Digital marketing, also called online marketing, is the promotion of brands to connect with potential customers using the internet and other forms of digital communication. This includes not only email, social media, and web-based advertising, but also text and multimedia messages as a marketing channel.
Online marketing is the art and science of selling products and services over the internet. The art involves finding marketing strategies that appeal to your target market and translate into sales, while the science is the research and analysis necessary to measure the success of those strategies.
- Alternate name: Digital marketing, internet marketing
How Does Online Marketing Work?
Online marketing uses a variety of digital, online, and electronic means to push a message to current and potential customers. The message might be crafted as an image, a piece of text, or a video, and distributed in any number of places. It could be as simple as a social media feed or it could be as complex as a wide-ranging and comprehensive strategy that encompasses multiple modes including social media, email newsletters, websites, and other channels.
The type of online marketing that will be right for your business will depend on the nature of your business, the habits and demographics of your target market, and your budget, among other things. Market research will lead you to the right strategy or mix of strategies for your offerings, and detailed performance measurements will indicate which are most successful for you.
For example, a hair salon that wishes to incorporate online marketing might add an Instagram feed featuring photos of hairstyles completed by its stylists to show off their talent. A Facebook page could highlight rave reviews from happy customers and display a link to the salon’s website, where prospects could find information on reservations, available services, and photos of the salon’s interior.
Do I Need Online Marketing?
Online marketing is increasingly important to small businesses of all types.
In the past, internet marketing was something that local brick-and-mortar businesses could ignore in favor of traditional methods. However, as consumer habits change, shoppers are much more likely to research their purchases online before buying. In fact, they’re likely to research a product online even while they’re standing in the store.1 Generally, all businesses should include some online marketing in their marketing mix or they risk missing out on business.
Types of Online Marketing
There are nearly as many types of online marketing as there are ways of finding information online. However, there are several methods which tend to see success.
Online marketing includes search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM). SEO is the process of fine-tuning the text on your business website so that the site ranks higher in search engine result listings when your potential customers enter search terms that match your product offerings. It doesn’t cost anything to optimize your website to perform better in search results, and a high-ranking website could bring in tons of organic traffic (website traffic that happens naturally).
SEM, on the other hand, is a paid search marketing strategy. Search engines such as Google charge a fee to display your ad when a user conducts a search using one of your keywords. These fees are also called pay-per-click (PPC) fees.
There are many types of online advertising opportunities. One method is to use banner ads embedded into web pages. Other options include interstitials, which are ads that appear before or between pieces of content. Different social media providers, such as Facebook, also sell advertising on their platforms.
You can use email to send out newsletters and customized product or service offerings specific to the customer’s needs. You can also keep your customers up-to-date with company news, upcoming events, and special offerings.
Once you have built a subscriber email list of potential customers who may be interested in your products or services, email marketing is a very effective way to reach them, because your message arrives in their email inbox, where they are likely to see it.
Social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Pinterest (to name a few) are all opportunities for marketing online. They work best when part of an overall content marketing strategy, which emphasizes the quality and usefulness of the content you create for your brand.
Don’t forget the “social” in social media. Social media marketing works best as a conversation with your customers. It requires active participation rather than just posting ads for your products or services.
Maintaining a blog is another way to converse with your customers and keep them informed about your products or services. A blog can be used to provide advice and get useful feedback.
The more value you can provide to customers through the expertise you share in your blog, the better you position your brand as a trustworthy source. This can help customers be willing to take a chance on your offering.