What is the most effective digital marketing strategy? With all the available channels, tactics, methods, and strategies, answering this question can be very difficult. Different marketing channels will work better for certain businesses and/or industries over the others, and let’s not forget the fact that the marketplace is always evolving.
In this modern business environment, we can no longer rely on just one marketing tactic to achieve the best result. Rather, we should attempt an integrated marketing effort consisting of several different strategies to cover different aspects, creating a seamless buyer’s journey for the customers.
With that being said, here we will discuss some of the most effective digital marketing strategies to develop an integrated marketing plan. These strategies cover different stages of the customer journey, and each with their own benefits and disadvantages.
Let us begin.
1. Inbound Marketing
The term “inbound marketing” has been the digital marketing buzzword in recent years. Yet, what actually is it?
In the past, the common marketing activities have one goal in common: push their messages as far and as wide as possible to reach as many prospects as possible. There are many ways to do this: TV advertising, billboards, advertorial on newspapers and magazines, attending trade shows, and so on. In essence, marketers push their content out to reach the customers, and that’s why we now refer to these traditional marketing activities as “outbound” marketing.
Yet, in this advanced age of the internet, customers behavior have shifted, and now most of us are getting more resistant to these outbound marketing activities, especially advertising. Also, thanks to the very saturated marketplace, it is now extremely hard to gain the customers’ trust, where even the biggest, most established companies are now struggling with this fact.
Inbound marketing is essentially content marketing paired with content promotion tactics, and especially SEO. It is now favored by many marketers due to the fact that it will tackle the two issues discussed above.
First, by regularly publishing content pieces and making them visible (through SEO among other efforts), you attract prospects inwards instead pushing your messages outwards. Second, publishing relevant, valuable, and high-quality content pieces is one of, if not the best way to establish your position as the expert in your niche/industry, and thus you can gain the customers’ trusts.
In inbound marketing, your content is just as, if not even more important than your main product or service. Your business is not only selling products, but also as an information provider to provide values to your customers.
To begin, you might want to check out this inbound marketing guide by Marketo.
2. Content Marketing
Above, we have mentioned how inbound marketing is essentially content marketing combined with SEO. Yet, content marketing is a pretty broad and deep subject by itself, and so we will discuss how to effectively utilize it in 2018 and onwards.
Develop Content for Human Readers
First, your content pieces should be valuable, unique, and relevant for real human readers, not only for the search engine algorithms. If you are already familiar with SEO, developing content solely for the purpose of ranking high at the search engines is probably your usual approach.
Yet, there are two reasons why it’s no longer working nowadays: Google’s Panda algorithm update back in 2011 no longer ranks sites with low-quality contents. Also, bounce rate is now a ranking signal (link to rankbrain article) while on the other hand, readers are getting smarter. Meaning, if your readers immediately bounce after reading a snippet of low-quality content, it won’t bring any value, SEO-wise and credibility-wise.
So, your content should include real, unique ideas that are comprehensive, well-written, and complex enough for human readers.
With the popularity of inbound marketing, comes another issue to the content marketing landscape: saturation. Thousands if not tens of thousands of content pieces are published every single day in various forms, and so it is now extremely hard to get our voice heard amidst all the clutter.
To tackle this issue, we must consistently provide content pieces that are immediately engaging, utilizing various forms of available media. Interactive, fun, and eye-catching content pieces can help extend your reach.
Use quizzes, interactive infographics, and other forms of interactivity to more effectively deliver your brand messages. Don’t be afraid to try something new, your limit is your own imagination.
Podcasts and Video Contents
Audio and video contents are now rising in popularity, so don’t be late in jumping the bandwagon. The main benefit of podcasts and videos is time: you can consume podcasts while driving or commuting to work, you can watch videos while you are on the gym, but the same thing can’t be said about written content.
Does this mean there won’t be a place for textual contents in the future? Not necessarily. Text-based content is still better at delivering in-depth information, and currently textual content pieces are still easier to optimize for SEO purposes.
The bottom line? Diversify your content forms, and again, be creative with your approaches.
3. SEO and Search Engine Marketing
What is the first thing we do when we are looking for information nowadays? Google search. In recent years, it is even more prominent since we have Google assistant and Siri on our smartphones, as well as Alexa and other smart home assistants. Every single day, over 4 billion searches are performed on Google, and if you are not optimizing your site, landing pages, and content for social media, you are missing out on a huge market.
There are two main ways in achieving this: optimizing our content organically, which we know as Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and placing advertisement on Google and/or other search engines, which we know as Search Engine Marketing (SEM) or PPC (Pay-Per-Click) Ads.
