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According to Keith Weed, digital plays a fundamental role in any marketing-based activity – so much so that the term digital marketing, which sits as a niche function in an organization, is now much more defunct. It needs to play a central role in the way that we operate.
It’s really easy to understand the level of impact that you’re having from a digital perspective. Take banner adverts. You know exactly the number of people that have clicked through. You know the number of people that have gone and then purchased as a consequence of that click-through. So it’s very easy to follow the chain along to determine the extent to which your advert made an impact to the bottom line.
You can move from the research stage in the customer life cycle all the way through to purchase and engagement. So it’s much more easy to do quicker conversions and engage the customer across the life cycle.
For instance, if you’re selling an insurance-based product, it enables you to move from a price comparison website straight through to your site, fill in a quick number of details, and actually make that purchase quicker; as opposed to watching an advert, say, on traditional channels like television, where you may have to call up. The chances of someone doing that are much more remote versus the digital option. You also have the ability to engage customers in a robust way through digital channels. Email marketing is a great methodology to use for that.
You don’t have to look much further than Facebook or LinkedIn advertising to understand that you can really drill down into the key target segments that you want your advert to be seen too. For instance, you can segment it by job profile or where you’ve studied, perhaps, in addition to all the regular things like age, geography, and so on.
A test and learn campaign is where you test two creative outputs and have an understanding of which one works better than the other. The scientific name is A/B testing, something we’ll come on to shortly. Now, once you have an understanding about which creative works better, you can then allocate your marketing budget more effectively to that area.
It enables consumers themselves to share the content in an easy, accessible way and, therefore, expanding the reach and penetration that your marketing communication gives you. You have to look no further than things like the Ice Bucket Challenge just to see the viral nature of what digital communications give you over traditional ones. You can also have user-generated content. Now what this enables you to do is for consumers to interact and get in the mix of the type of message that you’re trying to drive through.
The previous example of the Ice Bucket Challenge is a great example of user-generated content. Think about the celebrities that then got involved, which then enabled family, friends, to be able to do the challenge themselves. This generated a much wider appeal, which was then shared across social media, which was a great advantage which could never have happened if it was using traditional communications alone.
You can track and understand the key people that are helping to spread your word. Using influencers as a way to try and gain greater reach is a must when it comes to digital communications. You’ve got people like bloggers or people who are constantly writing content marketing that enables you to get your word over, to get the reach of your communication over and above what you currently have.
From multinational organizations to small one-man bands, anyone can use some of the digital tools to actually extend your reach to your target audiences. It takes a relatively small financial commitment. For instance, you can set the levels of pay-per-click that you actually have on, say, Google, or you can set the limits of Facebook advertising. It essentially ensures that you don’t ever go over what you currently have as a budget.
Once someone shares or engages with your communications, say, on social media, it has the ability to go viral. This enables you to then basically expand the reach without actually having to incur any cost to the organization itself.
Think about an analytics tool like Google Analytics. You get a real insight into the type of audiences that are clicking on your website, for instance, drills down to things like demographics, age profiling, as well as attitudes. This gives you a much more in-depth understanding about the type of customers that are engaging with your product or service.
You can truly understand the end-to-end impact that you’re having across the customer journey with the variety of digital tools that you use. So you know exactly where your bottlenecks are. You know when and where customers are leaving your website, for example. And then you have the ability to do something about it for that specific stage of the journey.
Digital communications complement your existing online infrastructure and channels. A great example of this is that one used by Burberry. Burberry has got great social and digital presence. So much so that they’re trying to integrate digital into their in-store experience. So no matter where you start your journey, whether it’s their website or a mobile, when you go to make that purchase in-store, you feel like you’re walking through to their website. It’s a great example of trying to blend both the online and the offline world.
