Digital Marketing 101: How to Get the Most Out of Your Marketing Dollars

Digital marketing is how a business electronically markets its products or services to a target audience.

So, is a post on a social media platform like Facebook considered digital marketing?


What about purchasing digital advertising services like Google AdWords, is that digital marketing?


Are interactive product tutorials considered…? Yes! That’s digital marketing too.

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You get the point—digital marketing is not just “one thing” a new business owner must “do” to gain online attention and market share; it is a continual practice of presenting your brand through digital marketing assets and methodologies in an innovative way that grabs the attention of your consumer.

According to Wired, the average adult Brit spends more time online than doing anything else in their life. Their research shows that the average person spends nearly nine hours each day on media and communication, and at least 98% of homes and businesses have access to 4G Internet access from at least one provider.

That means your audience is ready and waiting to see some killer digital marketing from your business. The term “digital marketing” might leave you scratching your head, after all—what is it anyway?

Simply put, it’s when you sell your products or services using electronic devices.

So, digital marketing is:

  • Your website
  • Electronic billboards
  • Email newsletters
  • A Tweet linked to original content
  • Banner advertisements
  • Interactive product demonstrations
  • V. or radio commercials or sponsorships
  • Mobile advertisements
  • Cold calling
  • QR codes
  • Text message marketing
  • Tele-shopping like QVC

This is by no means a complete list, but you get the point. Can you see why it would be so hard for someone to simply “do” digital marketing? The production cost alone would make it impossible for new business owners to do it all at once.

Looking at this list, it’s difficult to decide where to start as a new digital marketer.

What does a digital marketing campaign look like for your business?

Today we will help you answer this question by providing a general overview of what digital marketing is and how it can help promote your brand.

Once we have set the stage, we’ll talk about best practices when deciding how to dive into digital, and we’ll take a look at TOM’S, a business that excels in the digital marketing game, for some divine digital inspiration.

By that point, we’ll be ready to start planning your digital marketing strategy so we’ll offer a step-by-step guide to designing your digital plan.

A Brief History of Digital Marketing

Digital marketing has been around for years which may surprise you since most people associate it with things like online banner ads or social media posts.

Digital advertising began with the invention of the radio around 1900. Up until that point, the public didn’t have a way to access information outside of the written word, so to hear advertisements over the radio was a big deal.

The radio and its role in delivering digital messages is considered an “offline” digital marketing tool and was integral in shaping how people sent and received marketing messages.

Today, we buy subscriptions to radio services like Pandora and Sirius XM to avoid hearing these same kinds of commercials people marveled at in the 1900s. As time marches on, so too does marketing and how consumers prefer to receive information.

Hello, World Wide Web!

In terms of major milestones in marketing communications, the TV was the next big event giving marketers a black and white, and then colorful, way to deliver messages about their brands.

The introduction of the Internet to the public in the 1990s was a huge milestone in the marketing world. Since many homes now had personal computers, the Internet gave businesses seemingly limitless ways to engage and sell to their target audience.

This “World Wide Web” provided a 24/7 medium to advertise directly to their consumers, not to mention the data mining possibilities, customer support, and social engagement opportunities that would soon appear on the horizon.

Thanks to the Internet, the term “digital marketing” was redefined into two categories, online and offline digital marketing strategies.

Online vs. Offline Digital Marketing

Digital marketing either “lives” online or offline, and it’s up to you how you want to use either or both to advertise your business.

The seven big categories of online marketing according to Marketing Guru Neil Patel are:

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search Engine Optimization is the practice of building, improving, and promoting a website to increase the number of visitors to the site via search engines.

The goal is to have fresh content and relevant keywords so that when your target market uses a search engine to find something, your website organically comes up in the search query as a good match.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Search Engine Marketing involves buying advertisements on search engine sites, like Google to attract traffic to your website. These paid advertisements appear on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) alongside the search results when users type keywords associated with what you sell.

Content Marketing

Businesses use content marketing to keep their websites fresh and to have something new and exciting to share on social media platforms.

Content marketing includes things like blogs, white papers, and landing pages that provide valuable information to a specified target market so that when it’s time to buy, they know who to trust.

Social Media Marketing (SMM)

Social media marketing is the use of social media platforms or websites to market sell whatever it is you sell. It’s how you share with your audience the outstanding content you’ve created, and it provides a way to communicate with your target market so your brand remains top-of-mind when they do need your product or services.

