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?
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.
So, how do you define digital marketing today?
A seasoned inbound marketer might say inbound marketing and digital marketing are virtually the same thing, but there are some minor differences. And conversations with marketers and business owners in the U.S., U.K., Asia, Australia, and New Zealand, I’ve learned a lot about how those small differences are being observed across the world.
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 possibilities, you can get creative and experiment with a variety of marketing tactics on a budget.
Overall, digital marketing is defined by using 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.
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.
Digital marketing evens the playing field within your industry and allows you to compete with bigger brands.
Digital marketing is measurable.
It’s easier to adapt and change a digital marketing strategy.
You can engage audiences at every stage with digital marketing.
Let’s dive deeper.
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 advertising and marketing permits you to determine and also target a highly-specific audience with customized as well as high-converting marketing messages.
Ultimately, digital marketing helps you conduct the research necessary to identify your buyer personas and refine your strategy to ensure you’re reaching prospects most likely to buy.
Digital advertising assists you track everyday project performance, so you understand what channels are executing well and also which aren’t, aiding you enhance your project allocate high ROI. The exact same can’t be claimed for traditional types of advertising and marketing. It matters not just how your signboard performs — it still sets you back the same, also if it doesn’t convert.
Plus, with electronic advertising, you have full control over where you select to spend your money. Perhaps you invest money on design software program to create high-converting Instagram content rather than spending for pay per click projects. A digital marketing strategy permits you to pivot continually, guaranteeing you never waste money on networks that don’t perform well.
By and large, digital advertising is a much more cost-efficient remedy as well as gives special possibilities to ensure you get one of the most value.
If you benefit a local business, it’s most likely challenging for you to take on the significant brand names in your sector, much of which have countless dollars to spend in projects. Luckily, there are a lot of possibilities to outrank the huge gamers via tactical electronic marketing campaigns.
For instance, you might use long-tail keywords to create high-quality content that ranks on search engines. Search engines don’t care which brand is the biggest, but it does care about prioritizing content that resonates best with target audiences.
While traditional advertising can be helpful for specific goals, its biggest limitation is measurability. This is one of the biggest benefits of digital marketing, as it can give you a start-to-finish view of all the metrics that matter to your company — including impressions, shares, views, clicks, and time on page.
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 flipped to that page and paid attention to it. 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:
This intelligence helps you prioritize which marketing channels to spend more or less time on based on the number of people those channels drive 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.
Imagine you’ve created a product brochure and posted it through people’s letterboxes — that brochure is a form of offline content. The problem is that you have no idea how many people opened your brochure or threw it straight into the trash.
Instead, imagine you have that brochure on your website. You can measure exactly how many people viewed the page it’s on, and you can use a form to collect the contact information of those who downloaded it. It’s twofold: you measure how many people engage with your content and generate qualified leads when people download it.
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.
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.
Additionally, all leads do not offer the same value for your business. Digital marketing allows 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.
Online channels allow you to follow the entire buying journey of your customers. Understanding and analyzing how customers are move and operate is important for converting leads. Digital marketing allows you to track them through that process. And, even if they don’t convert in the early stages, it at least helps ensure they have made a connection with your business.
Here’s a quick rundown of some of the most common digital marketing tactics and the channels involved in each one.
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:
For a real-life example on how to successfully implement SEO into your digital marketing strategy, check out our case study on Canva here:
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:
Stumped? Download 150+ content creation templates by clicking below:
This practice promotes your brand and your content on social media channels to increase brand awareness, drive traffic, and generate leads for your business.
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.
Don’t know how to get started with social media marketing? Download our free social media content calendar to get your social strategy up and running.
PPC drives 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:
PPC can be hard to grasp at first, so we’ve created a beginner-friendly guide to get you started. Download it below:
This is a type of performance-based advertising where you receive a commission for promoting someone else’s products or services on your website. Affiliate marketing channels include:
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:
Learn more about email marketing with our free guide:
Online PR is the practice of securing earned online coverage with digital publications, blogs, and other content-based websites. It’s much like traditional PR but in the online space. The channels you can use to maximize your PR efforts include:
If you don’t have a dedicated PR team, it can be hard to get started. Luckily, we’ve got you covered. Download our free PR kit below:
Inbound marketing refers to a marketing methodology wherein you attract, engage, and delight customers at every stage of the buyer’s journey. You can use every digital marketing tactic listed above throughout an inbound marketing strategy to create a customer experience that works with the customer, not against them. Here are some classic examples of inbound marketing versus traditional marketing:
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 highlighting a topic, service, or brand.
