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What is Digital Marketing & How do I Get Started?

what is digital marketing

Digital marketing is growing. It’s changing the way people find, share, and patronize businesses. If you have a business, you have a digital presence. Even if you never created a website, social profile, or email address, someone somewhere has found your business and put some footprint online. Don’t believe me? Try typing your business name into Google. If you’re a legit business, chances are that your business will already have a Google My Business page or even a listing on Yelp.

Plus, it may have ratings!

If your business is already online, here are a few important questions. Are you involved in it? Are you participating in it? Are you benefiting from it? I hope you answered yes to all those questions because it’s your business, after all. If you answered no to any of those, let’s get you started in your digital marketing program. Because pretending like your business isn’t digital just isn’t an option in this day and age.

What is Digital Marketing?

Digital marketing is a broad term defined in many ways by many people. So we’re going to take our definition from some authoritative figures, the American Marketing Association. Their definition of digital marketing is:

“In a nutshell, digital marketing refers to any marketing methods conducted through electronic devices. This includes online marketing efforts conducted on the internet. In the process of conducting digital marketing, a business might leverage websites, search engines, blogs, social media, video, email and similar channels to reach customers.”

If that doesn’t have your head spinning, then you’re definitely a veteran of the teacups at amusement parks. The broad and dynamic world of digital marketing can feel totally overwhelming.

But don’t let the enormity of the definition scare you off. Below, we have a strategy to help you create a digital marketing plan based on fundamentals, tools, and objectives. The framework will help you create an achievable and effective plan for digital marketing. This plan will focus on identifying, creating, and sharing your story to connect with current and future customers. It’s not everything you’ll ever need to know about digital marketing but it’s a reliable way to start.

Let’s get into it.

Digital Marketing Foundations

digital marketing foundations

Source: Pexels

Let’s start by saying, no plan works for everyone. Different businesses have different needs. Even competing businesses have their own, unique needs. These foundations are designed as questions to ask yourself so you can design YOUR business strategy, not replicate a design.

We’re going to ask ourselves three questions (that may lead to many more questions) to guide you as you create a digital marketing plan. Along the way, we’ll list a few tools and resources that can be quite helpful. And, hopefully, by the end of this article, you’re going to feel empowered with a plan and desire to tackle digital marketing.

Question #1: Who Are You?

While this question may seem both too broad and too simplistic, it’s absolutely the right place to start.

Why?

Well, let’s look at what it isn’t asking. It isn’t asking what you’re selling. It isn’t asking where are you. It isn’t asking who you’re selling to. It’s focused on what your business is. If your business were a person, how would you introduce them?

Why would you think about your business as a person? Because the most successful digital marketers are fantastic at making the cold, anonymous digital world personal, connected, and authentic.

In so many ways, digital marketing is storytelling. It’s creating a persona that your customers can identify and connect with. Your business is more than products and services. Take some time to create an identity for what your business is.

What’s the story of your business? Who are the characters? When you start putting your story together, think hard about how your customer fits in with that story. Even though you’re defining your business, they need to be the protagonist. They may even need to be more than the protagonist. Speaker and marketing professional Ann Handley has always said that you need to “make your customer the hero of your story.”

That can be tricky to pull off.

Finding out who you are also means knowing who your people are. And this is foundational to digital marketing. Being part of a community means contributing and not just taking. It is absolutely appropriate to create a network, join groups, follow others, and be a person, not a nameless bot.

Once you know who you are, you’re ready for question number two.

Question #2: Who Needs to Know You?

who needs to know you marketing

Source: Pexels

Yep, this is the “who is my customer?” question. But it’s a little more than that, too. The internet has changed where we place our trust. For decades, marketers relied on celebrity endorsement and name recognition to create trust and demonstrate quality. Remember the “Got Milk?” campaign. It was just celebrities drinking milk and that was enough to make us think, maybe we should drink milk, too. That just doesn’t work anymore.

So when we think about who needs to know your business and hear your story, we need to think more broadly than just your customers. Who do your customers listen to? Who do your customers trust? The shift away from trusting brands to trusting people has brought on the rise of social media influencers. Influencers are powerful, there’s no doubt about it. And while we think in terms of celebrity status when it comes to influencers, anyone who your customer follows can function as an influencer.

Influencers, whether professional or familial, are part of your story. Who shares a message, endorses a product, likes a post, or otherwise participates becomes part of the story and impacts the reader or viewer. You can’t always control it, but you can educate yourself on user bases to stack your deck a bit.

You Can’t Reach Everyone

You need to think about where your customers and their influencers are and are not. If your business sells women’s clothes and your target audience is women in their 20’s and 30’s, which platforms do you think they’re frequenting?

