Introduction to digital marketing
The exponential growth and pervasive nature of digital technologies have revolutionised the way we communicate, search for information on products and services and make purchases. The pandemic has accelerated this trend: according to data from Eurostat, in 2021 66% of European consumers aged between 16 and 74 ordered or bought goods or services on the internet, an increase of 15% on 2016.
Nowadays companies can use a variety of tools to do business and find new ways of ‘connecting’ with their audience. In this article we’ll give you a general overview of the world of digital marketing: what it is, what benefits it offers firms that want to expand their business and the channels they can use to reach their ‘ideal customer’.
What is digital marketing?
Digital marketing is all the activities a business carries out using digital media with the aim of developing and retaining its customer base.
What is the difference between web marketing and digital marketing?
Although they are often used interchangeably, digital marketing and web marketing are two distinct areas. The former comprises marketing activities carries out using various digital media: the web, social media, mobile apps, newsletters and many more besides. Web marketing, meanwhile, is a specific branch of digital marketing that only includes initiatives carried out on the World Wide Web (i.e. the internet), such as SEO (search engine optimisation), Google Ads and blogging.
The advantages of digital marketing
Digial marketing offers numerous benefits compared to marketing carried out using traditional media for organisations and professionals that want to expand their client base.
Unlike analogue media, where a single message is sent to a general audience (broadcasting), digital technologies allow businesses to divide the market up into homogenous groups of consumers, who share certain demographic or behavioural characteristics. This segmentation allows you to create messages designed specifically for your target audience, the people who may be interested in the goods or services you offer. This targeted communication is known as narrowcasting.
Using the data collected by various online user behaviour analysis platforms, you can customise messages and offers to suit the specific needs, habits and searches of each individual customer.
Recipients play an active role in the typical digital marketing communication process, for example by commenting on or sharing content provided by businesses or giving their verdict on the products they have bought through reviews and posts. This interactivity allows businesses to engage their audience more and create a relationship of trust, while also amplifying the reach of marketing messages by increasing businesses’ visibility.
In general, digital marketing is cheaper than traditional print, radio, TV or billboard advertising. Moreover, campaign profiling provides you with a greater number of qualified contacts, ensuring a greater return on investment.
The final huge advantage of digital marketing is the fact you can measure the effectiveness of your campaign using various key performance indicators (KPIs). These indicators may include how engaged the audience is, for example counting the number of visits to your company website or comments on a post, or the return on investment of each marketing campaign. Usually, the latter is calculated using the conversion rate, in other words the percentage of users who complete the call to action out of the total number of people who view a certain message.
Digital marketing channels
If you want to set up a good digital marketing strategy, it is important you are acquainted with the main tools available to help you reach your target audience.
Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising
Google Ads, Facebook Ads and sponsored posts on LinkedIn or other social media platforms are all examples of adverts where you pay based on the number of times an ad is clicked by users.
This tool allows you to reach people directly in their email inbox. You can use different forms of messages: regular newsletters, promotional emails or automated email streams that aim to inform, educate and convert readers, in other words turn leads into customers.
Social media marketing
Social networks allow you to create a community of fans of your brand and generate leads and website traffic through organic or paid posts. The various platforms available are very different in terms of the way they work, the format of content you can publish and the audience, so it is vital you get well acquainted with them all before planning your marketing strategy.
Influencers are people who, as the name suggests, can influence other people’s choices by publishing advice and opinions online. They include celebrities from the worlds of showbiz and fashion, bloggers with large, loyal communities and, in a wider sense, nationally or internationally respected managers and professionals. Companies enter into a partnership with these figures and promote their business through sponsored content (posts, videos and articles) published on the influencers’ web and social channels.
Search engine optimisation (SEO)
SEO allows you to direct qualified traffic to your website by improving its organic ranking (i.e. without paid boosting) on search engine results pages (SERPs). SEO is in turn divided into two categories:
- On-page SEO, which includes creating and optimising content on the website, in order to make it more responsive to users’ web searches and to ensure it ranks higher on SERPs. This also includes work to improve the pages’ readability and usability and alterations to the HTML code designed to facilitate its indexing by search engines.
- Off-page SEO, meanwhile, refers to the optimisation work carried out outside your business’ web platform to increase its popularity and authority. One example of this is link building: adding links pointing to your own site from other websites on a similar theme.
Blog posts, e-books, white papers and videos published online are all useful tools for improving awareness of a company and generating qualified leads. To work, content marketing must meet two criteria:
- Quality: the contents must be carefully curated, interesting, original and ‘packaged’ in the most suitable format for the audience and the aim of the campaign.
- Relevance: the topics must be chosen based on the target audience’s real needs and specific interests. You therefore need to carry out a preliminary analysis to identify the most relevant topics or insights regarding a certain product or service for potential customers.
Naturally, this is not an exhaustive list: the digital world has countless channels available for promoting your brand. The choice you make regarding which tools to use in your digital marketing strategy will essentially depend on two factors: the type of products or services you provide and the ‘typical’ customer journey, in other words a detailed analysis of the decision-making process that leads them to their purchase, incorporating all the various points of contact with the company.