How to survive the global shift to digital13 min read
Here’s our guide to building a powerful digital presence for your business.
Once you’ve read this, you’ll understand why companies that try to use traditional marketing models online are being left behind – and how focusing on customer search behaviours can build a stream of hot, informed and excited leads.
Each section lightly touches on the topic being discussed. There are far more detail and expertise we can share with you – but this guide is a great place to start.
Feel free to get in touch if you need any help or guidance building your digital presence.
The global shift to digital
Digital technologies are disrupting the way in which consumers engage with businesses.
Most companies understand that people use digital products like smartphones and tablets heavily, so therefore it’s important to have some kind of digital presence, in order to be ‘found’.
But the bigger change is in how people think, access information and make decisions.
Traditional sales models rely on customers:
- Approaching early in their buying process.
- Having performed little research.
- Lacking time and technical ability.
Today, most companies have websites – but many still assume that each customer will land looking for someone to hold their hand, point to some great features, and tell them what to buy.
Things have changed.
Customers make important decisions online
Your customers use the internet to research solutions to their problems.
- 35% of US adults have used the internet to research medical problems (Pew Research).
- 47% of millennials say social media influences their purchase decisions (Deloitte).
- 81% of shoppers perform research online, ahead of making a purchase (Adweek).
So what does this mean for your business?
- Simply listing your company and services online doesn’t cut it anymore.
- People don’t tend to search for a business.
- Instead, they search for a solution to one of their problems.
- If you provide someone with a solution, you gain an opportunity to sell to them.
Great digital content gets your brand found online
Expert advice packaged inside great content is how your company gets found.
If you want more traffic, increased conversions, and a stream of leads, prospects and sales, then your business always needs the same thing – and that’s great digital content.
Designing a website that looks pretty, explains the history of your company, and lists your services isn’t difficult to build – and won’t generate stream of hot leads.
That’s because people don’t search for articles about your founder’s life philosophy, or long shopping lists of services they haven’t even heard of.
Instead, they search for answers to problems in their personal and professional lives – and creating great content is how to rank your website highly in their search queries.
How do you decide what content to start creating to build your digital presence?
Brand positioning is the foundation of your digital presence
Start at the core of your brand identity.
- Who is your target audience?
- What are their pain-points?
- How can you solve these challenges, using your expertise?
Digital has probably changed the answers to some of these questions.
You might have new customer types, with different problems, that need fresh solutions.
Include your team in this process – as it’s important they’re ethically, emotionally and creatively invested in your brand refresh.
Exploring the impact of digital on your business and re-aligning the values that underpin your brand should be the starting point for any refresh in your strategy or content.
- How does digital impact your business model and the service you offer customers?
- Do your core branding assets such as graphics and tagline reflect your business today?
- Is your customer experience aligned across digital touchpoints such as your social media, promotional materials and in-store presence?
Your brand should honestly and consistently express your values, services and mission:
- Visually. Strong graphical assets will convey the emotional response that your brand desires, in both digital and print media.
- Verbally. Your brand’s tagline and elevator pitch should set the tone for your marketing materials, external emails, and any communications.
A digital branding and transformation agency can help your team with this process.
Once you’ve set your brand, started shaping your digital presence, and are confident you know who you want to help and how, it’s time to create content.
Start with search – and don’t stop
Once you’ve set your brand and decided who your customers are, your digital journey starts with discovering what they’re searching for online.
And don’t stop. Because their evolving search engine queries are your tickets to creating fresh content that generates a stream of hot leads.
People search for answers to their problems, ahead of searching for solution providers.
So, if you provide them with helpful answers, you can seize the opportunity to sell them a service at the earliest possible moment of their buying journey – before they even realise they want to buy.
An SEO (search engine optimisation) specialist can help advise you on some of the tools available for discovering search trends in your area or sector – but it’s not difficult to get started by thinking about the problems your customers often have.
Search engine queries are likely to use human language and be simple questions about problems.
For example, someone is likely to search, ‘How do I write a marketing plan?’ when they first find themselves struggling to organise and prioritise their company’s marketing activities.
