Digital marketing has been my passion for the last 10+ years. Not SEO. Not social media marketing. Not inbound marketing. Not even analytics.
I'm passionate about marketing, and how the different parts fit together to help companies grow.
This article is my attempt at explaining that.
You'll also learn what is wrong with some companies' approaches to digital marketing, what digital marketing really is, and the frameworks we use in our digital marketing campaigns to achieve success for our clients.
This means that digital marketing is no longer new, or the "next big thing" as some claim.
It has been around for more than a decade. But the problem is many digital marketers enter the field of digital marketing without knowing the basic principles of marketing.
When I interview digital marketers, I often ask the interviewees what do they understand about digital marketing. One of my favorite questions to ask is this: I have a new website that just went live, and it has 0 visitors. How can I get to 500 visitors?
That's a junior marketer's response.
An experienced marketer would respond something like: Who is your target audience? Where do they spend most of their time online? What are you selling? What's your customers' buying journey like? etc.
The creation and use of these buzzwords have caused a generation of digital marketers to enter the industry without knowing the basic principles and frameworks that underpin our field.
This is a big problem.
What is inbound marketing?
According to HubSpot, this is the definition of inbound marketing:
Inbound marketing is a business methodology that attracts customers by creating valuable content and experiences tailored to them. While outbound marketing interrupts your audience with content they don’t always want, inbound marketing forms connections they are looking for and solves problems they already have.
To put it simply, inbound marketing is the practice of drawing consumers to your brand through channels and strategies that are not traditional advertising.
Alternatively, you can say it's simply a combination of content development and Public Relations (PR).
Channels that are included in the current inbound marketing strategy have been working under different names and definitions for many years.
At the core of it, PR is telling your story through third-party mediums. A brand pitches its story to the media, and if the media thinks it's a good story, they write about it and publish it on mediums where your target audience is.
If the brand did its PR well, the message will reach its core audience, and they would have controlled the message so closely that they have convinced their customers of their product/service's value - and since PR is done on third-party mediums, it would imply a non-biased endorsement from the media.
So what happens next?
Customers are influenced and lured to buy something from the brand.
They bought it from an inbound channel.
Today, inbound marketing is just operating under different mediums - social media, blog, email and etc.
Inbound marketing was not invented by HubSpot. It's not new.
Content marketing was termed around the mid-2000s as well, by Joe Pulizzi, the founder of Content Marketing Institute, which sells, of course, content marketing courses.
And what is content marketing?
According to CMI, content marketing is:
The strategic marketing approach of creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.
In the years since content marketing was termed, marketers began to say: Content is king!
As if content has not been the most important part of marketing:
Content has always been the most important part of marketing.
Digital marketers shouldn't fall into an echo chamber of meaningless buzzwords. They should start understanding and practicing real marketing.
Marketing has always been the creation of a message that resonates with a target audience, and transmitting this message into a piece of content on a channel where the audience is, in an effort to build the brand and increase demand so that prospects become customers, customers become repeat customers, and repeat customers become evangelists of the brand.
The tools and channels change, but the principles of marketing remain the same.
Digital marketers are doing nothing significantly different from what traditional marketers have always done.
To understand what digital marketing really is, we have to first understand what marketing is.
Here's a simple 4P framework that we learn in our Marketing 101 textbook:
Understand the product/service that you're really selling.
How much should your product be priced?
Your product's price is linked to the value (or perceived value) that you create for your customers. A few questions to ask yourself when deciding the price:
Where is the place you're going to sell your products?
Pick the place where your customers are. Don't expect them to come to you, you have to go to them.
Here are some questions you can consider asking:
Once you've done the previous 3 Ps of marketing, it's time to think about your promotion strategy.
Now that we understand digital marketing is, at the end of the day, marketing, on digital platforms, let's talk about the problem with digital marketing.
Because digital marketing has many different platforms and channels, many companies have become one-trick ponies.
If we think SEO works, we try to rank for more keywords and publish more 'content': second-rate paraphrased content from another website.
When new social media channels start to trend, and we see our competitors doing it, we start to adopt the social media marketing tactic.
I get it. It's easy to give the management/clients what they want. They want rankings, we improve SEO rankings. They want followers, we deliver followers. They want 5 blog posts, we write 5 blog posts. They want a new and sexy marketing tactic, we do it.
Focusing on tactics is a lot easier than explaining the importance of a proper marketing strategy and indirect attribution.
But tactics only get you so far. A digital marketing strategy is what all companies need.
In the end, every digital marketing tactic will reach its limit.
SEO will. So will Google ads, social media ads, churning out content, etc.
Companies that have worked with various digital marketing agencies might have encountered the Law of Perceived Diminishing Returns:
Therefore, you might think that what your agency does is very easy, and your nephew can do the same. Or you might think that another agency can easily do better just because they promised 'guaranteed results' and there's no risk to you.
You flock from one agency to the next, because these agencies promise to give you what you want. The problem is, you don't know what you need to do to achieve success through digital marketing.
Your expectations of the agency are wrong. You start out on the wrong foot. You limit the agency's work or influence by engaging them for a single digital marketing tactic.
Of course, sometimes if the digital marketing campaigns don't work out, it might simply be because the agency is not good enough.
But, engaging digital marketing agencies for a single tactic is not the right way, because there are diminishing returns to tactics:
I'm not saying tactics are useless. Tactics are needed to get things done. Without tactics, we'll have consultants talking fluff and delivering nothing.
But we need to integrate the different marketing tactics into one coherent strategy and combine it with data, to produce a sustainable way to grow your company.
According to Google, strategy is defined as: a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim.
Similarly, a digital marketing strategy can be defined as: a plan of action that integrates all tactics and data, to achieve repeatable, long-term and sustainable growth.
