Marketing is really important
Entrepreneurs are notorious for giving marketing efforts a backseat to product development, funding and other immediacies. This oversight costs them. A solid marketing strategy should be built into the business plan from the start and implemented as soon as you have a minimum viable product (MVP). As Mark Cuban says, “sales cure all.” The inverse corollary would be that a dearth of sales dooms an enterprise.
Digital marketing is the future
Not that traditional marketing (mailers, TV & radio ads, magazine ads, etc.) is going anywhere. Digital marketing, however, will continue to grow. It makes sense, right? People spend a lot of time looking at screens. More time, probably, than they spend looking at anything else.
B2B or B2C?
Is your offering intended for individual consumers (business to consumer) or for other businesses (business to business)? An example of the former would be a fitness app, while a data storage and retrieval service falls into the latter category. B2B and B2C marketing strategies will share a number of commonalities, but also have some important differences. B2B customers will demand much more detail before they purchase. B2C customers respond more to emotional appeals. And so on. One significant commonality, however, is that both types of marketing target individuals — if you’re selling to a business, you’re selling to someone in that business who makes purchasing decisions.
Know your customer
Regardless of whether you are B2B or B2C, targeted marketing is essential to any digital campaign. If you’re selling your fitness app, shotgun style, to the general public, you’ll be far less successful than if you target middle-class female purchasers between the ages of 24 and 47 who attend yoga classes and have gym memberships. Unless your fitness app aims to motivate sedentary customers to get moving. Your target demographic, in that case, might include people who watch reality TV and have memberships in weight-loss programs. If you market your data services to businesses in a blanket fashion, you’ll sell far fewer subscriptions than if you reach out to, say, IT directors in midsize companies (e.g., $20M to $200M annual revenue).
Digital marketing channels
Once you know who you’re selling to, how do you actually reach them? Pathways include SEO, social media, search engine PPC, paid social, blogging and more. Your choice of channels will depend on your target customer. It will also rely on trial and error, and careful tracking of results so that you can adjust accordingly. Below is a brief description of a few of the channels you might end up using:
- SEO (search engine optimization): With search engine optimization, you’re trying to appear as close to the top of the first page of search results as you can be. This is a highly competitive and constantly changing game, and has an entire science and body of tactics devoted to it.
- Social media: You maintain company social accounts and interact with followers. Your goal: to attract as many followers as possible and build awareness of your brand. Depending on your product/service, you can often sell directly from your social page.
- PPC (search engine): Pay per click advertising on search engines involves linking a digital ad to a specific keyword or set of keywords. If you’ve chosen “weight loss program” as one of your keywords (phrases are still called keywords, by the way), your ad will hopefully appear when someone Googles that phrase. The qualifier hopefully points to the competitive nature of paid advertising. As with SEO, in most market segments you’ll find many advertisers trying to elbow one another out for the same keywords. And, as with SEO, winning the in the PPC arena is an entire science in itself.
- Paid social: You run ads on social media platforms. These can be pay-per-view (PPV) or PPC. You target these by selecting specific demographic data, which can get incredibly granular. Facebook allows you to screen by dozens of criteria, including entertainment preferences, home ownership, type of vehicle owned, family situation, travel habits, career and much more. Other platforms have their own targeting systems, but the gist is the same: you show your ads to the people you want to, exclusively.
- Content marketing: One of the most important — and overlooked — aspects of digital marketing. Your goal: to sell indirectly by establishing yourself as a respected expert. Content marketing involves a ton of research, blogging, guest blogging, social media posting, writing and publishing articles, etc. Imagine you’re looking for a shoe repair service in Tucson. You Google that exact keyword. At the top of the page, a paid ad (PPC) appears, promising fast service, low prices, etc. Midway down, you see an article: “Shoe Repair: 10 Things to Avoid.” You can’t help but click on it (after all, if there are ten potential mistakes, you don’t want to make one of them). You’re impressed by the article, and, in the author byline, what do you know — she just happens to run a shoe repair service in Tucson. Would you contact her, or the PPC advertiser?
I hope this article gives you a sense of the importance, breadth, and depth of digital marketing, and encourages you to delve deeper into the various aspects I have touched on. Happy selling!