By the time they realise that marketing plans are complicated and tricky to write, they’ve probably shortlisted the agencies that wrote free and helpful online guides, like ‘How to write a marketing plan’ and ‘10 tips for designing powerful marketing plans’ – as these agencies have clearly demonstrated their expertise in marketing planning.
So a marketing company that simply lists, ‘we can write great marketing plans’ on a list of services probably won’t get that phone call.
And that’s the problem with only targeting, ‘Marketing firms in Sydney’ as a keyword. Google Adwords tells you about competition and popularity, but it doesn’t tell you what part of the buying process a keyword is associated with.
And it should go without saying that talking to your customers as directly and often as possible should be an essential part of your business processes and culture. SEO research is important – but nothing beats picking up the phone and discovering the evolving challenges and requirements of your customers.
Digital marketing is inbound
‘Inbound marketing’ is the name of the strategy we’ve discussed so far.
- Inbound marketing: Publishing helpful online content that shares your expertise with potential customers.
- Outbound marketing: Traditional print and TV advertising, scattershot mailing lists, and billboards.
Inbound marketing is regarded as more efficient and less antisocial than outbound marketing.
Whatever product or service you sell, there’s expertise you have that can be shared online to demonstrate your expertise – helping more people with relevant problems find your website, articles and business, ahead of the competition.
Search engines will also rank your articles higher in results, when they see people choosing to spend quality time reading them – driving even more traffic to your website.
Inbound marketing can work for any business.
- A law firm could:
- Provide interesting case studies.
- Explore potential remedies to common legal problems.
- Address misconceptions the public have about popular legal issues.
- Examine legal cases trending in the news.
- A plumber might:
- Solve common plumbing issues in a handy online guide, with pictures or videos.
- A digital marketing firm can:
- Publish guides for SEO, graphic design, and writing marketing plans.
- Write a blog about the latest trends in digital marketing.
It might feel counter-intuitive to share your ‘secret sauce’ – but the number of people who successfully use your guide to fix all their problems is likely to be far smaller than the number who get part-way (or don’t even start) and realise they need your help.
Quality is more important than quantity, especially with the increasing intelligence of Google’s algorithm (which looks at how people interact with content and measures the online influence of the people who choose to share it, to ascertain its overall value).
You might decide to hire a digital marketing agency to assist in creating a standalone eBook, or an ongoing blog that showcases your expertise – especially if you’re busy, or your business doesn’t have an in-house copywriter.
Socialising your content and digital presence
Growing the digital presence of your business is an ongoing journey – and getting your high-quality content in front of as many potential customers as possible is the most important part.
There are a huge number of methods and tools for promoting your digital presence and articles online.
We tend to divide them into ‘organic marketing’ and ‘paid advertising’.
- Organic marketing is about ranking highly in search engine results, with great content. It’s a slow process, but can produce long-lasting benefits.
- Paid advertising within Google or social media platforms can be powerful, quick, and provides instant feedback about whether your content and audience-targeting is on-point. However, it’s most effective when combined with high-quality organic marketing efforts.
Businesses often discover that when a particular article ‘hits a spot’ – perhaps due to good timing or quality – and is shared by an influential website or person, their traffic and Google-ranking can increase rapidly.
‘Going viral’ (having content shared rapidly) is a dream of many marketers and content creators. However, an article doesn’t need to be read by a huge number of people, so much as ‘the right kind of people’, to start generating high-quality leads.
Most modern advertising platforms offer filters that allow you to target a particular audience with your content or advert. You can combine criteria for their age, hobbies, career choices and more, to target people who you think are likely to be interested in your products and services.
A/B testing allows you to compare the success of simultaneous advertising campaigns – run targeting different groups of people, or using different images or text – so that you can improve your understanding about the type of people who are your best potential customers and the styles of adverts they respond positively to.
Digital advertising is a two-way street. It can increase your sales – and your business intelligence, for future campaigns.
Running digital adverts is like performing a scientific experiment. Each advert is a hypothesis about your potential customers – and whether it’s correct or not, you gain valuable knowledge.
Potential theories could include:
- ‘Accountancy firm employees will respond positively to an advert showing them how our product can save them money.
