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What Is Digital Marketing? The Ultimate Guide For Small Businesses

Business Guide Posted On: Aug 6, 2019

what is digital marketing? the ultimate guide for businesses

Is your business struggling to get more customers?

Are you frustrated with less sales in spite of spending a fortune on your marketing?

Tired of your business getting bad reviews and negative feedback?

Worried that your business might fail and be taken over by your competitors?

If the answer is yes, then there’s a problem.

Don’t worry the best part is the problem isn’t with your business at all, but with your approach of marketing.

Here’s why.

Understand that the world has gone digital.

Almost every company on the planet has brought its presence to the online world.

This has not only changed how people buy products and services but also how businesses market them to their customers.

In short, it has become easier for companies to bring their business in good shape and achieve all their goals seamlessly.

What has made this happen?

A new form of marketing which is known today as the buzzword digital marketing.

Let’s understand it better.



As you might’ve guessed by now digital marketing, or online marketing as it is popularly called, is a way of marketing your products and services digitally using technological or online mediums.

It involves any type of marketing that is carried out using the internet or through an electronic device to connect or engage with existing or prospective customers.

For starters, think of it as a rich toolbox.

You can take advantage of its numerous tools to market your product just the way you want.

You can measure every single effort, monitor it in real time, A/B test it to see what works and what doesn’t, and even optimize it to leverage your sales. There are digital marketing solutions for pretty much everything!

Imagine tracking your every single effort and getting an update on how things are working right before your eyes in real time!

This is what makes online marketing a preferred choice over traditional marketing mediums like print ads, direct mail, broadcast media like television and radio, etc. where you don’t have enough control over your marketing efforts.

Did we tell you that it’s all the rage right now in pretty much every industry?

And if you thought online marketing is some overrated buzzword without any significant benefits, think again. It brings some serious benefits to the table.

No kidding, here they are!

It’s used by businesses from every industry you can think of whether you’re looking at retail, entertainment, healthcare, or lifestyle.

Whether you are big or small business, there are plenty of benefits of using digital marketing for your campaigns. Some being:

1. It’s cost-effective:

This is the number one benefit of using digital marketing. It helps you save money!


Let’s say you are a small company that deals in apparels for kids. You have plenty of mediums to market your products but decide to spend a lot of money on a billboard ad in the most populated area of the city.

The ad gets you little to no sales but drains a lot of money from your budget.

However, with digital marketing, it’s the other way around.

Think parents of 6 to 12-year-old kids living in Washington interested in Gini & Jony. What’s more, if your campaign isn’t working, you have the option to stop it without having it spend your money.

You have full control over your digital campaigns. You get to target a specific set of people whom you think are relevant to your business and only they see the ad.

Savings, savings!

2It lets you track your marketing activities:

One thing traditional marketing doesn’t allow is performance tracking in real time. This means you don’t get enough control over your campaigns.

With digital marketing, you can track almost every aspect of your campaigns with ease.

Let’s go back to our previous example and understand how.

If you are running a campaign for your online kids’ store to boost sales, you can not only track who visited your website but also where those people came from, their location, interests, age, engagement, duration on your website and a lot more.

By testing such data and optimizing your efforts, digital marketing can help you experiment with different techniques to leverage your sales.

3. It builds engagement with your audience:

Due to the growing usage of smartphones and the internet, customers have grown used to buying products and services online.

This has forced businesses to come online and interact with their customers, engage with them in numerous ways to maintain a good relationship and customer satisfaction.

Digital platforms in this context give you an opportunity to engage with your audience.

Not like a typical business but as a friendly personality.

With social media websites like Facebook and Instagram, you can host contests/giveaways, connect with your audience on forums like Reddit or Quora, and address feedback with customers through online reviews.

All in all, digital marketing can help you build engagement with your audience in numerous creative ways.

4. It widens your reach:

You can also discover other underrated niche marketing channels like AngelList to reach out to your audience.

Remember, the ideal ones will bring out the best results.

One advantage of choosing a digital medium over more traditional ones is that you get to reach out to your audience on a global scale.

Not your city, not your country, but the entire world!

This means you can create an ad in your office and use it to market your products to multiple people around the world.

Think your products and services in the United States might appeal to someone from Japan or the UK? Then all you have to do is create an advertisement on a digital platform, target your relevant audience in Japan or the UK, and once they come to you, convert them into customers.


Digital marketing allows you to break the boundaries and connect with a wider audience by maximizing your reach.

5. It helps you outperform your competitors:

Believe it or not, with digital marketing tools you can literally spy on your competitors.

Whether it’s figuring out top ranking keywords used by your competitors or gathering research data to understand their strategy, you can use dedicated tools to outrank your competitors.

Not only that, some tools literally give a binocular view of what’s happening on your competitor’s site. These show you everything from the number of clicks on their ads to impressions, and even traffic.

All in real time.

6. It boosts your ROI:

Admit it.

