What is online marketing?
Online marketing is the practice of leveraging web-based channels to spread a message about a company’s brand, products, or services to its potential customers. The methods and techniques used for online marketing include email, social media, display advertising, search engine optimization (SEO), Google AdWords and more. The objective of marketing is to reach potential customers through the channels where they spend their time reading, searching, shopping and socializing online.
Widespread adoption of the internet for business and personal use has generated new channels for advertising and marketing engagement, including those mentioned above. There are also many benefits and challenges inherent to online marketing, which uses primarily digital mediums to attract, engage and convert virtual visitors to customers.
Online marketing differs from traditional marketing, which has historically included mediums like print, billboard, television and radio advertisements.
Before online marketing channels emerged, the cost to market products or services was often prohibitively expensive, and traditionally difficult to measure. Think of national TV ad campaigns, which are measured through consumer focus groups to determine levels of brand awareness. These methods are traditionally not well-suited for controlled experimentation. Today, anyone with an online business (as well as most offline businesses) can participate in online marketing by creating a website and building customer acquisition campaigns at little to no cost. Those marketing products and services also have the ability to experiment with optimization to fine-tune their campaigns’ efficiency and ROI.
Benefits of online marketing
A key benefit of using online channels for marketing a business or product is the ability to measure the impact of any given channel, as well as how visitors acquired through different channels interact with a website or landing page experience. Of the visitors that convert into paying customers, further analysis can be done to determine which channels are most effective at acquiring valuable customers.
Analytics for web or mobile app experiences can help determine the following:
- Which online marketing channels are the most cost-effective at acquiring customers, based on the conversion rate of visitors to customers, and the cost of those visitors.
- Which channels are effective at acquiring and driving higher lifetime value for customers — such as email marketing, which drives repeat purchases to prior customers.
- Which cohorts of customers exhibit strong engagement behavior and high potential for upsells — such as software or mobile apps, which expect to sell more products to customers with high engagement.
Online marketing tools
There are a number of tools that can be used to build and maintain a robust online marketing program:
- Email marketing
- Social media marketing
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Display advertising like LinkedIn ads or Google Display Network
- Search engine marketing (SEM)
- Online events & webinars
- A/B testing & website optimization
- Content marketing
- Video marketing
- Marketing analytics like Google Analytics
- Marketing automation
- Customer relationship management (CRM)
- Content management system (CMS)
- Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising like Google Ads
- Affiliate marketing
Examples of online marketing
Some examples of online marketing campaigns include:
- Canon advertises for search keywords related to "photography" on Google, Yahoo, and Bing search engines to market their cameras to a relevant audience to drive traffic to a specific webpage.
- Whole Foods collects email addresses on their website to create email lists that can be used to advertise new products, sales, and events in their stores.
- Dove creates video advertisements and shares them with their audience on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms to promote favorable conversation about their brand and products.
- Bite Beauty partners with influencers to promote a new lipstick to their target audience of high-quality, beauty enthusiasts.
Although online marketing creates many opportunities for businesses to grow their presence via the internet and build their audiences, there are also inherent challenges with these methods of marketing. First, the marketing can become impersonal, due to the virtual nature of message and content delivery to a desired audience. Marketers must inform their strategy for online marketing with a strong understanding of their customer’s needs and preferences. Techniques like surveys, user testing and in-person conversations can be used to understand the overall user experience.
Online marketing can also be crowded and competitive. Although the opportunities to provide goods and services in both local and far-reaching markets is empowering, the competition can be significant. Companies investing in online marketing may find visitors’ attention is difficult to capture due to the number of business also marketing their products and services online. Marketers must develop a balance of building a unique value proposition (UVP) and brand voice as they test and build marketing campaigns on various channels.
How to get started
The first step to getting started with online marketing is to evaluate your goals and make sure they are measurable. Are you hoping to sign up 100 new customers? Generate 1,000 leads to fuel your B2B sales process? Build an email subscriber base of 10,000 people?
After that, you need to make a choice about how to construct an online presence that helps you achieve that goal and create corresponding a marketing strategy for these channels. Maybe you need to set up an ecommerce site. If you’re interested in blogging to drive awareness and subscribers, look into setting up a blog and strategize on how to create great content that would encourage sharing on social media channels. Partnering with a customer that is willing to evangelize your business by creating a case study or infographic can be powerful social proof as customers are evaluating your company. A simple website or landing page with a lead capture form can help you start developing your brand and generating traffic. A basic analytics platform (like Google Analytics, which is free) can help you start to measure how you are tracking your marketing efforts towards your initial goal.
When you're ready to start with online marketing, getting your team members on board and keeping track of all the work can be a hassle. Consider using a (free) Content Management Platform to keep track of all the tasks and help publishing some of the needed content.
Online marketing is also known as internet marketing, web marketing, digital marketing and search engine marketing (SEM). Online advertising and internet advertising are techniques involved with online marketing, but are not synonymous with online marketing.