Official statistics show that the total global population using the internet has reached 4.54 billion, which is a 7% increase from 2019. The average time spent by individuals on the internet daily is around 6 hours and 43 minutes. Out of this time, they spend 144 minutes only on social media. The social media penetration rate has reached an all-time high of 49%.
Going by the statistics, it is evident that the internet has taken the world by storm, and social media is a big part of it. Even if we choose to turn a deaf ear to the statistics, a look around us will jerk us back to reality. With every second person hooked to their phone and various social media handles ruling the roost, it is impossible to deny the central place the digital media has taken today. Not only has the internet changed our lifestyle and consumption pattern, but it has also brought about a paradigm shift in the way business is done. It has led to the blurring of boundaries and easy accessibility of resources. Better technology, free-flowing ideas & resources, lower overhead costs, are a few among the many contributions of the internet to business. New business models have emerged, ranging from e-commerce to Software such as a Service (SaaS).
However, a big way in which the internet or rather the digital media has influenced business is the way it advertises. Believing in the adage that customer is the king, companies have always focused on providing customer delight and customer retention. So, when the customers are all going online, the companies must do so too. Individuals now use the internet & social media handles not only for connectivity and networking but also for shopping and product/brand comparisons. Companies should quickly adapt to the changes and mold themselves.
Thus, all companies are adopting online marketing or digital marketing strategies. Before delving deep, let us first discuss what is meant by digital marketing.
Digital marketing is advertising the products or services offered by a company through electronic devices. Traditionally, digital marketing started as advertisements through the radio, TV, or billboards. They were effective in reaching out to the customers. Slowly with increasing competition and the internet boom, digital marketing shifted to primarily online marketing. Today, digital marketing, online marketing, e-marketing are all synonymous terms. There are various forms of digital marketing. These are Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Search Engine Marketing (SEM), Content Marketing, Social Media Marketing (SMM), Pay-per-click Advertising (PPC), Affiliate Marketing, Email Marketing, Web Design, and Development.
· Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – This has become a crucial and inherent part of digital marketing. Whenever we search for anything on Google, how many of us go to the second page?’ I’m sure the answer to the previous question would be an infinitesimally small number of people. Be it out of plain old laziness, or just natural human behavior, indeed, we usually check the very first link that appears on a Google Search. Hence, all companies want to be featured on the first page of Google Search. SEO helps them in this process of optimizing their website content to be able to increase their website ranking.
· Search Engine Marketing (SEM) – This form of marketing involves businesses paying Google to show their advertisements, once an individual types relevant keywords into Google. It provides an opportunity for the companies to advertise their product to interested customers who might be ready for purchase.
· Pay-per-click Advertising (PPC) – This falls under the umbrella of SEM. Whenever a person clicks on an advertisement on the Google Search engine, the company pays for those clicks. Thus, it is a cost-optimizing strategy for the companies wherein they end up paying much lesser to Google.
· Content Marketing – This is a broad area that is crucial for building customer engagement. The end goal is not only to provide information about the brand and its offerings but deliver it in a way that excites customers. With the reducing attention span of a customer and so much written matter already available on the internet, it is a challenging task to come up with something new and engaging. Content Marketing covers sharing blog posts, eBooks, Videos, white papers, infographics, and holding webinars. The aim is to build the value proposition of the brand and to showcase its unique positioning. Content Marketing is a tool to increase website traffic and generate more leads, ultimately leading to sales.
· Social Media Marketing (SMM) – As discussed above, social media is an indispensable part of digital marketing. For social media marketing to reap desired results, the marketers adopting SMM should get the basics right. Social Media Marketing stands strong on five pillars. These are:
a) Building a Strategy – This is a vital step before venturing into SMM. The brand should be clear about their business goals and the purpose behind using SMM. They should decide if they are using social media for increasing brand awareness, or driving website traffic leading to sales, or for enhancing user engagement with the brand. Since each company has a different target audience, they can opt for a presence on any of the social media sites, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn. Before deciding on the content to be posted on social media (images, blogs, and videos), it is necessary to create a marketing persona. A marketing persona is the complete sketch of a potential buyer of the brand. It involves the buyer’s demographic information, revenue information, lifestyle pattern, pain points/challenges faced, and data consumption pattern. Building the persona helps brands to understand the exact need of the customer.
b) Planning and Publishing – The second pillar of SMM delves into the execution phase. After defining the strategy, it is crucial to implement it in the right way. Thus, brands have to ensure that they post content on social media handles in such a way that it reaches high levels of customer engagement. Hence, they need to finalize the timing and frequency of the posts. There are numerous social media scheduling tools, like Buffer Publish, which can accomplish this task.
