The Beginners Guide to Digital Marketing

I love digital marketing 

Digital marketing also frustrates the hell out of me

It can be a clear cut path for any business or freelancer to get a steady stream of exposure, awareness, engagement and enquiries for their products and services.

It can also be a hyped up spam fest with “guru” clowns selling their “ninja” system that teaches you how to make a gazillion dollars while working for four minutes a week from the beach (which, in case you don’t know, is a bunch of nonsense)

One of the biggest questions (and frustrations) of businesses large and small is “how do I get more leads?”.  Most have got by on that mystical “word of mouth” which I agree is the best way to acquire clients, but, let’s be honest, except giving an exceptional experience to your clients and maybe some kind of referral scheme, you have little control over whether you get word of mouth business.

So we start looking as to how we can get new leads on a controllable and consistent basis and digital marketing provides a solution here.  Whether it be social media marketing, e-mail marketing, PPC or SEO, you know that the one place your ideal clients congregate is online.  So thinking about a digital marketing strategy makes perfect sense.

I got into digital marketing through necessity.  I was passionate about fitness and had toyed around with personal training, teaching martial arts and fitness classes for about 10 years before I took the leap and left a well paying, senior role where I was well thought of to set up my very own fitness business.

I know..right?! 

But it gets better, I (in my infinite wisdom) set said business up in 2010 still reeling from the financial crisis, in a budget gym where members paid £14.99 a month and in the middle of summer (when personal trainers have less leads coming in).

Looking back, I drive my fist into my head! What was I thinking?!

But through sheer bloody mindedness, refusal to quit and learning quickly on the job, my business grew.

I ended up training up to 50 clients a week, had 2 boot camps, a martial arts academy, a running club, an online program and a supplement company 

When I started I had NO budget, I taught myself how to build websites, do social media marketing, do SEO etc.  Built some SHOCKING websites and made a ton of mistakes along the way but with time, I got great results, ended up falling in love with digital marketing more than fitness and started getting other people more awareness, engagement, enquiries and clients via digital marketing methods

I told you that story because it’s important that you know that I honed my craft in the trenches.  I wasn’t some digital marketing executive sat in some nice safe office spending a corporate companies time and resources.  I had to succeed in digital marketing because I didn’t have a choice.  And it’s this “do what works not what looks pretty or is fashionable right now” approach I take to digital marketing that might help you get the results you are looking for along the way.

In my conversations with business owners and freelancers, they seem pretty overwhelmed with the whole thing.  They say things like, “I spent 4 hours just getting my LinkedIn profile right!” And “I do (insert business here), this digital stuff does my head in!” Or “F£&k it! I’m just gonna run ads, see what happens” (of course, without a solid ad strategy, they lose all their money) and my favourite “I’m gonna put my f&@king fist through this f£;king laptop and throw it out the f€>king window!!!” (That was actually a message I got from a prospective client after trying, and failing to build her own website!).  Hence this Beginners Guide to Digital Marketing!

What I wanted to do with this blog post was to lay out a very simple beginners guide to digital marketing, so by the end, you have a clear, go to market strategy of how you can get started on this weird and wonderful journey.

If you got any feedback, drop us a comment at the bottom of this blog post.

Beginners Guide to Digital Marketing - 10 steps to success

1. Work out your buyer personas

You really don’t want to skip this step, get this right and the rest of your marketing will be easy (or easier at least) but skip this step, and your marketing, and the results it achieves, falls into hit and miss territory.  It might work, but it probably won’t.  We cover this subject in a lot more depth in this post

Your buyer persona is a semi fictional profile of the ideal person you see buying and/or using your products and/or services.

Best place to start is with your current clients.  Who do you work with in your business that is an absolute joy, they are regular as clockwork, pay on time, refer you new business etc.

Then work backwards from there…

What’s their demographic (age, gender, social background etc.)

Where do they congregate online? (Socials, google search, google local etc.)

Where do they get their information from? (Socials, blogs, news sites, podcasts etc.)

What problems are they trying to solve and how does your product/service fit in with 

And so on.  You see, marketing is basically communicating a message.  If you know who, specifically you are communicating that message to, it becomes much more straightforward and your marketing results will increase.

Take your time with this, and keep revising it.  If you have downloaded the digital marketing plan template from our homepage, there is a sheet in there that will guide you to create your buyer persona.  If not, you can download it here.

