Let’s face it, a lot of people are hurting. The declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic and the panic that followed turned countless lives upside down. Not only have restaurants and retailers been affected but also lawyers, financial advisors, churches, schools, real estate agents, local and federal government agencies, and the list goes on.
The future is more uncertain than ever, and many people feel confused about what to do. If you’re among them, you are not alone. Speaking as a digital marketing veteran and entrepreneur, with a long history of helping businesses succeed, the way forward is through digital marketing.
This is not a new idea.
You see, before COVID-19, many rightly viewed online marketing as the most cost-effective, measurable way to connect effectively with a huge audience, outperform competitors, and create brand loyalty.
The current (and likely ongoing) crisis has acutely emphasized the importance of marketing digitally and accelerated the urgency to change with the times.
Why Digital Marketing Matters More Than Ever
Digital marketing is about more than selling. It’s about building relationships, reaching out to your audience, and letting them know you’re there for them. Especially now, when many are struggling emotionally with the lockdown, you want to forge genuine connections with those you serve.
Digital marketing’s proven tactics facilitate communication that helps your audience navigate change with more peace of mind.
While the pandemic has created many difficulties, the conditions for online marketing success are in place. For example, organic traffic for the finance, food, healthcare, media, and pharmacy industries has increased. If you’re in one of these fields, digital marketing can help you make the most of the increased interest in your space.
But even if you’re not in one of these industries, you can benefit from the rise in traffic by placing ads on sites where people read about finance, healthcare, and so on. This can increase your visibility and improve your chances of acquiring new business.
What’s more, advertising on sites in markets where traffic has decreased can increase your opportunity to connect with customers. Because fear of economic uncertainty propels many businesses to cut their ad spend. This means there may be less competition for valuable advertising space.
Also, according to Statista, time spent worldwide on social media due to the coronavirus has increased by 21%. So, here’s your chance to make rewarding and valuable connections.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) Supercharges Digital Marketing
AI continues to advance, and many successful brands, such as Amazon and Spotify, use it to improve their marketing strategies. AI allows you to show only relevant products to consumers based on their previous searches, purchase history, and views. This can increase the chances of them making an initial or repeat purchase.
The ability to collect, analyze, apply, and react to data makes AI a fantastic engine for improving customer service, email marketing, digital advertising, and marketing content. All while providing valuable customer insights to help you make better decisions. Bottom line, whatever the size of your business, digital marketing tools and technologies allow you to create the meaningful content experiences that today’s consumers expect.
Yet many organizations, out of fear or lack of knowledge, are holding back. I encourage you to be bold and take action, to ask for guidance if needed, so that you can benefit from the bounce-back that will surely come.
Here are some other important reasons to market digitally now:
The Most Cost-Effective Way to Market Your Business
Traditional marketing channels, such as TV, print, radio, newspapers, magazines, and billboards, are very expensive. The recurring costs may require a huge investment because, chances are, your target audience won’t see your ad the first time it runs.
For a small business with a limited budget, competing for ad space may truly seem impossible. And for a large, cost-conscious business, it doesn’t make sense to spend money unnecessarily.
Consider a national, full-page print ad in the Wall Street Journal. It may cost $110,000–$250,000 for a single day. The difference in price between a full-page print ad and a series of precisely targeted Facebook ads can be so great that it isn’t worth mentioning.
Drawn to the attractive pricing, US advertisers are spending more on digital than traditional advertising. According to eMarketer: “In 2019, US advertisers will spend $129.34 billion, or 54.2% of their media ad budgets, on digital ads. By 2023, that figure will reach 66.8%.”
In short, digital marketing is an affordable way to drive your desired outcomes – increased revenue and/or increased visibility.
The Most Measurable Form of Marketing
Unless you measure your marketing, you can only guess what’s working. This is a major downside for traditional marketing. Who watched your TV ad? Were they in the kitchen when it ran? What about your print ad? Did the reader share it with a friend? How would you know?
With digital marketing analytics, you can see how your ads are performing. You can repeat what’s working and modify or retire what isn’t. Being able to make adjustments that lead to greater campaign success is a huge digital marketing benefit.
Aligns with the Way People Buy Today
Today’s buyers are sophisticated and very digital savvy. Thanks to giants like Amazon, AI-driven technologies such as chatbots, and the rise of customer-centric branding, your customers expect to be wowed by a superior buying experience.
