- What is Integrated Digital Marketing?
- What’s an Appropriate Budget?
- Overview of Services Provided
- Value of Integrated Digital Marketing Approach
What is Integrated Digital Marketing?
Integrated digital marketing is the merging of various digital sub-disciplines into a cohesive online strategy for developing a market for products or services. Many small business owners think that tossing together a website using Wix, Squarespace, or one of the many other drag and drop website builders is enough to reach customers in the online channel. These sites are a great way to provide customers who are explicitly seeking your business a way to get information and contact you. The convenience and reduced monetary cost these websites offer often comes at the price of poor search optimization or damage to the brand’s reputation from a poorly built site. You should not expect to generate any leads or new business from these types of sites – it’s simply not enough to throw a basic website online and expect it to become a sales engine, leads engine, or even brand awareness tool. To reach customers, generate leads, and generate return on digital expenditures, an integrated digital marketing strategy is essential. What this means is integrating various sub-disciplines into a comprehensive marketing strategy in the digital channel. These sub-disciplines include:
- Web Design
- Web Development
- Content Marketing
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
- Conversion Optimization
- Social Media
- Reputation Management
- Graphic Design
That’s a lot to consider, especially when working on a small business budget. The good news is that many of these sub disciplines have flexibility in the degree in which you can focus on them, while still achieving positive results. A plan that considers all of them can be tailored to match your budget and business needs.
What’s an Appropriate Budget?
If you’ve read this far chances are you’ve recognized the need to develop an integrated digital marketing strategy and may be wondering what an appropriate amount to spend on digital investment is. There’s much to consider when answering that question, but some general guidelines are to spend between 7% and 15% of annual revenues on marketing and 50% of that spend should go to the digital channel. Business with relatively stable demand for commoditized products such as auto parts may spend closer to 7% in order to keep price competitive, but businesses with variable demand or non-commoditized products should consider spending closer to 15%.
For instance a realtor with $120,000 in gross revenues spending 10% on marketing should spend around $12,000 on marketing and 50% of that should go to the online channel, or $6,000. A clothing boutique company grossing 1 million dollars and spending 10% of revenues on marketing and 50% in the online channel should spend $50,000. If you’re in year one of your journey to an integrated digital marketing strategy, expect to spend at least $5,000 dollars on a website to serve as the funneling and conversion point in the digital channel. That means you should have at least $100,000 in gross revenues or have allocated money as part of startup costs.
Overview of Services Provided
Many services can be provided as part of an integrated digital marketing plan, but the cornerstone of these is a quality website. If you currently have a website built in one of the lower tier website builders, the first step is to upgrade to a more sophisticated platform in order to perform more advanced optimizations for search engines and integration with other services such as social media and email marketing platforms. WordPress powers nearly 30% of all websites on the internet and is the recommended platform to use for your website. Once a website is in place you can start to build out a network of funnels to it using social media, organic search traffic, advertising, and more. Below is a high level overview of some of the services provided as part of an integrated digital marketing strategy.
Website design is the art and process of selecting the design for how your website will appear, be organized, and function to the end user. For those on a budget, this is one of the best areas to pinch a penny. Template designs are available to match almost every need imaginable that can be selected and tweaked to fit your branding. Companies with a high budget, unique needs, and in a highly competitive space where differentiation is key may seek a custom design. Website design also includes considerations such as user experience design, and information architecture that can range from simple to highly complex considerations, depending on the needs and footprint of the site.
A visually appealing design with an elegant user experience and an information architecture are all great, but you still need someone with the skills to develop the website for you. This is one area where you do not want to pinch pennies. There is a lot more that goes into the building of a website than what is seen on the screen and a good thing to remember is that search engines are blind. The visual aspect of building a website is important for your human visitors, but internet marketing websites have to consider additional factors such as performance, mobile friendliness, search engine optimization, extendability, and scalability. These considerations are often code related and require customization’s that won’t be immediately apparent to an inexperienced developer. When engaging a company to develop an integrated digital marketing strategy, this will be one of the key components of their services.
“Content is King”
In the now famous article written in 1996, Bill Gates predicted the importance of content as an internet marketing tool. It’s absolutely critical for businesses seeking to engage customers in the digital channel to have a content marketing plan in place. Content is the text, images, videos, and other items found on a web page that your customers, read, watch, or otherwise interact with. Some visitors may come to your site simply to grab a phone number or an address, and we certainly want to provide them with that information in a quickly accessible manner. Other visitors however, are coming to research your products and services, engage with your brand, and consume your content. It’s important to have content on your website for people to engage with since it gives them a reason to visit, and it’s a great way to show them that you are an expert in your domain and can fulfill their needs. In today’s world nearly anyone can teach themselves to do anything, but they are still constrained by time and ambition, so they will still pay other people to complete work for them. Developing content that demonstrates the value you can provide is one of the foundations of driving new visitors, and therefore new leads, to your website and is an essential part of integrated digital marketing services.
