Sure, successful digital marketing requires quality software, computers, networks, and data. But tools are no substitute for savvy.
Perhaps the greatest challenge is figuring out how to get smart about digital marketing when Amazon has hundreds of books on the topic and Google has millions of articles. Where would you even start?
In our experience with dozens of clients across multiple industries, we find successful digital marketing has seven core components:
- Content strategy
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Social media strategy
- Marketing automation
- Sales enablement
Read on for a concise introduction to these essentials of digital marketing:
1. Start with goals
Digital marketing requires a thoughtful combination of hardware, software, and messaging. You don’t just throw a bunch of these variables at the marketplace and hope for the best.
You need a strategy built on well-defined, realistic goals. You start by envisioning your optimum outcome and working backward, identifying the tools, tactics, people, and other resources you’ll need to land where you want to be. Use the SMART model:
- Specific: “Increase lead generation by 20%” vs. “drive more leads.”
- Measurable: Target achievements that can be quantified and expressed in hard numbers.
- Achievable: Base goals on statistical likelihood and historical data vs. rose-colored scenarios that have little chance of happening.
- Relevant and results-driven: Don’t settle for a vague sense of achievement. Push for real-world improvements to your business.
- Time-bound: Give your goals deadlines in weeks, months, quarters, and/or years.
2. Create a content strategy
Content — articles, videos, webinars, eBooks — is one of the tenants of digital marketing. You’ll use content to attract customers, build trust, establish thought leadership, and achieve favorable search engine rankings.
Content strategy should include:
- Your customers’ major pain points and your plans to ease the pain with helpful, actionable and credible content.
- Buyer personas describing the challenges of your most common customers.
- Assessments of which kinds of content best serve your buyer personas.
- The primary steps in the buyers’ journey — awareness, consideration, and decision.
- Awareness content focuses on helping people and making your brand top-of-mind with your audience.
- Consideration and decision content are more product- and solution-focused.
- Targeted social media — use platforms where your target audience hangs out and engage with them there.
Related: 3 Steps to Creating a Content Inventory for the Buyer’s Journey, from HubSpot
3. Search engine optimization (SEO)
People will be searching for your services online. They’ll either find your website or one belonging to a competitor. Your strategic approach to keywords, backlinks, social media shares, and other SEO tactics will improve your odds of achieving higher rankings on the search engine results pages (SERPs) of Google and other search platforms.
The world of SEO is ever changing because Google and its brethren never stop tweaking their algorithms. Hence, it’s crucial to stay on top of the latest SEO trends.
Check out the strategic-SEO content we’ve created here at Blue Star:
- 3 SEO Factors You Can Manage or Improved Ranking
- 5 Major Google Penalties and How to Avoid Them
- Google AdWords — How It Works, Why You Need It, When To Use It
4. Craft a social media strategy
Using social media to boost your business is nothing like posting on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram in your free time. Your business goals should energize your social media strategy.
Here are four potential goal areas:
- Brand awareness: Posting shareable and entertaining social media content can raise your profile, though it might not add to your bottom line in the short run.
- New business: Attracting customers with social media is a tricky business because people use social channels to socialize, not to buy things.
- Thought leadership: Establishing your brand as an industry expert can build trust and affinity among current and potential customers.
- Customer service: Many brands have made social platforms primary customer-service areas.
Each of these goals requires a distinct approach to social media. Tactics that thrive on Twitter can flop on Facebook — it all depends on how your customers use social media content.
5. Enable marketing automation
Automating everyday marketing tasks can lighten the workload and let you get a lot more work done. Automation can:
- Pull in contact information from your CRM software.
- Notify you when a prospect downloads your eBook.
- Set up an email to follow up with them later (and perhaps offer additional content or set up a meeting).
- Inform sales about new leads.
Marketing automation software can do a lot more — it just depends on what works best for your business. It comes in two flavors:
- Platforms like HubSpot and Marketo that provide large feature sets covering a broad range of marketing functions.
- Cloud-based apps that provide highly specific services like SEO keyword research, online collaboration and data analytics.
