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Marketing 101: What is (particular about) digital marketing?

June 30th, 2021
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Marketing has a language all its own. This is our latest in a series of posts aimed at helping new marketers learn that language. What term do you find yourself explaining most often to new hires during onboarding? Let us know.

 

Marketing 101: What is (particular about) digital marketing?

This article was originally published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.

Digital marketing is the communication of value to a potential customer through their computer, tablet, smartphone or similar device to help that customer perceive the value of the product or service. The goal of digital marketing is to earn a “yes” (also known as a conversion) to the organization’s “ask” (also known as a call-to-action). That ask may be the ultimate conversion an organization seeks to achieve – often a sale – or an intermediate ask like signing up for an email list or joining a webinar. Copywriting and design are critical to this value communication.

Digital marketing, also known as online marketing, is often contrasted against traditional marketing, also known as offline marketing. While offline marketing has occurred since the dawn of humanity, it’s rise really occurred during the start of the era of mass production caused by industrialization and mass media. Marketers were needed to generate demand for this new, abundant supply.

Digital marketing’s rise has been driven by the mass adoption of the internet and the associated increase in the use of digital devices.

If you are searching for the definition of digital marketing, you likely want to understand this juxtaposition – in other words, what is particular about digital marketing as compared to traditional marketing. We’ll provide a few particular aspects, but first, some word usage examples.

Word usage examples

To put the term “digital marketing” in context, here are some examples of how we have used the term in our content:

And our very first mention of “digital marketing” on February 26, 2008 (there were earlier mentions of similar phrases like “internet marketing”) came in a job title:

“However, Mikael Blido, head of Digital Marketing, Sony Ericsson, knows that…” from How Sony Ericsson Markets (In)directly to Consumers: Secrets Behind Their Online Strategy

Now let’s look at what is particular about digital marketing as compared to traditional marketing.

A/B testing is cheaper, quicker and easier in digital marketing

Before the rise of digital marketing, traditional marketers could split test direct mail and other direct marketing. They would mail one marketing message to a randomly selected group of potential customers, another marketing message to another randomly selected group, and see which performs better.

They would have to print multiple versions, have multiple calls to action (for example, two phone numbers), wait weeks or longer for the results to come in, and manually tabulate the results.

Digital marketing allows inexpensive, quick, and easy testing on a variety of channels – digital advertising networks, social media advertising, email platforms, or on websites with the help of testing software.

Since testing can help marketers improve results by better understanding their customers, digital marketing can allow more marketers to understand more customers quicker.

When Gartner’s GetApp brand surveyed 238 leaders at startups and small businesses about marketing technology, respondents cited A/B testing as the most effective software tool in their toolkit – 62% found A/B testing tools very effective.

“A/B testing may take a little getting used to, but once you get the hang of things you can discover business insights that help you increase conversions and—ultimately—your bottom line. Or, it may allow you to fail fast and move on,” said Amanda Kennedy, Senior Content Writer, GetApp.

Here are a few free resources you might find helpful if you’re looking for best practices for starting and/or measuring A/B tests for marketing experimentation:

A/B Testing in Digital Marketing: Example of four-step hypothesis framework

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Creating an A/B test

Unlock the Power of Your A/B Testing Program

Email Marketing Optimization: How you can create a testing environment to improve your email results

Get Your Free Test Discovery Tool to Help Log all the Results and Discoveries from Your Company’s Marketing Tests

Prioritize your marketing experiments with the Test Planning Scenario Tool

Digital marketing is less expensive in general

Not only is A/B testing less expensive in digital marketing versus offline marketing, pretty much everything digital is less expensive (well, everything except digital marketing salaries).

Email marketing is generally less expensive than direct mail. Video pre-roll ads are generally less expensive than TV commercials. And while rates are increasing as competition increases, online display ads are generally less expensive than print advertisements in newspapers and magazines.

Here are a few free resources if you need help with digital media buying and budgeting:

Reprioritize Your Marketing Spend and Transform Your Results: Learn a radical new framework

Advertising Chart: How digital ad placement strategy affects customer response

Marketing Budget Charts: B2B customer experience investments (plus 4 budgeting tips)

Advice From Three Digital Marketing Experts on Building Your Budget

It is easier to track the ROI of digital marketing

Department store owner John Wanamaker famously said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”

It is notoriously difficult to track the ROI (return on investment) of offline marketing. For example, you could put a coupon in a newspaper advertisement with a unique code and count how many times the coupon is redeemed (or even, the exact amount of sales the coupon and ad secured). But what about people who saw the ad and aren’t coupon clippers? Or even more complex, what about people who saw the ad, had a positive brand impression, and then your digital ad stuck out to them and they clicked and purchased? How can you know what role the newspaper ad played?

