You’ve heard that online marketing is the way of the future. You know that you need to get your business online, grow your presence, and start using digital channels to grow brand recognition and turn tire-kickers into bona fide customers.

The only problem is, you have no idea where to start, and when you hear things like “digital marketing channels” and “digital marketing strategy”, you feel a mild panic come on, and see dollar signs flashing before your eyes!

There are two pieces of good news for you: digital channels aren’t nearly as complicated as you think they are, and digital marketing has the best return on investment, dollar for dollar, of any kind of marketing and advertising out there. So, read on. Here’s what you need to know.

Online marketing is a very broad topic. Consider the term “print media.” You could be talking about anything from books to magazines, or brochures to company profiles.

What are digital channels?

When we talk about digital channels, we’re also talking about different types of online advertising, which might include:

  • Your own website
  • Other websites, like directories or industry news sites
  • Social networks
  • Search engines, including paid advertising and SEO
  • Direct communications like email and apps
  • Events, like webinars and live video streaming
  • Other types of video streaming services
  • Games and online tools
  • Downloadable content like eBooks

All of these types of online advertising are distinct, but they all work together to create your online presence, funnel leads to your website, nurture them, and eventually, turn them into customers.

Digital Channels for Ecommerce

If you sell online, either as a standalone online store or as some kind of “click and mortar” hybrid, your goals with your digital channels will be slightly different.

Since you are hoping to end your interaction with your visitors with a sale, you will be doing a lot more of the sales process online, and that means you need to focus more on building relationships.

Tools like email marketing, social media, viral videos and your own content, as well as affiliates or referral programs, are likely to be your most successful digital marketing channels.

The digital channels you use to generate trust and interest in your online store don’t have to be complicated or particularly costly. For instance, upwards of 60% of online shoppers say that a company blog or some other type of customer-focused content influences their buying choices.

But remember just like real-world sales, most customers to have contact with your brand several times before they make a buying decision and bringing repeat customers back will always be cheaper and easier than finding new ones.

So if you choose only one digital channel for your eCommerce store, focus on email marketing.

Digital Channels For Ecommerce

Digital Channels for B2B

Unlike eCommerce, online marketing for B2B doesn’t focus on making an online sale. It focuses on making a good impression on corporate decision-makers, growing your credibility, and convincing them to contact your sales team when they are ready to ask for quotes on their project.

Email marketing is still an important part of the digital channel bouquet for B2B sales, but while it can help to bring existing customers back to you if you want to grow your customer base, there are better choices. Some of the areas you will want to focus your attention are:

  • Developing a killer website
  • Marketing on professional social networks, like LinkedIn
  • Content marketing, which is tailor-made for cementing your reputation as an expert in your field
  • SEO and SEM – improving the reach of your website by organic and paid marketing strategies

Digital Channels for B2B

Not only do you want to reach more, targeted traffic, and bring them to your website, when they get there, you want to convince them that you’re their best choice. Most B2B customers want to buy from people who are the most knowledgeable and offer the best value, so use digital channels to show them that you are, and you do.

Which Channels Are the Most Effective? 

It would be wonderful if you could find the definitive answer to which marketing channels work best, but the truth is, it depends on a lot of things, including the type of business, your industry, the age and interests of your target customer, and plenty of other factors.

However, there are studies that show the average effectiveness of different digital marketing channels, and you might find your results are somewhat similar:

  • Websites are over 60% effective. This is why we always say that if you’re getting started, a great website is the first thing you need. You will be sending all the traffic from your other channels there, and even if you kill it everywhere else, if your website isn’t doing its job properly, you won’t get results.
  • Email marketing is still over 50% effective. Yes, you need to get people to opt-in, and yes there are a lot more rules than there used to be but being able to reach out and remind people what you do and can offer is invaluable.
  • Social media is nearly 50% effective. People want to buy from brands they like and connect with these days. So be that brand. Find your tribe and engage with them.
  • Organic search is over 30% effective. So, if you’re not already leveraging content marketing to the hilt, it’s time to start!
  • Paid search, mobile and display ads all bring up the rear, interestingly. Which means that if you spend more time focusing on organic marketing strategies, SEO and content, and don’t blow your budget on paid advertising, you’re likely to get better results, and more bang for your buck.

There’s an art and a science to figuring out who your customers are, what they want, and how you can give it to them, but using digital channels to communicate those things is one of the best ways to spend your marketing budget, bar none. In fact, in every study you will read, the ROI on online, digital and inbound marketing strategies absolutely destroys traditional methods. There’s just no comparison.

Online PR as a Digital Channel

One area that many people ignore or miss (but that offers great returns in terms of brand building and reach), is online PR.

Online PR is about finding ways to share your brand message that isn’t paid advertising. Think guest blogging on industry-leading sites, digital press and media releases, contributing to a popular podcast, or even outsourcing your social media customer service so that it knocks your customers’ socks off.

PR, even online, is closely related to marketing and advertising, but it’s a little different. It’s about getting people and brands who already have the influence to mention and promote your brand, and whether you’re a brand new business or looking to grow your customer base, there’s nothing more powerful than having someone who is already trusted and respected talk about you.

Online PR as a digital channel

The Digital Channel Web 

You might have already noticed that digital channels, while they are standalone options, all come together to form a sort of web. This web or “funnel” helps you to find new prospects, directs them to your online properties, and uses content and “personality” to grow relationships.

Your digital channels, when set up correctly, will then lead your prospects to your website, and show them new and interesting things about you. It’ll keep them coming back, again and again, until they are ready to enquire about your services, and then it will make it easy to make the choice to buy.

Even after they have bought once, digital channels like social media and email marketing will keep customers coming back, with special offers, and deals they just can’t refuse, and if you’ve done a great job of all of this, it’ll turn them into part of the process, by prompting them to leave a great review of your business, product and service.

It Takes Time, But It’s Worth It! 

 Like most types of online marketing, choosing the right digital channels, and perfecting your use of them, can take time. There’s a learning curve, and finding the right channels, learning what to say and how to say it, when to post, and how to link everything together to get the best bang for your buck won’t happen overnight.

However, unlike a newspaper ad, that will be garbage the day after it’s published, or a radio ad, that is gone as soon as it’s over, using digital channels to grow your brand is cumulative, and the steps you take today will still be working for you tomorrow, next week, and next year.

Every blog post. Every new member you attract to your social networks. Every new subscription to your newsletter, they are all growing a captive audience that you can tap into whenever you want to, to promote whatever you need to. What other marketing option can offer that?

If you’re completely unsure where to start (and how to get started), there are also affordable outsourcing options, like working with Polkadot Communications, that can kick start your digital channels, attract new visitors, fans and friends, and help to set up automated marketing systems and strategies to turn them into loyal customers.

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