What exactly is digital marketing?
All marketing is simply an intentional conversation. Business is a relationship between a company and a customer. So the goal of the conversation is to start a relationship or build a relationship. Lastly, all marketing needs to follow the Three C's of Marketing: Be Clear. Be Consistent. Be Compelling.
These things are true of any form of marketing, digital or not. I once had a professor in a management class who loved to repeat the line: "Management is management is management". I'll be honest, I never fully understood what he meant when he said it in class, but I think I get it now and it applies to marketing as well.
You see digital marketing is just marketing. There are a lot of gurus out there that will try and make it something it's not. There are also some well-intentioned, knowledgeable digital marketers who are writing about advanced SEO and other "digital marketing topics". They too play into this notion that digital marketing is complicated and different from other forms of marketing, although not purposefully.
Marketing is marketing is marketing. Digital marketing just happens in the digital world because you are holding the conversation digitally: via your website, social media accounts, and a variety of other digital locations.
I keep this simple, but these are the six 'crucial' elements your business needs to implement digital marketing.
#1 - A Defined Target Market
This can be called different things by different people and isn't new to marketing or unique to digital marketing. Companies have been profiling their customers for decades. Other common names: Audience, Target Audience, and Customer Avatar.
It's a logical step one. If marketing is a conversation, you need to know who you are talking to. If you don't, then you'll end up doing one of two detrimental things:
First, is that you will end up trying to talk to everyone and no one will hear you. Let me remind you, that the goal of the conversation is to either start or build a relationship. Trying to market without a defined target market is like standing in the middle of a noisy party yelling, "Will anyone go out with me? Will someone please go out with me?" You'll come off as desperate. Not a good look for getting a date or a new customer.
The second thing business owners end up doing is what we all tend to do: they talk to themselves. This is natural. You sit down to write a marketing email or Facebook post and it's quiet. You have no idea what to write at first, but then your thoughts center on something and you end up writing something that sounds good... to YOU. You send it or post it and it falls flat. No one engages with it and you can't figure out why. After all, it sounded great to you.
Sitting down and defining your target market prevents both of these things from happening. The more you can define your market the better. You can even go as far as to create customer avatar profiles.
At the very least, have a clear vision of these three aspects of your target market:
Who is your ideal customer? Think Demographically, Age, Gender, Geography, Culture, Economic Status, Social Identity, etc.
What do they want? It's rarely 'your product'. It's almost always, what your product helps them get or accomplish. For example, if you sell custom, personalized gifts. Your customer doesn't want to buy a gift. They want a special way to show someone they care.
What do they struggle with? Think of the problem that prevents them from getting what they want. Going back to the custom gifts example: These days, it's hard to find meaningful gifts that say "you're important to me". If an adult wants something, they can often go out and get it themselves. This is the struggle your business solves.
When you have these answers clearly defined, you'll be able to incorporate them into the conversation. When your target market hears them, the noise will fade to the background and their attention will focus on you. They will have no doubt: You are talking to them.
One more quick "warning"... don't be too specific and alienate potential customers. One way to identify a "quack" of a marketer is when they push you to know obscure, highly specific details. Just this morning I read one marketer's advice to a business owner struggling with advertising: "Create your ideal customer blah blah blah… know everything about them.. what kind of house they live in, their favorite color racecar, etc." You are both talking to a group of people and individual persons. There's a balance between the two when it comes to defining your target market.
Action #1:Define Your Target Market By Answering These Three Questions:
Who is your ideal customer?
What do they want?
What do they struggle with?
Now that you know who you're talking to, it's time to figure out what you're going to say.
#2 - A Clear Marketing Message
This is your business's Crucial Message. This is what your target market needs to hear from you. Even deeper than that, your entire community needs to hear this, but I'll dive into that another time.
Most businesses skip Defining Their Target Market. Yet, even when they don't, you find that they don't have one clear message. The result is a marketing effort that is talking about everything and anything. (In fact, most businesses skip straight to #6 on the list when it comes to digital marketing.)
Their message then becomes a product of its environment. Everything is designed to get more likes, reactions, and followers. While they believe they are building their brand, what they're effectively doing is promoting and building the very platform they're hoping will support their business. The reality is, those platforms will toss you aside without hesitation the moment something more lucrative comes along. I digress...
My point in saying all of that is that Your Crucial Message is important. You don't need to create it; you need to uncover it.
Here Are Five Steps To Define Your Marketing Message (aka Crucial Message):
Step One - Answer: Who Wants What?
Step Two - Answer: What Do They Struggle With?
Step Three - Answer: How Do I Solve That Struggle?
Step Four - Answer: What Changes In The Lives Of Those Who Were Struggling?
Step Five - Answer: What Is My Crucial Message?
