Whether it's via search engines, social media, email or websites, effective digital marketing has become critical to businesses' success.
Digital marketing has opened up a number of new and powerful ways for businesses of all sizes to reach their target audience. Instead of relying solely on traditional methods, like print ads and coupons, businesses can now reach out to current and potential customers through the channels they spend the most time on, such as social networks and search engines.
Research shows that businesses today are pouring more money into their digital marketing efforts than ever before. Data from Statista revealed that spending on digital marketing efforts in the U.S. is projected to top $100 billion for the first time ever in 2019. That's up from $57 billion in 2014.
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As the CEO of digital marketing agency Single Throw Marketing, Larry Bailin knows how a successful digital marketing strategy can boost a business's bottom line.
In addition to running his digital marketing agency, Bailin is the author of the internet marketing book Mommy, Where Do Customers Come From? and has been tapped as a keynote and conference speaker for numerous organizations, including Microsoft, UPS, Carrier, YMCA, GE, HealthSouth, the Direct Marketing Association, The Conference Board and the Business Marketing Association.
We recently spoke with Bailin about digital marketing, how to know which digital marketing channels will serve you best and how to maximize your marketing budget. We also asked him some rapid-fire questions about technology, his career and advice he has received over the years. [Interested in internet marketing services and PPC management? Check out our best picks.]
Q: How does digital marketing differ from traditional marketing?
A: The specificity of targeting is where digital marketing surpasses traditional. For a business to have the ability to put a message in front of the perfect customer and only the perfect customer at the exact moment of need, that's where digital wins hands down. Everything is measurable – even traditional marketing such as television and billboards can be measured through digital means if you know what you're doing.
Targeting granularity is nothing short of magical – it's a marketer's dream. Digital targeting goes far beyond the general demographics of traditional media. Digital marketing does not care what you're watching as much as what you were doing before you were watching. With artificial intelligence and advanced machine learning, digital marketers can now predict behavior and need based on what actions were taken sometimes months earlier. Traditional cannot compete with that.
Q: How do you determine which digital marketing channels are best for your target audience?
A: The lines between marketing channels have been blurred somewhat now that marketing can target and predict the buyer's intent regardless of which channel they frequent. To determine which digital media channels are best for your marketing goals, you need to evaluate three things:
1. Understand who your customers are. The more you know about them, the better you'll understand the platforms they frequent and, more importantly, how they use them.
2. Goals of your campaign are a major factor in determining which media channels are best. Are you trying to generate leads, direct sales or awareness? These goals are critical to picking the platform best suited to create the correct success outcomes.
3. Budget forces marketers to pick winners and losers, but we cannot do so indiscriminately. Stack-rank all of the possible channels and determine which gives you the best chance of success. Sometimes you can use many channels, even with a smaller budget, by determining where and when to use them. Dayparting, for example, lets you determine what days and times to show your ads to potential clients. For example, if your target client is a business's buyer, it may not make sense to target them after work hours. Geotargeting lets you choose where (geographically) your ads appear. These types of marketing filters help you to display the right message to the right person at the right time, casting a wider and smarter marketing net, leading to better results.
Q: What are some advanced digital marketing methods that get you in front of the right customer at the right time?
A: There are two things changing the digital marketing landscape as we speak:
1. Artificial intelligence and machine learning have changed the digital marketing game when it comes to targeting. Google, for example, has one of the most advanced machine learning systems on the planet. Knowing how to leverage this advanced AI means digital marketers no longer have to chase intent (target customers after they take action) – we can now predict intent (target customers before they take action) and put messages in front of potential customers based on what they are going to need but have not yet searched for.
2. Natural language optimization. We live in the age of assistance, where consumers expect brands to assist them, not sell them. As more verbally assisted devices penetrate the market, such as Google Home [and] Amazon Echo (aka Alexa), consumers are now asking questions of their devices more than ever before. Marketers must shift from keyword-based targets to becoming answers to clients' questions, no matter where or how they are asked. Natural language optimization is next-generation SEO and, in short order, will be the best way to connect with potential and existing customers.