Marketing your products through messaging platforms is a fast way to reach potential leads, even for those who haven’t offered up their cell phone number. It’s a simple way to let your audience know about flash sales, new products, or updates about their orders. If your customers have questions or need more information, it’s also a convenient way for them to connect to customer service. You can send messages directly to a mobile phone via text or on platforms like Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp.
The digital marketer focuses on each channel’s key performance indicators (KPIs) to properly measure performance. For example, a digital marketer in charge of SEO might measure their website’s organic traffic.
At small companies, one person might own many digital channels and tactics described above, while larger companies typically have a specialist focused on one or two brand channels.
Here are some examples of these specialists:
SEO managers work to rank a business on Google SERPs. Using various SEO strategies, this person might work directly with content creators to ensure the content is high-quality and up to Google’s standards, even if the company also posts this content on social media.
Content marketing specialists are digital content creators. They might keep track of a blogging calendar, or develop a content strategy that includes video. They often work with people in other departments to ensure products and campaigns are supported by promotional content on all digital channels.
A social media manager’s role depends on each company and industry. But above all, social media managers manage social media by establishing a posting schedule for the company’s written and visual content. They might also work with a content marketing specialist to develop a strategy for which content to share on social media.
(Note: Per the KPIs above, “impressions” refers to the number of times a business’s posts appear on the newsfeed of a user.)
Inbound marketing is a methodology that uses digital marketing assets to attract, engage, and delight customers online. Digital marketing, on the other hand, is simply an umbrella term to describe online marketing tactics of any kind, regardless of whether they’re considered inbound or outbound.
Digital outbound tactics put a marketing message in front of as many people as possible online — regardless of whether it’s relevant or welcomed. For example, the garish banner ads you see on websites that push a product or promotion to people who aren’t necessarily ready to receive it.
If your company is business-to-business (B2B), your digital marketing efforts are likely centered around online lead generation, with the end goal being for someone to speak to a salesperson. The goal of your marketing strategy might be to attract and convert the highest quality leads for your salespeople via your website and to support 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.
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.
You’re probably less likely to focus on ‘leads’ in their traditional sense and more likely to build an accelerated buyer’s journey from when someone lands on your website to when they make a purchase. This can mean that your product features are higher up in the marketing funnel than it might be for a B2B business, and you might need to use stronger calls-to-action to inspire purchases.
Then, you’ll need to consider when they’re most likely to be ready to consume this content in line with their stage in the buyer’s journey. We call this content mapping.
With content mapping, the goal is to target content according to:
In terms of the format of your content, there are a lot of different things to try. Here are some options we’d recommend using at each stage of the buyer’s journey:
When you get started with digital marketing, it’s critical to identify and define your goals since you’ll craft your strategy with them. For instance, if your goal is to increase brand awareness, you might want to focus on reaching new audiences via social media.
Whatever the case, it’s easiest to shape a digital marketing strategy after you’ve determined your company’s biggest goals.
We’ve mentioned this before, but one of the biggest benefits of digital marketing is the opportunity to target specific audiences – however, you can’t take advantage of that benefit if you haven’t first identified your target audience.
Of course, it’s important to note your target audience might vary depending on the channel or goal(s) you have for a specific product or campaign.
For instance, perhaps you’ve noticed most of your Instagram audience is younger and prefers funny memes and quick videos — but your LinkedIn audience is older professionals looking for more tactical advice. You’ll want to vary your content to appeal to these different target audiences.
Your budget will depend on the elements of digital marketing you use.
If you’re focusing on inbound techniques like SEO, social media, and content creation for a pre-existing website, the good news is you don’t need a big budget at all. You can aim to create high-quality content your audience will want to consume, where the only investment you’ll need is your time.
For example, to implement PPC using Google AdWords, you’ll bid against other companies in your industry to appear at the top of Google’s search results for keywords associated with your business.Depending on the keyword’s competitiveness, this can be reasonably affordable or extremely expensive, which is why it’s a good idea to focus on building your organic reach too.
For instance, spending time building comprehensive buyer personas to identify your audience’s needs and creating high-quality online content that converts them, you’ll likely see strong results despite minimal ad spend.
Ultimately, aim to build your organic (or ‘free’) reach using content, SEO, and social media for more long-term, sustainable success.
When in doubt, try both, and iterate on your process as you learn which channels — paid or free – perform best for your brand.
Once you know your audience and have a budget, it’s time to start creating content for the various channels you will use. This content can be social media posts, blog posts, PPC ads, sponsored content, email marketing newsletters, and more.
Of course, any content you create should be interesting and engaging to your audience because the point of marketing content is to increase brand awareness and improve lead generation.
