Digital Marketing Success Depends on a Digital Marketing Strategy
Growth Orbit Insights
Digital marketing is comprised of the marketing efforts that leverage the internet and use internet-connected devices such as computers and smart phones along with communication platforms to inform potential buyers and promote a company’s offerings. Many marketers participate in several digital channels. However, their efforts may be less effective than expected. Typically, digital marketing is often an afterthought rather than a central piece of overall marketing strategies. To ensure greater ROI with digital marketing it needs to be baked into your strategy cake, rather than added on afterward as a tactical frosting. Simply put, you can’t develop a traditional marketing strategy and then just “go digital” with it.
by Connor Jordan
New Technologies Bring New Behaviors for Buyers and Sellers
More than a century ago, the motion picture camera was invented. Soon after, show business made the transition from the stage to the silver screen. It wasn’t long before the movie industry was able to create and present sights and sounds that simply could not be done on stage in front of a live audience. And with this came new and different ways to tell a story.
Similarly, the advent and adoption of the Internet has changed the way people buy. So too, has it forced changes in the way sellers bring products to market. Traditional marketing methods, such as print advertisements, business cards, direct mail, and going door to door are not as effective as they once had been. Nor are these methods efficient or scalable. With the Internet as the foundation for email, websites, social media outlets, and eventually smart phone apps, people have a near-endless amount of information in the palm of their hand. New and sophisticated tools emerged allowing marketers to interact with potential buyers more effectively and efficiently. However, participating new media outlets and implementing new tools does not guarantee desired results.
So, to be sure and get the results you want, your strategy needs to be built for these tools and in line with behaviors. In other words, a digital marketing strategy is required to achieve digital marketing success.
Main Elements of Digital Marketing
Your website is your digital HQ. All other digital elements reside within, or lead to, your website. Your website serves as the hub for the digital handshake between you and your audience. It often provides a lasting first impression, whether positive or negative. But a website is nothing more than a digital billboard unless you built it in accordance with a digital marketing strategy. Some of the key considerations for your website include:
A. Branding – your brand needs to be representative of your company culture, values, and purpose. Including the logos, icons, colors, imagery, and fonts, your branding will either support your messaging with confidence or have them bouncing before they stop to read anything. Without proper branding, you risk a negative first impression. Your brand strategy is crucial to laying the foundation for a successful website. How your website “looks and feels” is the first thing visitors notice. So, it’s important to quickly, clearly convey the right message with your website’s brand.
B. “UX” – an acronym for User eXperience, is an important factor in attracting and engaging visitors. UX is measured in a couple of ways. First, your website is judged on the human experience. In other words, how easy is it for people to understand what you do and find a path to the information they need. Additionally, Google evaluates user experience based on metrics called Core Web Vitals. These metrics are graded as good, needs improvement, or fail. As with everything, Google continues to fine tune their algorithms to place higher important on UX.
C. Messaging – what you say and the way you say it can either engage or deter visitors when they get to your website. Surprisingly, crafting an effective message is often overlooked. Many organizations fail to create a message that truly resonates with their audience.
Fundamentally, all your messaging needs to be from the perspective of the potential buyer. In other words, they expect to read about their daily lives. So, write about the roles they play in their job. Be sure to highlight the unique challenges they face. It’s easy and tempting to list all the wonderful features, functions, and capabilities of your solutions. However, visitors want to know that you understand their pain. Second, they want to be reassured that you can solve their problems. Third, and perhaps most difficult, your messaging should be in common, easily understood language that anyone can understand.
D. Lead Capture – Your website’s primary, if not sole, purpose is to provide an entryway for prospects to get into your sales funnel or pipeline. Put simply, your website design, message, look and feel are all factors in capturing leads. You need to clearly and deliberately encourage visitors to express interest. Then provide a direct path to your salespeople to talk about becoming customers.
