Like everything else in our digital world, you can almost see digital marketing evolving. It’s a challenge keeping up. Your marketing strategies need to change to take advantage of digital marketing tools. You also need to keep pace with the changing expectations of your customers and prospects. To meet those challenges, you need to use the right digital tools at the right time, while still looking at what the future holds.
What digital marketing tools should you use?
One thing to keep in mind is that digital marketing isn’t just for inbound marketing. It serves as both a push-and-pull strategy. One definition of digital marketing indicates that it includes all marketing that uses the internet or an electronic device. However, here’s a short list of the essential tools you need to include in your digital marketing toolkit.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Your website is the hub of your online marketing. You reach out to your audience in a number of ways, but typically, you drive traffic to your website because it contains information to answer many of your prospects’ questions.
It’s important to ensure that your website ranks high in the search engine result pages (SERPs) to obtain organic traffic. Organic traffic refers to those visitors who find your website in the ranked listings that result from a specific search.
SEO is a long-term marketing strategy. It won’t put your website on page one of the search results overnight. But, it will have long-lasting effects that can help you achieve and maintain a high ranking on the search engines.
Pay Per Click (PPC)
PPC is another way you can drive traffic from search engines. You set up an account with Google AdWords, for example. You write alluring ad copy for the search engines to display prominently in the search result. You pay them every time someone clicks on your ad. You can also use PPC on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Content marketing has two benefits. First, you can use content marketing to educate your audience, prove your expertise, generate traffic, and increase brand awareness and lead generation.
The second benefit relates to SEO. Search engines want to rank websites that continually add new information. When you publish blog posts, white papers, e-books, and other content, you energize your digital marketing efforts in two ways.
[Read: The Ultimate Guide to Content Marketing]
Social media traffic increases every year. In fact, between 2017 and 2018, social media users grew 7 percent in the U.S. and 13 percent worldwide. You can promote your brand and generate leads by using social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Twitter.
You need to find out which platforms your prospects and customers use and create a digital marketing plan for establishing a presence on those social media sites.
[Read: Must-Know Social Media Trends]
Marketing automation is sometimes difficult to define because the software provides increasingly complex capabilities. For example, some people call customer relationship management (CRM) marketing automation. Others make a differentiation because a CRM helps the sales process rather than the marketing process. Semantics aside, a marketing automation system can do some or all of the following.
- Maintain a central marketing database. This database gathers and stores information about prospect and customer behavior. The system tracks and stores interactions those people have with the business.
- Maintain an engagement-marketing engine. The system segments contacts and sends the right message to each one. It can also tailor content based on a contact’s user profile. Behaviors the contacts share, their interests, or other demographic information define the segments.
- Maintain an analytics engine. The analytic capabilities help to measure the effectiveness of their marketing efforts. It also provides insight on how to optimize their campaigns.
- Integrate with other marketing channels. For example, the marketing automation system should integrate with the CRM.
- Automate business processes. The system can automate marketing tasks by defining the workflow required to nurture a prospect, for example.
Email marketing can be a very effective digital marketing tool if used properly. You need to keep these things in mind.
- Use email for nurturing relationships, not for sales. Email campaigns that overwhelm the recipient with sales messages don’t work.
- Don’t over-share. Overflowing inboxes are a problem for virtually everyone. Make sure that your communications are valuable to your recipients, and control their frequency.
- Send personalized emails. Segment your email contact lists effectively to avoid sending useless information that will cause your contacts to ignore your emails or unsubscribe.
- Use marketing automation data to customize. For example, you can use purchase history to customize an email. Rather than promoting tires and maintenance service, you can figure out when the customer’s vehicle is ready for maintenance and send them a friendly reminder.
- Reinforce privacy. While the number of social media users is increasing, people do worry about privacy and the safety of their personal information. Make sure your recipients know how you protect their information. And, make sure your entire organization sticks to the rules.
These essential digital marketing tools are valuable because they can increase traffic to your website. Some of the tools help you reach prospects and customers wherever they are. This applies whether these contacts search online or use social media.
You can stay in touch with prospects throughout the purchase process to help increase sales. Tracking results is much easier with digital marketing than traditional marketing. That ability allows you to fine-tune your marketing plans based on results, not guesses.
