Importance of Digital Marketing for your Business

Chairman and CEO of global coffee brand Starbucks once said, “Social and digital media is a bullet train, and that bullet train is not coming home.”

As in Schultz’s description, social and digital media is a rapidly advancing phenomenon and if you want to reap the rewards which it can offer it is vital to get onboard. Making the move towards digital technology and in particular communicating your brand through digital marketing is an important step for any business, large or small.

There are access points to suit all sizes and budgets – the key is having a well thought out strategy, just like you would do with any other aspect of your business. Here we examine the drivers of the digital marketing revolution and the importance of digital marketing for small and medium sized businesses.

Potential online audiences

Rather than ponder how many of your customers and potential customers are actually online it is probably better to turn that question on its head and ask who isn’t! According to the Eircom Household Sentiments Survey (EHHS) 61% of people in Ireland already own a smartphone and 40% have access to a tablet computer. These potential customers conduct their lives online and see digital technology as an integral part of their existence with 46% of 16-24 year olds capturing this attitude shift by admitting that they had been anxious about missing something on social media by not being online.

With Irish online retail revenue having increased by 25% in 2013 and global online retail sales expected to hit $1.5 trillion this year, it is clear that markets near and far can be reached with the correct tools. This is where digital promotion techniques come into play - the importance of online marketing for businesses should not be underestimated.

Getting started with digital marketing

While more companies are recognizing the importance of digital marketing, they are, as a result, facing the challenge of developing knowledge and expertise in this area. A recent survey conducted as part of the 2014 Digital Trends Briefing showed that although two thirds of respondents wanted to get their digital marketing journey started, only 23% felt they had the right technology to succeed, while others worried that lack of skills were a major issue. The great news, especially for small and medium sized companies, is that the biggest trend in online marketing is to harness the power of social media – and this is a particularly accessible type of technology.

Although not every business owner is born knowing how to get the word out about their company, most people nowadays are familiar with social media. It is estimated that over half of Irish adults have a Facebook account and 76% of smartphone owners use apps, so this is a very effective and easy way of reaching this audience. Take some time to get familiar with the various platforms available and how to use them. If you need a quicker more targeted fix then engage a marketing professional who will maximize the effectiveness of your online marketing campaign.

Making it personal

One of the latest trends in leveraging the power of social media is to harness the online power of employees. Social media guru, Ted Rubin, included by Forbes magazine in their Top 15 Social Media Power Influencers of 2013, believes that relationships are the new currency and that a successful social media strategy can be delivered by empowering individual employees who in turn power the company brand. This personal approach to brand communication is particularly suitable for small and medium sized businesses. Their scale means they are in a position to monitor the interactions between customers and employees and as the strategy can be executed with minimal expense, it is cost effective too.

Clearly this type of approach relies on the employee having a positive view of their workplace, which in turn goes back to the relationship leaders and managers build with their staff. Rubin believes that this circle of trust and empowerment can help raise customer satisfaction, improve brand reputation, deepen employee loyalty and increase revenues.

Getting the content right

Developing relationships may be key in recognizing the importance of online marketing for companies, but another essential requirement is making that engagement interesting. This is where content marketing comes in. For those unfamiliar with the concept, content marketing is a technique where valuable, relevant and consistent information is created and distributed to an audience. The initial objective of this approach may appear to be giving the consumer information which they will find helpful, informative or indeed entertaining, but the long term goal is for them to buy a product or service from the organization responsible for the content.

Although small businesses may have been historically rather slow in adopting content marketing strategies, many are now realizing the importance of online marketing for them. Businesses in general are waking up to the potential value of content marketing with research carried out by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs showing that around 60% of marketers planned to increase their spending on content marketing this year. Executing an effective content marketing strategy can be challenging with evidence gathered by Forrester Research demonstrating that companies still struggle to get results.

The recent ALS ice bucket challenge is a perfect case study in how to do content marketing really well. This compelling concept rapidly went viral right around the globe. For those who haven’t seen it, people posted social media videos of themselves having buckets of ice cold water dumped on them with the objective of raising awareness and funds for the ALS Association.

It was a simple idea – which is why it worked so well- and captured the emotions of sadness and happiness (giving it the power to engage with a wide range of people). The call to action was fun and free meaning the challenge could be accessed by pretty much anyone – but more than that they wanted to be part of it. These principles could underpin any content marketing strategy and will seriously increase its chances of success.

Stepping up

Accepting and embracing the importance of online marketing for success is a crucial step forward but to really step up you need to cast a critical eye over the company’s capacity to make the most of digital promotion. Having the right people onboard whether in-house or using the skills of external consultants is critical to developing and executing an effective online marketing campaign. You are not alone in your desire to improve your marketing reach and without decisive action you may be overtaken by business rivals.

As illustrious American business leader Victor Kiam once said, “In business, the competition will bite you if you keep running, if you stand still, they will swallow you.”

Now is the time to step up and exert your influence through a powerful and impressive online marketing campaign.

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