If your website is not providing you with leads it’s essentially worthless. A Forrester survey found that 74% of business buyers reported that they do more than half of their research online before making an offline purchase. Whatever the actual number is, a significant amount of the buyer’s journey takes place prior to your knowledge. At that point in the process, you either become aware of their interest and coordinate a conversation with sales or they move on to other options. So, having easy, clear, deliberate calls-to-action and lead capture forms is paramount.
If your website is analogous to the engine of your digital marketing machine, then content is the fuel. The adage that “content is king” rings true for digital marketing. Content creation often becomes the most arduous, time-consuming task in your digital marketing strategy.
Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts with content marketing. Fortunately, content you have can be written, re-written, and then re-invented yet again. For every main subject in your overall message you must be able to get your point across in several forms. For example, a product page on your website can be recreated as a blog post. Once it’s a blog post, you can then take sections of it and create more focused, brief social posts linking back to the blog. For every bullet point being made on a product page you can create child pages that expand on those ideas and link back to the original. Basically, it’s ok to say it, then sat it again, and then yet again.
Although content gets reinvented and distributed in different mediums, it’s important to keep a consistent message. It helps to use common language. More importantly, your content should be written for the benefit of the potential customer. Content Marketing best practice guidelines include:
A. Use 8th grade level English. In other words, shorter, less formal sentences are best. If you write long sentences with several commas, it becomes difficult to read. It is better to use brief sentences. Search engines also judge authority based on readability. So, the machines like more common, informal language too.
B. Have one, and only one, conclusion or summary. To clarify, each piece of content should have a singular focus. Along with focus, the reader needs clear instructions on the next step with an easy path for taking that step. This goes for emails, blog posts, social posts, product pages, and even individual slides within a presentation. Occasionally, for SEO purposes, more lengthy copy will cover several individual points. In these situations, this content acts as a pillar with several other pieces of content pointing toward it. This blog entry is a good example of such content as several pages and social posts contain one point, then link to this article for readers who would like more of the story.
C. Design your content’s layout to take advantage of how people read. There have been hundreds of studies of how people look at and read their screens. Eye tracking studies prove that people skip and skim content before deciding to read it fully. Therefor, titles, headers, sub-headers, and images should tell the gist of the story without having to read all the copy. Knowing this, you need to be sure your readers see value in your message at first-glance to entice them to read more.
D. Understand the topic from the reader’s perspective and write content in a customer-centric tone. This is often the most challenging best practice to accomplish. An easy way to remember it is to remind yourself that “it’s about them, not about you.” To put it plainly, the person reading the content is doing so for a reason. That reason has everything to do with their situation and nothing to do with what you would like to tell them. So, take that into account when writing. First, think through their job their likely tasks. Next, list the challenges they face in accomplishing those tasks. Then, consider how their life would change if those challenges can be alleviated. While making it all about them, demonstrate that you understand their unique situation; with empathy. Follow with helpful insights and options for how you can solve their pains.
Believe it or not, email has been around for more than 50 years now! Yes, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, five full decades have passed since the first email was sent. Since then, email volume has continued to explode. It is estimated that more than 330 billion emails are sent every single day. According to Statista, around 82% of all emails are never opened.
This realization leaves many marketers questioning email’s potential effectiveness in their B2B digital marketing strategy. Well, as with many things in marketing, it’s important to emphasize quality over quantity. To achieve sufficient ROI, build an email marketing strategy on getting the right message to the right people at the right time.
Some key components that shape how you use emails in your digital marketing strategy:
A. The Email Platform – The list of available email marketing platforms continues to grow. Some are designed for B2C, others for B2B. Many, offer complementary easy-to-use templates for various types of emails you want to send. Capabilities range from simple outreach with assigned lists to highly complex, logic-driven automation. Your market size, contact lists, types of communications and penchant for processes should determine which solution you use.