One of the key benefits of digital communications is that you can start with a small budget. You can scale up that budget based on a number of things. One, the level of revenue that that digital communication drives. And the second is the level of engagement that that communication is delivering for you as well. So, for instance, if you take a PPC campaign, a pay-per-click campaign, which then delivers you a certain amount of incremental value, you may want to take part of that incremental value and invest it back into the PPC channel because you know that it’s going to deliver you that additional element of revenue. You can also start to evolve your digital communications approach.
Small businesses, for example, may set up small, simple things like Facebook pages. You then have an ability, once that’s effective and you’re gaining more fans and likes and shares, to be able to evolve that approach. Maybe the next stage is Facebook advertising? Or perhaps what you may want to do is start to develop small viral videos that can be then introduced onto YouTube. So you can start small and evolve that strategy as the momentum builds.
The beauty about the evolution is it doesn’t just have to come from you. You can get user-generated content to actually help that process of evolution along as well. The channel approach needs to be conducive for the creative that you’re developing. So make sure that when you’re evolving your digital strategy that your creative always matches or marries up to the channel that you’re trying to drive it through. The classic example is that there’s no point developing a five-minute video if you’re trying to put it on TV. The converse is true when thinking about TV communications or adverts now no longer being relevant for, say, a YouTube audience. So there’s the way that we need to think about this in a holistic way where message needs to also marry up to communication channel.
Digital communications enable you to integrate, integrate across multiple channels. Now the major advantage of this integration is it enables you to be more targeted and also develop a campaign which complements traditional channels. So, for instance, the many TV campaigns where you have a short, 30-second advert which then have an elongated advert which is then posted on YouTube. The classic example of the Super Bowl is a good one. Whereas 10, 15 years ago, delivering a TV campaign online was a very secretive thing, and if the advert was leaked prior to the engagement, it would actually be quite a disaster for the organization. But now, in today’s world, it actually is an advantage to leak some of the key communications across your digital media before it then gets released on Super Bowl day because it helps people to get acclimatized to the campaign. Also, it fits very nicely into the storytelling concept that we spoke about as part of the digital planning process.
A study done by Econsultancy talks about some of the key challenges that have been raised by organizations when trying to implement a digital strategy. S
You need to get resource agreement. It’s really important that senior managers recognize the importance of actually having an integrated digital communications approach when thinking about their channel mix.
They may see you as a bit of a threat. One way to overcome it is by actually suggesting that the approach should be integrated in a robust way. It’s not about substitution. It’s about complement.
You need to be able to execute a digital strategy in a robust way. It takes more time and resource than ever once thought. In fact, people always charmed the quote that social media was free. Actually, there’s a variety of different things that need to come together to create an effective strategy. We’ll get onto that as part of this module later on. Finding digital talent is another major area to be able to overcome when thinking about your digital communications approaches. Given it’s a relatively new area, a lot of the time there isn’t a lot of individuals who have got an in-depth understanding about digital in its entirety. Often what you end up having is different specialisms, an SEO specialist, a PPC specialist. And as a consequence of that, it becomes very difficult to integrate them all together. So you must make sure that you have enough skills within your team to be able to pull off a great digital communications plan.
Make sure that you have the right help and support you need to be able to execute this in a robust way. Using your agencies wisely is a really important thing to do when thinking about your comms plan. Often they do have the skills and expertise to be able to overcome some of the shortfalls about finding staff in-house to be able to deliver a great communications approach.Back to Top
Ritchie Mehta has had an eight-year corporate career with a number of leading organizations such as HSBC, RBS, and Direct Line Group. He then went on setting up a number of businesses.
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ABOUT THIS DIGITAL MARKETING MODULE
This module begins by covering the benefits and challenges associated with digital communications and the importance of researching and selecting the most appropriate digital channels to reach and engage with your target audience. It covers the tools and digital PR activities you can use to extend your reach on social media, content management, the factors to consider when creating a budget for a digital campaign, resourcing a digital team, and the importance of aligning digital metrics with customer service metrics to review the performance of a digital campaign.