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Digital Marketing - What the Heck Is It!?

An overview of the fundamental concepts of digital marketing - written for ordinary analog business people!


If you consider yourself to be non-tech-savvy and have had limited exposure to marketing thus far, you feel intimidated by it, especially if you are the one in charge of making budgetary decisions.

However, there's no need to know all the minute details or become fluent in marketing jargon. Instead, anyone who wants to offer marketing services to you should be able to explain in everyday language how their proposed plans will deliver ROI.

In this short primer, our goal is to give you an understanding of the key concepts that underlie all marketing so that you can ask the right questions to prospective hires or service providers.


Traditional vs. Digital Marketing

Traditional marketing refers to those avenues for promotion that have been with us for decades before the internet become mainstream. Examples include television and radio commercials, advertisements in newspapers and magazines, direct mailing, and outdoor billboards.

Digital marketing refers to various forms of promotion that are done exclusively through digital channels. These days, most digital advertising expenditure tends to be via either Google or Facebook. Both have a variety of advertising formats available for display on different platforms.

Examples of Digital Marketing Platforms

You've probably seen the ads that show up when you search for something on Google. What you may not have realized is that Google ads can also be run on YouTube (owned by Google) and on many of the websites you visit (through their advertising service, AdWords).

If you're a Facebook user, then you've seen the ads that show up in your Facebook feed that somehow seem to target your demographic or interests. What you may not have known is that Facebook also owns Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp - and is in the process of unifying them into a single ecosystem for superior ad targeting.

Platforms such as Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn use similar mechanisms for ad targeting and display.

Why Digital Marketing Matters for Your Business

Digital marketing isn't just for targeting tech-savvy young people. It's now a legitimate way to reach people of all ages. It's also equally relevant for B2B scenarios. Today, a 55-year old C-suite executive is equally likely to be spending time on their smartphone as a 15-year old.

Generally speaking, digital marketing can be done with much smaller budgets, is more flexible, enables finer targeting, and provides richer performance data from which you can evaluate your ROI.

ROI Key #1: Placement

The digital world is continually shifting, and so you must focus on channels that are likely to give you the highest ROI today and over the next year.

There are three key questions:

1. Where is your target audience spending time online?

  • Searching Google for answers to specific questions?

  • Watching how-to videos on YouTube?

  • Scrolling through Instagram looking at photos and videos?

  • Reading business news and interacting with other professionals on LinkedIn?

  • Watching the latest scandals blow up on Twitter?

2. Which platform will give you the most underpriced attention?

  • Newer platforms tend to have a smaller user base, but their advertising options may be underpriced in relation to their potential performance.

  • Example: in the early days of Google ads, prices were very low, and you could capture a lot of highly targeted attention for little cost. Today, top brands are competing for the same audience, and thus the prices are much higher.

3. Who is best placed to promote your brand?

  • Should you create and manage the ad campaign in-house?

  • Would it make sense to outsource to a creative agency?

  • Would you get more results by paying an "influencer" (a mini-celebrity who has built up a significant following online)?

ROI Key #2: Creative

Creative means the text and visual elements (image or video) that you'll use to entice members of your target audience to click on your ad. Nowadays, people are numb to advertisements that try to sell them something without giving any value upfront.

Generally, people are looking for two things: to be entertained or educated - or a combination of both. A clever ad is one that makes people laugh, or elicits some response. You can probably think of recent ad campaigns by major brands that caught the public's attention.

The great thing about digital advertising is that it's relatively easy and low cost to run multiple variations of your ad simultaneously and measure the results.

ROI Key #3: Conversion

What do you want people who see your ad to do? Let's look at two examples.

  • B2C: If you're Coca-cola, perhaps your goal is to be in people's subconscious minds when they are next browsing the options available at a drink vending machine. In this case, your ad video is likely the only step in your campaign.

  • B2B: If you are selling a high-cost solution for enterprise customers, then perhaps you want to offer a free white-paper for download so that you can capture their contact details and have one of your salespeople follow-up. In this case, your ad has to entice them to visit a page on your website and that page, in turn, has to convince them that the white paper is valuable enough for them to spend the time entering their contact details into a form.

ROI Key #4: Follow-up

In most cases, people require repeated exposure to messaging before they are ready to make a purchase. Here are two examples:

  • B2C: They need to continually be visible to stay in people's subconscious as a positive feeling that will influence buying decisions.

  • B2B: The brand needs to offer something of value to entice their targets to subscribe to a newsletter. That way, they can regularly send helpful and interesting content that will eventually build up trust and warm the prospect up to be contacted by their sales team.


It isn't necessary for you to understand all the minute details of digital marketing. However, when choosing a marketing professional or service provider to work with, you should ask them to explain their overall strategy in everyday language. They should have clear and logical reasons for each choice they are making and why it will result in superior ROI.

If you're not yet ready to commit to hiring marketing staff or contracting with an agency, there is another option: hiring a freelancer and starting out small. Check out Conyac, our global freelancer marketplace, where you can find a broad variety of freelancers that might be a perfect fit for your brand.


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Written by: DLKR


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