What Is Digital Marketing? How to Build Your Strategy [Examples]

man writing a workflow strategy on a white board
man writing a workflow strategy on a white board

Let's face it: we're living in a digital-first world. In fact, the number of people online reached 4.54 billion, an increase of 7% from 2019. And today's consumers are comfortable shopping for groceries, clothing, vacations, and even cars online.

So if your company wants to reach consumers today, it's important for organizations to have a solid digital marketing strategy. To do this, digital marketers must make use of a variety of digital marketing channels, from email marketing to social media.

To help you figure out how to do this, we will explore the who, what, why, and how of digital marketing in this blog. We'll outline the advantages of different marketing channels and showcase examples that you can use to inspire your own marketing strategy. Keep reading for the full scoop. 

What Is Digital Marketing?

This is a big question to answer, so we’ll start with the definition of digital marketing. Put simply, it is a term used to describe how your business achieves its marketing goals using digital technologies. Digital marketing includes elements like brand messaging and any form of advertising you do on the internet. 

What Is a Digital Marketing Strategy?

It’s a plan that describes how you achieve your digital marketing goals across a variety of digital marketing channels. Any successful digital marketing strategy follows a clear plan of action that outlines the channels you plan to use, the KPIs or metrics used to determine success, and the overall goals for each channel. Here are some steps to take to help determine how to create your strategy: 

1. Identify what you want to accomplish

Whatever you want—name it. This step is to figure out what is your main goal. Some examples include generating leads, building up your email list, or creating brand recognition. Whatever your goal is (and it can be more than just one), make it specific and measurable and you can move forward. We've outlined 14 of the KPIs marketers should be using in our blog on the KPIs that Matter and How to Track Them.

2. Understand the digital sales funnel 

Before you can get going on your strategy, you need to fully understand why the sales or marketing funnel is important. The funnel describes the buyer’s journey—it’s the different steps buyers go through to get to the point of purchase. Mastering and understanding how to reach your audience at each step will help you implement a tactical strategy. The steps of the funnel include:

  1. Discovery: Where or how consumers hear about your brand.
  2. Consideration: After brand recognition has been established, the consumer begins vetting you. 
  3. Purchase: The moment when consumers become paying customers.
  4. Loyalty: Repeat clients who become brand advocates.

3. Create buyer personas

Who is your audience? What are the demographics of this audience? Where do they shop? What motivates them? What brands do they trust? Answering these questions will help you determine what marketing channels you need to be active on and what type of content or brand messaging they may be more receptive to. 

Tip: Make sure the details of your personas are specific. Here is a good example, “A female between the age of 18-25, who is most active online on Wednesdays from a desktop device, who is social and is interested in business and industrial topics.”

To gain these insights, you can use a solution like Meltwater for a full audience audit. 

4. Implement specific tactics

Now that you have an understanding of your goals and your target audience, you can begin narrowing down the list of tactics you plan to use to reach your goals. For example, if during your consumer research, you discovered that your audience are social media power users, then you'd want to begin mapping out the social media channels and advertising tools you should leverage. These can include:

  • Tapping social media influencers to post testimonials about your products on Instagram
  • Sharing user-generated content to build a relationship and gain brand awareness

5. Use AI 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is at the forefront of transforming digital marketing. It helps segment audience behavior, provides automation wherever possible, and generates leads. Your team will not only need to understand how to engage with AI but also how to do so ethically without crossing the line from cool to creepy when putting their super AI powers to use.

Digital Marketing Channels

Marketers can leverage a variety of marketing channels and marketing tactics to push their message, but they need to make sure the message fits the channel. As the old advertising saying goes, "The medium is the message". Understanding this, and the concept of a marketing channel is a big part of understanding the marketing mix.

There are dozens of different types of digital marketing channels, so it can be helpful to group them under the buckets of paid, earned, and owned media. Here we'll provide an overview of the different types of digital marketing channels that you can use to connect with your audiences.

Owned Channels

With owned media, you’re in control here—this refers to any property that you control or create. The great part about this channel is you get to include the content you want your customers to see. Examples include:

  • Website
  • Blog
  • Emails 
  • Social pages
  • Other written content (gated assets)

Earned Channels

Earned media could also be referred to as word of mouth marketing. It’s the coverage your brand receives as a result of your digital interactions, which you have little to no control over.

There are two sides to these channels; good and bad. In both senses, it offers you free placement in front of a new audience (i.e., someone else says something about you for “free”) and can generate a powerful impact. The caveat is that you don’t have control over the messaging. Examples include: 

  • Media coverage about your products
  • Online reviews and ratings
  • Social media shares
  • Customer stories 
  • 3rd party articles 

Paid Channels 

Paid media is any placements on a property in which you pay to be in front of an audience. It allows you to get in front of a new audience more quickly than organic strategies but they can only stretch as far as your budget allows. Examples include: 

  • Pay-per-click (PPC)
  • Paid social 
  • Display advertising
  • Paid influencers
  • Native advertising

All three of these areas help you understand your financial efficiency and how you stack up against your competition, which is why we highlighted them in our digital marketing insight reports.

