Sometimes, digital marketing can feel overwhelming. There seem to be so many different ways to market oneself online. It’s impossible to know where to invest your time and resources, right? It’s a misconception, though – there are only about 6 unique forms of media (give or take), with a few subsets with them. Each of these forms of media can be really powerful, but only when you use them in the right way. If you use a channel to target the wrong part of the funnel, you’ll end up wasting time and money with limited results. But, if you align marketing media with the buyer journey, you’ll maximize results across the board.
Today, we’ll break down each key form of media. Then, we’ll talk about how to align each piece of media with the right funnel stage. Ready? Let’s go!
Understanding Digital Media Options
Our key forms of media will be:
- Organic & Direct
- Outbound Email (e.g. Newsletter, Event Invitation, etc.)
- Nurture Email
- Paid Media
- Social Media
- Human Touch & Direct Mail
ORGANIC & DIRECT
Organic: Your prospect queries a search engine (like Google) and finds your website.
Direct: Your prospect enters your domain name into a web browser.
But wait – why are we combining Organic and Direct? Shouldn’t they be separate?
First, a lot of your organic traffic is actually direct. When someone enters your brand name into a Google search (e.g. via the Chrome search bar) that’ll count as an organic search. There’s a lot of crossover between Organic and Direct, and not a lot of strategic difference. So, for tactical purposes, we’ll keep them aligned.
- Sustainable (long term)
- Technically challenging
Email can be broken down into one of three categories:
- Outbound Email
- Nurture Email
- Human-Touch Email (we’ll touch on this one a bit later on)
Outbound Email: You send an email directly into your prospect’s inbox. This is often a newsletter, an event invitation, or a promotion.
Nurture Email: You send an email to a prospect who has previously engaged. This is usually done via an automated system (like Marketo, Hubspot, or Pardot) and tends to feature evergreen content.
But wait – why are we distinguishing between Outbound and Nurture? Isn’t email just email?
Outbound Email and Nurture Email actually serve totally different functions in the funnel! We’ll get to all of that shortly.
- Highly Targeted
- Inexpensive ($$)
- Easy to operate
- Limited Bandwidth (you can only send so many emails!)
- Risks alienating your audience
Paid Media can also be broken down into two unique types.
Search Advertising: Your prospect queries a search engine (like Google), triggering a keyword bid.
Display: Your prospect is browsing a website that is part of an advertisers network (most websites are). Then, based on one of the following criteria, your ad is triggered to be shown:
- General Display: your prospect is browsing on a website that’s on your targeted list
- Remarketing: the prospect visited your website and a cookie was placed on their browser. That cookie triggers ad placement throughout the advertising platform’s network.
- Match Lists: the prospect has a unique identifier (e.g. email address, device ID) known by the advertising platform. You upload your list and the platform matches it!
- Lookalike Audiences: the prospect has criteria known by the advertising platform (e.g. Job Title, Industry). That criteria matches criteria requested by the digital marketer (that’s you!)
There are more types of display advertising, but those are some of the most important ones.
Paid Media is one of the most important and flexible forms of digital media available.
- Highly targeted
- Great data and metrics
- Technically challenging
SOCIAL MEDIA (ORGANIC)
Social Media is a powerful tool – you can reach thousands of prospects directly and for free! It’s easy to see how influencers and internet personalities benefit from Social. But, it has its limitations: if you don’t have an existing following, it can be hard to show impact. And, developing a following can take a long time and cost a lot of money. However, the Social’s connective nature helps your team communicate directly to your prospects.
- Requires traction
Your most valuable traffic often comes from a trusted third party. Best-case scenario, this is a true “word-of-mouth” referral. But, in the digital landscape its usually a backlinks referral. Some reputable website, blog, or directory recommends your information or solution, and a trusting reader follows the link to your site.
- Great conversion rate
- Inexpensive (long-term)
- Slow and difficult to develop
- Requires traction
HUMAN TOUCH & DIRECT MAIL
While Direct Mail has certainly taken a hit in COVID, a personal touch can make the difference between a cold prospect and an advocate. At Digital Reach Agency, we keep our “Wine List” – each year during the holidays, we send bottles of wine to clients and advocates. Human Touch emails and gifting can provide your marketing and sales teams with a major advantage.
- Great conversion rate
- Extremely targeted
Okay, so we have a great understanding of the tools in our toolbox. You’re feeling ready to dive in and start a frantic rush of marketing activity. What could go wrong?
A lot, it turns out. There are lots of ways to misuse the tools above. I’ll list out a few of them here:
- Paying for expensive ads on informational terms, when your prospects are nowhere near ready to buy
- Trying (embarrassingly) to latch onto an internet trend with an overly salesy or contrived #socialmediapost
- Or, my personal favorite: the cold email with the consideration CTA. “Hi there! I know you’ve never heard of me, but come schedule a demo!”
