With the recent adverse publicity about social media, companies may be thinking about cutting back
on their digital marketing budgets. However, the reality is that people are increasingly spending
time online rather than watching television or reading print media. Along with this, as more
customers are researching and buying products or services online, there can be cost advantages to
digital marketing over traditional methods and customer interaction can be enhanced. This means
that companies should not underestimate the importance of digital marketing.
What is digital marketing?
Put simply, it is any form of marketing that exists online. It includes a company's branding (logos,
fonts, etc), website, blog posts, social media activity (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc), online
brochures, apps and much more. It also covers a range of tactics such as search engine optimisation
to ensure the website gains a high rank on Google, Yahoo or Bing and using email to promote
products and events. In addition, it includes marketing on a variety of devices from mobile phones
to computers. At its best, digital marketing can be: a cost effective way to compete with
competitors; good for targeting and reaching customers; and a pathway for a company to grow and
What is best practice?
There is lots of guidance on digital marketing, but it is possible to see some common themes on
what constitutes as best practice. Here are five best practice elements for creating a strong digital
1) Develop a plan and goals
To be successful digital marketing needs to be much more than just posting a few Tweets or writing
a Facebook advertisement. It requires a clear and focused plan to be in place; a lack of a coherent
plan is similar to setting off on a journey without any directions. Central to any plan for digital
marketing are the goals being set such as creating a demand or market for a product or service,
raising brand awareness, enhancing attitudes or influencing intentions and facilitating purchases.
2) Research the target audience and competition
Customers should be central to any digital marketing strategy. Knowing who the potential audience
is and how to best market to them is critical. This includes not only their demographics, but also
factors such as their life-styles, attitudes and values, and the social media sites they spend time on.
It is also important to know who the competitors are and what their approach is to digital marketing.
This will enable a company to make their products, services and marketing standout.
3) Integrate all marketing channels
Research shows that integrated marketing campaigns give much better results than single initiatives.
For example, sharing content across media platforms can increase website traffic and improve
interaction with key audiences. For such an approach to be successful, audiences need to be given
the same message or call for action regardless of whether a company's website, social media
presence or an offline platform is being used. While digital efforts need to match each platform's
style, a brand's unique yet consistent message should be maintained.
4) Be creative
By being creative it is possible to catch and maintain the attention of the intended audience and
raise their recognition of the brand. Incorporating unique and creative elements into a company's
digital marketing across a variety of devices is crucial to its success. This can include visuals such
as the logo, font, layout, colour scheme and images, as well as written content. It is also important
to ensure that the digital media is easy to connect with and refreshed frequently so that it remains
relevant and users are not repeatedly seeing the same visuals and written content.
5) Measure and Evaluate
Digital marketing is the most measurable form of marketing. Most social media and email
marketing channels provide analytical tools that can report on the reach and engagement of
campaigns. It is critical to use them to know whether the company's digital marketing goals are
being achieved and a sound investment is being made.
Best practice examples
Each year a number of digital marketing campaigns are highlighted as being particularly successful
and from which marketers can learn lessons. For example Marketing Week selected Heineken's
'Worlds Apart' as one of 2017's best campaigns. Using Facebook as the primary platform and the
hashtag #OpenYourWorld, it sought to break down barriers and find common ground between
people with opposing views. It achieved 3 million views in only eight days after its launch, with
over 50,000 shares in its first month. In the first half of 2017 Heineken's beer sales increased by
Other highly rated digital marketing campaigns of 2017 include Nike's #Breaking2, Sainsbury's
food dancing and Heinz, 'Pass the Heinz'.
The future of digital marketing best practice
Building on best practice, commentators are discussing some of the latest developments in digital
marketing. This includes focusing on micro-moments, that is any moment that drives a customer to
use their mobile from wanting to learn something, go somewhere or buy something. Other expected
trends include the use of voice assistance technology such as Amazon's Alexa and Google Home,
and a greater emphasis on personalisation and direct communication with customers.