Q: How do you measure digital marketing success?
A: First, you must understand what is success and what is just masquerading as success. Digital measurement runs deep, from impressional to conversions and calls to walk-ins. Through digital means, you can now measure everything. Depending on your business type, there are advanced measurements that allow you to measure walk-in store-based traffic born of digital marketing, brand lift, conversion from click to contact, from lead to a sale.
It's important to remember the ultimate measurement is sales. Revenue should be the measurement that weeds out poor marketing choices. The goal is not [to] measure everything, only [to] measure what's worth measuring.
Q: Digital marketing can be expensive. What are some tips to maximize your budget?
A: Digital target filters such as dayparting and geotargeting are easy ways to extend budget, but always be sure the budget you are spending is being spent properly, not just spent.
Google offers structured bidding processes that are ROI (return on investment) focused. Google's ROAS (return on ad spend) processes allow you to set maximum bid based on profit so you're never upside down on a click or a conversion.
Keep in mind the goal is not to make a budget last but to maximize the effectiveness of the budget. Most companies will gladly spend more if there is a viable and proven ROI on digital marketing dollars.
Q: Is digital marketing a task small business owners can do on their own? Or are they better off hiring an agency to handle it for them?
A: If budget allows, you should always hire an agency. Agencies bring more to the table than just a management fee or retainer; they bring experience.
Agencies have many clients, and that gives them data and experience businesses striking out on their own will not have. Agencies know the mistakes and pitfalls, so they should be more efficient and effective in their execution.
Many businesses cannot afford to hire an agency. Those businesses need to understand that they also cannot afford the mistakes that lead to costly marketing failure. Be sure to hire an agency that understands your budget restrictions and will be transparent in what they are doing, why they are doing it, and ultimately be 100 percent accountable to the results. Remember, the ultimate result is revenue.
Q: If you are looking to hire a digital marketing agency, what questions should you ask to better understand if the agency can provide the services you need?
A: When you're hiring a digital marketing agency, there are a few questions you can ask, but make sure you do a little homework on your own first.
A digital agency should be good at connecting digitally. Does their website load fast? Does it work well in mobile? Is it easy to find what you're looking for? Can you easily find them in Google by searching 'digital marketing + their town' (at the very least, they should show up for that)? How about their social networks? Do they have a respectable number of followers? Do they keep things up to date? You cannot hire a digital marketing agency that uses the shoemaker's kids excuse – digital marketing is important to all businesses, including agencies.
Here are some questions that should be asked:
- Ask them to detail one of their failures. It's important to understand why they fail and what they did about it. Try not to only focus on their successes. Most ask for references, but this is a false positive. No agency is going to give a reference to someone that hates them.
- Were they born digital or traditional? Just because you market digitally does not make you a digital marketer. If you're looking for a digital marketing agency, it may be important to hire an agency that has only known a digital consumer, not one that is trying to figure it out.
- Do they hold any Google certifications? You cannot market digitally without leveraging or considering Google in some way. There are more than eight core Google certifications; any digital agency worth their salt will have at least a few under their belt. Be sure to verify those certifications by having the agency send you a verification link.
- How do they measure success? You're looking for an agency that holds sales measurements in the highest regards, not vanity metrics such as impressions, clicks and traffic.
Q: What piece of technology could you not live without?
A: My mobile phone. My phone keeps me connected, updated, on time and in the know. For a marketer and a customer, it's the only device that matters.
Q: What is the best piece of career advice you have ever been given?
A: Know your value, and always get paid for what you do. You have a level of expertise that only comes with hard work and experience – never give it away for free.
Q: What's the best book or blog you've read recently?
A: I've read hundreds of books – I'm an avid reader – but the only book I read again and again is Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People. It's required reading for anyone in businesses, the holy grail of connection creation.
Q: As a leader, what's the biggest challenge you face?
A: Things change very quickly in digital marketing. Staying abreast of and assessing the value of changes, advancements and innovation is a never-ending struggle, but it's a challenge we are excited to be part of.