You can’t go too wrong with creating useful content for your visitors but there are technical considerations past what is actually produced which can make the content much more valuable. For example, search engines like content to be structured a certain way, contain an appropriate amount of links, and be focused on a topic. Content that conforms to search engine expectations has a higher likelihood of getting a favorable ranking and therefore driving additional traffic to your site. Content creation is a service that a firm can assist you with – they will advise you on or handle these considerations on your behalf. There are strong relationships between content marketing and our next sections on inbound searches.
Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization or SEO is the process of making a website easily readable by search engines. SEO is important because search engines like Google and Bing consider how well a site is optimized when ranking the order of search results. Higher ranking in search results is strongly correlated to “clicks” and traffic to your website. Google considers over 200 ranking factors when determining where to place your site in search results. Some of these are controllable and can be optimized, and some of them are not. Search engine optimization is closely related to website development but is a distinct skill. In fact, this is one of the most critical services that drag and drop website builders fall short on. Experienced web masters understand how to apply web development techniques to give your site a positive appearance to search engines.
Search Engine Marketing
Search Engine Marketing or SEM for short is the practice of marketing to search engines. Search engine marketing is often confused as a technical skill, and although most of the day to day work is done using technology products, successful search marketers know that it’s all about using technology to apply marketing fundamentals. Let’s take moment to review the four P’s of marketing.
In the world of search engine marketing, you are always selling one thing; a single web page and its content. Search engine results show up as a series of clickable links that will take your prospects to a single web page. One mistake business owners make with regard to using their website as a marketing tool is that they think of their site as a whole. The right way to think about search engine marketing is to think about how an individual page compares to other pages discussing the topic. Search engines do consider the quality of your overall site as part of ranking, but you can think of site level factors as a little bit of extra credit that gets added to the ranking of a single page.
This one’s pretty easy: your customer (the searcher) doesn’t incur any costs to purchase your product (click your link in the results page) so the price is free. Building quality content that ranks well in search engines is no trivial feat, but it’s an essential component of driving people to your website where you can try to convince them to browse additional pages and make purchases or talk about your brand. You can think of efforts to develop pages that bring traffic to your website as loss leaders.
Place is also pretty standard, your engaging with your customers on search engines. It is important to consider which search engines you are targeting and understand the nuances of how they rank pages. For the United States, Google and Bing are the most significant search engines. In Japan, for example, Yahoo is a significant player and in China, Baidu is the market leader.
One critical aspect of developing a web page is determining which keywords you want the page to rank for, which can be thought of as where you are promoting it. Competition for pages trying to rank for keywords can range from uncontested to incredibly fierce. The keywords a 5-employee business with a small website can feasibly target are far different than what a 500-person company with an established aged website and existing web traffic can target. You can use paid advertising on search engines to overcome this hurdle, but you should have a firm grasp on your cost to acquire a customer, their lifetime value from acquisition, and a strategy to convert them into a customer once they hit your landing page. Use paid search marketing with care. If you decide to use paid marketing, service firms can help you develop ads, manage spend, and develop landing pages for specific campaigns. Integrated digital marketing companies have experience with a wide variety of tools and tactics to target keywords and create campaigns you can be successful with. Companies like Tortoise and Hare Software can help you develop an appropriate promotional strategy for given keywords.
Conversion optimization is the iterative process of developing landing pages and multi-page customer funnels for the express purpose of converting them. A conversion objective may be something such as purchasing a product, but it can also be something like building an audience in the form of driving visitors to sign up for a newsletter or share something with their social network. There is strong overlap with user experience design here, but an advantage of engaging a marketing firm is that they can use analytics tools to monitor website traffic and find ways to drive additional conversions. Marketers develop hypothesis and use tactics like AB tests to make minor tweaks to a page or funnel that can drive incremental conversions. AB tests require some setup from a technical perspective, but are highly effective. AB tests show 50% of your traffic page A and 50% of your traffic a slightly modified version of the page, page B, and analyze conversions rates and other metrics to see if page A or B performs better. Conversion optimization is as much art as it is science and is one of the more advanced tactics employed in an integrated digital marketing strategy.
It’s important to have a social media presence for your brand so you can engage customers in a more casual manner. Consumers like to see that the brands they are purchasing from are more than just an exchange of value. Charitable contributions, volunteer work, and eco-conscious activities are all great things to showcase on social media networks. Care must be used when using social media, each platform has its own set of customs and appropriate ways in which to build a rapport with customers. Reddit, for example, is a great place to share thought provoking blog content that generates discussion. The ability for redditors to “down vote” posts can get ‘spammy’ and, obviously, promotional materials downvoted to the point where your account gets banned, are a risk – redditors are a ruthless bunch. Similarly, static text-based content is relatively unwelcome on a platform like Facebook. Although there is no down-vote button, posts that are not liked in the sampling of audience they are provided to are quickly reduced in visibility, rendering your efforts moot. Search engines consider the success of social media efforts when ranking pages. Building authority on social media pages that point back to your website is a great way to build a traffic funnel. Navigating these platform specific customs and developing a plan of which social networks to use for your brand are part of the services provided by an integrated digital marketing services firm.
