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In this digital world, with all the digital transformations that are happening within corporations around the world, traditional marketing principles are still valid. Digital marketing, however, adds two important elements to traditional marketing. It offers new marketing channels that should not be ignored, and as important, customers leave a forensic trail in the form of digital footprints. 

These footprints enable tracking and monetizing every marketing step, campaign, program, activity and value derived from these channels. With this enormous amount of data at our disposal, marketeers can make better informed decisions.

Marketing in the digital world is no longer mainly art. It is now half art, half science. And science, over time, will grow to occupy a much larger piece of the entire marketing pie.

What Are the Digital Channels?

There are several digital marketing channels. Their function is to drive traffic to your website or online products:

  1. Organic Search: This is when someone enters a set of words or voice prompts into a search engine and gets directed by the search engine to online content. Visiting that content is considered organic traffic. The site owner does not have to pay a fee to the search engine company, but this traffic is not free. For organic traffic to materialize, much work is necessary to create valuable and relevant content.
  2. Direct: These are users directly visiting your site. For instance, when I want to buy a computer, I go to dell.com or Microsoft.com. When I want to buy a smart phone, I go directly to apple.com. When Sarasota and Manatee county SCORE clients want to sign up for a workshop, they go directly to manasota.score.org. They don’t do a search, they simply type in the domain, or click on a bookmark that they have saved in their browser. That is considered direct traffic. Direct traffic is a result of branding.
  3. Social: Social media platforms include Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter. When people are checking their social media walls or videos, they may see a post with a link to your company, product or service. When they click on the link, it will take them to your website. This traffic is tagged as Social traffic.
  4. Email: This is the traffic generated by your outbound email campaigns and email interactions. For instance, someone sees a link embedded in an email, clicks on it, and arrives at your website. That is considered email traffic.
  5. Referral: This is referred traffic from other websites to yours. When backlinks and citations are present on others’ sites back to your site, it will generate traffic flow to your site. These backlinks are important due to the traffic they generate and the authority they pass on to your site.
  6. Paid Search: These include banner ads, Pay Per Click, social media post boosts, GeoMarketing (like GeoFencing), etc. Unlike organic traffic, they require you to pay for each ad or each visit or each conversion.
  7. Other channels include affiliate programs and third-party resellers like Groupon, Ebates/Rakuten, Amazon and eBay affiliate programs.

Digital Channels - See the full video at Digital Marketing and SEO for Non-Techies

What is the Most Important Channel?

Organic traffic is the most coveted channel due to the perception that it is free.

All digital channels are important; they each have their own purpose and benefit. Different digital channels also feed off each other creating important synergies that lead to more traffic and conversions. For instance, direct and referral traffic will raise your domain authority and increase organic traffic.

When you get started with digital marketing, you may want to pursue initially one or two channels. But as you build your company, you need to keep adding channels. Digital marketing tools and techniques give you the ability to monitor with great accuracy the results of every channel to better understand which ones are effective and where you can improve. Your aim is to maximize ROI.

I tell entrepreneurs, focus on your strengths. If you are a good writer or an introvert, a content strategy that leads to organic traffic should be your primary focus. If, however you are a connector or an extrovert, then social media will be your primary channel. Use lead magnets to build an email list and leverage it heavily.

But what impacts your digital marketing strategy the most is not necessarily any of the channels. It is knowing your Unique Selling Proposition (USP). Or, as the Business Model Canvas and the Lean Canvas refer to, your Unique Value Proposition (UVP).

Why is a USP Important for Digital Marketing?

If you don’t know what you offer that provides unique value, you will have a difficult time becoming visible online. If your offering cannot be differentiated from other established brands online, your company will likely suffer a slow, painful death.

Your only option to succeed without spending an enormous amount of money is to understand your unique value and aim to establish a beach head with that uniqueness.

We would like to think that search engines and social media are unbiased environments. If you can communicate your USP to them clearly and effectively, they will start ranking you high on their search platforms when this uniqueness is queried.

Your goal should be to rank on the first page of Google, since it drives 99% of Google organic website traffic. You can then begin on converting this traffic to leads and sales.

Just as each human being is unique, each company is unique. Companies that get lost online are either because their executives don’t understand their uniqueness, or they simply can’t clearly articulate it to search engines.

Other Important Elements to a Successful Digital Marketing Strategy

My nephew once told me this joke:

Did you hear about the new restaurant on the moon? The food is good, but the atmosphere is terrible.

