Making Sense of Digital Marketing

I submitted this article for a WomensNet publication, and wanted to share it with Insight readers as well. Enjoy, and as always — thank you for reading it, and please don’t hesitate to reach out if it drums up any questions!

AS BUSINESS owners and entrepreneurs – even as family members and friends – we all use digital technologies. From filing forms, to staying in touch, to ordering groceries through Alexa, technology has become an ever-present feature of our personal and professional lives. In fact, in 2018 a Pew Research study found that 77% of all Americans go online every single day. Clearly, today’s businesses and consumers are spending a lot of time online.

At its core, Digital Marketing offers a broadly accessible way to effectively reach customers. However, with so many channels, tactics, and options available, it can also be a challenging ecosystem to navigate. This article offers a simple guide you can follow to make sense of the noise, and concentrate your efforts on the specific digital strategies + tactics that will work best for you.

Step 1: Remember Who You Are

Have you ever found yourself in a conversation where someone in the room said, “we really need a Facebook page.” If so, it’s likely that many folks nodded in agreement. When you apply this same platform-first thinking across the digital ecosystem, though, you will soon get overwhelmed. Do we also need a Twitter account, and Instagram? Don’t forget Pinterest, Snapchat, MailChimp, Google, Salesforce…the list spirals out of control rather quickly.

I can promise you one thing: no single business has the money, time or resources to be present and effective on every digital channel at the same time. Those resources are all finite, a fact that is just as true for my own small business as it is for global teams with multimillion dollar marketing budgets. Rather than launching a page on a new platform for the Internet’s sake, take a step back and remind yourself of the business you are in and what you’re in it for. Different digital channels create different opportunities, and by taking the time to recenter and refocus, the prioritization of digital marketing channels will become a rather easy exercise.

First, think about where your business is within its lifecycle. Is it new, in a growth phase, or peaking at full maturity? This determination will help you narrow in on the platforms that will work best for you given your particular needs. Then, take a moment to define your core customers. Every digitally-savvy professional knows that we don’t need to make a guess at who they are: there are tons of ways to gather real, insightful information to know who they are with less doubt. Dig into your customer database, survey the folks who walk through your store, and research the abundance of third-party information that the Internet has to offer. This information will help you determine where you need to be online to reach your customers.

Step 2: Research the Platforms

Just as you’ve acknowledged the realities of your own business and customers, it’s important to also acknowledge the realities of various digital marketing channels and platforms. Each of these can be effective if approached with intention, and we want to focus efforts on only those channels that will be the most effective for you.

Consider Facebook as an example. With 2.23 billion monthly active users worldwide, it’s clear that a lot of consumers login to that platform. It may be less obvious that Facebook recently fell to the #3 most visited website, behind Google and YouTube; or that Facebook users under the age of 30 have fallen off dramatically. If your product or service targets the Baby Boomer segment, this may be a great arena for you! However, if you are specifically targeting the up-and-coming generations, you may want to consider Facebook’s value for you alongside other platforms.

In the end, there is no silver bullet for selecting a digital marketing platform. However, with a little bit of due diligence, you can begin to make the technology and budgeting decisions that make the most sense for your business.

Step 3: Always Be Testing

Whenever I teach digital marketing courses to local business professionals, I always make it a point to remind them that digital marketers are never wrong: we only prove or disprove our hypotheses. Statisticians and scientists the world over will tell you that no learning is a bad learning, and digital marketing follows this same path.

One of the greatest advantages of digital marketing is its agility. Marketers can launch, pause, and adjust digital campaigns in real time, most often at a low or minimal cost. This makes digital marketing one of the most cost-effective, highest ROI investments a business can make. Maybe you’ve done your research and followed the first two steps in this guide, but still aren’t completely certain which channels or platforms are right for you. That’s okay! Launching a Facebook page and a Twitter account are both free to do, and in doing so, you can test your theories (that Twitter may be more effective, for instance). By building a presence on both channels, you can closely monitor activity on each to see what resonates best with your customers and your goals.

A similar testing approach can be taken with your campaign-level activities. Rather than going all-in on one message or brand image, try testing a few you think will be relevant to your business and customer, and then let the data decide! A relentless dedication to this test-and-learn strategy can help you make important marketing decisions while avoiding potentially expensive mistakes.


Digital marketing is a tool that can help you reach relevant customers to boost your business. And while it may seem complex on the surface, you can rest assured that with a little bit of research and intention, you will soon become the master of your “domain.” (Get it? Digital Marketing humor!)

Kristy LaPlanteComment