What’s more, the vast majority begin their purchasing journey online. They’re scrolling on social media, reading reviews, and deciding to choose you based on how you look, what you say, and what others say about you.
In 2019, Digital Commerce 360 reported that 60% of Millennials did their shopping online, and the results (below) from an online survey show that 93% of home buyers between July 2017 and June 2018 searched for a home in the US using online websites.
Digital marketing allows you to reach customers exactly where they are, with targeted, relevant messages that can make you very influential.
Helps You Target More Effectively
Think of the readers of your magazine ad. Who are they? What do they want? Why do they want it? You have a general idea because you know who the publication targets. But that leaves a lot of room for error.
For example, the readers of a travel magazine may include a wide range of ages, viewpoints, and interests. How are you going to please them all? How are you going to speak to them in words that inspire them to take your desired action?
Although there are ways to target customers more narrowly with traditional marketing, nothing beats online marketing when it comes to precise targeting. Digital marketing technology helps you identify keywords that are most likely to attract your market. Powerful analytics tools track user behavior on your website and elsewhere. This greatly facilitates optimal targeting, which is vital to marketing success.
A Proven Way to Reach Your Ideal Buyers
Why gamble on billboard or radio ads that go out to everyone when you can reach users that are searching the web for what you provide? For example, with SEO, when a consumer searches for medical doctor Atlanta, the page on your website that includes these words can show up in the Google search engine results pages (SERPs).
Pay-per-click, display, and social ads allow you to divide your market into segments and serve them targeted, personalized ads based on demographics, search behavior, pages viewed, and much more. This increases the likelihood that consumers will be interested in your content.
To sum it up, you’re much more likely to capture the interest of your ideal buyers with digital marketing.
Allows You to Quickly Adjust Your Campaign Elements
The beauty of digital marketing is flexibility. You can quickly change or modify various campaign elements to target more effectively and improve campaign performance. Take, for example, a landing page. You can easily test two landing pages to see which achieves the most conversions.
Headline A? Or headline B? Call-to-action A? Or call-to-action B? The green buy button or the blue buy button?
As for ads, you can raise or lower your bid price, rewrite your ads, pause them, and make many other adjustments on the fly. This makes digital marketing extremely convenient.
Helps Mobile Customers Find You
I’ve been saying it since 2013: mobile is the future. And the future is here. Statista reports that the number of smartphone users in the United States in 2019 reached 281.9 million and is expected to reach 285.3 million by 2023.
Given that more consumers search from their mobile devices than desktops, you can’t afford to ignore them.
Please note: With SEO, digital marketing helps mobile customers find you—IF your website is “mobile responsive,” meaning it displays well on mobile devices. Google rewards sites that are responsive by ranking them higher in the SERPS.
Therefore, a mobile-responsive website design should be high on your list of priorities. Otherwise, those searching from a mobile device may not be able to find you.
Before wrapping this up, I want to point out the single most important element of your digital marketing endeavor. Namely, your strategy.
Why Marketing Strategy Is All-Important
As the most successful digital marketers know, proper planning prevents poor performance. For your online marketing to succeed, everything that you do—from designing your website to writing your content to talking to customers on the phone—must be based on strategy.
This is true whether you’re a small business, startup, large company, or major brand. Without a strategy, your marketing will be hit and miss. I can’t emphasize this too strongly.
It’s not enough to say “I need an SEO campaign” or “I need to buy PPC ads.” You need to know how these things fit into your strategy. In other words, how everything works together to educate and engage your customers. So, over time, they grow to view you as someone they can trust to solve their problems.
If you take only one thing from this article, let it be this: a digital marketing strategy is non-negotiable. Your business success depends on it.
Digital Marketing: The Time to Act Is Now
The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the importance of marketing digitally and accelerated the urgency to change with the times. In spite of the difficulties resulting from the coronavirus, the conditions required to succeed online are in place. Both increases and decreases in traffic can play to your advantage, and AI combined with online marketing can make it significantly easier to achieve your desired results.
At the end of the day—digital marketing is the most cost-effective, measurable way to build relationships to grow your business. It aligns with the way people buy today, helps you target ideal buyers, quickly adjust campaign elements, reach mobile customers, and achieve your business goals, whatever the size of your company.
Put strategy first, and you’ll emerge from the crisis stronger than ever.