The most important thing businesses are concerned with is getting higher returns for their marketing efforts.


Digital marketing strategies such as email marketing, social media marketing, and content marketing have shown to bring significantly maximum ROI than other channels.

For example, according to a study by Data and Marketing Association (DMA), it was found that email marketing alone is capable of generating a median ROI of about 122%. This proved that email is still a great channel to leverage sales.

Another feature and benefit of digital marketing is that it generates leads far quicker than traditional channels. This helps you improve your conversion rates over time.


So you know about digital marketing and the benefits it offers to your business. But how does it actually work? In order to understand the process behind digital marketing, we have to dive in further.

It’s important for you as a business owner to know the inner workings of digital marketing as knowing it will help you make better decisions during your next digital campaign.

Understanding the Buyer’s Journey

To begin with, you have to first understand each aspect of digital marketing and how it helps your customers in their buying journey.

understanding the buyer’s journey


Awareness Stage:

This is the initial stage from where your customers start their journey.

In the awareness stage, your customers have just known you for a while and aren’t keen on making any purchase from you. Your job is to make your customers aware of possible solutions to problems they might have.

This is where digital marketing comes in.

Digital marketing helps create awareness about your company through various awareness strategies using content, online ads, email marketing, and PPC.

As businesses are usually looking for solutions online during this stage, businesses have a high possibility of getting found using different awareness strategies.

Consideration Stage:

In the consideration stage, your visitors take their first step.

They might have clicked your ad or interacted with your website but are still looking for likely solutions from different companies as they still aren’t convinced to make a purchase from you.

Here digital marketing helps engage and convince these customers using different approaches.

Using mediums like email and social media, you can further engage with your customers and highlight the benefits your products have.

Purchasing Stage:

Through automated emails, SMS reminders, and retargeting strategies digital marketing takes the customer ahead of its journey by helping them make a purchase.

Now your customers have made it past the consideration stage but still haven’t completed a sale. This could be in the form of abandoned carts or incomplete forms yet to be submitted.

Once the purchase is done it means that you have converted your lead (visitor) which you then have to retain.

Retention Stage:

Once your customers have reached this stage it means they have tried out your product and are looking for a great performance out of it. Not to mention, a good customer service from you too.

All in all, this stage is crucial as it will give you the opportunity to retain your customers.

Digital marketing in this context helps the customer to learn more about the product through informative articles or blogs and provide support through communities or forums.

Digital strategies like online reputation management also help establish your business’s reputation online and build a positive engagement with your customers.

Advocacy Stage:

This is the final stage in the buyer’s journey and highlights the post-purchasing experience of your customer.

If your customers have reached this stage, there is a good chance of them becoming advocates or avid followers of your brand to further spread the word of your products.

It is also likely that your customers might be interested in buying more products from you.

Marketers use multiple digital strategies to make their customers become advocates. They take the help of email newsletters, blogs, and social media to promote their products thus keeping their existing customers happy and coming for more.

In such a way, digital marketing fuels the journey of your buyer in every stage.

types of digital marketing

There are various types of digital marketing you must know as each aspect has its own purpose and use in different stages of the buyer’s journey.

They are also offered as different digital marketing solutions by digital marketing agencies which makes it more important to understand them.

As we’ll be covering each topic in-depth, we’ve created an index to make it easier for you to jump between different topics.

Ready? Let’s dive in!


Search Engine Marketing

Social Media Marketing

Social Media Optimization

Email Marketing

Content Marketing

Online Reputation Management

Viral Marketing

 Affiliate Marketing

1. Search Engine Marketing

Search Engine Marketing is a way of promoting your website on search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc. using paid and organic strategies.

It is one of the most important and widely used digital marketing techniques today.

Here’s why:

When someone searches for a keyword or a set of keywords in a search engine they are shown those websites which rank on top for that particular keyword.

Search engine marketing techniques help you rank for specific keywords you are interested in and that are related to your business so that your website appears on the top of SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).

This makes it easier for your prospective customers to find your business website when they search for such keywords on the web.

You can improve your search ranking organically using Search Engine Optimization or through paid strategies like Pay-Per-Click Advertising.

Search Engine Optimization:

You may have asked yourself what does SEO really stand for? Why it’s so popular? Here’s the answer:

In simple words, Search Engine Optimization is a technique of driving visitors to your website by organically ranking it in the top position of search engine result pages without spending a single penny on ads.

SEO has gained significant importance over the past few years and it’s not surprising to see why: It is able to generate 300% more traffic than social media.

Not only that, SEO is effective in building authority of your website and can help you generate trust and credibility for your business.

It also helps improve your website’s performance and boost growth in the long run.

PPC Advertising:

PPC or Pay-Per-Click Advertising is a method of advertising in which a marketer places ads on digital platforms like a search engine and gets charged only when someone clicks it.

That’s why it’s called ‘Pay-Per-Click’ as you pay only when someone clicks on your ad.