While Facebook is still the most popular social media platform in the world, Instagram’s main demographic is women between the ages of 18-30. Facebook, on the other hand, has a much older audience on average. Where do you think you’re going to see the best ROI for your efforts?

Setting up specific targets and achievable goals is a difficult but necessary part of digital marketing. While you might think you’re limiting your audience, being able to target them more specifically is going to bring more benefits down the road.

Knowing Your Customers

Once you know who needs to know your story, it’s absolutely worth your time to get to know them better. Understand what they like, what they don’t like, where they spend their time. This goes back to being part of a community. If you join a community and pay attention, you’ll learn a lot about your customers. Don’t discount research and good old-fashion listening skills. Read what your customer reads. Watch what they watch. Follow who they follow.

In fact, it’s almost impossible to successfully advertise on social media platforms without knowing your target base. Places like Instagram and Facebook let you really dive into your customer’s persona and set up targeted ads.

It’s better to come in with a fishing pole and go to one spot instead of casting a wide net.

Question #3: How Will You Tell Your Story?

Once you know what your story is and who needs to see it, you need to actually create it in a format that will reach the intended audience in a way that they’ll actually interact with it.

talking on a podcast

Source: Pexels

You have a lot of options. But here are the most popular choices amongst digital marketers:

  • Social media
  • Blogs
  • Email marketing
  • PPC (pay per click) ads
  • Social media ads
  • Video
  • Podcasts

Deciding which format can be difficult. So ask yourself a few questions.

  1. What kind of format does my customer like? (There may be more than one!)
  2. Are there formats where you have the skill to create the content or will you need help?

Spending time understanding your customer, where they spend their time, what they like to do online, will help you answer the first question. In answering question number two, you may find that the format you’re most skilled in isn’t the format your customers are likely to want. Finding good, affordable tools and help in content creation might be easier than you think. Remember, your goal is always to create quality content that your customer can connect to.

You may decide that you want to create content in several formats to appropriately tell your story and reach your reader. And that’s fantastic. However, I wouldn’t jump into more than one to start. And here’s why. First of all, each format is challenging in its own way. They all demand a degree of skill and talent that you may need to develop or perhaps even hire an expert. And one of the biggest sins in digital marketing is bad content.

So take your time and get help if you need it. Focus on making the right content in the right way for the right person.

Digital Marketing Tools and Resources

Below, you’ll find tools broken down into two sections: creative and structural. The good news is there are plenty of fantastic tools available at almost any price range, even free. Like most things, you can expect to get what you pay for. Some of the paid tools offer some form of a free trial so you can take things for a spin.

Also, don’t limit yourself by what you think you can or cannot do. Even though you thought you’ve never had a creative bone in your body, you may surprise yourself.

Creative Tools

These tools are great, not just because of their functionality, but because they’re so fun! Here’s a shortlist of reputable and affordable creative tools.

Adobe Cloud Creative

OK, so let’s preface this by saying there are lots of features and functions of Adobe products that you need adequate training to use effectively (Photoshop comes to mind). That said, they do offer a wide array of tools, from beginner to expert. Don’t be overwhelmed by the size of their product catalog.

If you’re just beginning, check out recommend the Adobe Spark suite of products. They offer free versions (with available paid upgrades) to dip your toes in. And you can be creating beautiful social posts, graphics, and videos quickly.

Canva

Canva is great for creating graphics, brochures, and other type-based resources. They also offer a free or paid version. Many people start with the trial and quickly upgrade to the subscription. It’s easy to use and even syncs with other development platforms, making it easy to create something useful and beautiful. With its large catalogs of templates, fonts, images, and inspiration boards, you’ll have plenty at your fingertips to create almost anything you need.

Pexels & Unsplash

One thing you’ll learn pretty quickly when creating graphics and social posts are the value of free photography. That’s where Pexels and Unsplash come in. These resources are for grabbing free stock photos. The programs let photographers make their work free to use in exchange for good press and exposure.

You can (and should) give credit and kudos to the artists who share their work. Don’t worry, both platforms make it easy to do it.

Reporting and Automation Tools

using marketing tools

Source: Pexels

These might be less fun than the creative tools but they’re no less helpful.

One of the best things about digital marketing compared to traditional marketing is the ability to track and understand the efficacy and audience of your materials. It’s impossible to overemphasize the value of understanding the ROI on your efforts. Investing in tools that help you understand and leverage that information is absolutely worthwhile. But you only get that great reporting when you leverage marketing automation tools that help you organize, schedule, and follow your campaigns.

