In this guide, we cover all you need to know about digital marketing.
How to use digital channels such as your website, Google search, social media, and email to engage with prospective and current customers, and drive new inquiries and sales?
It is the term used to describe a business’s online marketing activities; and would include digital channels such as their website, Google search, social media, and email to connect with prospective and current customers.
The fundamental benefit is a typically higher return on investment (ROI) when compared to offline advertising.
Online marketing is different from traditional offline marketing media, allowing advertisers to see results in real-time enabling them to see what is working and what is not much quicker.
Compare this to a newspaper advert, where it is difficult to assess how many people have paid attention to the advert, and even the number of direct responses.
A digital marketing consultant can use the rich data available to make adverts more effective quicker, so increasing the marketing return on investment.
1. Level playing field
Small and medium sizes businesses now have the chance to compete in markets that were previously only open to large corporations.
All companies now have the opportunity to move into new markets with much lower barriers to entry.
We are now in an era where those who best give the customer what they are looking for can compete, no matter their size.
2. More Cost-Effective
In many cases, internet marketing can be much more cost-effective than the alternative offline options.
Some digital strategies can be very low cost, plus campaigns can be quickly optimised to drive a high return on investment.
3. Greater Customer Conversions
With most offline marketing it is difficult to optimise the campaigns, and the marketer simply does not have the data to know what is working and what is not.
Digital is different; it had available a wealth of performance data, so you can quickly test and improve your campaigns, and increase customer conversions.
There are numerous ways to drive new customers online, including:
90% of UK households now have internet access , would your business benefit from being in the top 3 search results in Google for your main products and services?
SEO is the process of optimising your website so that it appears in the top search results within the search engines for ‘buying queries’ such as “buy BMX bike”, or “guarantor loans”. 
Are you capitalising on the world’s largest online advertising networks such as Google and Facebook, to drive cost-effective traffic to your website?
This is a type of internet marketing in which advertisers pay a fee each time one of their ads is clicked, with a view to driving more visitors to their website. It is a way of buying visits to your site, rather than ‘earning’ those visits organically via SEO. 
With 66% of the UK’s internet users , regularly using social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, are you capitalising on this marketing opportunity for your business?
Social media marketing is the practice of promoting your content and your brand on social media networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc) to drive traffic, generate leads, and increase brand awareness for your business. 
Do you regularly communicate with customers and prospects with interesting emails that build trust in your business? Do you share relevant offers that generate fast new sales?
Using email to promote a business’s products or services, though is most effective when the emails help to develop relationships with potential customers. 
5. Content marketing - is the technique of creating and distributing valuable content for the purpose of generating brand awareness of your business, traffic growth, lead generation, and customers. 
6. Affiliate marketing - one of the oldest forms of marketing where you refer someone to any online product, and when that person buys the product based on your recommendation, you receive a commission. 
7. Online PR - similar to traditional PR in the sense that it is about influencing people rather than buying adverts. The influence could result in a story in a magazine, newspaper, or blog. It could also result in another online pick-up, including social media. 
9. Conversion Rate Optimisation - do all your web pages effectively turn your website visitors into new enquirers and customers? Would you like your website and its pages to be much more effective?
The answer depends on:
1. Your business goals
The marketing strategies used will depend on the goals your business has.
Maybe you have just launched a new finance brokerage on the back of venture capital, and have a large budget to put towards PPC to drive customers and revenues fast.
Or maybe you have opened a new local store, and need to quickly drive new customers via PPC, plus overtime increases your natural search engine presence using Local SEO, plus get your brand known locally via social media.
2. Your products, services, and market in which you operate
For example, if you supply commercial equipment to the nuclear industry, the right marketing channels are going to be very different to a business that sells ladies' fashion. Or if you are a firm of chartered surveyors, then the best forms of marketing will probably be different to a Premier League football team.
3. Your business's current marketing
Your existing marketing activities will greatly influence your digital strategy. For example, if over the years you have developed a large database of your existing customer’s details, then email marketing may be the way to go.
If you currently run TV adverts, then maybe search engine optimisation to optimise your brand name in the search engines.
Or if you currently sponsor sports teams, then social media marketing could be a great way to engage new customers.
4. The speed at which you need results
If you need new customers in one months’ time, then the digital marketing tactics used will be very different if there is more time. For example, a small PPC campaign can be set up and start delivering results quickly, whereas local search engine optimisation can take many months.
If the right tactics are used appropriately and executed correctly, then digital has few disadvantages. Though many companies have ‘horror stories’ and never enjoy the benefits digital offers because this often does not happen.