The last factor is what separates digital marketing agencies from traditional ad agencies. Traditional ad agencies don't have access to accurate data. Good digital marketing agencies do, and data is essential for success.
We talked about the basic principles of marketing. We talked about what's the difference between digital marketing tactics and strategies.
Let's explore the 2nd framework that Heroes of Digital uses for its digital marketing campaigns, we call it: Heroes of Digital's Digital Marketing Framework.
It's our framework for thinking about digital marketing strategy.
It's not the framework.
It's just ours, created and refined based on our years of experience working with hundreds of clients in different industries.
You'll need a framework to visualize how different tactics come together to play a part in your big strategic plan.
Here's how this framework works:
Our philosophy and approach to how the bits and pieces of digital marketing fit together. Click around to learn more.
What: Pay-to-play media where you spend dollars to gain visibility.
How: Buy impressions, clicks, or views through advertising platforms.
Examples: Pay-per-click, Display, social promotion.
What: Exposure and attention that you can't buy, but that can be gained over time.
How: Providing useful content to answer the needs of online users.
Examples: Blog posts, infographics, videos, training guides.
What: The stuff you fully control and own.
How: Claim it, build it, create it.
Examples: Your website, your Facebook page, videos.
Content is not 'lots of words to help me rank higher.' It's every form of communication that passes information: Product descriptions, photography, blog posts, articles, white papers, video... Everything.
Content drives your entire business:
Content affects every channel: Paid (think of Google Adwords), earned (think of 'organic' search and social media) and owned (your own web site).
Analytics tracks impact on key performance indicators (KPIs). Revenue. Profit. Leads. Whatever metric you care about the most, it should drive your entire analytics strategy.
Analytics provides the data to build and adjust your plans:
Analytics is not reporting. It's not a static thing. It's an activity. It should illuminate the next actions for your marketing strategy.
Infrastructure delivers your website enabling the rest of the elements and channels to come to life. Without it, you have no website, and you have no online brand.
Analytics provides the data to build and adjust your plans:
Infrastructure impacts every other marketing activity and channel. It's the foundation for all digital marketing
The base layer of this framework is the Infrastructure. It's the foundation on which everything else is built. Without this in place, the strategy won't work.
Infrastructure refers to the whole technology - hardware and software - that powers your digital presence. It impacts your customer experience online:
Analytics refers to meaningful data that you should track to improve your digital marketing campaigns. Without analytics, you won't know what's working and what's not.
Audience data refers to what kind of people are visiting your website.
How does the visitor performance vary with respect to the above factors? How then can you prioritize your website optimization according to these data?
Acquisition data refers to how customers are landing on your website.
How can you optimize your organic marketing (i.e SEO) based on visitor performance? What kind of paid ads campaigns should you be investing more in? Should you be striking a partnership, or doing some media buys on referral sites that send you high-quality traffic?
How do visitors interact with your site?
Understanding how visitors behave on your site enables you to refine and improve your content to improve performance.
What conversion metrics are you measuring on your site? These should be the most important metrics that play a part in the success of your digital marketing campaigns:
There are many metrics and data to track. If it overwhelms you, keep things simple. Identify the main metrics that matter the most to your business, and start from there.
Use the data to help you make better decisions going forward.
As I mentioned above, content is the most important aspect of marketing. It has always been, and will always be. No content, no marketing.
Infrastructure helps you to host your content.
Analytics tells you why your content works, or why it doesn't.
Channels help you distribute your content.
Without good content, your marketing won't work as well as it should.
Content is what you say.
Any engagement your customers have with your brand has some sort of content:
Are the different types of content you publish aligned to your main brand message and values?
If your content doesn't serve any of the purposes above, reconsider if you should publish that piece of content. Content is only useful if it helps. You shouldn't be churning out content for content's sake.
Treat your prospects' time and attention with respect, provide value through your content, and you'll see success through content marketing eventually.
Channels can be categorized into 3:
Paid Channels refer to channels where you spend money to advertise so that you can get your prospects' attention. Google ads, Facebook ads, Tiktok ads, Youtube ads, Amazon ads, etc.
Earned Channels refer to channels where you get your prospects' attention without paying for it. For example, doing SEO to get your website ranked on Google for certain keywords that are relevant to your business. Or PR, where media outlets write about your brand.
Some companies may not believe in this channel. Well, wait until they have strangers writing negative reviews about them, or competitors having a strong PR game.
Owned Channels refer to channels you control. Channels like your social media pages, your blog, your Youtube channel, and things like that.
Usually, companies will drive traffic from Paid and Earned channels, to Owned channels. Because you have the most control of what you say, and you can collect data of your customers to do various things like creating Lookalike Audience and/or retargeting them.
What's important for companies to know is a good digital marketing strategy involves more than one channel. Why?
Because you have different customers on different platforms, at different stages of their buying process.
If you're just relying on one channel, and that one channel changes its algorithm (think Facebook or Google for eg), you're left in the dust.
In marketing, diversity = sustainability.
You know what a digital marketing strategy is, and what it's not. You've got a framework for organizing your digital marketing strategy.
Now, let me present to you our digital marketing system and solution for SMBs.
You've read how important having a good infrastructure is for digital marketing. How important analytics is so that you can use the data to make better decisions.
We've created a comprehensive all-in-one marketing technology for SMBs that is both affordable and essential:
If you're interested, contact us to find out more!
HEROES OF DIGITAL
We were born to save SMEs from ineffective digital marketing. Most digital marketing agencies in Singapore lack the proper digital marketing expertise, and transparency. They take SMEs for a ride, over-promise them on results. The end result is unhappy clients wasting a lot of money and resources. We are here to save them.