c) Listening and Engagement – Brands should monitor the social media happenings around their brand. They should ensure that positive comments on social media are acknowledged while negative ones are taken seriously for correction. There is a variety of social media listening and engagement tools that help in monitoring conversations around your brand, such as HootSuite, Zoho Social, and NUVI.
d) Analytics – This is a crucial part of SMM. By studying the reach, frequency, and impact of their social media marketing activities, brands can gauge the success of their marketing strategy. Social Media analytics tools like Google Analytics, Buffer Analyze, Sprout Social give a clear idea of whether the social media strategy is working or not.
e) Advertising – As the company grows and funds start flowing, brands can aim for a higher reach. Social media ads are more engaging, appealing, and attractive to the audience. The company can design these ads based on their target audience and their preferences.
· Affiliate Marketing – This is a strategy that is being followed by many upcoming brands. In cases where the brand itself does not have a large customer base, it can outsource the marketing job to companies that have high customer outreach. These third-party companies advertise the brand on their website and generate leads for the brands.
· Email Marketing – This is one form of digital marketing that is not only lucrative in terms of generating results but also enjoys a very high ROI. Companies send a wide variety of mails to their customers ranging from newsletters, confirmation emails, thank you emails, follow up emails to product update notifications.
· Web design and Development – A company’s website introduces the brand to the world and is a platform for attracting customers. A firm providing web design services should ensure that their customer’s website showcases their customer’s capabilities well, and is free from technical glitches as well. Since most of the customers make online purchases today, it is necessary to have a seamless e-commerce platform. Developing a user-friendly mobile application is the need of the hour for all companies. Also, web marketing ensures that a brand stays relevant to its customers.
Thus, brands today have made digital marketing a central aspect of their business. Having established the fact that the internet boom and changing customer preferences have driven companies to adopt digital marketing, let us take a closer look at how digital marketing adds value to the business:
a) Best platform for reaching customers – Digital marketing reaches the customers in a place where they spend their time and money. Millennials spend a large part of their day on social media. Not only do they utilize this time for socializing but also for making purchases. According to a study conducted by Social Group (in collaboration with Firebrand Group and Simply Measured), Facebook produces the highest ROI of 95.8% for social media marketers.
b) Provides a level playing field for small businesses – A new company is forever at risk of losing business to the behemoths. Be it any sector, the big brands like Amazon, Walmart, Starbucks, Gap have all affected the small players. These giants have a brand name and legacy that is difficult to compete against by the small businesses. Thus, digital marketing is the savior for small companies and helps them portray their brand’s unique capabilities. With the right digital marketing strategy, they can progress by leaps and bounds and carve a space for themselves.
c) Accurate targeting of customers – Each brand has a particular target audience in mind for each of its products or service. Various social media handles bring the companies in direct contact with their target audience. A focused digital strategy can help companies in designing relevant advertisements that would prove more influential than general advertising.
d) Personalization – With billions of companies sending updates about their products, what sets someone apart is personalization. We all like reading an email or learning about a product that takes care of our personal needs. We don’t want a run-of-the-mill product or service but something designed specifically for our taste. A personalized email has an 80% higher opening rate. It sees a 58% increase in customer satisfaction and a 56% increase in sales.
e) Use of analytics – A consumer’s browsing and viewing patterns explain a lot about their choices and preferences. Companies take advantage of this and use analytics to know more about their customers. This way, they can recommend just what their customers need, and increase their sales. Be it Facebook, or Netflix, or Amazon, each has its recommendation engine and engages in heavy use of analytics.
f) Impressive ROI – Dedicated social media marketing, along with content marketing, can generate quite high revenues for companies. Looking at the relatively low investment required in digital marketing, it offers a very impressive ROI, especially for the small businesses
g) Easily scalable and adaptable – Digital marketing strategies, with its many forms, are quick to adapt to the changing trends and lifestyle of customers. Since these involve tracking the customers continuously, it is easy to know what are the changes in demand and adapt accordingly.
Evolving business models and stiff competition has made digital marketing indispensable for brands. Thus, the place to find the best digital marketing companies would be where the business is booming. A market survey in the United States shows that digital marketing companies in California offer premium services to clients’ world over. There are many online marketing companies and web design companies in California that are the best in their field.
To distinguish itself from customers, a digital marketing company should ensure that they provide comprehensive services, including website development, SEO, SMM, and content development, along with a solid strategy. An in-depth analysis of their client’s business (mission, vision, business model) makes their solution more relevant. Website maintenance, as well as continuous SEO services, are necessary so that clients never lose their competitive advantage. Finally, the company should not only provide a one-time service but enter into a cordial relationship with its customers, shaping their client’s brand identity.