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What are the Fundamentals of Digital Marketing?

The fundamentals of digital marketing — understanding your audience, creating valuable content and measuring results — refer to the guiding principles that can help lead your strategy and result in successful marketing campaigns.
Naeem Jaraysi using a laptop to earn his marketing degree at SNHU

Understanding the Numbers
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Imagine a toolbox filled with different tools that brands can use to attract, engage and convert customers. Tools that allow you to meet people where they are — which, as we’ve come to know, is online. Effective digital marketing is all about finding the right mix of those tools and strategies to help you achieve your business goals. Understanding the fundamentals of digital marketing can help you choose the right mix.

Digital marketing refers to the use of all internet-based marketing efforts. It's about sharing content with the aim of engaging and influencing potential customers, driving website traffic, generating leads and ultimately converting those leads to sales.

The fundamentals of digital marketing refer to the guiding principles that can help lead your strategy and result in successful marketing campaigns.

3 Fundamentals of Digital Marketing

When building your brand’s digital marketing toolbox, consider these 3 key fundamentals:

1. Understanding Your Audience

2. Creating Valuable Content

3. Analytics, Measurement and Data

1. Understanding Your Audience

Digital marketing begins with understanding your target audience:

  • Who are they?
  • What are their interests, preferences and behaviors?
  • What problems do they have that your product or service can solve?

By answering these questions, you can create targeted campaigns that resonate with your audience.

Steve Geibel with the text Steve GeibelSteve Geibel, an adjunct instructor of marketing programs at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) and managing director of Hype Creative Group and owner of Urbane Commando, said that knowing the target audience or customer inside and out is the most fundamental principle to keep in mind.

“If you don’t know who your customer is, you won’t know what messaging will resonate with them," he said. "If you don’t understand your customers’ media consumption habits, you won’t know where to find them.”

By understanding your audience, you can focus time, effort and dollars in places you are most likely to see a return. Define who it is you’re already reaching — and who you want to reach. Try honing your research on these groups to better understand how to reach and serve the right people.

With this new age of marketing, businesses have the power to reach a global audience and connect with customers in ways that were once out of reach.

“The advent of digital marketing was a game-changer for many,” Geibel said. “Few new companies can afford to buy large blocks of network TV time, but everyone can have a website."

He said that digital marketing is cheaper, more immediate and customizable compared to traditional outbound marketing.

2. Creating Valuable Content

Content is at the heart of digital marketing. Whether it’s blog posts, videos or social media updates, your content needs to provide value to your audience. This can mean educating them, entertaining them or inspiring them. Whatever the format, your content should be engaging, informative and shareable.

Dr. Jeff Haddox with the text Dr. Jeff Haddox“A compelling story is the key to enticing your audience to engage with your content,” said Dr. Jeff Haddox, an adjunct marketing instructor at SNHU and chief digital officer at RuffleButts. “Content includes imagery, video, copy and calls to action. This is how the consumer sees and consumes your brand and the product or service you’re selling.”

In a time where people are consuming more content than ever before, Haddox said that “this is fundamental and must break through all the other content being consumed by your target audience.”

A few things to consider when creating valuable content include:

  • Length. Decide where the content will live, and what its purpose is — this alone will help determine length. An email will be longer than a tweet, but not as long as a blog post. No matter which platform, keep in mind quality over quantity.
  • Mobile friendly. Think mobile first. More and more people are accessing the internet from a phone and are looking for an experience tailored to their device.
  • Visuals. Including elements like infographics, videos and pictures can help to tell your story in a compelling way and create content that grabs your audience’s attention.

Tami Brouillette with the text Tami BrouilletteTami Brouillette, an SNHU adjunct marketing instructor and owner of Contented Media, said that a common mistake companies make when it comes to media creation — specifically social media — is being too self-centered.

“Companies should do some promotion, but they should provide more valuable (related) content to users and listen to what users say,” she said. “Otherwise, they won’t come back. No one likes the guy at the party who only talks about himself.”

3. Analytics, Measurement and Data

To be effective in digital marketing, you need to track your results and measure your return on investment (ROI). By using tools like Google Analytics, you can monitor website traffic, engagement and conversion rates, and use that data to adjust your campaigns accordingly.

“Think of the data as the book ends; data holds the content together,” Haddox said.

This means starting with data to define your audiences for targeting and ending with data for optimization.

"Being able to consume and interpret large amounts of data and turn those data points into insights and actions is (a) fundamental key to digital marketing,” he said.

Digital marketing is unique in how readily available these insights are to businesses. With traditional outbound marketing techniques like radio, print or TV, there is less engagement to measure, which means less information to help you learn what is working and what is not.

Brouillette says data and analytics are essential parts of digital marketing.

“It’s the best way to see if you’re progressing toward your goal,” she said. “If the goal is the destination and the strategy is the map, key performance indicators (KPIs) are the street signs that direct you to your final destination.”

What are the 5 Ds of Marketing?

Another way to approach digital marketing is to think of the 5 Ds. The 5 Ds of digital marketing are:

1. Digital Devices

2. Digital Platforms

3. Digital Media

4. Digital Data

5. Digital Technology

1. Digital Devices

This refers to the various devices people use to access digital content, such as smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktop computers. Digital marketers need to optimize their content for each device to ensure a seamless user experience. Think back to the “mobile-first” mentality.

2. Digital Platforms

These are the online platforms that people use to consume digital content, such as search engines, social media networks, email and websites. Digital marketers need to understand the nuances of each platform and tailor their strategies accordingly. YouTube, for instance, has best practices around video titles, captions and descriptions that can help your content be found (or hinder it).

3. Digital Media

The forms of digital content that people consume — such as text, images, videos and audio — are all considered digital media. Digital marketers need to create compelling and engaging content that resonates with their target audience. This is also where the term integrated marketing campaign comes into play, where marketers develop campaigns that span multiple channels, both digital and offline, to help create a cohesive experience for their audience.

4. Digital Data

This refers to the vast amounts of data digital marketers can collect about their audience, such as their demographics, interests and behaviors. This data can be used to create more targeted and personalized marketing campaigns. With more traditional marketing techniques, the data is much more limited.

“The additional nuance with digital marketing is the concept of a digital footprint and the ability to track and understand engagement at a much deeper level,” Haddox said.

He said that the visibility and understanding of the customer’s journey is significantly more understandable in the digital marketing space than in the traditional marketing space.

5. Digital Technology

This is a term for the various technologies that digital marketers use to create and deliver their campaigns, such as marketing automation software, data analytics tools and customer relationship management (CRM) systems.

Digital Marketing and Your Career

Thinking of entering the world of digital marketing in your career? Now is a great time. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the overall employment of advertising, promotions and marketing managers is projected to grow 10% from 2021 to 2031, faster than the average for all occupations.

The BLS notes that the demand for advertising and promotions managers is expected to be highest in industries that rely on these workers to create digital media campaigns, targeting customers through the use of websites, social media or live chats.

Danielle Upham with the text Danielle UphamConsider amping up your marketing career with a digital marketing course to sharpen your skills and build on your own personal toolbox.

“My SEO class made my transition into working with real campaigns in the workplace a flawless one,” said SNHU digital marketing program graduate Danielle Upham '19 '21G. “I walked in Google and Hootsuite Certified and was able to manage the SEO campaigns from day one because of the experience I had in my classes.”

Education can change your life. Find the SNHU digital marketing course that can best help you meet your goals.

Emily Distasio '19G is a copywriter at Southern New Hampshire University. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

About Southern New Hampshire University

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