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Early Stage

Your 2021 Guide to Digital Marketing for Startups

Kristin Bachman
5 min read

Marketing is something that nearly every business on the planet needs to consider if they want to not only get by but flourish in today's ultra-competitive environment. 

Marketing opens up a whole universe of sales opportunities that can translate to loyal fans and a robust customer base.  

The digital technology revolution has dramatically changed the way human beings communicate, which has led to the creation of exciting new marketing channels. Today’s world of astonishing hyperconnectivity cries out for these methods.

If you want to accelerate your enterprise's growth then a solid digital marketing strategy can be a great place to start.

What’s digital marketing?

Digital marketing is marketing using electronic means, including online marketing. 

This means marketing campaigns that appear on a computer, phone, tablet, or another device such as a billboard in the form of digital signage. It can take various forms, such as video, display ads, and social media posts.

The advantages of digital over traditional marketing

Both digital and traditional marketing are time-honored ways of marketing.  

However, traditional advertising is often more expensive and time-consuming. 

That makes digital marketing an excellent way for cash-strapped startups to stretch their marketing dollars. It doesn't matter how massive or minuscule your budget is—digital marketing can be incredibly cost-effective, so you get maximum bang for your buck. 

Traditional marketing provides one-way communication, whereas many digital marketing channels are interactive, allowing a marketer to establish a rapport and forge relationships with customers. Interactivity can be a great way to boost engagement. 

Additionally, digital marketing can often be managed and updated remotely, saving you time and often money that would otherwise be spent on updating physical marketing materials. 

The benefits digital marketing

Digital marketing is analytics-driven

Digital analytics is all about dissecting data to extract actionable intelligence from it. 

You can use this information to learn more about your customers, including how site visitors engage with your content, their interests, where they come from, what kinds of solutions they’re looking for, and so much more.

Once you have this mountain of information in hand, you'll be able to precisely tweak your marketing efforts to serve your customers better. This can also help you improve your decision-making abilities. 

Digital methods democratize marketing

When your startup faces continual cutthroat competition, competing with large corporations can feel like a foolish endeavor. After all, they have billion-dollar budgets while you're valiantly struggling to bootstrap your way to success.

Digital marketing makes it easy for tiny startups to effectively compete with huge corporate behemoths. That’s because it levels the playing field, making it more about delivering the right marketing message to the right customers at the right time than pouring in massive amounts of cash into an advertising campaign.

Tools like search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing, and content marketing are powerful, relatively inexpensive weapons in a small to midsize company’s arsenal. Competently wielding them means you stand more than a fighting chance against ruthless rivals.  

Digital marketing delivers personalized messaging   

With the advent of digital marketing, audience segmentation has never been more critical. That's because consumers are making buying decisions faster than ever before.

The extraordinary challenge for digital marketers is to catch customers in the act of a buying decision. To do this, they need to understand how their target audience thinks and behaves.

Digital marketing lets you tailor your message to different customer segments. Each audience segment has a totally different motivation when shopping for a product. Personalized messaging allows you to understand your customer by assessing their behavior so you get to know their journey.

You’ll probably want to segment previous buyers out from new ones. That’s because you’ll be engaging differently with different subsets of customers based on established relationships. Also, consider differentiating your segments based on buying patterns and the types of products consumers are purchasing.

The key is to anticipate future needs so you can show customers what they crave even before it dawns on them they need it.

5 types of digital marketing

Content marketing

Content marketing is creating and distributing valuable content to capture your customers’ attention.  

Before you start to put together an editorial calendar, think about what will be most valuable for your target demographic. The most effective kind of content draws customers in by answering their questions or addressing their pain points. This can also boost your credibility by establishing you as an expert in your industry.

Effective content marketing engages your audience on a visceral level, and your content should prompt your customers to take action. This could be commenting on a Facebook post, signing up for a lead magnet, or buying your vegan brownies.

Here are some ways to do content marketing:

  • Articles
  • Blog posts
  • Case studies
  • Industry news 
  • eBooks

Search engine marketing 

Search engine marketing (SEM) means running paid ad campaigns on search engines such as Bing or Google. It’s like SEO, but this form of digital marketing aims to show ads to customers that use specific search keywords relevant to what you’re selling.

Most often, SEM is referred to as paid search or pay-per-click (PPC). Search engines make money when users click on ads. You’ll make money too if you effectively use this technique.

Targeting criteria also affect how successful a PPC campaign is. For example, if the targeting is too narrow, the ad won’t be shown to individuals likely to click on it.

If it’s too broad, the ad could be shown to the wrong target audience. Even worse, it might not be shown at all.

Because Google dominates the search engine ecosystem, you’re going to pay more for highly competitive keywords than you would with other search companies. However, try not to let that tempt you with going with a cheaper alternative.

That’s because most of the world’s cyber-surfing population uses Google, and you don’t want to miss out on engaging with this massive customer base. A solid SEM approach involves using Google and perhaps one or two of the less popular search engines.

SEM allows you to adjust campaign parameters based on past data. This means that if a campaign isn’t performing up to expectations, you can tweak it to boost performance. If it’s doing better than expected, you can pump more cash into it so it continues to run.

Although most search engines have their own SEM platforms, you might benefit from a third-party tool like SharpSpring or AdRoll. These two tools let you manage ads across all the major search engines.

Social media marketing

Social media has become a potent force in the lives of nearly every American. 

That’s why social media marketing, which is running ads on social networks, is so powerful. Keep in mind that some social media channels are better for reaching specific market segments than others.

For example, if you want to reach business professionals in specific industries, you may want to run your ads on LinkedIn. If you need to capture the attention of a younger demographic, TikTok may be a better option.

While it’s great to have a presence on multiple channels, you may want to pick one or two to focus on, so your efforts aren’t scattered. To grab the attention of your target demographic, try making your presence felt on the channel on which they’re most active.

However, before jumping headfirst into the social media universe, it can be helpful to take a step back to understand your customers and find out where they spend most of their time. Doing so will often make your efforts more impactful. 

Search engine optimization (SEO)

SEO is tweaking a webpage so that it appears higher in organic search results for specific keywords. These days, it’s one of the biggest ways customers find businesses.

SEO can provide you with a much-needed edge if you're a startup on a budget and have lots of competition. Effective SEO powerfully impacts customers at every stage of their buyer’s journey. By not giving the attention it’s due, you could end up falling behind.

While SEO criteria are constantly evolving, it usually focuses on making your website content relevant to your prospects’ specific needs. There are some decent tools out there that can help you understand which keywords you should be targeting. For example, Moz, Ahrefs, and Google Data Studio.

Email marketing

Email marketing is the most effective digital marketing tool of them all. That’s because it delivers the highest ROI (return on investment) for marketers, and email campaigns drive a staggering 760% increase in revenue.

Instead of marketing to prospective customers, you're reaching people who are already familiar with your brand. These are customers who’ve already signed up to receive your emails.

Email segmentation becomes easier when connecting an email marketing platform like MailChimp to CRM (customer relationship management) software. Or if you use tools like HubSpot or Salesforce with existing email marketing functionality.

Enter the new age of recruiting with Hunt Club

In our increasingly digital world, digital marketing is here to stay–and avoiding it might be one marketing mistake you don’t want to make.  

If you need to quickly find top-tier marketing talent but don’t have the skills or bandwidth to do it yourself, call the experts at Hunt Club. We can do all the heavy lifting for you, significantly reducing the risk of a bad hire while giving you back your time.

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