Planning when to use different digital marketing tools is critical to success. The best way to develop your plan is to consider your customer’s journey.
What Is a Customer Journey?
Your customers take a journey from the time they become aware of your business until they decide to buy and become a customer. Every business needs to define its own customer journey because they are all different.
Cox Automotive published a report titled Car Buyer Journey 2018. The report details many of the steps in the car buyer’s journey. Here are some of the important findings included in the report.
You have a short window to reach car buyers. In 2018, the average number of days a car buyer spent in the market was 108, down a few days from 2017, when the average was 112 days. That buying cycle does give you enough time to reach the buyers, but you need to be visible where they are looking. And, you can provide educational posts to help buyers as they research the market.
More than half of buyers need a new car. In 2018, 61 percent of buyers said they needed a new car, while 39 percent said they wanted a new car. That means that you need to view every buyer who is looking as a potential customer. The number of people who are “just looking around” is relatively low.
Most buyers are open-minded about the car they will buy. The study showed that 56 percent of car buyers purchased the same make of car that they’d had in the past. However, only 32 percent knew exactly which vehicle they wanted when they starting the buying process. As a result, you have an opportunity to grab more market share if you can provide an outstanding buying experience.
Car buyers use the internet extensively. In fact, car buyers spend 60 percent of their car buying process online. In addition, 78 percent of them used third-party sites to research their options. That points out several things to include in your marketing plan.
- You need a wide-ranging but integrated marketing strategy.
- You need to deliver a consistent message across all internet portals, including your website.
- You need high visibility on third-party sites that are part of the online inventory marketplace.
- You need to develop a website that is easy to use and works well on every device, including desktops, tablets, and mobile phones.
Most car buyers visit more than one dealership. Buyers are looking for a dealer that has the vehicle they want, and a good buying experience. Dealers need to focus on the experience buyers have in their dealership and the stocking and acquisition tools that will help them maintain the right inventory.
It also looks like the last dealership a buyer visits has an advantage. Buyers purchase or lease from the first dealership they visit 23 percent of the time, 17 percent of the time they buy from other dealerships visited, and they buy from the last visited 60 percent of the time.
Reducing the time spent in the dealership during the purchase is a competitive advantage. Overall, 71 percent of buyers are satisfied with their dealership experience. However, that satisfaction level drops to 59 percent when rating the financing department, and 46 percent when rating how long the process took.
Reducing the overall time it takes to buy a car should be a priority. Anything a dealership can do to educate the buyers before they reach the dealership will undoubtedly help speed up the process.
The Future of Digital Marketing
There are many predictions of what the future of digital marketing will be. One of the common issues that arise is the benefit of combining digital and traditional marketing efforts.
It’s easy for a digital marketer to think that traditional marketing strategies don’t work in today’s world. Many businesses are finding that combining digital and traditional marketing gives them a competitive advantage. For example:
- Billboards still reach more than 90 percent of the population. Traditionally, billboard advertising was extremely expensive. The new digital billboards offer opportunities for businesses of all sizes.
- Magazines target niche audiences. Print media is a shrinking industry. However, advertising in a niche magazine helps businesses reach very specific audiences.
It’s important for businesses to do what works, and combining digital and traditional approaches is a good idea.
Chatbots are going to increase their presence in digital marketing plans. Users would often rather get immediate help from a chatbot than wait on the telephone. Developers continue to integrate artificial intelligence (AI) into a variety of systems and devices; chatbots will continue to improve their ability to interact with people in a more natural way.
Video marketing is becoming more important. In fact, 73 percent of people in the U.S. spend time on YouTube. It’s a good idea to post videos on a variety of platforms, including YouTube, for maximum coverage.
Content is still important. Advanced marketers are moving from posts that interest a general audience to niche posts. A niche post provides more detailed information on a specific subject. It can be useful as people move through the later stages of their customer journey.
Where Will You Go with Digital Marketing?
There’s no doubt that digital marketing is here to stay. Customer expectations are increasing every day. Customers want to interact with brands using a variety of tools and devices. If they can’t find you on the internet or social media, you may be missing opportunities.
If you aren’t using the right tools at the right time, you’re not getting the most from your digital marketing. The new digital opportunities don’t mean you should drop all of your traditional marketing efforts. But, you do need to ensure that you’re using digital marketing wisely to help your business grow.