Is Marketing Online Still Possible?

The trendiest places to be found online these days aren’t social media sites or forums – they’re professional marketing platforms. From HubSpot to Pipedrive, these were the platforms that helped businesses of all sizes and types grow their reach and engagement with customers.

As these platforms continue to evolve and grow, it’s become apparent that traditional marketing methods and tactics – such as paid advertising or social media – are now possible on this new digital frontier.

In this article, we’ll explore how you can still invest in marketing and reach your customers online – even if you’re operating on a shoestring.

Why Online Marketing Is Popular

If you’re reading this, I assume you’re either a marketer yourself or someone who knows one. In today’s world, marketing is as important – if not more so – than ever before.

The role of a marketer changes as much as the medium through which they operate. Thanks to recent technological advancements and the continuing evolution of data-driven marketing, marketers are now responsible for more than just acquiring new customers. They must also engage with existing customers, provide value, and grow a business – all while following the brand’s voice, vision, and goals.

To achieve this, marketers rely heavily on digital marketing platforms, which allow them to target and engage with customers across different communication channels – like web, mobile, and social media.

Because these platforms make marketing more efficient and effective, digital marketers are popular among brands and businesses of all sizes. But why pay so much for ads on social media platforms when you can find the same level of engagement organically on your website?

How to Market Online

Let’s suppose you’re responsible for the marketing department at a business – how would you go about marketing online?

You could carry out marketing activities through social media (like advertising on Facebook or Instagram), email marketing, and SEO (search engine optimization).

You may also decide to take the route of inbound marketing – where you attract customers by providing value and meaningful interactions through content, rather than paid ads.

But just because you can advertise and market on social media sites and search engines doesn’t mean you have to. Why not opt for a more traditional approach – such as using radio advertisements, billboards, or magazines – and reach your customers where they are?

Why Traditional Marketing Methods Work In The Online World

Although online marketing is popular and effective, it’s not necessarily the case that all tactics and approaches from the offline world are appropriate online. Your approach to marketing and advertising may need to be different, but the general process – such as pitching to a target audience and measuring the results – remains the same. (For more on the differences between online and offline marketing, check out this blog post by HubSpot.)

The main difference between online and traditional marketing is the audience. In the case of offline marketing, your target audience is generally people you’d find in person – like friends, family, and coworkers. In online marketing, your target audience is likely to be people you’d never met before – such as visitors to your website, people who read your blog posts, and anyone who follows you on social media.

Based on this, your approach to marketing and advertising may be quite different. If your end goal is to attract new customers and retain those you already have, you may decide to pitch to different groups of people on different platforms – like Instagram for millennials and Facebook for Gen Z.

These are all valuable audiences that you can engage with and grow your business through. With so few leads to begin with, it’s essential that you find the right people – whether they’re in your existing customer base or an entirely new audience.

Traditional Marketing Is Still Popular

Although digital marketing is on the rise, traditional marketing – which primarily consists of advertising, marketing support and analysis, and public relations – still has its place in the digital world.

In fact, according to HubSpot Blogs research, only 14% of respondents listed digital marketing as their first choice for acquisition of new customers, compared to 19% who said they’d opt for social media marketing and 17% who’d go for display ads.

What’s more, 43% of respondents reported that their company’s marketing investment is increasing, with 29% saying it remains the same and only 28% reporting a decrease. (Source: HubSpot Blogs research, 2018)

This may be because marketers have learned to effectively leverage platforms like HubSpot, which provide analytics across multiple channels, and make it easy to track the results of marketing activities.

However, there are challenges that come with relying on traditional marketing methods in the digital world.

Outsource The Activities That You Can’t Manage

As a business owner, marketer, or administrator, it’s your job to make sure your company runs as efficiently as possible. You’re not a lawyer or accountant, so you don’t need to be hands-on with every aspect of your company’s operations. (For more on this, check out this blog post by Pipedrive.)

To this end, you may decide that some activities – like design, production, and delivery – are best left to specialists. For instance, if you have a graphic designer on staff, you may want to outsource the creation of your advertisements and the production of your content.

On the production side, there are numerous agencies and freelancers who specialize in media buying, creative development, and online marketing – all of which you can engage with to find the right fit for your business. (HubSpot has a freelancer directory where you can find specialists in all areas – from graphic design to marketing.)

On the other hand, if you’re running a marketing department within a company, it’s your job to make sure all the different areas of marketing – including social media, email marketing, and SEO – work together. You can’t necessarily outsource this to specialists as you would with the other parts of the process. (For more on this, check out this blog post by HubSpot.)

This is why as a business owner or marketer, you must be involved in the different stages of the marketing process. You should set the marketing strategy and vision for your company, approve marketing plans and budgets, review results, and monitor progress.

The Rise Of AI And Automation

Thanks to artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, marketers don’t have to be specialists in every area. These technologies allow for much greater efficiencies in marketing – such as defining target audiences based on their behavior, engaging with them through personalized messages, and measuring the results of your activities.

AI and automation can help marketers in various ways. For example, let’s say your target audience is defined as people who have purchased a specific product within the past six months. (Based on this, you can assume they’ve already had a relationship with at least one brand or business in the relevant industry.)

With automation, you can have a digital marketer or blogger schedule regular posts – like an online magazine – and then have these posts automatically curated and scheduled based on the behaviors and interactions of your target audience. (In other words, the content will change according to what your customers want rather than your having to pitch or find topics yourself.)

Thanks to AI, your digital marketer may be able to quickly identify relevant trends and relevant blogs to contribute to based on the products or services you sell. (Based on the example above, you may want to focus on online travel trends or luxury lifestyle trends – both of which are related to the products your business sells.)

As a business owner or marketer, it’s up to you to decide what will make your business unique and stand out from the crowd. While there are many tactics and approaches you can use to attract and retain customers, as a business owner, you must be the one to decide how you’ll go about marketing your company. (For more on this, check out the Digital Marketing Guide for Small Businesses from the American Institute of Stress.)