The Online Marketing Value Chain: Why You Need to Master it!

In the age of digital marketing, every business, no matter the size, can engage with customers online.

As a marketer, you’re likely already establishing an online presence, either verbally or through social media.

You may also be familiar with the terms ‘digital marketing’ and ‘email marketing’ and how they fit into your marketing mix. But did you know that these are just two aspects of a much larger process known as the ‘online marketing value chain’?

The value chain consists of the series of activities that marketers need to go through in order to successfully market a brand or product online. These activities include researching the buyer persona, identifying the marketing channels and the types of content that will be most effective, creating content to spread the word about the brand or product, and measuring the results of your efforts. 

If you’re looking to grow your business using digital marketing, then you need to understand and get involved in every stage of the online marketing value chain. Doing so will put you in a better position to design and execute plans to achieve your business goals.

Let’s dive into the value chain and how you can get involved in each stage.

The Research Phase

The first and most crucial stage of the value chain is research. 

During this phase, you’ll need to do your homework and figure out who your target audience is, where they live, what they want, and what makes your product or service special. 

You’ll also want to take the time to define and understand the different types of marketing channels – social media, email, and website – and which one is most effective for your product or service. 

As a digital marketer, you’ll be familiar with using digital metrics such as website traffic, email open-rates, and social media shares to measure the success of your marketing efforts.

But did you know that these metrics don’t always provide the full picture?

You see, all of these measures focus on the final result of your efforts – whether or not a customer decided to purchase a product – while overlooking the crucial first step?

The truth is, digital marketing is all about getting in front of the right audience – whether through paid ads, sponsored posts, or valuable content – and getting them to understand and value your product or service. 

Why? The research phase is where you’ll find the answers to key questions such as:

  • Who is my customer?
  • Where do they come from?
  • What are their needs?
  • What are their interests?
  • What is their social media presence like?
  • What web sites do they visit most often?
  • What makes my product/service special?
  • What is their current behaviour?
  • What did I fail to consider?
  • What do I need to do to sell this product to them?
  • How can I make it easier for them to choose me?
  • What is my target audience’s digital behaviour?
  • What do I need to do to retain my customers?
  • How can I grow my business?

The good news is that you don’t have to do all of the research yourself. There are many tools available online that can provide you with the information you need to move forward. For example, digital marketing intelligence platforms collect data from various online and offline sources, interpret that data, and provide you with vital information about your target audience and the performance of your online marketing channels. (Think of a spy service that tracks the websites your customers visit so you can tailor your digital marketing efforts accordingly.)

The Creation Phase

Once you’ve established the value proposition and developed a clear understanding of your target audience’s needs and interests, you can move into the creation phase. 

In this stage, you’ll want to put your creative spin on things and develop a unique voice and experience for your product or service that will make it memorable. 

The better you can do in this phase, the more successful you’ll be in capturing your audience’s attention and establishing credibility. 

Fortunately, creative self-expression is an essential part of being human. So, as a marketer, you have ample opportunity to show off your unique style and develop a brand voice that will resonate with your audience. To give you inspiration, here are a some brand voices that you might want to use as an example:

  • Polaroid’s creative advertising campaigns
  • Red Bull’s distinctive music video clips
  • L’Oréal’s digital influencers
  • Holland’s tulip festival
  • Ben & Jerry’s ice cream truck campaigns
  • Gucci’s creative advertising
  • Pepsi’s quirky adverts

Whatever your product or service is, there’s a unique brand voice and marketing approach that you can use to promote it. So look for inspiration from the best in the industry.

The Distribution Phase

Once you’ve finished creating your product or service, it’s time to get into the distribution phase. 

The goal of this stage is to get your product or service in the hands of your audience. So you’ll want to take advantage of the various distribution platforms – social media, email, and website – to reach the people most likely to buy your product or service. 

These platforms give you the opportunity to connect with potential customers who are interested in your product or service and allow you to distribute useful, up-to-date information about your company, products, and services. (The advantage of using these platforms is that you can target the right audience – whether or not they are already customers – and the information you provide will be of great value to them. You can also measure the success of your efforts using digital marketing metrics such as web traffic, email open-rates, and social media shares.)

The more you do in this phase, the more successful you’ll be in driving sales. So be sure to make the most of the opportunities that these platforms offer. 

The Measurement Phase

Finally, we come to the measurement phase, which will be the last stage of the value chain. 

Here you’ll want to track the results of your marketing efforts and determine how effective your strategies were in generating the desired outcomes. (As you might imagine, this is where a lot of the fun comes in. But it can also be pretty hectic if you aren’t careful.)

The better you do in this phase, the better your chances of getting an ‘A’ from your professor. So be sure to put in the necessary time and effort to get the most out of your marketing strategies. (And for those of you taking online classes, you can ensure that your professors know which stage you’re stuck at.)

If you’re looking for a creative outlet, why not consider marketing? You’ll get to explore different areas of creative expression, develop new skills, and – most importantly – have a lot of fun while doing so. You might even end up with a unique story to tell your friends. Or your grandkids. (They’ll love the grandpa who took the time to learn something new about marketing.)