The difficult times brought upon us by COVID-19 have shown that technology is a significant part of any business. And many business owners are beginning to wonder, "Is digital marketing important?"
Digital marketing is important because it connects businesses with their customers and helps build a community of members in your niche.
There is no question that the internet has changed the way we do business. Consumers can now order a product, reserve a table, or schedule an appointment from the comfort of their bedroom.
Yet, many businesses are still hesitant to jump into the world of digital marketing.
It is understandable why business owners have doubts. However, we are reaching a point where digital marketing is no longer considered a new service.
Digital marketing has been around since the early 90s. And since then, many different online marketing tactics have been tested and improved upon. The services which were ineffective and unprofitable are no longer being used.
We are now in an era where small businesses can market online with guaranteed success.
The days of paying for a print ad in the local newspaper and hoping that a qualified customer will view it are long gone. Every form of online advertising offers a multitude of ways to precisely target the type of consumer that will buy from you.
Social media sites provide ways of refining your audience (the people who will see your ad) based on:
As mentioned above, new web technologies have given us the ability to target ads towards very specific groups of people. Which means that you are not wasting money by showing your ads to everyone.
You are targeting people who already have an interest in your business. But paid ads are not the only form of digital marketing.
Much of your online marketing strategy will be made up of free tools and services. Posting to social media sites is one of the most effective ways to build your brand. And it comes at no cost to you.
Optimizing your website for SEO is also free. Even email marketing is free if you use a service like MailChimp. And email marketing has the highest ROI out of any digital marketing tactics.
Many of you may be thinking, “Are any of these really free if I have to pay a digital marketing agency to manage them?” And you would be correct. You will need to hire a digital marketing agency.
However, the fact that agencies can use many of these free services means that they don’t have to charge you extra for them. Even the services which do need to be paid for are relatively cheap.
One of the most important benefits of digital marketing is having the ability to track exactly how your money is being spent. And this is true across all forms of digital media.
Website analytics and search engine optimization tools allow you to track a wide array of data points.
Track the number of visitors to each page. Determine what buttons they clicked. See how far down a blog post they read. Find out what they searched on Google to find you.
See how many people clicked your ad. Compare this with the number of people who saw it but took no action, this is known as the click-through rate. Then compare the people who clicked your ad with the ones who went on to fill out a form on your site, this is known as the conversion rate.
Look at how many people have liked your page or individual posts. This one is obvious since we all use social media. But a business can use the tracking tools provided by social media sites to analyze and improve the effectiveness of their posts over time.
It used to take many years of strategic planning (and a significant amount of money) to reach the kind of audience needed to compete with large companies.
But our world has changed and the companies that used to dominate the market are now afraid of small businesses. You have the potential to reach just as many people as any company regardless of size.
The reason for this change is due to the new surge of viral content.
Large companies cannot throw money at a professional film studio and expect the video to go viral.
The beauty of virality is that there is no formula for creating content that is guaranteed to be liked and shared millions of times. We can make educated guesses. But the ability to share a post is in the hands of viewers.
Here are two great examples of small businesses creating viral content:
Building your brand is a very important part of any marketing strategy. But many businesses see themselves as too small to have a “brand”. This is due to a misconception about what it means to have a brand.
Many people think of branding as slapping your logo on a shirt and selling it. But this is not the case at all.
Jeff Bezos explained it best, “Your brand is what other people say about you when you are not in the room.”
Having your logo on a product that is seen by many people can help to grow awareness for your brand. But if your business is not built on a message that people care for then what’s the point?
A business without a core message is equivalent to building a mansion with nothing inside. Just four walls that look stunning from the outside.
So how does digital marketing help build your brand? Because the internet is built on the idea that anyone can share information with everyone.
If someone has ever left a great review for your business on Yelp, they have contributed to building your brand. If someone has Tweeted that your cashier made their day by complimenting their shoes, they have contributed to building your brand.
But brand building is not completely out of your control. There are many things you can do which will alter and improve consumers view of your business. And the internet has made this process easier.
Marketing agencies used to create different messages for every medium before the internet. Magazine ads, TV commercials, and radio ads all had messages which were curated for that specific platform.
There is a concept known as integrated marketing communications. And while the name may seem technical, all it means is that you have one unified message for every single platform.
This infographic by the Oxford College of Marketing visualizes integrated marketing communications well.
Is your business built on making a product faster and more efficiently than any of your competitors? Then develop this into your brand and shout it out for the whole world to hear.
When most of us think about helping our community, we immediately think of charity work. Taking part in charity programs is very important. And I hope all businesses strive to reach a point where they can donate their time and money to charities.
But this is not the only way to make a difference.
You have already helped your community tremendously by owning a business. The benefits that small businesses bring to the local economy is immeasurable. But digital marketing can help in many other ways.
Let us start by breaking our definition of the word community into two parts.
First, there is your local community. This is the town, city, or state that you live in and all the people within it.
Here are a few ways you can help your local community:
There is also your niche community. This includes all the people who are involved in your business’s field of work.
Do you own a café? Then your niche could include other café owners, coffee enthusiasts, and freelancers who enjoy doing their work in cafés.
How you can help your niche community:
If you are a business owner, then you have probably heard the statistic that almost 50% of businesses fail within the first five years.
But when you heard this, the entrepreneur in you probably thought, “I only have to be better than half of the new businesses around me in order to survive five years? That’s easy!” And I agree with you! But the problem is that this is short-term thinking.
If you think about your business as a lifelong career, which I’m sure most of you do, then that five-year statistic means virtually nothing.
Did you know that almost 80% of businesses fail within twenty years?
Take a moment to let that sink in.
If five people start a business at the age of 40, the odds are that only one of them will make it to retirement. This is a terrifying statistic. And you need to ensure that you and your business don’t become another statistic.
So, back to the question... Is digital marketing important?
I am not going to lie and tell you that your business is guaranteed to fail without a strong digital marketing strategy in place. Many businesses do just fine with a very limited amount of online marketing. But nobody starts a business with the hopes of doing “just fine”.
If you are like most business owners, then you don’t want to survive. You want to thrive. You want an asset that can be left to your children. And your business will have a much better chance of thriving if you dive headfirst into the world of digital marketing.
The decision to start digital marketing today can drastically alter the future of your business.