Since the millennium, digital marketing has become a part of how almost every company, from multi-national to sole trader, attracts new business.
For many, their strategy depends on their customers, with consumer marketing often engaged in sophisticated digital marketing. But should every business be paying more attention to their customers online in 2019?
We asked Sarah West, digital marketing expert and founder of East Anglia-based Full Mix Marketing, for her advice:
Find the right balance
Whilst many businesses make digital marketing their sole focus, others believe it provides fewer opportunities with their specific customers. The answer typically lies in-between.
If people are actively searching online for your product, a well-designed website, search engine optimisation (SEO) and digital advertising (PPC) can be highly effective. If what you deliver needs more introduction or explanation, resources might be better directed towards social media or offline marketing.
If you know who your target customers are, the best results often come from marketing directly to them. This has historically meant direct mail or print advertising but may now include digital methods like email and online display advertising.
The right mix of marketing should focus on whatever creates the greatest return. Customers don’t usually recall how they discovered your business, so blending digital, offline and direct marketing will likely remain the most powerful approach in 2019.
Use content effectively
With three-quarters of Brits active on social media it’s a very powerful tool.
Facebook remains a strong way to target consumers, though its demographic is aging and Instagram can be strong for under 35’s. Neither are particularly effective for targeting businesses.
Twitter has grown as a news source but requires more frequent posting as it displays most Tweets in chronological order. It can be used to target businesses too but is typically less effective than LinkedIn.
If you’re looking to reach company decision-makers, LinkedIn is often most productive. Businesses can’t invite users to connect to their page, so grow your personal following and share your business’s posts.
With the sheer increase in content, quality is critical in 2019. For consumers, content needs to be fun and engaging but relevant to your product. For businesses, overtly salesy messages are increasingly ignored. Reporting even minor developments from your business will be more effective at attracting genuine customers.
Video content was predicted to dominate online by 2020. It’s undoubtedly popular but growth has slowed as users still value the immediacy of text and images. Videos should be short and contain key messages within the first ten seconds.
Dress your shop window
Before developing your website, evaluate its importance in 2019.
Whatever your business, almost all potential customers will look you up online. Your website must meet their expectations and provide the information they need. If it’s old fashioned or difficult to use, they may think the same of your business.
If you’re actively seeking customers online, your website is a shop window and needs to be more appealing than your competitor next door.
However, before investing in a new website, use tools like Google Analytics and Google Keyword Planner to understand the number of visitors you are, or could be, attracting. A new website alone may not increase visitors but could improve sales conversion.
Content and functionality are almost always more important than looks. Over 50% of traffic is now from mobile devices so use your smartphone to evaluate your visitor’s experience.
Search Engine Optimisation is complex but the principles remain relatively simple in 2019. More than ever, Google, Bing and other search engines want to provide users with the very best content. There are three main factors:
The first is Structure. A high-ranking website opens quickly, displays securely on all devices and is easily understood by search engines.
The second is Relevance. A website with lots of appropriate content will appear higher in search results. Specific landing pages and fresh text like blogs will help but old-fashioned tactics, such as endlessly repeating keywords, can backfire.
Finally, Authority measures how respected your website is and is demonstrated by links from other websites. Blogs and press releases published by respected websites will help but excessive links from low-quality sites can be harmful.
Google AdWords may have become Google Ads but pay-per-click (PPC) advertising in search results remains highly effective. Again, quality management is key in 2019, as one website visitor who buys is worth hundreds who simply visit.
Conversion tracking is a good way to evaluate what works. Even if visitors are unable to buy on your website, you can track other behaviours to ensure you’re targeting the right searches.
Customers are unlikely to choose your product after just one visit. Remarketing displays an advert on other websites which visitors to your website subsequently see. It’s strong for boosting sales and can include HTML5 animated adverts.
Searching may not be the only way customers discover you online. Display, social media and affiliate advertising may also be an effective part of your digital strategy in 2019.
Despite GDPR regulatory changes, email remains a powerful part of digital marketing in 2019.
It’s no longer possible to target consumers without their prior permission but email is a great way to stay in your existing customers mind’s and maintain loyalty.
The rules for targeting businesses are largely unchanged. You can speculatively email businesses but you must provide an opt-out and be sure they have a ‘legitimate interest’. Keep your email’s title descriptive and include at least one piece of news. Open rates significantly reduce when business recipients believe an email is simply selling to them.
GDPR means direct mail can now be even more effective. Costs are higher than email but response and retention rates are typically higher too. Worth considering in 2019.