The recent explosion in digital marketing tools has made it very easy for small and medium sized enterprises to purchase or adopt one of these tools and begin using it to manage their marketing efforts. Social media platforms are both plentiful and extremely easy to access, and the ongoing advances in marketing automation software give SMEs an ever expanding array of options to automate specific touch points (on social media, in emails, etc) in a customer’s buying cycle. However, this ease of access and availability comes with the downside of a complex network of processes, channels and tools to keep track of.
An easy popular example of a digital marketing tool is Hootsuite. Hootsuite’s core functions allow a business or marketing team to schedule posts, easily find, manage and share content with their audience, analyze and monitor data from topics that matter to the organization, as well as offering app integrations and security features. Hootsuite, according to their landing page, is a platform used to manage ‘all’ of a user’s social media in one place. Hootsuite backs this claim quite well, with integrations for Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Youtube, Google+, Instagram and many others.
According to this infographic, there are 30 different classifications of digital marketing tool, that break down into 4 core organizational goals; Reach, Act, Convert and Engage (RACE), a term coined by Smart Insights. Hootuite is an example of a tool with a ‘Social Media Publishing Focus’, which falls under Engage, but there are others, such as Hubspot, that is not only a Blogging tool (under Act), but also a Marketing Cloud, CRM and Campaign Management Tool, which falls under Engage like Hootsuite does.
Here is where things begin to get tricky. If another tool were to boast the same features as a top-of-market option such as Hootsuite but at a cheaper price, they would start attracting a large amount of notice. As of 2016 there are almost 4000 digital marketing tools available, many of which compete with each other for a piece of the market.
This digital explosion is why digital marketing strategy has become such an important part of getting a business off the ground. Each tool, platform and solution should be carefully selected with an SMEs goals in mind, with due consideration to budget, time and manpower constraints.
According to a survey of more than 1000 US based SME owners, driving sales is the most common goal amongst this sample of businesses looking to employ digital marketing.
So, what is digital marketing? Digital marketing is the process by which companies generate ‘leads’ within target demographics of people in an online environment, and subsequently create relationships with those leads to turn them into customers. The strategy behind marketing has always revolved around acquiring leads, converting them into customers, and retaining those customers, and this approach does not change with digital marketing.
An effective digital marketing strategy should use at least three of the following channels at a minimum:
- A website or call-to-action-optimized landing page
- Digital Advertising
- Social Media Marketing
- Email Marketing
- Paid search
- Organic search
- Online PR
- Influencer Marketing
- Search engine optimized content/web pages
- Live Digital Chat
It is impossible create an effective, efficient strategy on guesswork alone. A cohesive analysis on the effectiveness of currently used methods of marketing should be factored into the initial strategy conversation. To boost the impact of this analysis, thorough market research on which channels are preferred by the target demographic should be conducted in order to decide which channels the strategy will feature.
Once the research and analysis have been applied, a method of interacting with customers through the selected channels can be devised, and subsequently a method of tracking and managing those interactions/conversations. This is where the use of digital marketing tools and marketing automation software comes into play, and is also where an SME marketing department can run into trouble. With so many tool and software options it is entirely possible to pick the wrong ones without careful consideration of which tools are best for managing specific channels, and which automation software will allow a small department to sustain thousands of conversations with potential leads across those channels. Ultimately, even though a product that is cost effective has less features or offers less reliability than a top-of-market option, creative application of a cost effective product can still work well. There is no point in being competitive if the costs are unsustainable, after all.
There are many nuances and intricacies to effective digital strategy development. Digital strategy in the business world is an extremely hot topic, and is very likely being discussed in thousands of board or meeting rooms across the world at this very moment. Ultimately, the most effective marketing strategy, digital or otherwise, requires research and analysis. The approach to marketing activities and conversation starters should be logical, and there should be processes in place to ensure performance improvement. Management should be involved in the strategy and invested in its’ implementation, and furthermore be able to commit resources and structure to the overall effort. Data collection and analysis methods and infrastructure for supporting each aspect of the strategy should be laid out, with fallback options, but it all comes down to the interaction with the customer. Communications with the customer, and consideration for the customer experience should be integrated into each and every facet of the strategy in order for success to be possible.