What Is Digital Marketing Neil Patel

What Is Digital Marketing? (Learn it in 5 Minutes)

What Is Digital Marketing? - featured image

Do you want to learn digital marketing?

Well, before we go into the basics of digital marketing and even the advanced tactics, let’s first go over what digital marketing is.

That way we’ll be on the same page before we dive into step-by-step strategies.

What is Digital Marketing?

Digital marketing is the act of selling products and services through channels such as social media, SEO, email, and mobile apps. Basically, digital marketing is any form of marketing that involves electronic devices.

It can be done online and offline, and in fact, both kinds are important for a well-rounded digital marketing strategy.

Why Digital Marketing Matters

Remember billboards? I do.

As a young kid in California, my experiences from the back seat of our car mostly alternated between: “Mom, when are we there?” and “Uh, look, McDonald’s, can we go?” whenever one of those 10-foot billboards popped up on the side of the road.

Growing up with Indian parents, the answer to both of those would, most times, be the same: “not yet.”

Sometimes, big brands would even start a billboard war, like this one between Audi and BMW, which got quite a few laughs:

digital marketing - billboard example of pre-digital marketing

In 2015, a ton of my clients still spent hundreds of millions of dollars on billboard advertising.

Unfortunately or fortunately, billboard advertising is mostly dead.

Just think of it this way: Google and Facebook generate more revenue than any traditional media company because they control more eyeballs. That’s why digital marketing matters; it’s where the attention is.

The reason why billboards, like the ones above, will die, is because the future of driving will look like this:

driverless cars - digital marketing

Although driverless cars already exist, drivers still have to pay attention; in the future, as the technology improves, not a single passenger will spend their time looking at the road.

Do me a favor, the next time you drive and are giving a friend a ride, take a peek at the passenger seat.

Just for a second.

Even now, chances are they’ll be looking at their phone.

If no one is looking at the road anymore, who’s supposed to see those advertisements?

What’s more: the share of people spending more time using electronic devices continues to rise, while print advertising continues to decline.

That means you don’t have much time to figure out this digital marketing stuff before you can power down your old school printing press and close up shop.

Online Digital Marketing Summary

The 2 main pillars of digital marketing are online marketing and offline marketing. That said, since I’ll talk about online marketing in a separate guide, I’ll only mention the different areas of online marketing here for the sake of completeness.

Unbounce created a great infographic that sums up all kinds of online marketing in one neat chart.

components of digital marketing by noob

The beginner’s guide to online marketing, on Quick Sprout, is a great place to get started.

The History of Digital Marketing

Although it was first popularized as a term in the early 2000s, digital marketing has actually been around much longer.

Like, WAY longer. About 100 years longer, to be exact.

Here’s a pic of the first digital marketer in history:

gulielmo marconi - the first offline digital marketer

His name: Guglielmo Marconi.

What? Marconi?

Yup. In 1896 he was the first human to demonstrate a “public transmission of wireless signals.”

This dude invented the radio.

Shortly after his little demonstration in England, morse signals were transmitted across open water.

While it would take another 10 years for the radio to reach the general public, it sure didn’t take the creators long to realize they could use it to sell stuff.

The first live broadcast was from an opera performance at the Met and guess what people did after it?

They bought show tickets!

Digital marketing strategy was born.

Intro to Digital Marketing

There are four big categories of digital marketing: enhanced offline marketing, radio marketing, television marketing, and phone marketing.

Enhanced offline marketing is a form of marketing that is entirely offline but enhanced with electronic devices.

For example, if your restaurant uses iPads for your customers to create their orders on, then the offline experience of say, eating Thai food, is enhanced with this electronic device.

People have been using digital media to enhance their marketing for decades (you’ve only forgotten in what ways, as you’ll see).

example of enhanced offline marketing

Next, there’s radio marketing. The next time you hear an annoying, over-enthusiastic car dealer shout every word of his or her commercial, thank Mr. Marconi.

Of course, we can’t forget television marketing. TV ads have been around for more than half a century (and since 1953 also in color, nationwide; yes, there was a time before color TV).

Finally, the biggest and fastest-growing area of offline marketing, with admittedly also a lot of flops, busts, and failures: phone marketing.

Let’s look at the four areas in more detail.

Enhanced Offline Marketing

What’s the difference between a billboard somewhere in the desert of Arizona and a billboard in New York City’s Times Square?

The size? The product?

3 letters: LED. Light emitting diodes.

All of the billboards in Times Square are electronic!

enhanced offline digital marketing - LED times square billboard example

Why? Because in the desert of Arizona, no one’s competing with you for people’s attention. If you have a billboard at all, you win.

But, in Times Square, attention is probably more valuable than anywhere else in the world. Over 330,000 people cross through it each day.