SEM can produce results in a relatively short-term basis, but it can be very expensive if we are targeting competitive keywords. SEO, on the other hand, is relatively affordable and can be totally free when done right but will require a long-term investment. Generally, we should invest 6-12 months of SEO efforts before seeing significant results (i.e. ranked top 3 on Google’s SERP).
The key here is to balance both options: build organic credibility through SEO while gaining short-term results through PPC ads, both with the proper cost management.
4. Social Media Marketing
There is no question that utilizing social media is a very effective tactic in an age where teenagers spend up to nine hours a day on social media. The question is, how to do that effectively.
The first thing to consider about social media marketing in 2018 is the fact that organic reach in various social media platforms is rapidly declining. So, most likely we have to turn into paid social options to have an effective reach. So, the key here is how to make the most of your investment.
Remember that different social media platforms will work better for certain niches/industries over the others. In general, Facebook and Instagram are slightly more effective in a B2C environment, although it’s still effective for B2B businesses. LinkedIn, however, is a fairly obvious choice for B2B, as also Twitter.
The main key to effective paid social media marketing is audience targeting: if you can identify the best possible audience for your business with the highest chance for conversions, you can make more with your investments. Check out this article by Neil Patel for more about paid social marketing.
Yet, does this mean organic social media marketing is dead? Not necessarily. There are still ways to increase organic social media reach, and you should use it in tandem with your paid social media to get more positive results.
5. Earned Media and Public Relations
How can we get our voice heard in a marketplace that is increasingly saturated? One of the best ways is to be mentioned by famous influencers or high-authority media that are followed by many people. Even when most of our marketing efforts are now digital, don’t underestimate the importance of digital PR.
Earned media, or sometimes called “free media” here is a publicity you “earned” through various efforts other than paid advertising, and especially through reputation, relationship, and credibility. Testimonials and reviews you earned on social media, word of mouth, mentions on television, radio, newspaper, and various online media can be categorized as earned media.
The main benefits of earned media for PR purposes are that it is affordable, if not “free”, and it is unsolicited, thus provide you with perceived credibility.
So how can we get these earned media? Unfortunately, there’s no easy way: you will have to slowly build reputation, credibility, and relationships with the right influencers and press. Check out this guide by Salted Stone covering some unique and effective earned media tactics.
6. Referral Marketing
One of, if not the best way to achieve exponential growth is to have a lot of people, including your customers to market your product/service as advocates. Yet, it is easier said than done, as even a lot of really good products fail to get viral.
However, we can artificially create the same effect with referral marketing, which in essence, is incentivizing people to market your product or service as referral marketers. We also often use other terms like “affiliate marketing”, “referral program”, or “partner program” among others to describe this tactic, but the essence remains the same.
The key to a successful referral marketing is your incentive, and rather how much you should offer. Offer too much, and you risk yourself getting low-quality referrals, and scammy referral marketers only looking for quick profit. Offer too little, and you might not get anyone at all. Finding the delicate balance can be tough, but you can check out a few successful examples to get a better idea.
When done right, however, referral marketing can be extremely effective in achieving both short and long-term growth.
7. Leveraging Influencers
While we have discussed influencers a bit when discussing earned media and PR above, influencer marketing deserved a section on its own due to its popularity and sheer effectiveness. Why should we utilize influencers? Because getting significant number of followers that trust you and will consume your content regularly can be difficult and/or will require years. These influencers have done that, and by leveraging them, you are essentially saving time (and money).
The key of a successful influencer marketing is, obviously, finding the right influencer for your business. However, it has its own difficulties, as not all high-quality influencers would want to cooperate with you for one reason or another.
First, don’t limit your options to celebrities and major influencers with millions of followers, even utilizing micro-influencers with thousands or tens of thousands of followers can be effective. Thankfully, there are many available tools that can help you in this process, and you should make the most of them for your benefits.
Another aspect of influencer marketing is relationship-building. As mentioned, not every influencer would want to promote your product/service, at least, not yet. By slowly building relationships and gaining their trusts, you can increase the likelihood of this happening. You might want to check out this whitepaper by Onalytica on influencer relations to help you further.
These seven marketing strategies we have discussed above are certainly not the only ones available, but they are certainly some of the most effective available. Remember that the success secret of any marketing strategy is to constantly monitor your progress. Even the best marketing strategies won’t always work in every single situation, so measure the right metrics, and adjust or refine your strategy when it’s necessary.