Digital Marketing to boost business

Growing numbers of businesses are now using digital marketing technologies to promote themselves. Not only are they invariably more cost-effective than traditional marketing channels, they are also more flexible and traceable. Online search, in particular, has now become the main force in online marketing.

A recent survey by online marketing website E-consultancy shows that, in half of all cases, paid search yields returns in excess of 300 per cent. Search engine marketing (SEM) allows adverts to be targeted at customers searching for a specific product, while search engine optimisation (SEO) involves promoting a website's ranking on a particular web search site. Both can be tracked all the way through to the point of sale.

With 'pay-per-click', advertisers can set a price based on their conversion rates, which means they can know exactly how much money they are generating from every pound they spend. "Search marketing is particularly useful for small business customers because it levels the playing field for them," says Ian Carrington, industry leader in Financial Services UK at Google. "Given that Internet technology is available quite cheaply, a small business can compete with large competitors via the Web."

Traditional 'push' marketing strategies such as television and print advertising are difficult to target effectively and can involve huge upfront creative costs, which is often prohibitive for small businesses. "With search engine and digital advertising, the upfront costs are particularly low or even free," states Carrington.

Google Analytics, for example, is a free tool that allows advertisers to track users' activity on their website and whether or not they make a purchase. "By identifying the actions of users on its website, a business may conclude that it needs to change the site's design or make its product offering more explicit," adds Robert Pink, industry manager in Financial Services UK at Google.

Getting the right blend

It is important to get the right balance of different digital marketing channels, depending on the nature of the business and the types of customer involved. "What mix of media to use is a problem that all marketers face," states Carrington. "The fact both pay-per-click and email marketing offer tracking capabilities means you can work out the right blend by identifying the leads generated by each one. It's all about focusing on the conversion rate, as the ratio between the two will be different for every business."

Although there may be a high cost of entry for smaller businesses, mobile marketing can also prove highly effective. Email marketing is another good way of attracting new customers and making sales, provided it is targeted effectively and is not intrusive.

"You shouldn't force customers down a particular channel, but allow them to interact with your business in any way that they want. The freedom of a multi-channel approach is very important," stresses Carrington.

Worthwhile investment

The cost of digital marketing can vary tremendously from one business to another, according to Carrington. "For the small business, the trick is to do the research and start small. Learn what is happening with your potential customers when they come to the site, and if you see that you are achieving your desired return on investment, you can then scale it up," he advises. The time it will take for a digital marketing strategy to pay off depends on the nature of your product or service. The longer it takes a customer to purchase a product, the longer it will take for a digital marketing strategy to reap dividends.

"Digital marketing is all about hard numbers, the bottom line and how much money you can generate," states Carrington. He says there is a simple formula to follow, which is the 'cost per action' multiplied by the conversion rate. That gives the cost per point an advertiser is prepared to pay. "It's that formula that allows the business to make money from day one," he concludes.

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