digital marketing

Digital marketing is a general term for any the effort by a company to connect with customers through electronic technology, including email, geolocation and mobile marketing, social media, online customer communities, webinars and other video-based content.

With the advent of the age of the customer, where customer preferences predominate in the interaction between consumers and companies, digital marketing has become a more complex, multidisciplinary and multi-departmental effort. Companies need to be able to engage with their constituencies in a proliferating series of medium and to be able to bring these interactions together in a single comprehensive view, sometimes referred to as the 360-degreecustomer view.

Digital marketing now encompasses both push and pull techniques. With outbound marketing tactics, for example, companies may place ads, cold-call, email or otherwise reach out to potential customers. Companies have also begun to use advertorials to distribute their message, where advertising is directly embedded in editorial content.

With inbound marketing techniques, on the other hand, companies may use social media, digital content in e-books, webinars or e-newsletters to encourage prospects to click on links and learn more about a company and its services. While outbound marketing can potentially reach a wider audience, it also runs the risk of barraging uninterested consumers. Inbound marketing is designed to reach interested prospects through audience segmentation, but by its nature may reach a much narrower segment of potential customers.

Inbound marketing can also be an important tool in the ongoing retention of existing customers, by creating more regular communications with those customers and enabling companies to engage with customers by providing informative, educational content as well as product promotions. So, for example, companies that sell insurance can educate buyers on the home-owning experience as well as attempt to sell various forms of insurance.

Marketing automation software has become increasingly important to digital marketing, where companies are trying to reach a broader swath of potential customers and also trying to link customer behavior with potential new purchases. So, for example, companies want to use marketing automation to measure visitor behavior on their website, target these visitors through marketing automation software, and potentially sell new prospects and services or target them for salespeople to cultivate later.

Geolocation and mobile marketing have also emerged as new forms of digital marketing. Companies can now identify where customers are on their mobile devices and send promotions as well as discounts and coupons to these prospects. Companies are now designing mobile apps to enable loyalty programs and facilitate shopping as well as cultivate other customer experiences. Sports arenas, museums and conventional retail stores have all developed digital mobile marketing campaigns.

Digital marketing has become more complex not only in terms of the various new communication channels that have emerged but also in terms of the analysis now required to make sense of customers and prospects and their preferences. Companies are now using a variety of tools to understand the behavior and preferences of customers, prospects and leads. From social media listening to predictive and big data analytics, companies now enlist a variety of resources to understand customer responses to their digital marketing efforts.


This was last updated in February 2015

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