Digital is very technical with lots of ‘jargon’ which can ‘baffle’ business owners. This opens the door to unscrupulous and ineffective digital marketing agencies selling services they are unable to deliver.
We would recommend you take time before employing an agency and shop around. Google's Maile Ohye shares some excellent advice here.
Other tips include:
If you pay your prospective agency for a one-off audit before employing them, you give yourself the chance to ‘see them in action’ before signing a larger contract, and find out if they are the type of people that you can work with.
Agencies may have skills and expertise that your business does not have. As a result, they should be able to achieve results faster, and more cost-effectively than you could achieve in your own business.
A reputable digital marketing agency should have years of experience delivering new customers to numerous businesses as a direct result of their marketing activities.
Before you engage a digital marketing company, you should seek references from previous clients who may be similar to your business.
See our guide: How to Hire an SEO Agency?
71% of UK internet users use the web to find information about goods and services .
SEO is the process of optimising your website, so that the search engines and your visitors understand and love your website, so it appears at the top of the natural rankings for your most commercially viable keywords.
Is your website optimised so you are capitalising on this?
Would your business benefit from being at the top of the search engines for search queries about your products or services?
SEO helps businesses to be found in the search engines for search queries that will benefit that business.
This is achieved by both optimising the website and attracting links to the site from other websites and social media.
The extent of the work that is needed very much depends on what you are looking to market, the volume of business you are looking to generate, and your main competitors.
For example, achieving the number one spot in Google for “plumber in Godstone” will require significantly less work and time than say “car insurance”.
Social Media use for UK internet users has seen enormous growth, from 45% in 2011 to 66% in 2017 .
Social media marketing is the process of engaging with your customers, or your potential customers on these platforms to fundamentally drive enquiries and sales. Is your business capitalising on these platforms?
66% of internet users in the UK now use social media. It can be a place for your business to build its audience, share and communicate with your prospects and customers.
It is also a platform on which to advertise. Facebook’s advertising revenue has grown from $1.9B in 2010 to $27B in 2016 . This is because Facebook is an extremely effective place for businesses to place adverts.
So whether it be via regular social updates and engagement, or social media advertising, there are many potential marketing opportunities for your business on social media.
If utilised correctly when you add value to your audience.
Do you have customers and enquirers that have not yet become customers? Are you capitalising on this with effective email marketing?
Many people have negative opinions of email marketing because of ‘spam’.
On the other hand, there are companies and organisations you trust, where you welcome the ‘newsletter’, or special offer’, because it is something you are interested in or want.
Email marketing can be extremely effective and cost-efficient, as it is fast and measurable, especially if you already have a database of customers and enquirers.
If you use email in a positive way, such as giving people interesting and useful content, and relevant special offers, then this could be very effective for your business.
Yes! Google and Facebook are two of the world’s largest companies because their advertising networks are so effective.
Are you capitalising on this?
Have you ever paid for printed publication adverts before, such as newspaper or magazine ads? If so, you will be well aware of the disadvantages, such as not knowing who is looking at your ads, and the cost irrespective of the success of the ad.
With a pay-per-click online advert, you simply only pay the advertising fee when your advert is physically clicked on.
Therefore, if you are targeting the wrong audience so people do not click on your advert, then you will not be charged.
You have access to all sorts of data about your advert, such as the demographics of people who click on the ad, time of day, areas of the country, and so much more.
This helps you to quickly refine your ads, so they become more and more effective.
90% of UK households  today have internet access, are you putting your companies ‘best foot forward’ with a highly effective website?
71% of internet users use the web to ‘find information about goods and services’ . A website is your online shopfront and in many cases your only chance to impress potential customers.
It does not matter if you are a hotel, solicitor, manufacturer, dentist, retailer or local plumber.
Does your website look professional, is it fast and easy to use, do you have good customer reviews, is it easy to find what you want, does the website show the personality of the business, and more?
56% of UK internet users  encountered speed or technical problems when using a company’s website. Are you losing customers this way?
Does your business website get visitors but not enough are turning into customers? You can find out why and improve.
It can be difficult to ‘second guess’ what your potential customers will best respond to.
Whilst your website may look great, that does not mean it will be effective in converting visitors into customers.
With a website, you do not need to ‘second guess’ what your visitors are looking for, as detailed stats and analysis tools are available to find this information out.
Conversion rate optimisation (CRO) is the process of testing and measuring the design, copy, and details of your web pages to find out what works best.
You could use software to analyse where people actually look on a page, which may influence where for example you may place a ‘buy now button’, or ‘sign up field’.
CRO can turn a page with no customer engagement into a highly effective page.