- ’‘An infographic will be a more effective advertising method for showing how our product saves money, than a written statistic.’
- ‘Providing a simple BUY NOW button will generate more sales than sending them to read an article about our service first.’
Even if your theory’s wrong, you’ve discovered a way in which you can improve the ROI of the next set of adverts you run.
Advertising is fun, powerful and effective – but requires a few tools.
- A few ideas about who your ideal customers are.
- Theories about what the ‘barrier to purchase’ is for these customers.
- Knowledge of the advertising platforms you’d like to use.
- Digital assets, including artwork and banners.
- Written content for the advert and any webpages your audience will be sent to.
Hiring an experienced digital advertising agency to run your company’s adverts is a great way to get started and start seeing results.
Converting your traffic into sales
Driving more traffic to your website is great.
However, revenue and sales are the reason your business exists – and that’s what we need more of.
Lots of things can turn customers away from a website, including slow loading times, clunky design, and shopping processes with glitches and unnecessary steps.
However, ensuring you’re building a digital ecosystem that will lead customers on a journey towards spending money with you in the first place, is where you should start.
Setting an appropriate call-to-action (CTA) is crucial, and can include:
- ‘BUY NOW’
- ‘Sign-up for a free trial’
- ‘Join our mailing list’
- ‘Call to discuss our packages with our helpful agents’
Your ideal CTA will depend on whether you sell a product or service, its cost, and the buying behaviours of your audience.
- A ‘BUY NOW’ button could be perfect for a toy or clothes, which are often cheap and – more importantly – tend to be purchased on the basis of impulse and emotion.
- However, enterprise software is usually purchased as part of a long, analytical process, involving a whole team. An appropriate CTA in this case is more likely to be a phone conversation with an account manager.
- Pro-level photography software might be purchased by an individual, but if it costs $200 then they’re probably going to want a free trial – so that could be your CTA.
Funneling your CTA
Now you’ve set your CTA, your website and its content should be structured to funnel any visitors landing on any page on your website towards it.
Every page and piece of content you publish should serve a clear purpose in the path to your CTA.
- An advert might directly ask someone to perform your CTA.
- Blog articles that explore the benefits of your platform and its features could lead the reader towards performing your CTA, once they’re excited or intrigued.
- Pages can link indirectly to your CTA. For example, you could link a blog article to the profile page of an appropriate colleague, then suggest your visitor calls them.
Whatever your CTA is, you’ll need to track the success of your digital presence and marketing campaigns in driving visitors to perform it; and to follow your customers, to progress their initial and future sales.
Client relationship management
A client relationship management (CRM) platform is a crucial investment for your business to manage its digital presence, lead generation and growth.
Your business probably has a CRM system already, for storing customer information and tracking individual sales. But a modern CRM platform has the ability to perform (or integrate with software that performs) a range of tasks that build and maintain your digital presence, including:
- Tracking the progress and success of marketing campaigns.
- Collecting and storing data about your customers, for future marketing activities.
- Running segmented marketing activities, aimed at converting specific types of customer.
- Automated followups and identification of upsell opportunities.
Modern CRM platforms are updated regularly with new features designed to leverage emerging and innovative ways of tracking your customers and their requirements. Keeping on top of the functionality in your CRM system and exploring ways in which it can enhance your sales and marketing processes is time well-spent.
Use digital to keep ahead of the curve
If there’s one principle at the core of building your digital presence, it’s to keep in touch with your customers – by any means possible.
It’s inevitable that the challenges your customers are experiencing will change. And whichever company discovers these changes first will have the head-start in developing new products, services and strategies that address them – and generate new revenue streams.
Your digital presence wrapped-up
You should now have a clear idea about what building a ‘digital presence’ requires and how valuable it is to place your customers and their problems at the very heart of your business marketing activities.
There’s a near-infinite range of tools, platforms and strategies for actioning each section of this guide – but if you start at the beginning and focus on performing each stage carefully, you’ll find there’s a logical progression.
If you need any help with any stage of developing a powerful digital presence for your business, do get in touch – we’d be happy to help.