Digital Marketing: The What, the Why—and the How

Digital Marketing: The What, the Why—and the How

Understand the basics of digital marketing, the different channels, and how to incorporate it into your businesses' marketing mix.

Digital marketing is a massive category of marketing that encompasses a broad swath of activity—more than it would make sense for us to list exhaustively here. Social media activity, e-mail marketing, display advertising, search advertising, and almost anything that takes place on-line is typically considered “digital marketing.”

Further, as new platforms, social media providers, and sites pop up, new opportunities continue to emerge.

To provide a straightforward overview, we’ve divided digital marketing activity into two buckets: owned and paid. However, each category has a lot of overlap. Further, each bucket depends heavily on other types of marketing activity—including traditional marketing tactics—for success.

“Owned” Digital Marketing Channels

“Owned” digital marketing encompasses marketing assets that you’ve created or tactics over which you have majority control. For example, you own your company’s website and you control where it is housed (what server or hosting company) and what it contains.

Owned digital marketing is foundational. In most cases, you must have these owned assets and channels to get real return on investment for your paid marketing activity.

The owned digital marketing category includes the following:

  • Website: All marketing today, digital and traditional, requires a website. Companies should build websites on quality content management systems with a perspective on their near-term growth objectives. Further, after the website launches, companies must keep the site updated and in good condition. Keeping the site updated involves and helps with ongoing search engine optimization, which means that your company will rank as highly as possible when people search for terms related to what you do via search engines like Google and Bing.
  • E-mail Marketing: Sending scheduled e-mail to managed and segmented lists of contacts keeps businesses top of mind. Via e-mail marketing, companies promote content on their websites, products and services, and sales and specials. Marketing e-mails require ongoing list management and list building to function optimally, and effective e-mail marketing typically requires dedicated e-mail marketing platforms like MailChimp, SendInBlue, and ConstantContact, among others.
  • Digital Content: Companies produce content to build and expand their websites and fuel their e-mail and social media marketing. Quality content drives traffic to your website, increases engagement with your e-mail and social media marketing, and gains links from other websites, which helps with your company’s search-engine optimization—thereby driving even more traffic to your business. Types of marketing content include podcasts, white papers, case studies, infographics and charts, custom graphics, and video.

“Paid” Digital Marketing Channels

“Paid” digital marketing is marketing activity that has an expense associated with it for it to be effective—a budget beyond the cost of marketing services and staff time. Digital marketing tactics that require an expense budget often involve paying for advertisements and placements.

Which paid digital tactics you use and how you use them will depend on your marketing plan and goals.

Here are a few paid digital marketing channels to consider:

  • Display Advertising: Display advertisements appear on websites and applications across the internet. Display ads are image-based; for example, banner ads on websites are display ads. Often, display ads are not triggered based on a user’s search query, but on user demographics and behavior.
  • Search Advertising: Search advertising appears when people use a search engine or another site to look up information via a specific word or set of words. Search ads help capture people looking for the type of work your company does or the types of products it offers.
  • Social Media Marketing and Advertising: Though it’s free for your company to set up a profile on the major social media platforms like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, TikTok, Reddit, Instagram, and the rest, businesses need to pay to gain real traction on these sites. Further, the pages, fans and followers and engagement, and even content posted on social media is controlled by the social media platform—thereby excluding it from the “owned” category. Fortunately, especially given the proliferation of social media today, companies do not need to be active on all social media platforms—they need only to have an engaged presence on the platforms most relevant to their target audiences. For social media marketing to be effective, companies should allocate at least a baseline budget for promotions and advertising to make their presence on these platforms worthwhile.
  • Remarketing Advertising: Remarketing advertising appears when people have visited one of a company’s owned digital marketing tactics—such as its website—and then leave. These ads then show up on other websites across the internet, encouraging the user to return to the company’s owned digital assets for further engagement.
  • Sponsorships: As with off-line events and activities, companies can often sponsor on-line events, activities, and even podcasts and pages.
  • Advertorials and Sponsored Content: When a company creates content that it then pays another website or publisher to display or when a company hires an influencer or website to create and publish content on its behalf for money or free products and services, it is engaging in advertorials or sponsored content.
  • Listings: All companies should ensure that any business listing—many of which are automatically generated by companies that build online directories—is a listing they have claimed as theirs and that they can access. These include listings on Google, Yelp!, Glassdoor, and similar sites. When you claim your listing, you can customize your listing page to ensure it matches your company branding and messaging, and you can invite users to leave reviews (to which you should always respond). While companies can claim their listings pages for free, the real benefits of these listings accrue to paying businesses.

Tracking Digital Marketing Success

As with all marketing, you need to set measures in advance of starting a digital marketing program. Defining relevant measures and setting valid goals will help you track your results and adjust your activity accordingly.

Many of the measures that companies use to track off-line, traditional marketing activity work equally well for digital marketing. For example, if you track leads and opportunities from in-person events, you can track them equally well for digital events.

In addition, there are many software tools for tracking and measuring the digital activity that is connected to your traditional and digital marketing efforts. Some of these tools are free, such as Google Analytics. Other tools are paid.

Given the cost of the latter tools and the expertise required to use all of these tools effectively, including the free ones, it makes sense for companies with extensive marketing activity to team up with a marketing firm to leverage their subscriptions and expertise to ensure optimal overall return on their marketing investment.

Get Digital Marketing Help

Today, every company seeking to maintain or grow its market share must have a baseline digital presence.

Many—though not all—of these baseline activities are in the “owned” bucket. For example, every company must have a website, needs to create marketing content, and must employ e-mail marketing. Other baseline activity for marketing requires expense allotment, such as social media marketing and advertising.

These tactics, especially when combined with off-line, traditional marketing activity, aren’t easy to execute well. They most certainly are not in the skillset of a single person, either.

In life and in business, smart people know when to get help. Smart companies know to bring in support for their marketing efforts and investments.

Toward this end and based on its decades of working with clients to build high-performing marketing programs, FrogDog has created a suite of marketing packages that help companies execute digital marketing and achieve lasting results.

We would love to help you, too. Contact us for a free consultation.

Posted: Nov 08, 2016
Updated: Nov 12, 2020
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