If you’re starting an online business, you can’t just expect potential customers to find you and spend money on your product or service. You need to promote your site in the right places and to the right people in order to attract potential customers. This can seem a daunting task, especially if you’re completely new to the world of online business.
That’s why we’ve put together this guide to help you get to grips with the basics of digital marketing. We’ll cover all the major areas and link to in depth guides that will help you get to grips with important concepts.
This guide will probably be most useful if you haven’t launched your site yet. But even if your site is already up and running, you’ll find there’s a huge amount of information that will let you take your business to the next level.
1 – Identify your audience
First you need to decide who your marketing will be targeted at. It’s tempting to pretend that your product or business will be of interest to everyone, but in reality what you do won’t be of interest to a substantial number of people. That’s not a bad thing, but it does mean you have to make sure your efforts are focused on those most likely to do business with you.
Some elements of your audience will be obvious – for example if you’re selling a product that’s only used by women. However, in other cases the defining factors of your audience won’t be so obvious.
You may have already done some work on understanding your target audience in the early stages of planning your business. If you haven’t, then you’ll need to do it here. Once you have a basic understanding of the kind of audience you’ll be targeting, you can start to build specific personas.
Personas are imaginary individuals who possess the traits of your different target groups. Once you understand what people are interested in, accurately targeting your digital marketing campaigns will be much easier.
2 – Decide on tone of voice and implement it
Next up you need to decide on your tone of voice. This decision should flow from the personas you’ve already developed. Tone of voice is about ensuring your communicate with people in the way they expect to be communicated with. For example, if you’re running an accountancy consultancy, then you’re probably going to use a formal tone of voice. If you’re selling products targeted at a youth market, then you’re like to use a very informal tone of voice.
Your tone of voice will be as unique as your business. In fact, there’s only one hard and fast rule in this area – be consistent. You should use the same languge across all your marketing communications and on your website. IF you don’t, you’ll confuse people and they won’t have a solid idea of what your business stands for. This may mean that you need to rewrite your website copy so it’s in line with your tone of voice.
3 – Decide which digital marketing channels you’ll use
You’re now ready to think about how you want to reach potential customers. Broadly, your options are: Paid search, organic search, display advertising, social media and email. You’ll probably find you end up using a mixture of these five areas. Let’s take a look at what each channel is and its pros and cons.
Paid search or search advertising allows businesses to pay to appear at the top of search results. Google is by far the biggest player in this market, so we’ll focus on it. By setting up a Google AdWords account, you can create adverts based around keywords that are relevant to your business and when people click on them, they’ll be taken to your site and hopefully make a purchase. The advantage of paid search ads is that they’re a quick way to get your business noticed. The downside is that it can take a while to master them. You can learn how to get started with paid search in this guide.
Organic search is where people use Google, or another search engine) and click on a result that isn’t an advert. To use it successfully as a marketing channel you need to rank highly in search engines for keywords that are relevant to your business. To do that you need to work on your search engine optimisation (SEO). You’re unlikely to see SEO results overnight, which means it’s not going to drive many sales to your business when you first start. It’s also hard to rank for competitive terms. However, good SEO can drive a significant amount of business through organic search. It’s a long term investment, but it’s one worth making. You can learn about getting started with SEO in this guide.
Have you ever visited a website and then found that company’s advertising keeps appearing on every website you visit subsequently? That’s display advertising. Or, more specifically, it’s display advertising that’s using cookies to track your activity on the web and show you ads related to site you’ve visited. As with paid search, Google dominates the display advertising market. Display ads will allow you to reach a large audience quickly, although they tend to be less successful at generating sales than paid search is. You can learn more about display ads here.
Social media marketing is a huge topic so we’ll only touch on the basics here. Pretty much all social media networks offer you a chance to promote your business in one way or another. The first thing to do is to decide which, if any, of them is suitable for your business. To do this compare the personas you’ve created with the demographic that uses each social network.
Most likely, you’ll find that it’s probably worthwhile being on Facebook as it has such a huge user base and another, more specialised network such as Twitter or Pinterest.
You’ll also have to decide if you want to focus on organic social media – that is not paying to promote your social media pages and hoping that the content you post goes viral, or whether you want to run some paid ads on social. In reality, you’ll probably end up running paid ads as social networks have made it increasingly difficult to succeed in social media marketing without having to spend money.
Email marketing is sometimes seen as old fashioned, but it is still an incredibly powerful tool when used correctly. The biggest downside of email marketing is that it can’t generate initial interest in a business. Before you can use email marketing, you have to get people to give you their email address. That means they have to be aware of your business in the first place. (Don’t be tempted to buy email lists – they don’t result in good email marketing campaigns and you may be breaking the law.) However, the strength of email marketing is that it can help you build a long-term relationship with a potential customer after they visit your website for the first time. If you have their email address and their permission to contact them, you can send someone discounts and special offers that will entice them to become a customer. Once they have become a customer, you can use email to generate repeat sales. You can learn how to get started with email marketing here.
4 – Set goals
You probably already have business goals. Your digital marketing goals will be related to, although different from, these existing goals.
The manner in which you set your marketing goals will depend on what channels you’ve decided to use and what exactly you want to achieve. However, all your marketing goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant (to your overall business goals) and time-bound. This method of target setting is called SMART goals.
Here are a couple of examples of goals that fail the SMART goals test and why, along with alternatives.
To rank first on Google for “buy shoes”. Ok this goal is specific and measurable. But it’s probably not going to be attainable for a small business and it’s not time-bound. It’s also not really relevant. Although ranking first on Google for a term like this would be great, it doesn’t really tie in with a specific business goal. A better goal would be “to increase the number of sales made via organic search by 10% year-on-year over the next 12 months”.
To get 1,000 Facebook fans in six months. It’s specific, it’s measurable, it’s attainable and it’s time-bound. But it’s not relevant. How will having 1,000 Facebook fans help your business? You might argue that they’ll buy from you, but that’s not good enough. A better goals is “increase email signs ups generated from social media by 15% in six months”.
So you can see it’s easy to fall into the trap of setting goals that satisfy your ego, but aren’t actually good for your business in the long term. Make sure you use SMART goals and your business will benefit.
5 – Make sure you can track your efforts
Of course if your goals are to be measurable you need to have some way of measuring your digital marketing efforts. The best way to do this is to use Google Analytics. The data provided by GA, along with the data provided by any other tools you use, will help you monitor what’s working and what needs improvement. The best thing about GA is that it allows you to see how people get to your site, what they do while they’re on your site and what, if anything, they buy from you.
6 – Develop a testing plan
Finally, you need to acknowledge that your digital marketing will never be perfect. That means you need to test to find out what improvements you can make. Once you’ve got your first few digital marketing campaigns up and running, it pays to start changing things in order to see what works and what doesn’t. A good testing system can help you increase the effectiveness of you marketing and hence help you boost your sales and revenues. Testing is a huge topic so if you want to learn more about it, then check out this guide.
We’ve covered a quick checklist of what you’ll need to do to get started with digital marketing. But there’s always more to learn. You’ll find a huge range of digital marketing tips and advice across the 123 Reg blog. Simply use the blog search function to find what you’re looking for.