Pay-Per-Click advertising (PCC)

Pay-per-click advertising is exactly how it sounds; advertisers pay a fee each time their ad is clicked by a visitor so they essentially buy visits to their site.

When you use a search engine and the first two links appear shaded, are a different color or if they outright say they are an advertisement, those are PCC ads. A business bids on keywords so that when a visitor searches for what they sell, their ad appears. Each time that ad is clicked, the business pays the search engine a small fee.

Affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing is the process of earning money by recommending and marketing another business’s products or services in return for a commission if your efforts result in a sale. Based on your industry, there are opportunities to team up with different enterprises like sellers, distributors, and manufacturers to promote what they have to offer in exchange for a percentage of the sale.

Email marketing

Email marketing helps businesses keep their target market updated on a regular basis via email newsletters, sales alerts, and any other form of digital communication that involves an email address.

Offline Digital Marketing Strategies

The Internet didn’t make offline digital marketing strategies obsolete; rather it provided another medium to communicate and deliver key messages to a defined target audience. Offline measures are still used and effective and when used in tandem with online efforts, can create a cohesive digital campaign.

Here are some effective offline digital strategies that are still popular today:

  • Enhanced offline marketing like electronic billboards and digital product demonstrations.
  • Radio marketing that includes both commercials and show sponsorships.
  • TV marketing (regular commercials, Super Bowl advertisements, and teleshopping)
  • Phone marketing that uses a digital medium to solicit business (cold calling, text message marketing, and QR codes).

Who Rocks the Digital Marketing Game

A successful digital marketing campaign tells a compelling story well using a variety of mediums. This story resonates with a businesses’ target market and keeps them engaged and interacting with the brand on a consistent basis.

A company that excels in digital marketing is TOMS Shoes.

TOMS Shoes is an excellent company that operates on a One for One® business model developed by the Founder Blake Mycoskie that helps a person in need for every product sold by the company.

TOMS Shoes has helped others by providing over 60 million pairs of shoes to children in need, and TOMS Eyewear has given the gift of sight to those who need help thanks to the same “buy one, give one” model. The company also have initiatives to provide safe water solutions to countries in need and birth kits to remote areas to help women safely deliver their children.

How TOMS Succeeds in Digital Marketing

Every successful digital strategy starts with a story that resonates with its consumers, and as a company, TOMS has plenty of these heartwarming stories to share while promoting their product and brand. Let’s take a look at an example of how they use digital marketing to sell and promote their brand worldwide:

Annual “One Day Without Shoes” Campaign

TOMS “One Day Without Shoes” social media campaign asks people to go barefoot for a day in May to raise awareness for children’s health and education. They invite people to share pictures of their bare feet on Instagram, and for each picture, a pair of shoes is donated to a child who needs them. In 2016 the campaign gave 27,435 shoes to children across ten countries.

According to

“As a result of the 2016 event Toms donated 27,435 shoes to children worldwide. ODWS engaged more than 3.5 million people on all social media channels, with the #WithoutShoes hashtag producing 17 million impressions across Toms’ own social platforms and 62 million impressions in total. This engagement was measured using customer experience management platform Sprinklr, which aggregates interactions on FacebookInstagram and Twitter by campaign. The single day’s activity secured more than 250 media placements.”

This digital marketing campaign did three things well:

  • It promoted the TOMS brand and its core mission to a large audience in a short period of time via social media with photos and videos that resonated with their consumers.
  • The one-day-only event created an organic “do-good-feel-good” marketing buzz about their company and products.
  • User-generated content was an integral part of the campaign spreading awareness and online attention TOMS would not receive otherwise.

As a brand, TOMS has succeeded in what Mycoskie says his “scrappy and resourceful” marketing strategy has some traditional marketing elements, but he believes digital marketing initiatives help the TOMS brand connect with their customers in a more genuine way, and it is a more affordable way to spread their mission worldwide.

Creating Your Own Digital Marketing Plan

Whether you are excited about creating your first digital marketing plan, or you are dragging your virtual heels, let’s get started because your customers expect it and your competition is most likely already there.

Step One: Write Your Story

Before you tell the world who you are and why you matter, you need to write it down.

