointment)
Conversion rate: The percentage of people who visit your site (or click on your ad) and convert
CPA/CPL: Cost per action/acquisition or cost per lead (take total cost of advertising and divide it by the total leads or sales you have acquired)
ROAS: Return on Ad Spend (typically a ratio or percentage. For example, if $1 in ad spend results in $4 in revenue, that’s a 400% ROAS; a 4:1 ratio)
CPC: Cost per Click (in paid search advertising, you only pay when someone clicks on your ad)
Impressions: The number of times your ads are shown or served
Bounce rate: Percentage of site visitors who navigate away from the site after viewing only one page (you want this percentage to be below 50%)
Target audience: The predetermined qualities and aspects of people who are most likely to want or need your products or services
KPI:Key Performance Indicators, used to evaluate the success of a digital marketing campaign based on predetermined objectives
Media Mix Diversification
Think about your own digital behavior. Do you search for things on Google or Bing? Do you use Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok, or all four? Do you scower your email for coupons and deals? Use affiliate sites like RetailMeNot or Rakuten? It’s likely that you didn’t answer yes to just one of these questions, but that you participate in many of these activities across these channels. One of the key aspects of building a successful digital marketing strategy is diversifying your ad spend and marketing efforts to create a well-structured media mix.
“Media mix” refers to the different channels and platforms your brand is investing in. Think of it like you would the stock market. You never want to put all your eggs in one basket. No successful advertiser is only on social media or only does email marketing or only does content marketing. Rather, successful brands develop marketing strategies that span multiple platforms, allowing them to reach their target audience no matter where they are.
Considering “The Funnel”
If you look back at your most recent purchase, it’s likely that you purchased from a brand you were familiar with, rather than one you’ve only heard of once. Brands with successful digital marketing strategies know that there’s value in being patient and taking time with their prospects by “bringing them down the funnel.” As digital marketer Martin JoJarth says, “repetition is effective communication.” In essence, most people tend to explore and consider for a little while before they commit. That’s how successful brands approach their prospects; they consider the three key phases of the marketing funnel: awareness, consideration, and conversion.
Awareness: This is the phase in the funnel where brands are getting in front of their target audience for the first time. The ad copy and CTA (call to action) are not going to be too direct or aggressive (e.g. “Learn More” or “View Options”). Brands are working to show prospects that they exist, and that they are the solution to problems or needs that consumers have.
Digital marketing campaigns brands could leverage: prospecting or brand awareness campaigns across social media, YouTube, or display
Consideration: In this phase of the marketing funnel, brands are reminding users of their existence (often called “remarketing” or “retargeting”), and sharing more reasons as to why users should choose their brand over the competition. CTAs may include verbiage that indicates that the brand knows the consumer has already engaged with the brand in some capacity, for example, “come back and shop.”
Digital marketing campaigns brands could leverage: non-brand search, email marketing, local, or social media remarketing campaigns
Conversion: This is when brands can get very customized in their approach to advertising. This is oftentimes when you see a specific product you’ve recently viewed or you’re being offered a specific coupon based on your most recent digital behavior. Calls to action will be more direct, and asking for the sale (ex: “Buy Now” or “Try Today”).
Digital marketing campaigns brands could leverage: brand search, dynamic remarketing campaigns across social media, display, or youtube
One of the common pitfalls brands encounter is serving the wrong message to the right audience. This can occur when a brand develops ad creative to incorporate into their digital marketing campaigns before they consider the target audience, or the phase in the funnel they are working to nurture. This is why when brands develop their marketing strategy, it’s critical to first pin down the target audience, determine what phase of the funnel is being used, then develop ad creative for execution.
Learn From Others
As you wrap up the development of your digital marketing plan, be sure to take advantage of resources within the industry.
For social media, take a look at what other brands are doing from an advertising perspective. Use this tool to view other brands’ ads. What ad format are other brands using on social media? How frequently are they posting new ads? What verbiage or CTAs are they leveraging?
Putting Your Digital Marketing Strategy into Action
Every digital marketing strategy will be different for every business. It will take time to learn, improve, and tweak your strategy once it is initially developed. In a world where things can change from one day to the next, it’s important to be versatile and willing to learn. Digital marketing strategies evolve over time as the brand grows and evolves over time.
The key things to remember are:
Tap into all 3 digital marketing pillars: paid, owned, and earned media
Diversify your media mix. Your prospects are on multiple channels. Don’t develop your strategy around a single marketing channel. Find the balance across multiple tactics.
Consider the funnel. Create a content marketing strategy that caters to each of the three primary phases in the marketing funnel. The more people are aware of your brand, the more people search for and consider your brand, the more people buy or choose your brand. Take your time to educate your target audience on how your brand is a solution to a need or problem they have.
Learn from others. There are plenty of free classes and resources out there for brands to learn from. As you build out your digital marketing plan, take the time to dig in to other brands’ approaches that led to customized, integrated, profitable digital marketing campaigns.
Ashley is a Senior Specialist on the Atlanta Paid Search team at Tinuiti. Tinuiti is the largest independently owned performance-driven digital marketing agency in the US. Tinuiti enables brands to accelerate their business across the triopoly of Google, Amazon, Facebook, and beyond. Within the Digital Marketing industry, Ashley specializes in paid media strategy and execution for b2b and b2c brands with $1M-$15M+ annual media budgets. She builds and executes integrated digital marketing campaigns across search, display, shopping, video, social, and email. Her passion is to work with her team to help her clients’ businesses thrive. At General Assembly, Ashley has taught more than 70+ Digital Marketing classes over the last 2 years covering topics including: Digital Marketing, Google Ads, Paid Search, Paid Social, and YouTube. Outside of work, Ashley enjoys spending time with her husband, family, and friends. Ashley enjoys traveling and documenting her adventures and money saving tips on her travel blog, Travel Cash With Ash. Ashley and her husband will be welcoming their first child into the world in October 2020.