While there is certainly branding in digital marketing, most digital marketing has a clear and direct call-to-action, and marketers can track from a click on that call-to-action and see how customers performed throughout the funnel up to a purchase, helping them measure the ROI of the digital ad.

Still, ROI tracking is far from perfect in digital marketing as well. If your company has a long and complex sales funnel, you have to decide how to measure ROI. Should the ROI be credited to the initial ad they clicked on that got them to download a whitepaper and signup for your email list nine months ago? Or the email they clicked on today that lead them to finally purchase? Or a combination? (This general topic is known as marketing attribution, and first-touch, multi-touch, and last-touch attribution models specifically).

What about if a customer reads a review of a product on your review site, but doesn’t click the affiliate link? Perhaps they purchase your product in a physical store or simply go back to your ecommerce store later to purchase. Are you properly attributing revenue to the review site?

If you are interested in tracking the ROI of your digital marketing, here are some free resources that can help:

Marketing Attribution Chart: Data from more than 500,000 customer buying journeys

Marketing 101: What is lead attribution?

Improve Attribution: 8 Steps to Measure the Impact of Your Marketing Efforts

Ecommerce Research Chart: ROI on marketing spend

Social Media: 4 simple steps to calculate social media ROI

It is easier to reach the niche group of people who can be best served by your product

Marketers typically call this targeting. But who wants to be targeted? Targeting implies you are about to be attacked.

So let’s call it – reaching the people your brand can best serve. That might be a small niche. A giant group. Or an amalgamation of personas that together comprise a large group of people.

This is possible in offline marketing to some extent. If you only serve a particular city, you can buy an ad in the local newspaper. Or if you are looking for outdoor enthusiasts, you can advertise in Outdoor or Sierra magazine.

But digital marketing allows for a much deeper and more granular focus for your marketing messages. You can build your own email list of people who are interested in your product. You can host a sweepstakes and attract people who are interested in your giveaway prize (for example, a trip to an organic resort could attract people interested in buying organic milk). You can only serve up your advertising to people who take a certain action, such as search for a specific term or put a specific product in a shopping cart.

For example, Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network (BCAN) was able to generate 2,555 leads from a $6,500 ad spend on Facebook by using specific parameters that focused the ads around a lookalike audience (people who had similar characteristics to BCAN’s current community) along with specific demographic parameters of people who are considered ‘at risk’ for bladder cancer diagnosis, such as firefighters and Vietnam veterans (you can read more in Quick Case Study #4 in Anti-Selfish Marketing Case Studies: 4 specific examples of focusing on what the customer gets).

This ability to reach a niche group of people may get harder and more expensive though. As customer privacy concerns increase, governments along with major corporations that make operating systems and devices are putting limits on tracking customer behavior.

If you are interested in reaching a specific group of people with your digital marketing, here are some free resources:

Online Behavioral Advertising: How to benefit from targeted ads in a world concerned with privacy

The Benefits of Combining Content Marketing and Segmentation

Email Segmentation: Finish Line’s automation initiative lifts email revenue 50%

How to Tailor Ads to Demographic-based Preferences & 5 Tips for Motivating Mature Consumers

Advertising Research Chart: Customer perception of what makes a travel ad effective, by age group

Email Marketing: Groupon’s segmentation strategies across 115 million subscribers

Local SEO: How geotargeting keywords brought 333% more revenue

You have many opportunities to learn about the customer

While it plays a role of some of the other aspects of digital marketing I’ve already discussed, data deserves its own distinct section as well.

With A/B testing, you are building an experiment to learn how specific changes you make affect customer behavior.

But even if you don’t build A/B tests, it’s almost impossible not to get some data from your digital marketing. Even better if you proactively set up your campaigns to record the data that will be most insightful about the customer.

With offline marketing, you may be able to collect data if a person responds to the ad. For example, if they send you the postcard you included in a magazine or call the phone number on your newspaper ad.

With digital marketing, the data is far more extensive. You can granularly track many behaviors customers taken, even how they scroll on your website or where they hover their mouse.

While we’re on the subject, data is a very buzz-y word that seems big and scary to the non-analytical marketer. It can be complex, for sure. However, data simply gives us an opportunity to better learn about and serve real human beings on the other side of the mouse – the people we call current and potential customers.

