Digital marketing is becoming more and more important. While traditional marketing still has its place, the ability to track a user’s behavior at the point of contact is giving advertisers a better understanding of how their audience receives the content and message being presented. Digital advertising platforms can provide numerous benefits and insights, but as the tide changes and digital becomes the core of a business’s marketing strategy, sending the same message to every user in the digital space isn’t likely to lead to success.

Done well, online advertising can be highly effective. It can also be immensely complex, and many companies are struggling to understand how their marketing efforts need to change to adapt to the world of social media and Search Engine Marketing (SEM). Here are a few important things to consider when developing new digital marketing initiatives.

 

Digital Marketing is About Building Relationships

All advertising should help develop a brand, promote brand awareness and reflect the organization’s values. The difference is that traditional advertising channels, like television or print, only allow an advertiser to choose their audience based on what they are currently doing. This often means that the ad will need a more general appeal and the metrics for success will be more closely connected to end goal completion, like making a purchase.

To create more engaging and effective digital ads, goal funnels are used to identify behaviors that indicate that a user is closer to making a purchase. Rather than creating campaigns that are designed to generate immediate revenue, digital marketing specialists understand that not every user is at the same point of the goal conversion funnel. Some users are ready to make a purchase, while others may be interested, but require more time or information before they reach that point.

Asking the latter group for a sale will likely not be very effective and creates a binary choice that can push users in that group away from a company’s offerings by seeming pushy or irrelevant. By identifying checkpoints in each buyer’s journey, marketers can provide a message or content that addresses the needs of the users in each funnel stage more effectively. This allows progress to be made incrementally, so campaigns can be created to help move a user closer to the goal over time. By listening to the information generated by user behavior, advertisers can use this opportunity to develop brand preference in users who are not yet ready to purchase, while still working to convert the users who are. By providing interesting, entertaining or valuable content at each point of interaction with a user, a company can make immediate sales to ready buyers, while staying visible and relevant to everyone else. This is effective for building future business and improving individual user experiences, which can lead to brand advocacy and customer loyalty.

 

Personalized User Experiences

As advertisers begin to focus their attention on the internet, audiences in the digital space are constantly being bombarded with advertisements from a variety of sources. With so much competition for a user’s attention, the expectations for user experience are increasing, making it harder than ever to find a single message that will be appealing to all user groups.

Today’s users expect every interaction with a brand to be meaningful and personalized to their needs. It is very easy for users to scroll past ads that don’t provide a clear benefit to the individual user, especially when an ad is competing with pictures of puppies and babies on social media platforms. Since many digital platforms charge by the view, a “one-size-fits-all” approach to messaging can lead to wasted budget and poor results. So how can digital advertisers be sure they are putting the right message in front of every user, every time?

 

Audience Segmentation and Buyer Personas

One of the main differences, and most powerful advantages, in digital marketing is audience segmentation. Most advertising platforms offer ways to separate an audience into smaller groups, which allows an advertiser to concurrently gather and analyze data for the whole audience, as well as for each separate group.

By monitoring this data, advertisers can use Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to identify commonalities between users who are more/less likely to take a desired action. Over time, audience segments can be developed into buyer personas. Buyer personas are well-defined groups of individuals who have common interests, perspectives and/or challenges. Once an advertiser has identified a buyer persona, they can start to better understand the most common motivations for users in that group to engage with the company and provide content that is timely and offers a solution that fit their needs or personality.

 

Best Practice for Digital Marketing: Be Dynamic

This is a great segue into another important difference between digital marketing and traditional marketing: many digital campaigns will continuously improve over time, provided there is a clear digital strategy and strong process for optimization in place.

With so much information available to advertisers, every part of a digital campaign can and should be optimized regularly. This means that most campaigns will change drastically over time, so a great digital marketing plan will be very different from a more static, traditional marketing plan. This can be one of the biggest hurdles to overcome, as it requires a new approach to strategy and budget planning.

The transition to advertising on social media and SEM platforms has started to close the gap between marketing and data science. To maximize Return on Investment (ROI), digital advertisers allow the data to drive optimization. User behavior provides clear indications to determine what works and what needs improvement. The difference between success and failure is often in the process that an advertiser employs to reach their goals over time.

 

A/B Testing for Personalized Messaging

Individual users in an audience can be very different, and those differences can change the user’s reaction to an ad or creative asset. Geographical location, age group, gender, religious and political belief systems, and cultural dynamics all have a huge effect on how an audience will receive a message, or even what message they will receive from any piece of information. For example, a younger user in California likely has different personal beliefs and a different sense of humor than an older user in Arkansas. Advertisers must consider not only messaging, but also the tone and voice of the message, including choice of words or expressions.

This is where an established testing process can be invaluable. Digital advertisers know they can gain actionable intelligence more efficiently by evaluating one audience’s reaction to multiple messages or creative assets. By continuously generating new hypotheses and testing them appropriately, audiences can be segmented more effectively, user experiences can be improved and success can be achieved more quickly.

 

Summary

Marketing has always evolved to incorporate new technologies, and digital marketing is the newest frontier. Digital marketing still requires all the creativity that has driven traditional marketing, but it also gives advertisers vast amounts of information that was previously unavailable. This is a powerful advantage, but it also requires a complete change in the fundamental understanding of marketing theory if a business wants to stay relevant.

Advertisers who embrace this new approach by developing a more scientific process for analyzing and leveraging this information will be more successful in providing valuable, interesting or entertaining messages to each of their audiences. Advertisers who don’t will largely get stuck in the past and quickly left there.

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