Does Step One & Step Two sound familiar? They should! They encompass the three questions I mentioned above regarding your target market.
After you answer Steps One through Four, you use what you learn to write your Crucial Message Statement in Step Five. You should say everything you need to say in two to three sentences. This statement is the foundation for all the copy in every piece of marketing you create.
There aren't any hard, fast rules on how to structure your Crucial Message Statement, as long as it is Clear, Consistent, and Compelling. This is the format I start with:
“WHO” “WANT” but often “STRUGGLE”.
I “DO WHAT” “SOLVES STRUGGLE” allowing “CHANGE”.
You don't have to stay strict to this format and you should write and rewrite it several times until you're satisfied with it.
My Crucial Message Statement:
Small business owners want to grow their business online, but they are losing a lot of time and money with ineffective websites & marketing strategies. I build websites and develop marketing around their crucial message so that they compel their people to buy their products & services allowing the owner to save time and grow their business.
My Crucial Message Statement Broken Down:
“WHO”: Business owners
“WANT”: To grow their businesses online
“STRUGGLE”: Are losing a lot of time and money with ineffective websites & marketing strategies
“DO WHAT”: Build websites and develop marketing around their crucial message
“SOLVES STRUGGLE”: Compels their people to buy their products & services
“CHANGE”: Owners save time and grow their business
Pro-Tip: If you want help with this, check out our free webinar: The Words To Fix Your Marketing! (No sign-up required)
Action #2: Create A Clear Marketing Message By Writing Your Crucial Message Statement.
#3 - A Marketing Plan
Consistency is important. You might have a great message and say it to the right people, but if they only hear it once and never hear from you again, they'll forget you and your message. No message is so good, that it doesn't need to be repeated. In fact, the better it is, the more it should be repeated.
And as people like to claim Benjamin Franklin said, "Failing to plan is planning to fail". Regardless of who said it: "It's true, all of it" - Han Solo
While I'm quoting people, Dave Ramsey often says "If you don't tell your money what to do, it will leave." He's talking about a budget. A budget is a plan for how to spend and save your money. Similarly, you need a plan for your marketing. If you don't, the time and effort you pour into it will disappear with no results to show for it.
What should this plan include?
Here are five things you should include in your digital marketing plan:
Social Media-What social media platforms will you use, what types of content will you share, and how often will you share it?
Website Content-What content and pages you're going to update or add to your website (if you don't have one, I'll address that next)
Advertising-Where you will spend money on advertising, what ads you will run, and what the goal for those ads are.
Lead Generator-Something valuable you can offer potential customers in exchange for their email address. (See Email List below to learn why!)
Email Strategy-The nurture emails you plan to send, the special offer email, and the follow-up emails that retarget customers and continue to nurture prospects.
When I get started on a website for a client, I make sure they have a plan like this in place. I lay it all out on one page so that they can see their entire marketing plan in a single glance. While this one-page marketing plan is an overview, it includes the actions my client must take to carry out the plan.
Action #3: Create A Detailed Marketing Plan That Covers Your Social Media, Website, Advertising, Lead Generator, and Email Strategy
This wraps up the preparation part of digital marketing, you know who you are talking to, what you are going to say, and how you are going to say it. Now it's time to execute. It starts with the HQ of your digital marketing efforts and flows from there.
#4 - A Business Website
This one seems obvious... common sense even. But common sense seems to be in short supply. Let me be very clear about something:
A Facebook page is not a replacement for a website.
No social media platform will ever replace a website.
People who tell you this are lying or misguided.
It's worth noting that every guru I've seen make the claim "You don't need a website" has a website of their own. They will even direct you to that website to fill out a form that gives them your email address. Hmm...
The other mistake people make with their website is that they treat it like a digital business card. You go there and there's some basic contact information, the business location, maybe a tagline, and not much else. This is a waste of money and no one has any interest in going to a website like this.
What should your website do? Your website should act like an employee. You invest in it and it provides a return on your investment. If done right, your website will become an automatic sales machine, spreading your message and engaging potential customers even while you sleep. Your product or service might not be something that can be sold online. Your website can still generate leads for you or your sales team to close later.
How does a website accomplish all of this?
Your website must include the following:
A Tagline-Your tagline should NOT be cute or clever. It SHOULD tell visitors exactly what you do and who you serve. Be clear and direct.
A Call To Action (CTA)-This should be in the form of a button that makes it easy for your prospects to do business with you. If you're selling a product, Buy Now. If you're a service that needs to be scheduled, Schedule Now. If you're an online store, a Shop Now button that takes the visitors directly to the products you're selling would be a great choice. Include this in the header and repeat it often throughout the page so that your customer is never too far from it when they decide to make a purchase.
Your Crucial Message-Your message is intended for your target market; include it on your homepage. If you've done it correctly, you will communicate trust, empathy, authority, and value in just a few short sentences.