Marketing automation tools help you plan your campaigns, schedule activities, create social calendars, and even provide reporting so you understand the impact and value of your digital marketing assets. So don’t skimp or skip these great resources.

They’re really the backbone of a successful digital marketing program.

HubSpot

This resource helps you plan, organize, schedule, and report on all your digital marketing endeavors. From social posts and ads to email campaigns, there’s almost nothing that HubSpot can’t do (besides cook up a delicious breakfast). It’s a workhorse. There’s little surprise as to why it’s the most popular digital marketing tool out there.

Salesforce Marketing Cloud

If Hubspot is number one then Salesforce is a strong number two. A true competitor, it’s a powerful and scalable digital marketing tool that helps organize, schedule, and report on digital marketing work while also coordinating teams.

Choosing between these two largely depends on what type of business you have and what your business’ needs are. Generally speaking, Salesforce is a bit more difficult to implement and many companies have to bring in an outside consultant to make the most of it.

HubSpot does have a learning curve, but many people can grasp its full power by going through the HubSpot Academy and using their support service.

Additional popular marketing automation tools you might consider are Marketo (an Adobe product) and Hootsuite. Both are popular and helpful tools.

What about SEO?

You’ve no doubt noticed that a stalwart of our digital marketing outline was noticeably absent from this article. SEO (search engine optimization) is crucial to a good digital marketing strategy. As a foundational part of digital marketing, SEO is designed to help you bring in potential leads.

While an SEO strategy is part of a broad digital marketing strategy, it isn’t necessarily an element of creating and sharing a business story. It’s a tactical and strategic approach to leveraging content to get impressions. We tackle the topic of SEO copywriting in-depth in another article. A topic as wide and robust as SEO deserves its own space.

The story is never finished

Now that you’ve answered the foundational questions, here’s a reminder. These answers may work for you today and not tomorrow. Digital marketing, platforms, tools, techniques, are all dynamic and changing. Just like your business. That means you should keep asking yourself these questions. Keep adapting to changing trends, opportunities, and challenges. As your business and story grow, so should your plan.

If you need help creating a digital marketing plan or content, we’d love to help. Atiba has a talented and experienced team ready to help you succeed in digital marketing. Reach out to Atiba for a free quote today. We look forward to working with you!

Digital Marketing Agency Employee Spotlight

Digital Marketing Agency employee Abby Dawson with son

Continuing our new series exploring our “Half-Human” side, we recently (virtually) sat down with Abby Dawson from the Digital Marketing Agency side of Atiba.

How long have you been with Atiba and what is your role? 

Earlier this year, Atiba saw an opportunity to expand their digital marketing agency services. They already offered web design and custom software solutions, so digital marketing was a natural next step. I joined the team in May of 2020 to help grow the digital marketing offerings. It hasn’t even been a year and it feels like a lifetime ago! It was the most unusual start I’ve had in a role, never meeting my boss or coworkers in person. But the culture is so strong and inclusive at Atiba that I really felt welcome and included right from the start.  

What is your favorite part about working at Atiba?  

There’s such a creative spirit at Atiba. I think tech people are curious and creative by nature.  They like solving problems and creating new things. I love working with people like that.  

What motivates you to wake up and go to work?  

I feel like my work is really valued, that my ideas are heard, and I work with really smart, fun, hardworking people.  

Abby Dawson with familyWhat makes you a geek? 

I think it was clear I was a geek when I was captain of the debate team and president of the debate club in high school. I capped that off by majoring in Professional Writing and Public Discourse and minoring in Philosophy in college. We’re all surprised I found paid work with a degree like that.  

I love diving down rabbit holes with people and thinking things through. I like asking lots of questions and talking through options. And I’m always asking, can we make it better? What haven’t we thought about? Are we asking the right questions? Are we solving the right problem? Tech is a good place to be for a curious geek.  

If you had to be world-famous for something (not tech-related) what would it be? 

I would love to be a world-famous equestrian. I rode and trained event horses in my early 20’s. Off the track, I trained thoroughbreds to ride dressage, stadium jumping, and open field jump courses. It was the best job I ever had. But the pay is absolutely terrible, and I definitely had a few really bad falls, one that landed me in the ER. But it’s thrilling and rewarding. If I won the lottery tomorrow, that’s probably how I’d spend my time.  

What’s one piece of wisdom handed down from a family member that you’ll always remember?  

I don’t know if it’s been handed down really, but when my husband and I started dating he would say, “There’s always more money.” It’s something we’ve lived by and it’s meant different things to us over the years.  