If you are interested in digital marketing data, here are some free resources:

The Data Pattern Analysis: 3 ways to turn info into insight

Digital Analytics: How to use data to tell your marketing story

Get Your Free Simplified MECLABS Institute Data Pattern Analysis Tool to Discover Opportunities to Increase Conversion

Digital marketing is less trusted

We’re on a roll discussing all of the bonafides of digital marketing, so I hate to be a Debbie Downer. But if we’re going to discuss what is particular about digital marketing…let’s be honest. At least one thing that is particular is negative.

Digital marketing is generally less trusted than traditional marketing.

We asked 1,200 consumers: “In general which type of advertising channels do you trust more when you want to make a purchase decision?” Prints ads ranked first, with 82% of Americans saying they trusted advertisements in newspapers and magazines when making a purchase decision. But it goes beyond just that one channel. All of the top six most trusted media were traditional, and all of the seven least trusted media were digital.

You can see the data for yourself in Marketing Chart: Which advertising channels consumers trust most and least when making purchases.

If you need help instilling trust in your digital marketing, here are some free resources:

Anxiety: Use privacy as a competitive advantage

The Marketer and Buyer Anxiety: Three ways to counter anxiety in the purchase funnel

The Importance of Building Trust: What 2,400 consumers say about trust in the conversion process

The Trust Trial: Could you sell an iChicken?

Four Quick Case Studies of Anxiety-Reducing Marketing

You can follow Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute, on Twitter @DanielBurstein.

If you are interested in digital marketing, you might also like…

B2C Marketing: 65% lift in organic traffic from in-house digital marketing transition

A Simple Guide for the Busy Marketer: Using data from online marketing and web analytics tools

Social Media Marketing: Doubleday combines geocaching and Facebook to boost sales 23% for John Grisham book

If you are interested in entry-level marketing content, you might also like…

Marketing 101: What is source/medium?

Marketing 101: What is PPC in marketing?

Marketing 101: What is CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization)?

The Beginner’s Guide to Digital Marketing: 53 articles (and 1 video) to help with onboarding

Selling and Marketing to Senior Citizens When Your Team is Very Different From the Customer

April 26th, 2018
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“Nobody reads direct mail letters anymore.” “Everybody has the latest iPhone now.” “I would never read that.”

Let’s unpack these sentences. What they are really saying is:

  • “Nobody (I know) reads direct mail anymore.”
  • “Everybody (I follow on Instagram) has the latest iPhone now.”
  • “I would never read that (but I’m not the ideal customer for the product).”

We humans, we’re a self-centered lot. And we think other people are much more like us than they really are. Psychologists call this false-consensus bias. And it is a significant challenge for the CMO or other sales or marketing leader in charge of a team that is very different from them.

I discussed this topic with Denis Mrkva, general manager of Aetna’s HealthSpire subsidiary, right before I interviewed him about a landing page optimization effort that increased leads 638% for a call center. Denis’ ideal customer is interested in Medicare Advantage. So his fairly young team is selling to senior citizens.

We also discussed hiring and creating the right culture, how senior citizens use digital channels, and how Denis’ team helps his customers navigate the digital environment. You can watch the video below or jump to the full transcript.


Customer-first sales and marketing

In discussing the customer, Denis had some good advice:

“Put them and their needs first — and listen. And try to understand not only their needs for the product they want to buy, but their lifestyle, the important things in their life.”  — Denis Mrkva

Read more…

Customer Satisfaction Segmentation: Customer expectations extend beyond the end users of your products

January 26th, 2018
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When measuring customer satisfaction after the purchase of your products, it’s all too easy to think of the process in a linear fashion:

  • I produce marketing and advertising that sets an expectation for my product
  • A customer then buys and uses my product
  • I will then ask that customer if they are satisfied with the product

However, while reading Customer Expectations: 7 Types All Exceptional Researchers Must Understand by Scott Smith, Ph.D., as part of my studies in the University of Florida/MECLABS Institute Communicating Value and Web Conversion graduate certificate program, there was a line from Dr. Smith that really stood out to me: “The product purchaser, influencer and user may have each been a different type of individual, each having different expectations.”

Notice he doesn’t just say a different individual, but a different type of individual. The key lesson here is that you should not only segment your marketing but segment your customer satisfaction measurement as well.

And while many B2B marketers will see how this is instantly applicable to them, it likely applies to many B2C and nonprofit marketers as well.

Let’s take a look at each type of customer, with an example for each type of marketer.

                                                                                Photo courtesy Flickr CC Village9991

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Customer-Centric Marketing: 5 more takeaways on consumer behavior from researchers and strategists [Part II]

June 17th, 2016
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MarketingSherpa Summit 2017 will be here before you know it, and our team is hard at work planning the agenda, with a special emphasis on customer-centric strategies and approaches.