A Navigation Menu-A simple menu with only a few pages that are labeled clearly. Do not include industry language that your customer doesn't know (yet) as a label in a menu. Everything in the menu should correlate to something they want. If they want to buy from your online store, you need a label that says Online Store. If they want to get ahold of you, you need a label that says Contact Us. Try not to include any more than 3-5 pages in your menu. If you have more pages, include a sub-menu. An example of this would be if you offer three services. Have a Services label with each of the three services in a sub-menu with their own label.
A Lead Magnet & Email Capture Form-You've seen these before. Often they're obvious and lame: "Sign-up for our newsletter!" with a spot to put your name and email in. The obvious part isn't bad, but don't be lame. Provide value. A free download, a free consultation, a free event, a special discount, etc. Whatever it is, make it useful to your target market.
Action #4: Build A Website For Your Business That Informs, Engages, and Compels Your Target Market
Now that you have your website set up to be the central hub of your digital marketing efforts, let us introduce your supporting cast.
#5 - An Email List
Every business needs to be collecting emails.
If you're a pizza shop, train your employees to ask for it: "Would you like to give an email to receive a coupon off your next order?"
If you're a plumber, give your client a short survey card to get feedback on your service. Include a spot for their email. Follow up with them. Add them to your list.
You get the idea. Getting the email of customers and clients that you interact with regularly in addition to having a lead generator on your website is the fastest way to grow your email list.
Next, email them.
The two most common questions I see about email marketing are:
How often should I email them?
What should I say?
The simple truth is it doesn't matter as long as you follow the Three C's of Marketing:
Be Clear - Don't ramble on about nothing. Don't talk too much about off-topic issues. Don't discuss several topics or issues in one email. You asking them to burn too many calories to read your email. Pick a topic, keep it short, and end with a call to action.
Be Consistent - If you want to email once a week on a Sunday afternoon. Do it. Every week. If you want to email once a month, do it once a month. Whatever schedule you can stick to, that's the schedule you should go with. Be consistent.
Be Compelling - If you want them to open the email, you need to have a compelling subject line. Put yourself in your readers' shoes. What email subject would they click on? Create curiosity, but don't be vague. Your reader shouldn't have to click the email to know what it's about; they should click the email to know more.
Does your entire email have to be compelling?
No. Your email is a reminder that you exist. It says to the reader: "I'm still here and I solve this problem." When they want to solve that problem, you will be the first person they think of.
Pro-Tip: If you're new to email marketing, you can get started for free using MailChimp. (This isn't an affiliate link and I receive nothing if you use their service.)
Action #5: Compile An Email List From Your Current Customers And Your Lead Generator
If the website is HQ, your Email Marketing is one branch of your digital marketing. Let's introduce the next branch that helps you hold this digital conversation. (It's appropriately named too!)
#6 - Social Media Accounts
Too often, this is where many aspiring business owners or entrepreneurs start. They don't have a target market, and they have no clear, consistent method for talking about their service, but they hop on every social media platform and declare themselves open for business.
And sometimes this works for them. They either figure out the rest along the way or their business takes a hit every time the social media platform changes the rules.
Similar to email, everyone wants to know "How often should I post?" and "What should I say?" The answers are similar to the above.
The even bigger questions asked:
What social media accounts do I need?
The experts rush in by comparing your target market with the demographics of each social media platform to determine which platform matches up best. This is often the wrong approach because just about every demographic can be found on every platform and every platform requires slightly different skills. If your target market matches up with a social media that you're not comfortable with, you are throwing yourself into an ocean with limited swimming skills and nothing to keep you afloat.
Here's my recommended process:
Start where you already are. You're more comfortable, skillful, and knowledgeable, meaning you are more likely to be 'Consistent'.
Focus on establishing your presence there and developing good habits.
While you're doing that, you can start to learn more about whatever platform profile matches your target market most. If it's Twitter, do some research on Twitter and start planning. Whatever it is, learn and plan.
When you're ready, start the process over again with the new Social Media. Focus on establishing your presence and developing good habits.
Do not start six social media accounts that you've never used before and try to be clear, consistent, and compelling to all of them at once. You will hate everything... everything.
Action #6: Get Started On Social Media, One Account At A Time
This wraps up the execution part of the six crucial digital marketing elements. You've set up HQ (Your Website) and your supporting cast (Email & Social Media). You're now ready to implement the six elements in your digital marketing efforts. No more random floundering, you are ready to set your small business apart from the rest by being intentional with your digital marketing.
Start with the first action, implement the best you can, and then move on to the next one.
If you liked this article, please share it with someone who needs it.
If you have any questions feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Business Owners Must Get Things Done: Let the Crucial Message Planner help you get more done - Get it for Free Now.