When we were young and working in restaurants it meant we can always go earn more money if we were willing to go earn it. As we got older, the meaning changed as we started prioritizing family opportunities over work.  

What is the Best B2B eCommerce Platform?

best b2b ecommerce platforms

When it comes to eCommerce, there are countless factors to consider but one of the most important is which platform will be best for your business. In order to have a successful business, you need to make sure you have the right B2B eCommerce platform.

Last year, global B2B eCommerce grew by almost 20% which represented over $10.3 trillion dollars in sales. That means there is a ton of potential for your business but also a ton of competition. You want to stick out to your B2B customers, but how do you do that? What platform gives you the best chance for eCommerce personalization?

But there are plenty of options out there when it comes to choosing the ideal platform, where do you even start? How can you make sure that you’re choosing the best path for your business? Switching platforms is both costly and difficult so when you make your decision, you’re going to want to stick with it.

Let’s run through some of the platforms that you should be checking out, as well as their pros and cons.

Magento

magento ecommerce

We’ve talked about how Magento can help grow your eCommerce business and it makes our list without even a second thought.

Magento is a fantastic open-source B2B eCommerce platform and can work for almost any kind of business out there. We love Magento because in the topsy-turvy world of eCommerce, it provides a sense of customization and easy startup that puts users at ease.

There are some great features, like a flexible shopping cart system, total control over your website’s look, and functional selling options.

Plus, Magento was designed with businesses in mind. While there is plenty of overlap in the Venn diagram of B2B and B2C, Magento’s features were definitely designed to handle a business’s needs. That is also one of its downsides, however.

In order to make proper use of Magento, you need to have an experienced coder with you and the bandwidth to be able to take advantage of all the features.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Incredibly flexible, unique options
  • Made for businesses
  • Scalable for big and small businesses alike

Cons:

  • Needs experienced developers to take full advantage
  • A dedicated server is needed to properly host
  • Is a bit more expensive than others

Shopify

shopify ecommerce

It’s almost impossible to talk about eCommerce without mentioning Shopify. In fact, the snowboard store turned eCommerce-giant has recently teamed up with Walmart in order to go toe-to-toe with Amazon.

If you’ve got a small business, you might be thinking you’re not a big enough fish for the likes of Shopify. Many people consider using Shopify for their eCommerce platform like people use WordPress for their blogging platform.

So what makes Shopify so great?

For one, it’s quite user-friendly and doesn’t require a lot of knowledge to set up. It’s got a low start-up cost and the interface won’t have you frustrated. There are also plenty of free themes you can take advantage of to give your site the best look possible.

Shopify’s simplicity is also one of its shortcomings. In making a user-friendly platform, you won’t find the extensive customization you might find with other platforms. Its content marketing features are also noticeably weak.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Simple to use
  • Affordable pricing
  • Plenty of free plugins, themes, and apps to improve your website

Cons:

  • Customization can be limited and cumbersome at times
  • Basic content marketing
  • Lacks multi-language capabilities

 

WooCommerce

woocommerce ecommerce

If you’re a WordPress fan and comfortable with that platform, then WooCommerce might be the right call for you. WordPress already powers around 30% of the entire internet (including us here at Atiba!) and is also responsible for about 40% of eCommerce sites around the world. So, if you’ve got WordPress experience, then you’ll be quite happy with what WooCommerce has to offer.

What makes WooCommerce as a solid B2B eCommerce platform?

When it comes to the list of pros, it shares a lot of similarities with what WordPress is already doing well. It is incredibly easy to use, launch, and there are countless themes and plugins to check out. There are also tons of performance and SEO tools that come built-in so you can make sure your eCommerce site is ready for the World Wide Web.

Plus, as your business grows and evolves it’s quite easy to expand your site as well. It’s quite scalable.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Seamless integration with WordPress
  • 100’s of themes, plugins, and add-ons
  • SEO and performance tools

Cons:

  • Number of plugins can be overwhelming
  • Developer knowledge is needed to take full advantage
  • Limited customer support despite large community

Oracle NetSuite

netsuite ecommerce

Oracle isn’t a name that jumps at you when it comes to other B2B eCommerce platforms, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a look.

This cloud-based platform is ideal for businesses that have a storefront and various online stores. The multichannel capabilities are perfect for those looking to sell across different avenues and make the most of their business opportunities. It also has multi-country support if your business spans the globe.

NetSuite can be fully integrated with ERP and CRM technologies, making it easy to sync with other tools in order to save you both time and money when it comes to launching your site.