2. Work out the journey that you want your buyer persona to take

The next step in the beginners guide to digital marketing is scoping out the customers journey.  Once you have worked out who your buyer persona is, you’ll have some key insights. You’ll know what platforms they use, their preferred method of communication and how you can solve their problem with your product.  This is going to guide your content creation, your offers and how you pitch your products and services to these ideal clients 

You can divide the customer journey into 4 stages:

Awareness - before this stage, your prospective clients don’t even know you exist! Your keywords at this stage might sound like “what is (your product/service)” It’s important that content aimed at making people aware of your existence is full of value, pitch free and seeks to impress and begin some kind of relationship.  Remember, you haven’t built up any equity yet so no one will buy at this stage (if they do, well lucky you!) but your focus should be purely on relationships 

Engagement - at this stage, your prospective clients have heard of you, they’ve seen your social media posts, maybe your blog and they like your pitch free, value adding approach.  They may start searching for your company name or googling “(your product/service)(your town).  So now we need to add some kind of engagement.  This could be a like, comment or share, a comment on a blog, an e-mail subscription (more on that later) and it’s important that wherever appropriate, we respond to any engagement and start a conversation, this leads us on to the next stage

Enquiry - now, your prospective clients know you and are starting to like you.  You have indicated that you can help them and at this stage, providing you have included call to actions in your content, your prospective clients and going to be making initial enquiries about working with you.  The kind of keywords your customers may be using to search for you could be “(your service) near me” or “(your product) cost”. You may not be the only horse in the running, but if you have given great information and demonstrated expertise and more importantly...how much you care, you’d hope the scales could be tipped in your favour

Early in my career, I was in a client meeting where it was me and another agency in the running for a social media campaign.  Unfortunately the business had been broken into the evening before and they had uploaded the security video to YouTube and shared it on their socials.

During the meeting, they showed this to me, I immediately advised them to delete the post (which diverted to YouTube) and redo it but upload the video directly to Facebook.  This resulted in much more exposure.

Because I provided value BEFORE getting paid, this built relationship equity and I got the business.

Build a relationship, demonstrate how good you are via content that your ideal client will engage with and provide calls to action 

Acquisition - and finally, the moment we’ve all been waiting for, the point where our prospective clients become actual clients.  Up to this point, we have moved our prospective client down a journey.  Here they may be searching for the keywords “buy (your product)” or “best price (your service)”.  We need to understand that their journey starts way before we ever hear from them, this is why it’s crucial that we put out content that engenders awareness, encourages engagement and promotes enquires.  Playing the long game and focusing on building relationships.

But it’s fair to say, a prospective client may not jump to your 5 figure package straight away.  

Initially, try and think of a way that you can offer a service at a lower price point.

The focus here shouldn’t be on profitability, but on acquiring a client.  This could be an ebook, training, video series etc and could be priced as low as £5.  Once they have become a client, you have opportunity to upsell your products and services as you’ve now built a solid know, like and trust relationship.

3. Build a list of keywords

Now we know who our ideal customers are and the journey they should be taking, we now need to start thinking about all the search terms they will be using when searching for your product/service.  This could be locally focused keyword such as “wedding planner near me” or more research based “what is the point of using a wedding planner? You can check search volumes using a keyword research tool. Wordstream have a free offering for this as do Google Adwords with their keyword tool.  

Start with a list of 10 keywords/key phrases that you want your website to rank for and set them up in a SERP (Search Engine Results Pages) rank tracker.  You can set this up for free at WhatsMySERP.com for 10 keywords.

4. Do some competitive analysis

Now you’ve got some keywords that you know get a good amount of traffic, now you need to know who you have to beat!

There is a simple (and free) way to get started with competitor analysis 

  1. Type the keyword you want to rank for into google

  2. Make a note of the top three in the organic search results (not ads)

  3. Head to ubersuggest and put each competitors website in the search box

You’ll be able to see what keywords they rank for, some of their backlinks, their top pages and how much traffic they get.  This is a great starting point for you to realise what you need to do to outrank them in the SERPS

5. Get your priorities in line

When we are busy talking about digital marketing strategy, it’s easy to get lost on what the point of doing all the SEO, social media and content marketing…

To get clients!

So let’s think about what works and what doesn’t.  According to “Get Clients Now!” By CJ Hayden, here is the order of client getting activities listed from most effective to least effective.

1. Direct contact and follow up (targeted cold e-mail/calling, contacting enquiries, reactivating old clients)

2. Networking and referral building (building strategic relationships, mixing with your target market and giving value, meet with connections, social media activity)

3.  Public speaking (speaking at an event where your target market congregate)

4.  Writing and publicity (blogging, article writing and placement)

5. Promotional events (creating your own event)

6. Advertising (Ads, Flyers, brochures etc. Digital or paper based)

6. Get a client getting, converting website with an unrefusable offer

Most small business websites are SHOCKING!  Sure they look nice but they haven’t been designed with the customers journey in mind.