Having DTPs is the second most important element to a successful digital marketing strategy. You may have a highly unique product or service, like opening a restaurant on the moon. But unless people or companies need it, you are going nowhere with that business. DTPs are Defined Target Personas. You need to know who your target market and audience are. Do you know who your customer is? And when I say know them, I don’t mean by name, but by persona. This translates to understanding your target market’s demographics (location, gender, age, race, income level, and educational level); psychographics (attitudes, desires, motivations and aspirations); and sociographics (hobbies, activities, affiliations, habits, and relationships). 

Let’s say you want to photo shoot honey badgers. I’m not a photographer, but I can imagine that I should at least know what honey badgers look like. I probably need to know what climates they live in, what they hunt, what foods they consume, what animals they congregate with, what other needs they have, what kind of trail they leave behind, etc. But if I know all this and attempt to photo shoot them during my lunch hour, I will fail miserably. That’s because I missed the fact that honey badgers are nocturnal animals!

Similarly, a very important exercise that every business owner or marketing department should do is identify and understand who their clients are and what the market size is. Also, understand that your target audience is different from your target market. It is not necessarily just every potential purchaser, but also every influencer and end user. We like to say at SCORE that finding your target audience is as easy as PIE, where PIE is an acronym that stands for Purchaser, Influencer and End-user.

Defined Target Personas - See the full video at Digital Marketing and SEO for Non-Techies

An Example of PIE

For instance, a pharmaceutical company’s target audience is not solely the pharmacies that dispense the medication. They need to target insurance companies first and foremost as they are the ones that purchase a large percentage of their products. Insurance companies pay the bulk of the bills on prescription medications. They are one important piece of the target market.

Furthermore, pharmaceutical companies need to target physicians and other medical professionals as they are the influencers. Physicians write the prescriptions. Without physician endorsements, pharmaceutical companies would not be successful.

Lastly, pharmaceutical companies need to target the end-user: the patient who consumes their medication. They need to win the patient’s trust and induce them to influence their physicians and insurance companies. These are 3 completely different audiences that require specialized marketing campaigns.

To succeed in reaching your target market, identify each target audience and define avatars or personas for each potential purchaser, influencer and end user. Once you know your target market, it will be easier to sell to them. 

Digital Optimization and Transformation for Small Businesses eBook

Why is it Important to Have a Digital Marketing Strategy?

The internet revolution that took place in the 90s has created many unicorn companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook, paving the way to online shopping, socializing and interacting. With over half a trillion dollars of products and services sold online in the U.S. in 2018, you can’t ignore the importance of digital channels.  

Think of digital marketing as a scalable engine of growth. This engine is made of many cylinders, and each cylinder represents a channel. Every channel can be fine-tuned with the others to deliver a robust and efficient result.

Your digital marketing strategy is your scalable engine of growth. Its purpose is to channel traffic to your website or social media walls, engage your target audience and convert this traffic to leads and customers.

The enormity of metrics available in the digital arena can help you track your steps, optimize them, streamline your processes and impact your key performance indicators (KPIs).

SCORE Mentors Can Help

SCORE mentors help companies define their USP and DTP. These two (USP and DTP) will determine if your digital marketing strategy will be productive.

SCORE mentors also guide their clients to better understand their metrics and how to track key performance indicators. Once these indicators are properly tracked, SCORE helps clients zero-in on what goals are important and how to achieve them.

SCORE Manasota offers a Digital Marketing workshop three times a year. In this workshop, you will learn about the digital marketing channels including Organic traffic, Referral, Direct, Social, Email and Paid. Attendees to this workshop receive a free audit of their website and a wealth of ideas about how to improve site traffic and reach their markets.

SCORE Manasota Digital Marketing & SEO Workshop

SCORE helps startup companies and entrepreneurs understand the essentials of having a successful website. Often, startup founders think that after they create a website, web traffic will automatically follow. This is never the case. Having a website is similar to having your name in the white pages. While it is clearly listed, no one finds it unless they specifically look for it. SCORE helps founders understand that simply changing the web design, images and colors, although at times is necessary, will not lead to increased traffic.

About the Author(s)

Nabil Freij

Nabil is a certified SCORE Mentor, problem solver and entrepreneur. He draws from various technical & management skills to streamline business processes & operations, minimizing costs & maximizing profitability. Skilled in all aspects of running a small business including Finance, Operations, Marketing, Sales, IT & HR. Author of Enabling Globalization, trilingual, MSEE from Brown, MBA from Bryant.

CEO, GlobalVision International, Inc.
Digital Marketing