Digital marketing has perhaps received its biggest boost to date with the pandemic and more people working from home. But getting results still requires careful execution.
So, when it comes to digital marketing, what is more important – the digital or the marketing?
What’s the Difference?
It’s sometimes difficult to see the seam between digital and marketing.
Since the advent of the internet in the 90’s; email, websites, search engines and social media have all become a main-stay of most businesses’ marketing. Tweet, infographics, posts, blogs, animations, videos, apps and more, have all become common weapons in the marketing armoury.
And the shift in technology has seen a change in people and skills too. PR experts have become Content Marketers, Graphic Designers have become Web Developers and Business Developers have become Social Media Influencers!
With digital marketing comes algorithms, coding and information which requires a healthy technical understanding. The likes of ecommerce, search engine optimisation and pay-per-click advertising are highly data driven. It’s little surprise IT experts can outnumber creative types in some marketing agencies.
However, at its heart, all marketing – digital or otherwise – remains about communication. Whatever the media, it’s the message you use that will ultimately influence customers’ behaviour. From websites to emails, social media to videos, PPC to SEO, it is understanding your customers and what they truly value that will ultimately result in enquiries, sales and loyal customers.
So, should digital marketing be the preserve of the technical? Let’s look at the main channels and both sides of the equation…
Increasingly, the physical construction of a website has a great impact on its success. To impress both visitors and search engines it must be secure, quick and display consistently on desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones and differing browsers.
Converting a company’s or graphic designer’s vision into a website can be a puzzle. Online editors provide easy but limiting options. They can be too restrictive (particularly for Search Engine Optimisation) and additional features, functions or ecommerce need coding skills to deliver.
Particularly post-pandemic, your businesses’ website is increasingly your shop window. It can be both the first and lasting impression your business leaves on customers.
That means it has to look and feel the way you want. More critically, it must provide each visitor with the experience and information they need to result in enquiries and sales.
Websites are often seen as a partnership of strong design with clever coding. However, for a business website, it’s marketing that should provide the lead for both.
Experience shows that visitors’ behaviour on websites is not always as you might expect. Whilst many businesses craft a comprehensive narrative about everything their business is and does, many visitors can be less attentive, less patient and more immediate in their needs.
The true digital marketer helps achieve both – ensuring the website concisely communicates everything the business wishes in a way that grabs the visitor and persuades them to act.
Social media posting and advertising require an understanding of the fundamentals of the platform. For example, Twitter limits the number of characters, Facebook dislikes images with high levels of text and smileys can look out of place on LinkedIn.
Advertising in particular is highly data led. Without the technical know-how, budgets can quickly be exhausted.
Social media is fundamentally a wonderfully immediate and accessible form of public relations (PR). It’s an instantaneous megaphone, through which you can quickly and effectively broadcast a message to your target audience.
Whilst social media can seem ephemeral, a pattern of posts can quickly add up to a shared impression about their author.
Social media is a balance. Quality is important. You may be excellent at, say, engineering but a poorly worded post or out-of-focus image can soon have people wondering. Likewise, an expensive animation may look fantastic but the return-on-investment may be limited if suitable groundwork has not been done.
The true digital marketer will concentrate on communicating messages your target audience are keen to receive and which help grow your audience among the right people. Whilst the aim is to promote what you do, sales messages alone can soon have users switching off. The digital marketer will find a way to pique interest with relevant and useful posts; whilst making it clear what you deliver and what makes it great.
Paid Search (aka PPC, Pay-Per-Click or Google Ads)
Undoubtedly, paid advertising on search engines like Google is a technical and data-led world.
Beneath the surface, the user interface is complex and requires a strong understanding of the information and variables within. Whilst, it is possible to delegate many decisions to Google or Bing themselves, many have found this is more likely to increase spend than results.
The critical factor with PPC is an understanding of your customers and their behaviour.
Google and Bing make it easy to use your budget to generate clicks to your website. However, it’s important they are the right clicks, from the right people, at the right stage in their buying journey.
As an experienced agency, we’ve inherited many complex PPC campaigns from fellow digital marketers. Their flaw is that they failed to truly understand what the business sold and what their customers wanted!
The true digital marketer gains a better understanding of what it is that you offer and the ways in which you can stand out and persuade customers. A better understanding of what people search online and what attracts them. A better understanding of the information and experience they seek and what will result in an enquiry or sale.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
At first glance, this is the area where the digital outweighs the marketing.
Sadly, leading search engines like Google do not publish instructions on how to satisfy their algorithms. Instead, they offer hints that have many experts spending time debating, debunking and dissecting online.
An analytic mind and appreciation of the mechanics of a website and its coding are essential if you are to know the next move in your SEO strategy.
Google’s aim is clear – to give its users the very best experience by championing quality above all else.
Google want to see lots of fresh and relevant content, on a fast and secure website – one which other internet users value and respect. That sounds like a big challenge especially for the average small-to-medium sized enterprise. However, it’s likely what your customers want too!
There are technical SEO attributes to a website which need careful analysis and coding. However, beyond these, SEO becomes largely about content – regularly updating your websites with text, images and features that appeal direct to your customers.
This is where the true digital marketer will look to Content Marketing. Again, they need an excellent understanding of what you do and what your customers really value.
Seeking to satisfy Google alone is a lost opportunity. Google will quickly identify anything which is ‘keyword stuffed’, so it’s more efficient to create content which users genuinely value and helps ensure your business is one which your customers choose.
Gaining the respect of others online is largely about impressing your peers; being part of the online communities, featuring in publications and on websites and building a reputation for ‘knowing your onions’. Again, the true digital marketer will simply ensure the content you create is shared with all the right people.
The Right Balance?
Digital Marketing must be a balance of both technical knowledge and marketing acumen. Like a Formula One racing driver, you need an appreciation of the mechanics before you can maximise your performance.
However, the secret to success lies within a best possible understanding of your business and what will attract and convert your target customers.
If you’re concerned you (or your marketing agency) are putting the digital before the marketing, try an agency with the skills and experience to switch them around.
More information can be found at www.fullmixmarketing.co.uk/digital-marketing