You don’t want to do any of the above. Instead, align your marketing with the buyer journey so that it feels smooth, friendly, natural, and intuitive to your future buyers.
Here’s how to do it!
AWARENESS & INFORMATIONAL STAGES
Your prospect doesn’t know they have a problem, or they’re early in the process of learning about their problem.
For upper-funnel prospects, here are your bread-and-butter media:
- Organic: People are googling their problem – will your solution show up? Quality informational articles show Google that your site is a great resource.
- Branding Display Ads: Splatter the interwebs with low-cost, high quality content. My favorite for these are short, 15-second video ads that you can run on YouTube, Facebook, and more. Low-cost, high visibility.
- Social Media: Join conversations relevant to your solution and help people find the answers they need. Share useful content, engage in useful conversation, and provide real guidance. Quora can be great for this!
- Referrals: Flex the power of your backlinks! If the trusted resources in your industry are on your team, upper funnel researchers will find their way to you.
- Targeted Display Ads: For the folks slightly further down the funnel, Targeted Display Ads seek to drive engagement with gated informational content. These can include webinars, eBooks, or any other gated asset. Lookalike audiences and match lists can be great here.
INFORMATIONAL & CONSIDERATION STAGES
Your prospect is now well aware of their problem and at least midway through the research process. But, they’re not sure whether the solution to the problem will be worth the trouble. How much time and money will it really save them? Can they ignore the problem, or fashion a homemade solution?
For middle-funnel, we want to start increasing the engagement as the prospect approaches the buying phase. Here are the key media to employ:
- Outbound Email: When people are engaged, Outbound Emails change from “annoying” to “informative”. You can supply useful mid-funnel information directly to your prospects, promoting downloadable assets and inviting them to virtual events.
- Informational Search Ads: Now, the keywords being entered into Google have greater intent. Capture those searches with relevant, well-selected keywords.
- Organic & Direct (again): As long as folks are learning about their problems still, they’ll use search engines. Now, their searches will have higher intent, and they’ll start doing brand-name searches (or visiting direct). So, it’s important to have some mid-funnel content that can rank organically as well.
- Consideration Search Ads: If folks are searching for your brand in Google, you want to claim as much real estate as possible. So, don’t forget to advertise for your own brand! Plus, if they’re searching for your brand, they’re probably searching for your competitors’ too. Throw up a competitor ad campaign to fight for those keywords as well.
- Nurture Email: Now, your visitors should be far enough down-funnel that they’ve submitted a form or taken some other serious engagement. Time to support your sales team with a nurture campaign! A steady drip of relevant content can keep your consideration-stage prospects thinking of your brand.
- Remarketing Ads: No nurture would be complete without air cover! A great collection of remarketing ads will bolster your nurture, keep your brand top-of-mind, and drive more consideration funnel leads into the buying stage.
CONSIDERATION & BUYING STAGES
Your prospect has decided that solving their problem is probably worth it, and they’ve begun to shop for a solution. They’re comparing you with your competitors. Hopefully, you’ve established such strong relationships already that your prospect is already leaning your way. But, this is the “money” stage, so we don’t want to let any opportunities slip through our fingers.
Here’s the media best suited:
- Remarketing Ads: Once someone has reached this level of engagement, we want to increase our bids to the maximum. Brand saturation!
- Human Touch Email: Your salespeople should be reaching out personally now, sharing valuable content like pricing and feature comparisons, links to case studies, and more. Direct mail is also great at this stage.
- Referrals: Sometimes, a well-placed G2 review or a channel partner’s “recommended solutions” list can be the tipping point for your buyer. Never stop cultivating your brand’s image on trusted third party sites!
BONUS! CUSTOMER STAGE
You did it! Your prospect became a lead, then an opportunity, and finally a customer. We’re all done, right?
Not quite! Word-of-mouth is your most valuable form of marketing, and case studies and positive reviews can have a massive influence on your pipeline. So, keep the nurture going! Run match-list ads, nurture email programs, NPS programs, and most importantly, human-touch programs to keep your relationships strong for years to come.
Hopefully this has been a useful breakdown of the pros and cons of each form of digital media and where they’re best suited within the buyer journey. Great marketing should never be seen as intrusive; instead, you should be providing the right content to your prospects at the right time. Information-seekers want to learn from experts. Consideration folks want to understand the solution. Buyers want to find the best value. If you map your assets and your media correctly, you’ll guide your buyers smoothly through their journey and establish relationships that yield real business results.
Ready to take your marketing strategy to the next level? We’re ready to help.