Marketers use PPC on different advertising networks like Google or Bing, especially in search ads to rank their website on the very first position in search engines. It works on a RTB or Real-Time-Bidding principle where advertisers bid on keywords in real time.

PPC helps you bring quality traffic that is likely to convert. It is also highly measurable meaning you can see which of your PPC campaigns are actually performing well and which aren’t.

You can track everything from total number of views your ad received to the performance of your ad and even the conversion rate.

Learn more about PPC Advertising.

Pro tip: If you are new to SEM and want to carefully manage your budget then it is recommended to hire a SEO or Pay-Per-Click agency. They can help you plan a good marketing strategy and bring more ROI.

2. Social Media Marketing:

Ever seen your favorite brand host a contest on Facebook or market their products in creative ways on Instagram or Twitter? Welcome to the world of social media marketing!

Social Media Marketing (SMM) is a digital marketing technique that utilizes social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. to help marketers target relevant people and promote products and services.

It is a great way to reach out to prospective customers and ensures that your ad reaches the right people at the right place, and at the right time.

A social media marketing strategy is ideal for both small and large businesses and comes with plenty of benefits. It helps increase the exposure of your business on social media platforms. Not only that, it helps you engage and connect with your audience through fun contests, engagement posts, and quizzes.

With SMM, you can also acquire useful insights through customer interaction and get to know your target audience better, enabling you to further strengthen your marketing efforts.

3. Social Media Optimization:

Using social media advertising to leverage your marketing already? Your job is not done yet until you optimize your profiles so that people recognize it’s actually you! This brings us to social media optimization.

Social Media Optimization (SMO), in simple words, can be defined as a technique of streamlining your social media profiles so that they get discovered on the web.

It is a technique of building and promoting your social media profiles not only on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter but also on social bookmarking sites like StumbleUpon, Reddit, Tumblr, etc.

Optimizing and presenting your social media profiles help you come across as a brand and makes it easier for people to find you on both the web as well as search engines.

You can optimize your social media profiles by keeping the same profile photo on different social networks. Another way you can do it is by maintaining consistency of language in your posts on different social media platforms and creating content relevant to your niche.

Social media optimization companies use such strategies to help businesses build their online presence on social networks and help them get discovered by prospects.

4. Email Marketing:

If you thought emails are just used for communication, think again. They can also be used as a powerful marketing channel with email marketing.

To put it simply, Email Marketing is a marketing technique that uses emails as a medium to promote products and services online.

It’s one of the most popular and cost-effective ways of promoting your business online and comes with plenty of benefits.

5. Content Marketing:

If you are familiar with digital marketing, you may have come across the word ‘content’ at least once.

It includes anything from informative blogs, to rich infographics, whitepapers, podcasts, and videos.

Content marketing is all about creating such valuable and useful content and then promoting it to attract a certain type of audience.

Creating content helps you build trust with your audience which then helps them become your customers.

Content marketing is also widely used by big and small business.

6. Online Reputation Management

How often are we concerned with maintaining our own reputation? Always right? Well, the same is also important when it comes to your business.

Your business online is vulnerable to negative reviews and comments from customers which could negatively impact the reputation of your business.

In order to maintain a positive reputation, online reputation management techniques are used.

Online reputation management is a set of digital marketing techniques and strategies that protect a company’s online assets like a digital store or social media profiles from negative publicity and promotes positive reputation and engagement.

It’s estimated that about 85% of customers trust reviews posted online as personal recommendations. Not only that, for local businesses 97% of customers read reviews online before they make the move.

These factors make online reputation management more important than ever before.

7. Viral Marketing

You may have seen some funny or bizarre videos clogging your social media feed every once in a while with thousands of likes, shares, and comments.

This phenomenon of content spreading faster on the internet is called ‘going viral.’

Viral marketing or viral advertising can be defined as a type of internet advertising intended to make customers spread information about a company or a brand in order to generate interest and popularity.

With more than 80 percent online firms adopting viral marketing strategies it makes sense to pick a viral marketing campaign to reach your audiences faster.

Viral marketing is a great strategy if you want to raise brand awareness and create a buzz in your industry. You also get a great opportunity to reach a global audience with the right viral marketing strategy.

8. Affiliate Marketing

Ever seen links on review sites or blogs that take you to a particular product page for buying? These links are affiliate links which are given by a seller to a blog or a review website to promote their products for a commission.

These website owners become affiliates for the seller and the seller gets to promote their products.

Affiliate marketing is hence a type of performance-based marketing where a business gives a commission or a reward to affiliates for every customer or sale they bring by their marketing efforts.

By using an affiliate marketing strategy, you can bring some great amount of website traffic, make a lot of sales, or both.

It’s also quite cost-effective as you pay only for the sales or the desired conversions your affiliates bring. Affiliates can even boost your reputation and promote your business even further.

Affiliate marketing is also popular on Facebook, Instagram and even Pinterest.




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