More than just what is listed on your “About Us” section on your website (although this is a great place to start and should be included in this narrative), your story needs to be a virtual walk with your customer about the history of your business, and more importantly, the future plans for your enterprise.

Here is a quick video about how important your story is to your brand:

One of the best examples of telling a compelling story is Mr. Walt Disney. Sure, he was in the business of telling stories with his characters, but the Disney brand started with him, and people want to know about it. In 1920 he was just a cartoonist with a vision; today, The Walt Disney Company is one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information.

His business has a story that interests and excites his target audience, and believe it or not, your story will too.

As you write your story, you will begin to gather elements to use in your digital marketing strategy to sell your business.

Once you define your brand, you can sell it using SEO-friendly keywords, imagery, messaging, and concepts that will remain consistent throughout your digital and traditional marketing materials.

If you are just beginning to brand your business, check out this post for some helpful tips.

Step Two: Build Your Website (Skip to Step 3 if you have one already.)

Now that you have the planning part of your branding strategy complete, it’s time to put yourself out there!

If you don’t already have a website, create one! It should look professional, have an appealing layout and attractive design, and it should be easy to update and manage.

If creating and launching a website sounds like too much of a challenge to take on yourself, after all you do have a business to manage, hire someone to do it for you!

This is the virtual storefront for your brand—it needs to be perfect to be profitable. Before hiring your web designer, read this post on 10 things you should do before hiring a web designer to help save time and money during the website development process.

For those with e-commerce sites, read this post first about how to build a site that sells.

Step Three: Optimize Your Website

If your website already exists, make sure you are taking full advantage of the online marketplace.

You may think, “I’ve already spent too much time and money on this website already! It might not be perfect, but it’s fine.”

The question you must ask yourself is this: do you like money and would you like more? If you don’t optimize your site, you could stand to lose a lot of money.

Your website is critical to your overall success as a business. For many, this is the first encounter they will have with your business, and you need to make a good first impression as a trustworthy, reliable brand.

If you have an e-commerce site, you have to make your website stand out among a sea of online retailers that are selling the same thing you offer. How is your website setting your business above these virtual competitors?

Our post, 5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Website will walk you through how to get the most out of your website and ultimately increase your return on investment which is all the time and money you have already spent creating an online presence.

Step Four: Measure Your Website

You may have the jazziest website out there, but if it isn’t working, who cares? More importantly, why isn’t it working?

All of your digital marketing efforts must be measured to gauge effectiveness. That’s why you answer that age-old question, “How did you hear about us?” online or in-person at retailers regardless what they sell; they want to know how their marketing dollars are performing and which mediums work.

One way to measure the effectiveness of your website is to use analytics software like Google Analytics to find out information about who is visiting your website, and what content and links are the most popular. Google Analytics is free, easy to learn, and can help you learn about your online audience.

Step Five: Begin Your Inbound Marketing Journey

Once you have a dynamite website and tools to measure its effectiveness, it’s time to start promoting it using inbound marketing strategies.

Inbound marketing is when businesses use digital assets to convince their online target market to buy. It focuses on using digital assets like blogs, advertisements, social media posts, content marketing, email marketing, native advertising, and retargeted ads to gain attention and ultimately, sales.

Like we mentioned before regarding digital marketing, inbound marketing is not something you “do,” rather it is a strategic approach to combining different digital assets to attract, convert, close your online audience.

Once you have a dynamite website and tools to measure its effectiveness, it’s time to start promoting it using inbound marketing strategies. You can find a great list of tools to help you with your work here.

Step Six: Constant Re-Evaluation

As technology evolves and new digital assets enter the market, your digital marketing strategy will change over time. To make sure your digital plan is on-point, gather a team of marketing professionals that are up-to-date on the latest trends to help your digital plan keep pace with the times and your competition.

If you don’t have a team, hire someone to do it for you! Hiring a digital expert will help your business remain relevant, and most importantly profitable, in the highly competitive online marketplace.

Define Your Digital Destination

Are you ready to start designing your digital strategy? Comment below how you plan on beginning to incorporate digital marketing into your marketing strategy. Good luck!

Amy Aitman is the owner of 8menCan, a content agency based in Toronto, Canada. She works to create content strategies and digital marketing plans for businesses around the world. Away from the office, Amy takes her team out for chicken tacos and martins, extra dirty, extra olives of course.


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