If you want to be distracted, there’s buses, taxis, promoters shouting, and then, of course, the electronic billboards.

Some of them are even interactive, showing live feeds of the people on the square or pictures of customers.

Renting a billboard space on Times Square, for a year, will set you back a whopping $1,000,000 to $4,000,000.

What other forms does enhanced offline marketing take?

What do you see when you walk into an Apple Store these days?

offline digital marketing - apple store

People leaning over iPads, Macbooks and iPhones.

If you have any type of electronic product, any product demo is an important part of your digital marketing strategy.

Okay, the next one’s a good one. If you remember this, you can consider yourself an extremely lucky kid:

offline digital marketing - demo disc

This is a demo disc for the original PlayStation. Several of these were handed out with other games or sometimes even magazines.

It was the same with PC magazines. Remember when they came with CDs (and later DVDs) and you couldn’t wait to throw them into your disk drive and see what samples were on them?

A little different than a demo, these are product samples in digital format.

How to Create a Successful Digital Marketing Strategy (With Examples)

How to Create a Successful Digital Marketing Strategy (With Examples)

Many brands are just chasing the latest digital marketing trend. When social media platform X becomes popular, they’re posting on it.

For every overnight success in the digital marketing world, there are dozens of brands quietly building robust, data-rich marketing digital marketing strategies. Committing to the process of growth demands intention and consistent focus.

You don’t just want to succeed this month or this year. You want to succeed indefinitely. That’s why today we’re going to take a look at how you can build a digital marketing strategy that promotes long-term, consistent growth.

Why Should You Have a Digital Marketing Strategy?

Having a well-defined digital marketing strategy provides you with some immediate perks. Right off the bat, it provides you with a certain degree of protection. Proper planning ensures that brands are spending resources wisely.

Wasting time and money on marketing campaigns is a common brand fear, but lacking critical information about your marketing intentions and decision-making process can be an absolute nightmare.

When you develop a digital marketing strategy, you’re able to test and confirm specific marketing data points. Let’s say your latest campaign is about appealing to a particular customer behavior.

Establishing a clear digital marketing strategy lets you stress-test your marketing assumptions, which becomes especially useful when you’re targeting certain audiences.

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At the same time, you’re building a foundation for continued marketing growth with your digital marketing strategy. Imagine a scenario where a brand’s first marketing push underperforms. Without an established strategy, it can be impossible to know exactly what went wrong.

Did they focus on the wrong key performance indicators, or KPIs? Did they have unrealistic goals in the first place? Was there something wrong with their competitor analysis? These questions become much easier to answer when you already have a well-defined digital marketing strategy.

4 Steps to Develop Your Digital Marketing Strategy

If you’ve never developed a digital marketing strategy, the process can feel a bit intimidating. When building your marketing strategy, there are dozens of potential metrics and techniques you could choose to focus on.

For now, let’s prioritize two key elements: clarity and experimentation. To maximize clarity, we’re going to spend time defining our target audience and establishing clear goals. When it comes to experimentation, we’re going to focus on growth and the implementation of specific marketing tactics.

Over time, your digital marketing strategy will become more complex as it continues developing. The more data you collect, the more complex your strategy will need to be. That’s why establishing a strong foundation early on in the process is so crucial.

1. Research and Understand Your Audience

Before we dive into the deep end of digital marketing strategy, we need to spend some time unpacking the concept of target audiences.

Target audiences are defined by specific data points, like:

  • gender
  • age
  • education
  • purchasing power
  • location

By targeting certain demographics, your ad budget is being spent as efficiently as possible.

Of course, this leads us into the most challenging aspect of audience targeting: properly defining your audience.

You’ll want to start by analyzing your market. Determine whether you’re operating in a well-established market or developing one. Is your industry mainstream? Who are your major competitors?

Once you’ve clearly defined your market, think about the type of customer you’re looking for. A good rule of thumb is to start with a general idea of your ideal customer, and use data points to further narrow your audience down.

For example, let’s say you’re selling high-quality hiking backpacks. You can start by determining that one of your target audiences will be made up of men that love hiking. However, by researching ages, locations, and income, you can develop a much clearer picture of your ideal customer.

A possible target audience for your product might be men, 25 to 35 years old, living in Colorado, with a monthly income of $4,000 to $6,000. Still, this is just the tip of the iceberg. If you want to truly understand your audience, you need to identify how they spend their time in the digital media landscape.

Find the most popular blogs in your industry, the e-commerce stores they shop at like REI, and the YouTube videos they watch. Keeping track of this info gives you insight into what they like to consume, which will make outreach and content creation significantly easier.

2. Set Digital Marketing Strategy Goals and KPIs

Over the years, I’ve noticed that when discussing digital marketing strategy, the concept of goal-setting is typically glossed over. This is a shame because a well-defined set of goals can empower your brand with some pretty useful perks.