B. Inclusion Lists / Exclusion Lists (Right People) – For digital marketers, one of the most painful, cringe-inducing things you can ever say is “email blast.” Why? A blast is a mass email to all possible contacts. This should never happen. It’s a surefire way of harming your email domain reputation. For each email you should only include contacts who meet specific criteria, not your entire list. So, create exclusion lists based on variables you choose, such as customer status, persona, or industry. Exclusions can also be logic-based dependent on previous activities or behaviors. It’s also a good practice to keep a master exclusion list. This would include contacts with hard bounces, unsubscribes, or contacts who are disqualified because they do not fit into your TAM. Members of the master exclusion list would never get any email communication from you.
C. Manual vs. Automated (Right Time) – There are a several different types of marketing emails. Email types include drips, nurtures, cold outreach, and customer communication, to name a few. When considering the overall digital marketing strategy, it’s essential to have a defined funnel or pipeline. Knowing these theoretical steps prospects take on their journey to a purchase decision will shape how you structure your email communications.
Occasionally, it is appropriate to send out a one-time, manually drafted, published, and sent email. However, most of your emails should be sent using automation. This means using logic and variables to direct contacts down specific email communication paths. Contacts may travel down a linear path and receive each email in a series. Or contacts may skip steps in a series, be enrolled or remove from workflows, etc. Your MAP is designed to help you provide the best possible experience for each contact. So, the more custom and personal you can make your interactions, the better.
Another thing to consider, especially with automated emails, is the cadence. Ask yourself a few important questions when designing your email strategy, such as how often is too often? How many attempts should we make? Are the emails designed for replies or clicks? Are they coming “from” sales or “from” marketing? Informational? Drip? Nurture? Follow up to a conversion?
D. Deliverability – Your email domain reputation is graded with a score determined by delivery rates, spam complaints, and other factors such as blacklists. You can think of it as a credit score for email senders. The higher your score, the better your reputation. There are several tools, such as Google Postmaster, you can use to know your email domain reputation. Your MAP may also include functionality to help you avoid poor deliverability, allowing to you test individual emails.
E. Opens – Email open rates vary by industry. So, it’s recommended that you segment your lists and reports by industry as one way to properly analyze effectiveness.
Surprisingly, many experienced marketers don’t realize the top reason recipients open any given email – the sender is known to them. Reasons #2 and #3 are subject line, then pre-header. Subject lines are akin to the title of a book. They can’t be too long, nor too short. Adding personalization can help. Avoiding certain “spammy” words is also important. With pre-headers you’ll get more opens by being specific and actionable. The pre-header should tell recipients what they can expect to see when they open, such as an action that can take.
Another reason for opens is the message being clear with an obvious call-to-action being seen via the preview pane. This one can be a challenge, but most MAPs show previews of the various devices and email systems. No two preview panes are the same, so it’s best to know which devices and email systems are used by your audience.
In addition to what you send, when you send can impact your open rates. So, testing and monitoring results of different days and times will help you optimize when your emails get sent.
F. Clicks – If getting people to open your emails is the first hurdle, then getting them to click on something is the second. You can expect different click counts and CTRs based on the type of email being sent. For example, a monthly “customer-only” newsletter with great industry and product information would get more clicks than a first attempt cold email in an outreach campaign. It’s important to be forthcoming with what clicking your button or link will do for the recipient. For example, a button saying “register now” should take them directly to a registration form on a page for that sole purpose. Action-oriented wording in CTA buttons produce higher click counts than generic terms, such as “click here” or “learn more.”
G. Conversions – throughout the buyer’s journey there may be many conversions. With email marketing, a conversion is when the recipient completes the action you want them to take. For example, an email inviting people to a live webinar would count conversions as people who filled out the registration form.
4. Social Media
When people first began adopting social media there was a bit of a “wild west” period. Skeptics believed that it was not of much use for business. They would cite the prevalence of celebrities posting about the expensive Champaign they drank at the club as proof.