If you work with a developer who knows how to optimize application programming interfaces (APIs), you may be able to stitch together a collection of smaller SaaS tools that provide better functionality than the big platforms at a lower price. But depending on your needs and budget, you may be better off with an automation platform.
6. Help sales find and nurture prospects
Digital marketing provides a perfect opportunity to mend the rift between marketing and sales. Marketing software and strategic content can generate interest in your business and allow you to pass the best leads on to your sales team.
Digital marketers should set time aside for old-school analog activities: talking to salespeople and customers to get a clear idea of what buyers want. Often, you can build a piece of content around answering a specific customer question. When customers type that question into a search engine, they can find your content and you can win their trust and appreciation.
Sales enablement varies widely depending on the product, service, vertical, or industry sector. It’s most important in B2B marketing, where longer sales cycles and larger transactions are commonplace, but it has a role in all sales.
7. Document everything with analytics
Digital marketing leaves data footprints everywhere. That can help you prove that your efforts are paying off, and it can steer you away from areas where you’re getting no traction.
At the very least, you need Google Analytics, which tracks a broad spectrum of web stats like:
- Traffic to your website
- Page views on your website
- Bounce rate
- Average time on site
- Top pages
These stats aren’t created equal. Ideally, you want data that makes the most direct connection between website visits and completed sales. You can have huge site traffic but no sales, or lots of targeted sales with low traffic. High bounce rates mean people are quickly clicking away from your content, while average time on site tells you how well you’re keeping people engaged.
Top metrics for social media include:
- Engagement rate
- Click-through rate
Instead of getting caught up on follower counts, you really want to measure how your social efforts translate into building affinity with your company. That’s where engagement and click-through rates prove their worth.
Top metrics for email include:
- Open rate
- Click-through rate
- Unsubscribe rate
Open rate tells you how well your email subject headers are working, while click-through and unsubscribe reveal readers’ enjoyment and appreciation of your content.
It’s hard to anticipate what hardware you will need when setting up your own digital marketing business. I set up Peter Doak Global on June 10th 2015. A year later, I believe it’s useful to outline what my experience was of the technology hardware I needed and the ups and downs of figuring that out.
I will be creating a series on my overall journey, the hardware used is just one part.
It’s been filled with highs, some lows but all good and not a single regret.
This article is about the technology hardware I have used and would recommend. The software side of things like Customer Relationship Management (CRM), communication tools and more will be in a separate article. For now we are looking at the things you can hold in your hand.
Taking a quick look back to my previous employment, coming from 7 years in a huge business with a global corporate culture and then more recently a local advertising business that had an established technology setup, I was pretty much used to the best tech hardware money could buy.
To be clear, if I had any complaints about working for someone else, the technology we used was never one of them. Going from that comfort of a tech team there on demand, someone else setting up all the infrastructure I needed, to being in total control and responsible for all of it myself was, to say the least an eye opener.
What hardware was I going to need to support my business?
If there were two things my business could not run without it would be a laptop and a smartphone. I literally could not run my digital marketing business without these two things. My smartphone for when I am on the move and my laptop for when I am stationary.
I wouldn’t call it essential…but I think my tablet deserves a high mention here. I could do without my tablet, my business wouldn’t crumble without it but I wouldn’t want to operate without it.
When I first started this business, I had been open for 10 days, I had a laptop that was 4 years old…it stopped working, my immediate thought was “Crikey! What will I do now?”.
With pretty much no reserve cash in my business I thought it would be prudent to save and I bought a laptop that cost around £120 , Big Mistake! The laptop would not work properly at all. It simply wasn’t a high enough spec. I was a cheapskate and I paid the price of having to work double the amount of time on things I should have because the laptop was so slow.
A couple of weeks passed and I built up the money to be able to buy a better spec laptop, it’s a Toshiba, Windows 10, Satellite-L50-B, it cost me around £350. Pretty cost effective and suits my needs entirely. I have had it for exactly a year and used it heavily and it’s still in great “nick”.