As we select our keynotes, the team has conducted in-depth research and gained some interesting takeaways from both academic and marketing practitioners.  We highlighted the first five takeaways earlier this week, and we have five more thought-proving insights again for you today.

 

Takeaway #6. Build habit forming products

Many of the products we use in our daily routine have influenced our routines.

Nir Eyal, author of best-selling book Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, has identified a design pattern in habit forming products. He describes this design pattern, “the hook,” as “an experience designed to connect the users’ problems to your solution with enough frequency to form a habit.”

The hook is comprised of cycle of triggers, actions, rewards and investments. The triggers can be internal or external, but must evoke motivation to act.

For instance, customers need to anticipate the reward for their action or they will not engage. The more involved a customer becomes with a product, the more likely he or she will develop a loyalty to the product.

Nir explains, “Products that create successive cycles through the hook help customers’ preferences, tastes, and habits develop.”

This engagement is what makes these products better, it’s not necessarily the quality of the products.

 

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Customer-centric Marketing: 5 takeaways on consumer behavior from researchers and strategists [Part I]

June 14th, 2016
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At MarketingSherpa, we’re in the planning phase for MarketingSherpa Summit 2017. With the interest of our customers’ experience at the core of our every decision, we conduct extensive research to select the most thought-provoking and applicable keynote sessions for our attendees.

During our research phase, we have identified 10 key takeaways from leading experts (both academics and practitioners) in marketing. That’s a lot of key takeaways, so we’re breaking it up into two digestible bites. Read on today for insights around customer centricity, empathetic marketing and “less is more.”

 

Takeaway #1. Customer centricity does not mean doing exactly what the customers want

Dr. Peter Fader, Professor of Marketing at University of Pennsylvania and Co-director of the Wharton Customer Analytics Institute, explains that while performing at the level of meeting or exceeding customers’ expectations is a component of customer centricity, it should not be a blanketed approach for all customers.

According to Fader, truly customer-centric organizations do not treat all customers the same because they do not provide equal value to the company. Most of us are aware that we should identify different segments of customers. Fader establishes that while segmentation itself is not a new idea, how it is conducted has evolved from simple demographics to customer lifetime value. He suggests companies organize themselves around different customer segments rather than different products. Then, organizations can deliver products appropriate to their segments of customers.

In summation, to truly become customer centric, companies need to identify and invest in the right customers.

  Read more…

How Microsoft Store Turned Its Receipts Into a Personalized Customer Touchpoint

September 18th, 2015
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Personalized marketing is a customer-centric trend that’s been on the rise, but it’s one of those trends that can seem unattainable.

After all, creating a truly personalized, one-on-one experience between your brand and your customer takes a drastic toll on time, resources and manpower. Or at least that’s what you would think at first glance.

Enter Microsoft Store.

Shawna Dahlin, Senior Email Marketing Manager, Microsoft Store, sat down with Selena Blue, Manager of Editorial Content, MECLABS, at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015 to discuss how she and her team made the seemingly unattainable achievable. Shawna created a more personalized email campaign by using data the brand already had available about relevant customer experiences.

To begin, Shawna wanted to change Microsoft Store’s email marketing strategy to make it more personalized, but she lacked the IT resources she needed. To meet this challenge, she developed a plan that would personalize the brand’s email strategy without utilizing IT.

Shawna accomplished this by collecting data that Microsoft Store already had on its consumer base and testing Microsoft Store’s email sends based on this data. Overall, this effort resulted in a:

  • 500% increase in CTR for segmented emails
  • 300% increase in open rate for segmented emails
  • 1,200% overall revenue increase in three years
  • 600% increase in revenue per email (for lifecycle)

Learn how, by implementing this data-centric approach, Shawna was able to transform an email send that almost every consumer receives — the receipt — into a successful first touchpoint.

 

Read more…

Email Marketing: How to utilize your consumer data without being creepy

August 11th, 2015
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Have you ever been at a social event and a person, unknown to you, eagerly greets you by name? Recall the creepy feeling you got in that situation.

It leaves you thinking — who is this person and how do they know this personal information?

Thanks to the Internet, marketers have the ability to collect and use an absurd amount of personal consumer data. As marketers, we’ve used this data to guide consumers to ideal products and services without them even knowing. Well, let me revise that last statement — we used to do this without consumers knowing.