Today, the social media platforms and their use have matured. Businesses can no longer afford to ignore social media’s importance for sales and marketing. When businesses have a plan, they can reap big rewards. At the core of a B2B social media strategy it’s recommended that the intent is focused on a few metrics. First, you should strive to gain followers within your TAM. As your following grows, you need to interact with them. Being active will help you learn about your followers as well as keep them coming back. Lastly, inspire followers to take action. Some simple social media strategy guidelines to follow include:
A. Use the platforms your audience uses – A big influence on your approach to social media is knowing where to be. It’s important to find out where your audience is, so you can be where they are. To do this, find your customer contacts on various platforms. You can also reach out to customers and simply ask them, whether by phone or survey. Next, you can investigate previous leads in your pipeline. Last, but not least, you can check with influential industry associations and other professional groups. To summarize, you need to know where they are so you can be there as well.
B. Be yourself, a real person – First of all, you need to use a profile picture. Yes, a real photo of yourself. There’s science behind this. Our brains are hard-wired to seek out and process human faces faster than most imagery. When others see your smiling face their brains immediately activate. When posting, sharing, or interacting with others on social media it’s vital that you be authentic. Don’t try to be something you are not. Use everyday language. Be positive, courteous, and kind. This goes for your personal accounts as well as your business accounts. Unless your brand is a lifestyle brand, your company profiles may struggle to come across as personal and authentic. So, adopt a social personality in line with your overall messaging as part of your social media brand strategy.
C. Be “social” in social media – Communication is a two-way street. You need to interact, not just post. So, look for relevant discussion threads and participate. You should seek to answer questions, provide advice, and share links to great resources. Those valuable resources do not need to be your own. By exchanging thoughts, tips, advice, and best practices you’ll receive more opportunities to be seen, then followed by more people interested in appropriate topics. Over time you’ll build trust and followers will remember you for sharing the information more than who actually published it.
D. Be active, but not too active – This will take some time to figure out. You need to post often enough to consistently appear in your followers’ feeds or wall. However, if you post 20 times a day, it’s likely your audience will either tune you out or stop following you altogether. If you make too much noise platforms may reduce your reach. Often, social media platforms reduce views by pushing posts lower on the priority list so even fewer people will see your content.
E. Share something of value – Keep your interactions about the business, the industry, and the people involved. Your personal opinions relating to sensitive topics about politics or religion are not appropriate and will likely confuse/upset your followers. Top things to share in social media include:
– Important industry news relevant to your followers
– Helpful, 3rd-party information to advance followers’ education.
– Original content you publish to educate and inform your followers.
– Invitations to interact, such as a poll or survey.
– Occasional company news, such as product announcements, changes in senior leadership, or partnerships.
A recent study by Google and Millward Brown concluded that 89% of B2B buyers do online research before making a purchase decision. Honestly, it makes you wonder what the other 11% are doing. Clearly, we all conduct research online. Most of the online research takes place on Google. As of February 2002, according to gs.statcounter.com, approximately 92% of search engine traffic is with Google. So, if you want to be found, you need to optimize your website in accordance with Google’s algorithms. Some key factors affecting your SEO score:
A. Site Structure – Yoast teaches their customers about site structure and the importance of SEO for people as much as SEO for Google. For people, your website’s UX (user experience) contributes to actual usability. So, a good site structure will help you engage visitors and see them return in the future. The other reason for a good site structure is what they call “findability.” This means that Google is crawling your website to understand it. When done right, findability considerations keep you from competing with yourself and helps Google deal with changes over time.
B. On-Screen SEO Factors – Also contributing to site structure and usability is the way your content appears on the screen. The look, feel and layout contribute to how useful Google deems your pages to visitors. This means keeping an eye on your navigation menu, headers, sub-headers, hyperlinks, and images. Eye tracking studies reveal that visitors follow a specific pattern when reading web pages, often referred to as the F pattern. In general, people start in the top-left, they read the headline, then begin to skip and skim the page. If this quick review provides them with a gist of the content and it’s relevant, they will more than likely continue to read the copy.