For certain businesses, online reviews can be the difference between tropical vacations and Christmas gifts for the kids, or going out of business. We know the robo-calls from 3rd party companies prompting you to claim your business listings are frustrating, but there can be a lot of value in claiming listings, and monitoring online reviews posted. Consumers like seeing companies gracefully responding to the occasional negative review and rectifying issues like product defects almost as much as they like seeing glowing 5-star reviews. Monitoring review sites such as Yelp, Google, and Glassdoor and controlling the dialogue on them is a service integrated digital marketing firms provide that lets you focus on what you do best: delivering quality products and services to your customers. Keep in mind that inflammatory negative consumers will find ways to complain publicly about your business for almost any reason imaginable if enough time goes by. You work hard and take a lot of pride in your business; reputation management handled by a 3rd party that has emotional investment in your business, but not quite the propensity to take negative feedback personally can be a valuable tool. Acknowledging discontent and apologizing for inconveniences experienced in a graceful manner is a task best suited for a 3rd party. Timely response is also a key component of reputation monitoring. Integrated digital marketing firms can configure alerts to detect brand mentions and respond accordingly.
Not all reputation concerns are found in online reviews. It’s important to ask for feedback from your customers periodically in the form of customer satisfaction surveys. Integrated digital marketing firms can schedule, conduct these surveys, review the results, and report back to you with findings. Reputation management is a great way to identify areas of improvement for your business. Collecting feedback and making incremental improvement in the ways you serve your customers attracts new business and allows you to grow into your goals. Take control of your reputation!
There’s never a lack of need for graphics marketing. When people think of graphic designers, they typically think of logos. While logo design is a key service that they provide, they also contribute in many other areas of an integrated digital marketing strategy. Some of the overlooked services that graphic designers can provide are:
- Website Design
- Creation of Info-graphics
- Banner design
- Brochure design
- Display advertising design
- Resizing of images for various platform needs
- Print media graphics
- Promotional flyers
- Landing page graphics
Graphics can accentuate most promotional materials and content leveraged in your integrated digital marketing plans, and good plans include releasing content and engaging with customers at regular intervals. Graphic design services are one of the core services provided by integrated digital marketing firms.
So far, we’ve covered many areas of the digital ecosystem that can work together to create an integrated digital marketing strategy which can generate organic traffic, and therefore leads over time. One of the key ways that search engines, social media platforms, and consumers view authority and trust of a brand is how long it has been in business. Marketing efforts and services described above are a great way to build business over time and start to generate compounding returns on investment. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush though and businesses need revenue flowing in today to take advantage of results of tomorrow. One of the best ways to supplement organic digital marketing efforts is by paid advertising. Rest assured there is a digital advertising platform out there that your customers are trafficking, and you can reach them with a budget. Some sample advertising platforms include:
- Google AdWords
- Yellow Pages
- Angie’s List
Unfortunately, there is little standardization in the interfaces between platforms and each one has its own custom built interface for you to learn. One reason to engage a services firm is that they will have experience using these platforms, so they will understand how to navigate the interface and develop advertisements that convert impressions into clicks. Integrated digital marketing firms can help you select the appropriate mix of platforms, create advertisements, and create landing pages that help you maximize the return on advertising spend.
Value of Integrated Digital Marketing Approach
As you can see there are many digital areas that need attention when building a marketing plan in the online channel for your business. These include:
- A standalone website
- Search engines
- Social media platforms
- Review platforms
- Advertising platforms
Efforts in these digital areas combine to make a much more effective marketing and sales engine than dedicating efforts to one or a handful of areas. The amount of time spent learning platforms and refining the efforts can be quite overwhelming for smaller businesses leading to ineffective results and low return on investment. Economies of scale can be achieved by outsourcing marketing functions to firms with specialized expertise in this area. Taking an integrated approach to digital marketing is highly advisable since the messaging spread across the various platforms needs to be synced up and working in synergy to communicate to your customers and convince them to engage with your brand. Scaling up in-house marketing teams for medium and large companies is also only advisable to a point as marketing budgets are usually one of the first things cut, at least temporarily, in a downturn. Outsourced marketing spend on teams is easier to scale up and scale down with changing business conditions. Working with an integrated digital marketing firm that understands your business, your digital needs, and history on platforms can be a tremendous asset that benefits both companies as they continue to work together to grow.
If you’d like to learn more contact Tortoise and Hare Software today to schedule a consultation and learn more about our service offerings. If we can’t meet your needs, we will help you select an appropriate vendor to set you up for success. Thanks for reading!