Remember those two key elements we mentioned earlier, clarity and experimentation? Well, setting goals properly ensures that your digital marketing strategy is both easy to monitor and update.

OK, setting goals is important. The real question is how on earth should you be setting marketing goals?

When the average person thinks about setting goals, they tend to focus on qualitative goals. An example of a qualitative goal would be wanting to improve your brand image, or increase your brand’s position within your industry.

You can start to see the problem with these kinds of goals. Since qualitative goals are abstract, they’re notoriously difficult to measure.

I’ve found that these abstract concepts aren’t typically useful to the average brand’s digital marketing strategy. After all, if something’s difficult to measure, it’s also difficult to improve.

Instead, focus on quantitative goals. If this is getting a bit confusing, let’s try a little thought experiment.

Imagine we have two brands: Brand A and Brand B. Brand A wants to improve customer perception with their latest marketing campaign. They spend their ad budget on building content that paints their brand in a positive light and they promote their content on multiple channels.

While they manage to get plenty of traffic, they quickly realize there’s a massive issue. They haven’t learned anything concrete from this campaign. Brand A doesn’t know exactly why they received so much traffic, and they aren’t even sure how much of that traffic led to conversions. Without a focus on clarity or data collection, they walked away with no real path to growth.

Brand B had a different approach.

Instead of focusing on the abstract, they decided to find goals they could measure. Brand B didn’t just want to improve customer perception, they wanted to increase conversions on product X. Product X is responsible for 75 percent of their business, so maximizing this product’s conversion rate is a top priority for Brand B.

The goal is to improve their Product X conversion rate by five percent over the next six months. They aim to accomplish this by increasing social media post frequency, creating video ads, and writing a monthly email newsletter.

Make no mistake, Brand B started their goal-setting process by defining some abstract goals. The difference here is that Brand B went further and established tangible milestones for each abstract goal. Easy to measure, broken down into simple components to make experimentation possible.

If the goal is met, Brand B will have data showing the specific action responsible for the increase in conversions. If they don’t meet their goal, they’ll have clear information that shows which marketing components didn’t work properly. Either way, Brand B walks away with the information they need to make their next marketing campaign successful.

Establish clear, measurable goals, identify the KPIs that matter to your brand, and set goals that make long-term experimentation and growth possible.

3. Create Your Digital Marketing Strategy

Now that we’ve taken care of the basics, it’s time to actually build and implement a digital marketing strategy.

The biggest challenge here is determining which digital marketing channel to focus on. If this step stresses you out, you’re not alone. One of the reasons this decision can feel so intimidating is the fear of investing in a channel that won’t work.

Fortunately, our framework for digital marketing strategies minimizes that risk dramatically. By starting with small, hyper-focused campaigns, brands can track how effective a particular channel is without spending thousands of dollars.

Interested in paid social media ads? Set up a goal, implement a small marketing push, and determine how valuable Facebook ads are to your brand. Using that data, you can predict how effective future campaigns within that channel will be.

In fact, by using this approach for multiple channels, you’ll quickly develop a clear sense of which channels your audience responds to. Constantly test both marketing tactics and different target audiences to collect as many relevant data points as possible.

Within a year, you’ll have a collection of data points that are easy to interpret, and even easier to leverage into successful marketing campaigns.

As far as content creation itself is concerned, there are generally two schools of thought. Sometimes, your audience is looking to be entertained. If it’s brand appropriate and you feel confident in your content crafting abilities, fun content can be a powerful tool.

Maybe it’s a funny video ad, maybe it’s some memes on social media. It’s certainly not the right approach for everyone, but it’s certainly effective when used properly. Take a look at Old Spice and see how its unusual humor perfectly captures their brand voice.

digital marketing strategy old spice

Let’s say that you aren’t confident in your comedic timing, or your brand just doesn’t lend itself to absurdist internet humor. That’s where the second school of thought comes in. Educating your audience can be just as powerful as entertaining them.

To be clear, when we talk about educating your audience, that doesn’t mean educating them solely on your brand. No matter the industry, consumers have pain points that they need addressing. Typically, they’ll have industry-related pain points that you might not be a direct solution for.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re selling those hiking backpacks again. Could you stick to making content about hiking backpacks? Absolutely, but there’s so much more you can discuss!

If you’re selling to the hiking community, they have all sorts of questions about what kind of grills to use, tips for first-time hikers, what they should look for in a sleeping bag, etc. If you’re an expert in your field, you probably have an entire blog’s worth of content in your head right now!

A good rule of thumb is if you wish you knew about it when you first started, it’s going to be useful to someone. You don’t need a massive ad budget to connect with consumers. You just need to create marketing content that feels legitimately helpful. If you can do that, you can create truly impactful marketing campaigns

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