C. Off-Screen SEO Factors – Other elements that affect SEO scores on a page-by-page basis would be structural components, such as categories, tags, internal links, contextual links, and which pages are considered cornerstones, or pillars. All the pages and posts on your website are related to the same core topics. Therefor, Google looks for which pages are the most important and should be indexed as such. With this in mind, you have to be careful not to cannibalize keywords, so your pages don’t compete with each other. Each page should focus on unique keywords, which means using variations and alternatives for your top terms.
D. Mobile Optimization – In recent years, Google has placed mobile site speed and site responsiveness much higher on the priority list for determining website rankings. In fact, in early 2021, Google began mobile-first indexing. So, your website better be built with responsive technology. Experts even recommend building your website for mobile first, then making adjustments for other devices and screen sizes.
E. Security – Simply put, there is no legitimate reason to leave your website insecure. Without using a SSL certificate Google may not even bother ranking your site. If they somehow find you, an unsafe website may be blocked by your visitors’ firewalls or anti-virus solutions. This poor experience will hurt your SEO scores for sure.
F. Keyword Research – Keywords are absolutely essential for SEO. It is important to do your research and understand the terms and language your target audience uses when searching for answers. To properly structure your website and write relevant copy for visitors you need to know a few things, such as:
– Ranking difficulty
– Expected traffic for the terms if you rank
– Know your keyword competitors
– Alternative terms you can consider using
– Cost-per-click value
Unfortunately, keyword research and analysis never ends. Fortunately, there are several tools available to help. For example, ahrefs is one of the SEO tools we use at Growth Orbit. Ahrefs provides an in-depth guide to everything related to keyword research.
G. Domain Authority – Your website’s authority is based on the concept of your domain’s strength. The higher your authority, the better, but it is not that clear cut. Your domain rating isn’t something that can be deemed as “good” simply because your score is high. It’s all relative to how you compare with other, similar websites. Google is very secretive about if, how, and to what extent they consider domain authority in search results. Independent researchers show a correlation between authority and rankings, despite not showing any causation.
One way your domain authority can be improved is by increasing the number of external links to your business website. These external sites also help your authority by also being considered a “good” authority.
H. SERP – SERP is the digital marketer’s acronym for Search Engine Results Pages. This refers to the actual page a user will see when they enter a search term. Every time a search is conducted, the SERP will be unique. The SERP combines organic results with paid results and can include customized sections with additional information. For example, a search on a public figure, such as “Tom Brady” will typically show sections called knowledge boxes or knowledge panels. These boxes include news, stats, personal data, photos, social feeds, and more. The intent of these sections is to provide instant information to highly popular searches without having to click through to another website.
Below is an example of a knowledge box called a featured snippet. This appears at the top of the SERP for a Google search of “average close rate for sales” and displays content from a Growth Orbit blog post. Note how it provides an answer to the user without requiring a click thru to the post.
I. Backlinks – Search engines use backlinks in their formulas for determining the value of your website and its content. For each external website that links to your website, it’s analogous to receiving a vote. Generally speaking, the more backlinks, the better. But, of course, there are several other things to consider.
The external locations linking back to your website need to be relevant, otherwise they harm your rankings. If your website is for a construction company that builds massive sports arenas, then receiving a link from a website dedicated to vegan meal planning that won’t provide any boost in your rankings. You can add backlinks by reaching out to others and asking them to link to your page. You can also create your own backlinks by adding them in social media, forums, or online directories.
One thing you should be very cautious about is hiring a backlink service provider. If done using sketchy tactics, Google will notice and essentially blackball your website. Backlinko provides some excellent advice about backlink services and alternatives.
Digital Marketing is Only as Good as Your Digital Marketing Strategy
Incorporating all these elements into a digital marketing strategy is a good place to start. However, simply “doing it for the sake of doing it” is not going to provide the results you need. Your digital marketing strategy needs to include a detailed plan that looks ahead six to 12 months. It’s important to coordinate the content, the distribution channels, and your SEO efforts so your message can have the biggest impact on your audience. Remember, it’s all about getting the right message to the right people at the right time.