Unfortunately, NetSuite does have a steep learning curve when it comes to the initial stages. You will need an experienced developer or consultant to get you moving down the right track.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Global support for businesses that operate around the world
  • Multi-channel selling
  • Seamless integration with other technologies

Cons:

  • Steady price increases over the last few years
  • Limited support for some customers
  • Limited customization options

OpenCart

opencart ecommerce

Last on our list is another popular platform for the eCommerce world. OpenCart is a free and open-source software that comes with a number of powerful and useful tools to make the most of your online presence. OpenCart has been around for a while and they continue to make strides, most notably with their extension “OpenCart B2B marketplace”. This extension has made it much easier for B2B users.

OpenCart is also a multi-channel marketplace that will allow your business to access services across the web for easy and optimal wholesale selling. The platform is easy to update, extremely user-friendly and will help you set up a basic store even if you have little to no experience.

Of course, in order to take full advantage of the platform and all its features you’ll have to bring in an experienced developer or coder to help maximize your site’s opportunities. When it comes to payment and checkout, OpenCart has shown to be a bit limited as well.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Easy to set up and use, ideal for beginners
  • Simple metrics and reporting documents
  • Built-in email templates make marketing easy

Cons:

  • While not universal, is known to be a bit buggy
  • Noticeably slower checkout process
  • Limited long-term features

What’s the best B2B eCommerce Platform For You?

As with just about anything in the tech world, the answer is often those two frustrating words “it depends.”

It really does depend on the size of your business, the global scope, and how much control you want over your website. In order to determine which is the best for you, we recommend writing down a list of things that matter most to you for your eCommerce platform.

Your list should include things like:

  • Speed
  • Customization
  • Security
  • Setup ease
  • Support
  • Price
  • Features
  • And more

While we can’t put those in order for you, we can make a recommendation on our favorites. It’s no secret that we are big WordPress fans and as a part of that, big WooCommerce fans. We believe its functionality and ease make it a great option for eCommerce businesses.

If you’d rather not go the WordPress route, we suggest taking a look at Magento. It’s perfect for both big and small businesses and can go with your business if it continues to grow.

So if you’re looking to start your eCommerce website or just need help, reach out to our eCommerce team to help you get set up with all the tools you need. We look forward to helping you!

 

 

 

3 Ways Heat Mapping Can Improve Your Website

screen shot of heat mapping tool applied to Atiba homepageIf you’ve never used a heat mapping tool (like the ones offered at CrazyEgg or HotJar) you’ll probably be surprised, and maybe a little overwhelmed, at the amount of insight you can glean. Being able to see and digest user behavior, whether it be how far the average user scrolls or where most clicks are happening on a particular page, can be invaluable in understanding the effectiveness of content placement or calls-to-action.

These tools typically display data in a few ways. Areas of a web page that get more activity, whether it be through user scrolling patterns or actual click behavior, will be colored to help visualize the activity. Orange and Red are typically used for areas with more activity. Blue and Black are for “colder” areas that garner less attention from users.

We typically utilize heatmapping tools before a client’s website redesign, mostly because they can offer insights that may be harder to detect from Google Analytics. But there are also other reasons why this can be an incredibly effective tool.

Here are a few ways that these tools can offer actionable insights of your web page:

Deciding on the most effective placement of key calls-to-action

Seeing the scrolling patterns and click behavior of users is usually pretty eye-opening. It turns out, that call-to-action below the fold that you thought was beautifully written and incredibly intuitive? 90% of your users never see it. Understanding the placement of calls-to-action is just as important as how they are written and/or designed.

Ensuring the best possible user experienceheat mapping tool example

We often find that our clients are surprised when they see where clicks are happening on their site. Things like images, addresses, and phone numbers are usually assumed by the average user to be clickable. Using imagery and higher value content pieces as gateways into a conversion funnel can help nudge your user toward the end goal you’ve set-up. Seeing content pieces of a page (such as images or text) that are being frustratingly clicked on over and over that don’t link anywhere usually has the effect of jump-starting an audit of all page content.

Understanding the highest value referral sources

Though this information is available through Google Analytics, it can sometimes also be helpful to see the exact actions taken by users from a particular referral source. For instance, being able to visually map the users coming from Google as opposed to Bing, or your preferred paid marketing channel over organic traffic, as it relates to activities or clicks on a call-to-action can sometimes offer insights that are a little harder to deduce from looking at hard numbers or graphs in Google Analytics.

In summary, any tool that helps us gain actionable insight into user behavior for our clients is incredibly valuable to us. We’ve found that heat mapping tools can be an incredibly helpful resource in helping understand user behavior and assist our clients in making the necessary changes to raise conversions or meet marketing goals.