Andrea Mitchell
Andrea Mitchell

Digital marketing: do your homework first

Ten years ago, digital marketing simply meant online marketing, by placing a banner on a website and very little else. Some banners didn’t even click through to a website, as advertisers didn’t have a web presence. Media owners even got away with charging a “loading fee” to have the ad serving on their website, with advertisers having absolutely no idea of whether it worked for them or not.

Fast forward ten years and digital marketing means a myriad of things. Blogs, social networks, email lists, newsletters, search marketing, viral, affiliates, contextual, banners – via traditional “online” means on a pc, but now also on mobile devices.

These are just a few of the multitude of ways to reach an online audience today. Just how one goes about selecting the right environment for the target market, can be a minefield in itself.

So just how does one go about selecting the right environment?

Before you even get to this …

The Objective

First, as with any business or marketing plan, assess what the objective is. Is it to sell chocolates? Is it to generate leads for a sales team to then follow up on and ultimately attempt to convert to a sale? Are you trying to drive online users into your brick and mortar store?

Be clear on exactly what it is you wish to achieve. It could be a direct approach, or it could be a tiered approach that starts with building a relationship before you hope to achieve a sale. If you’re an unknown brand, relationship building is crucial. In the longer term, you should attempt to achieve both a relationship and a sale, and thereafter maintain this relationship. With email and sms communication, combined with a web (or even WAP) presence, this is very easily achieved in the digital realm, and far more cost effective than any traditional means such as knock and drop or making thousands of telephone calls.

Your Web Presence and Communication

Once the objective is clear in your mind, assess whether your online presence is designed in the optimal manner in which to achieve this objective. Step away from your executive chair and try to see things through the eyes of an average web user – your potential customer. If you’re building a relationship with potential customers, think about what you communicate, and how often. Is it via sms, or email? There’s nothing worse that receiving an email every day that is of no interest, or feeling “spammed” after receiving an sms we don’t remember asking for. Ask the right questions, deliver the appropriate information, and make it easy for consumers to interact with your brand or conclude a transaction.

ALL online users would like to conclude a sale or enquiry in the quickest time possible. Does your online presence allow this? Are you tracking your website to see where potential customers are falling off in the cycle? A web analytics tool is essential if you are to know whether your web presence is working for you or not. Do you have a WAP site? Do you need one? Do the homework before you start investing the marketing budget.

Your Target Market

Once ready to embark on a digital marketing campaign, fully assess just who your target market is. Is it the teenager that hangs out in the mall on the weekends, or is it the 40-year-old male executive who plays the stock market? It is crucial to understand exactly who your product will appeal to, or who may be looking for a service such as yours.

Now, research how best to reach this target market. What websites do they visit? What are they doing online? Investing in a decent online survey can quickly generate this information for you. But beware; this in itself is another minefield. Ask the right questions and offer the right incentives, or you could just end up with a list of 5 000 people who have absolutely no interest in your product, but just want something for free.

Once you fully understand your target market, assess what they are doing in the digital world. Are they bloggers? Which websites do they visit, and why?

And let’s not forget that with the fast penetration of Internet-enabled cellphones in our country, it’s important to know what they’re doing online, as well as on their cellphones.

Investing your Digital Marketing Budget

Right, so you know what you want to achieve, your online presence is best optimised to achieve this, and you know who your target market is. So how do you reach them?

If you are an unknown brand, prepare yourself to set aside a large chunk of your budget for brand building in order to build consumer relationship and trust. This is generally best achieved using visual means such as banners placed within appropriate interest sections on websites that appeal to your target market. This doesn’t have to be a brand building solution alone. A secondary objective could for example, include building a database of leads which you can then later, through relationship building, turn into customers. This can easily be achieved through promoting an incentive, also on the banner, to leave their details with you.

Have a competitive product which you KNOW everybody wants and will be searching for? Think search marketing. This is not visual so will not aid much in building your brand, but can quickly generate leads from comparative shoppers.

Think carefully too about the mindset your target market will be in. If you’re selling a DIY product and your target market is males aged 25-40, there’s no point trying to reach them when they’re checking the rugby score. Think DIY or home improvement environments with an audience that matches the demographics of your target market. Matching demographics alone is not going to achieve the same results as considering both demographics and mindset. Or think keywords that will be entered on a search engine when looking for a service or product such as your own.

Knowing, and understanding what your target market is doing online, and with what medium, is crucial if you are to reach them effectively.

With the tracking technology available today for digital marketing, the return on investment can very quickly be analysed, thus ensuring future digital marketing investments are best optimised for your bottom line.