This means optimize your digital ads, web pages, social media images, and other digital assets for mobile devices is essential. If your company has a mobile app that enables users to engage with your brand or shop for your products, your app falls under the digital marketing umbrella, too.
There are lots of ways you can optimize your digital marketing assets for mobile users, and when implementing any digital marketing strategy, it’s hugely important to consider how the experience will translate on mobile devices. By ensuring this is always front-of-mind, you’ll be creating digital experiences that work for your audience, and consequently achieve the results you’re hoping for.
Digital marketing is all about reaching targeted audiences through personalized content — all of which can’t happen without effective keyword research.
You’ll still want to conduct keyword research even if you don’t have a full-time SEO strategist. Try creating a list of high-performing keywords related to your products or services, and consider long-tail variations for added opportunities.
Finally, to create an effective digital marketing strategy for the long term, it’s vital your team learn how to pivot based on analytics.
For instance, perhaps after a couple of months you find your audience isn’t as interested in your content on Instagram anymore — but they love what you’re creating on Twitter. Sure, this might be an opportunity to re-examine your Instagram strategy as a whole, but it might also be a sign that your audience prefers a different channel to consume branded content.
Alternatively, perhaps you find an older web page isn’t getting the traffic it used to. You might consider updating the page or getting rid of it entirely to ensure visitors are finding the freshest, most relevant content for their needs.
Digital marketing provides businesses with incredibly flexible opportunities for continuous growth — but it’s up to you to take advantage of them.
If you’re already doing digital marketing, you’re likely reaching some segments of your audience online. No doubt you can think of some areas of your strategy that could use a little improvement, though.
Next, let’s look at some examples of digital marketing that will be sure to inspire you.
This is a great example of a digital marketing campaign because it says something about the brand. In this campaign, Lego takes a stance on important global issues as a way to connect with its audience.
Nowadays, it’s becoming increasingly important for companies to discuss global issues and show alignment with their customers in that way. The major play of this campaign is to help share the brand’s story and messaging.
As we continue to learn how social media affects children, especially young girls, Dove decided to send a message. The Reverse Selfie campaign shows the reverse of what a teen girl did to prepare for a selfie and photoshop the picture. The purpose is to increase awareness of how social media can negatively impact self-esteem.
This is an excellent example of what marketing content can look like when you know your audience intimately. By knowing its audience of real women, many of them parents, Dove was able to bring light to an often overlooked consequence of the growth of social media.
In this social media campaign, Jennifer Lopez created a dance challenge to promote her new song. With this challenge, fans would do the same dance in their pajamas and in dress up clothes.
This was a successful social media campaign as the video had over 16 million views and over 5,000 posts.
Using social media is a great way to engage your audience and get them to participate with your brand one on one.
This is another digital campaign focused on emotional marketing. With this campaign, Always asked their own employees what tips they would give to girls. The women offer their valuable insight in a way meant to inspire everyone for International Day of the Girl, an international holiday that occurs annually in October.
Again, this isn’t a campaign where the product is mentioned much, but that isn’t the point. The point of this digital campaign was to inspire its audience. With that message, they could reach even more people, increase brand awareness, and show their audience that the brand aligns with their values.
Now we’ll look at some examples of different types of digital marketing.
Topicals, a skincare company, uses email marketing as part of a digital marketing strategy. The image below displays a marketing email that advertises a subscribe and save deal, where people get 20% off refills if they choose to subscribe.
As she markets herself as an ambassador for these companies, the businesses generate brand awareness as someone visiting her Linktree might be inspired to try a new brand (and an influencer recommendation can make this inspiration even more powerful).
Search engine marketing is a great example of digital marketing, where brands bid on keywords and showcase ads for their products in SERPs when someone queries a related keyword.
The image below is an example from Samsonite, where a query for the word “luggage” surfaces various luggage options from known brands that have created ads to feature their products front and center in search results.
Content offers are a form of digital marketing where businesses share helpful content with site visitors that it knows will benefit them. For example, the HubSpot Blog often features content offers and learning material for people to learn more about the blog topic.
A search engine optimization strategy for many local businesses is an optimized Google My Business profile to appear in local search results when people look for products or services related to what you offer.
Any opportunity where you can connect to your audience is an opportunity to convert a lead or acquire a customer. Digital marketing creates so many more of those opportunities by allowing you to reach prospective buyers through a wide variety of channels. Whether it’s social media platforms, websites, text messages, or any online medium, it’s an invaluable way to promote your business, service, or product.
Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally published in September 2019, but was updated for comprehensiveness.