 

Avoid This: Personalization                                                                                             

As personalization has become a buzzword over the last few years, efforts to connect with consumers have gone haywire. Every day, I receive emails from companies who promote products similar to those I’ve pinned on Pinterest and address me by my name, or at least attempt to:

The Adverse Effects of Email Personalization

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The Benefits of Combining Content Marketing and Segmentation: MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015 replay

July 17th, 2015
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One of the most talked-about marketing trends at the moment may also be one of the most effective. According to Demand Metric, content marketing generates three times as many leads as traditional outbound marketing while costing 62% less.

At MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015, Courtney Eckerle, Manager of Editorial Content, MarketingSherpa, sat down with Stephen Bruner, Marketing Manager, Precor, to discuss the value of content marketing and segmentation as well as the benefits of implementing a strategy using both of these marketing methods.

Precor is the second largest fitness equipment manufacturer in the U.S. and third in the world. Its clients are primarily fitness clubs and consumers. The company focuses on helping each of these consumer segments find the best products for their needs.

Watch the video excerpt from the MarketingSherpa Media Center to learn more about the relationship between content marketing and segmentation:

Read more…

Email Summit 2015 According to Twitter: Your peers share their key takeaways from Day 1 on engaging, empowering and serving customers

February 25th, 2015
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If you haven’t noticed, #SherpaEmail has taken over Twitter.

Well, maybe not in a break-the-Internet scale of Kim Kardashian, but your marketing peers have been tweeting their hearts out with all the good information they’ve learned at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015.

With Day 2 of Summit underway, we wanted to share some key nuggets your peers found valuable on Day 1. (I might have smuggled a few of my own in too.) Check out some key takeaways from each of yesterday’s insightful sessions.

 

Humanizing Your Email Program: How to transcend the digital revolution by using the essential ability to communicate person-to-person

Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director and CEO, MECLABS Institute

Flint revealed four fundamental principles that guide effective communication and provided examples of how these principles can be used to transform your entire email program.

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Email Marketing: List segmentation tips using social media and online behavior

February 17th, 2015
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Unless you are executing batch-and-blast email campaigns (and I sincerely hope that you aren’t), your email strategy probably involves some level of personalization or at least getting relevant email content to the right person. In order to achieve either of those goals, the starting point is your email subscriber list and having that list segmented so you can pick and choose who in your database receives each email send.

Lists can be segmented many different ways, and obviously the more record fields you have on each person in your list, the easier it is to segment based on criteria such as geographical location, job title, industry and possibly even transaction history.

To provide a few ideas of how your peers are segmenting their lists for email campaigns, here are three examples taken from MarketingSherpa Newsletter case studies. Hopefully you will discover insights that are inspirational or maybe even something you can immediately apply to your own email efforts.

 

Tip #1. Utilize behavioral data for segmentation

This tip comes from an article titled, “Segmentation: How a small office supply ecommerce site boosted revenue 25% by sending more emails,” covering JAM Paper & Envelope, a New York City-based brick-and-mortar that added ecommerce in 2007. Andrew Jacobs, Director of Ecommerce, JAM Paper, said, “Essentially, we come up with one email a week, or every two weeks, or even a month if we didn’t have time, and we would send it out. We would just cross our fingers and hope for the best,” referring to the company’s initial batch-and-blast approach to email.

JAM Paper’s campaigns included a “lapsed purchase” send to anyone who hadn’t bought anything for 17 months, but the team decided segment beyond just a certain timeframe and began taking individual behavior into account for the campaign.

This meant looking at each customer’s buying behavior. Some bought monthly, or even weekly, while others bought only once a year. The team calculated the average time between orders for each customer and began sending the “lapsed purchase” email once each person passed their individual threshold. This tactic yielded a 45% conversion rate — the highest among all of JAM Paper’s email campaigns.

 

Tip #2. Mine social media for customer segmentation data

In the case study, “Email Marketing Segmentation: Clothing brand uses social behavioral data to drive a 141% increase in revenue,” Johnny Cupcakes, a mid-sized apparel retailer, linked its customer database to social media engagement of its individual customers, analyzing 19 million public social expressions.

These posts led to insights on data points such as:

  • Gender
  • Customer interests
  • Brand preferences
  • Media habits

Gender was seen as the key data point to uncover from the effort and was actually taken directly from social media profiles if that information was available. One of the insights into customer interests was that a lot of Johnny Cupcakes’ customers were sports fans.

The team decided to test these insights by promoting a baseball-themed shirt to the sports fan segment of its list.

Men on the list were sent an email featuring a male model and a shirt cut for men:

Men's shirt

Read more…