You click on the website and you’ll get a sales pitch 

“We specialise in…”

“We were established in…”

“Call us for a consultation…”

Sure, some of that is needed but the majority of the copy should be focused on the clients needs.  As soon as your prospective client hits your website, they should see your unrefusable offer.  

Whether that’s a free resource that they can get in exchange for their email address or your “low barrier to entry” product/service that allow you to acquire a new client quickly.  Your website should be optimised for conversion, not merely for information.  You should track your analytics and monitor bounce rate to ensure visitors don’t click and leave but stay and take action.

7. Start with SEO

SEO stands for search engine optimisation.  This is the art of sending the right signals to the search engines to rank your website for the search terms that your customers are searching for.

This is a MASSIVE topic.  Well beyond the scope of this beginners guide to digital marketing post but a good place to start is that there are three parts to good SEO.  Technical SEO, which means getting any broken links fixed, having your site architecture correct and getting any redirects sorted, On Page SEO which involves researching and using the right keywords, page meta titles and descriptions, keyword density and internal linking and Off Page SEO which looks at backlinks, guest posts, citations across the web

Download a web crawler, many of these are open source and free to use, have a look at beam us up or screaming frog.  Both of these free tools can run a scan of your website and give you some good insights on the on page and technical SEO aspects of your site.

8. Get on the relevant social media platforms and build relationships 

There are a multitude of social media platforms , but remember, you don’t have to be active on all of them.  Only the ones where your ideal clients congregate, frequent and engage on.  This is why it’s so important to complete the buyer persona in the first instance do you know which platforms to utilise.  Be consistent in your posting and develop an editorial calendars for content creation and bulk create social content in batches.  Download the free digital marketing plan template from the home page

9. Come up with a way that they can get to know, like and trust you for free

Like we previously said, its unlikely that a prospective customer to buy/make an enquiry on their first visit.  So, look at your customer buyer persona that you created in step 1 and think about a resource that you could create that could add value for them.  Then you can give this away on your home page in exchange for their e-mail address and permission to contact them.  Which leads us on to point 10... 

10. Build an e-mail list and nurture your subscribers 

It comes up regularly in conversations, "Why bother with a website when you can use social media for free?!" and "There isn't any point in e-mail lists, everyone is on social media!" and on the surface, I don't blame anyone for having this viewpoint initially.  However, consider this:

Social media algorithms are constantly changing, one day you'll be getting organic reach and engagement, the next day...nothing.  Truth is, you have no control as to whether or not social media works, that lies in the hands of the social media companies.  Only about 5% of your fanbase will even see your posts.

Social media marketing these days is pretty much pay to play, if you want your prospective customers to even have a chance of seeing your content, chances are, you are paying out £££ on a monthly basis. 

If they wanted to, social media companies could just close your account.  Thats it.  Your business is dead in the water.  There are horror stories of accounts being axed for marginal breach of terms.  This has to be an unacceptable risk for any serious business owner.

E-mail marketing however, is a medium you do have control over.  Once you pay the set up costs (you can usually get started for free) you can send all the e-mails you want.  There is less "noise", if social media is the noisy nightclub where everyone is shouting over each other, e-mail marketing is the quiet wine bar where you can have a one to one conversation.

Most importantly, when you build and nurture your e-mail list, no one can take your list away from you so you maintain full control, and you arent at the mercy of whether or not an external company changes its rules.

And not forgetting that e-mail marketing done well blows social media out of the water in regards to click through, open rates and return on investment, you'd be crazy not to be leveraging  e-mail marketing in some form.

Use social media marketing, but use it to drive prospective customers to your free opt in landing page, capture their e-mail and then design an auto responder sequence to build a relationship and develop the know, like trust factor.

Bonus Point! - Get your analytics set up and track, track track

Success in digital marketing is down to knowing what is working and what isn't.  And the way we do this is through analytics.  So no Beginners Guide to Digital Marketing would be complete without it!

Get started by making sure that your website is connected to Google Analytics and Google Search Console.  Google analytics will show you how many visits your site gets, from where, how long and what they do when visiting your site and Google search console will show you how your site performs in search and advises on any problems that could be occuring on site and also enables you to submit a sitemap, which is another essential step when it comes to SEO.

But it doesn't stop there, for any social media platforms you use, keep track of your results via the corresponding analytics platform e.g. Twitter Analytics and Facebook Business Suite.  Track reach, impressions, likes, comments, shares, engagement etc.

For e-mail marketing, track deliverability, open rates, e-mail bounces, click through rates, unsubscribes, list growth rate, spam complaints and forwarding/e-mail shares.

By tracking and tweaking over time, you'll find out what works best for you your business.

So there you have it, 10 points (Plus one bonus one!) for a beginners guide to digital marketing.  Which points will you be implementing?  Leave us a comment below and let us know.



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