I have gone through several smartphones since starting Peter Doak Global, the first was an absolutely dreadful…I can’t even think of the brand name it had because it was so obscure. I think the main problem was it’s lack of speed, which killed my response time to issues on the move.
The reason that I actually bought the phone for something like £80 was because my Nokia Lumia 520 was broken and I couldn’t use it so I had to knee-jerk and go out and buy the first thing I could afford.
The phone I bought after that was amazing, it was a Sony Xperia M4 Aqua. The phone itself wasn’t actually amazing but it was the first time I had used Android as an operating system….at this point in my career I am in the unique position to have used, apple, Microsoft and android mobile operating systems and wanted to share this perspective on them:
Windows: Everything makes sense, but feels clunky and there aren’t the same number of app providers adopting the platform for it to be a main player.
Android: Everything makes sense, pretty much the same app availability as ios…wonderful user experience overall.
As I said the Sony Xperia, wasn’t a great phone and it wasn’t so much the hardware letting me down, it was my bum! I sat on it and it the screen cracked, got it repaired but it was never the same. I now have an amazing Samsung Galaxy S6…it’s expensive but amazing, android operating system and it’s faster than a cheetah just after a can of red-bull going down a hill.
Do you need a Samsung S6 to run your business? No. I would suggest that you need an android operating system and fast processing power to conduct business on the move.
I was given a Christmas present in 2013, a Nexus tablet made by ASUS and it’s been used practically every single day since I got it. It’s never really been used for work, except for maybe testing websites or Skype chats on the move, I use it mainly for playing Angry Birds and reading business books on my kindle app!
Honorable mention: The notepad
I bought a notepad from Tesco and promised myself I would only use it as a last resort. There have been times with clients when the use of a smartphone or a tablet wouldn’t have been appropriate and it was just easier to use the notepad. My black and red Tesco notepad works well in an emergency. I am not absolutely sure I would count it as technology hardware but I guess it’s a physical thing that is connected to my business. While we are at it the pen I use is a black roller-ball pen from Tesco as well, I love it!
Hardware key learns:
- Make sure you buy the best you can afford when it comes to the hardware for your business.
- A spare of any single piece of hardware could save you a lot of headache.
- Speed in your hardware is important, if you are like me, you will want things to open instantly, and when on a call with a customer it’s important to be quick with examples.
Two additional notes: I love to stay light and be able to move around with my technology, I love the idea of one day opening up my laptop on a beach in the middle of a heavy sunbathing session to check up on project progress then go back to relaxing. To do that I got a great bag from Amazon that I have had for a year now as well, it’s from Duronic and I got it for £7.00, I checked it out and you can get it now for £11.99. They must have realized that they undercharged for it!
Something I haven’t got and don’t think you need:
Printers, I have been in business for a year and have never owned a printer myself, I think we have gotten over using paper in favor of emails and showing things on screen. I go to great length to ensure that I carry the absolute minimum bulk around with me and paper does not make the cut…nor does a printer.
Links to the hardware in this article:
- Duronic Bag: http://amzn.to/29jQhTl
- Toshiba, Windows 10, Satellite-L50-B: http://amzn.to/29dmkTP
- Samsung Galaxy S6: http://amzn.to/29jSr5a
- Nexus tablet made by ASUS: http://amzn.to/29dmE5h
How much has this all cost overall?
If I was doing this over again I would be pretty confident that I would need about £800 in terms of hardware costs to start up.
Thank you for reading. It’s been a fun first year, and having generally documented most of my ups and downs there have been a few that have really stood out as important, one in particular, it’s a real game changer for anyone who has a business and wants to get more sales.
If you would like to be one of the first to hear about it, add your email in below and I will add you to the list of those to get notification of it’s availability in advance!
Need a hand mastering digital marketing?
You have to be an expert juggler to succeed at digital marketing. Thoughtful, in-depth articles on your site do no good if people can’t find them on Google. CEOs can pull the rug out from under you if you can’t quantify your achievements and prove you’re making progress.