Digital Marketing Examples 

Now that you have a complete understanding of the who, what, why, and how of digital marketing, let’s take a look at some examples for inspiration. 

SEO Example 

Search Engine Optimization is the process of helping your website to rank higher in search engine result pages. SEO allows you to appear at the top of search results, which inherently increases the amount of organic traffic to your website. The channels that benefit from SEO are blogs, infographics, or long-form content. 

When typing into Google search results “plant burgers”, you can see from the image below the top three results based on the keywords you were looking for. In a search engine, like Google, these top-ranking search results will always appear underneath the paid results (shown next).

SEO example digital marketing for "plant burgers"

PPC Example

Pay-per-click (PPC) falls under paid media and is meant to quickly boost leads and drive traffic to your website. How it works: you choose the keywords or phrases you want to trigger your ads and then set a bid. If your bid is among the highest, you will appear at the top of the organic listings. One of the best parts of PPC? You only pay when people click your ads, making it a great strategy for connecting with the most qualified leads. Here are the types of channels you can use PPC:

  • Google Ads
  • Paid Facebook Ads
  • Twitter Ad campaigns
  • Sponsored Messages on LinkedIn

Let’s take a look at the phrase “airline tickets” into Google search results. As you can see from the image below, the top four results are paid Google ads, with CheapOair winning at the highest bid.

PPC Google Ads example for the keyword "airline tickets"

Social Media Marketing Example

Today, over 3.8 billion people use social media, making it a perfect place to connect with your audience, generate leads, and drive traffic. The channels you can use in social media marketing are: 

  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Instagram 
  • Snapchat
  • Pinterest 

In addition to using these free channels, you can also invest in paid social ads to take it a step further. A good way to manage all of our social accounts is with a social media management solution like Meltwater where you can create, plan, and schedule all your content in one place. You can also use a social listening tool to research and monitor billions of social conversations to gain insights related to consumer sentiment, brand health, and your competition.

Here is an example from my personal LinkedIn home page feed. As you can see below, Microsoft utilized paid ads.

Social media marketing example for LinkedIn ad from Microsoft

Content Marketing Example

A key component of keeping your website at the highest rank and getting quality leads is crafting compelling and most importantly, valuable content. Your content will allow you to stand out from your competitors and serves to drive traffic, create brand awareness, and generate leads. Here are the main channels that content marketing plays a big role: 

  • Blog posts
  • Infographics
  • Long-form content (Whitepapers or Ebooks)

Here's an example of a blog home page you want Google search to direct your readers to.

content marketing example of the Meltwater blog

Email Marketing 

Email marketing is a powerful strategy for businesses, as it allows you to reach and nurture leads while providing updates or information about your business. It also gives you the power to use audience segmentation and personalize your content. Remember the buyer persona? Email marketing comes in handy here and can also be a step in the sales funnel; from awareness to consideration, and what all marketers hope for, purchase. The types of emails you would send from a marketing campaign include: 

  • Newsletters
  • Blog subscriptions
  • Follow up email from a download on the website
  • Promotions to customers 
  • Tips or series campaign for nurturing

Take a look at this example of a newsletter we mocked up to show the different ways to utilize it as a digital marketing tool. 

email marketing example newsletter mockup

Advantages of Digital Marketing 

Gone are the days of traditional marketing where print ads or billboards were the most effective means of promoting your brand. Digital marketing is vital for brand recognition and staying competitive as there are endless amounts of possibilities. The good news is that with all the possibilities, it allows brands to be creative and experiment with activities on different channels.

And unlike traditional marketing tactics, you can measure and prove your ROI in real-time. Here are some examples: 

table showing advantages and disadvantages of digital marketing

Digital Marketing Best Practices

As we’ve learned, this form of marketing is here to stay and there are many opportunities it creates for brands. The challenge, however, will be to craft compelling content to stand out from the competition. Let’s take a look at the need to know digital marketing best practices. 

  1. Audience Targeting: Here we will reference our buyer’s persona and understanding the sales funnel as defined earlier. Questions you want to ask in this step include “Where in the sales funnel is the target?” and “What is the goal?”. Remember to segment the audience so that your messaging is relevant and specific. 
  2. Accurate Data: Your campaign will only be as successful as the data you act upon—so you will want to ensure the data is up to date and exact. 
  3. Omnichannel Marketing: The great part about omnichannel marketing is that you can get your message across multiple different digital marketing channels. Omnichannel marketing gives brands the opportunity to be consistent, personalize messages, and optimize processes. 
  4. Craft Compelling Content: Here is where your content marketing team comes in. You want to make sure the content you use on each different channel is compelling, creative, consistent, relates back to your brand voice and values, credible, accurate, and is intended for your target audience. 
  5. Measure Analytics: Measuring the results of which channels were successful will help determine how you move forward with your efforts and focus on what works. 

I’m a Digital Marketing Expert, What’s Next?

By now you should understand the ins and outs of digital marketing, so start thinking about what elements listed above you are currently using or maybe want to try, and remember to always act on your data. 

Ready to take your digital marketing efforts to the next level? Let our all-in-one marketing solution help and optimize our Digital Insight Reports to gain the insights you need to stay in the lead. Let us help you, we’d love to chat!