How Digital Marketing Works

February 15, 2022

Digital marketing and its associated channels are important – but not to the exclusion of all else. It’s not enough to just know your customers; you must know them better than anybody else so you can communicate with them where, when and how they are most receptive to your message.

To do that, you need a consolidated view of customer preferences and expectations across all channels – web, social media, mobile, direct mail, point of sale, etc. Retailers do this using omnichannel retail analytics. Marketers can use this information to create and anticipate consistent, coordinated customer experiences that will move customers along in the buying cycle. The deeper your customer insight into behavior and preferences, the more likely you are to engage them in lucrative interactions.

Info-graphic of six steps to get started with digital marketing
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What does it take to do digital marketing right? Here are three keys to digital marketing success:

Manage complex customer relationships across a variety of channels – both digital and traditional.
Respond to and initiate dynamic customer interactions.
Extract value from big data to make better decisions faster.

Digital marketing is more important today than ever. Take steps to create or improve your marketing strategy today to accelerate your results in the coming year
Where do you start if you want to develop a digital marketing strategy? It’s still a common challenge since many businesses know how vital digital and mobile channels are today for acquiring and retaining customers. Yet they don’t have an integrated plan to support digital transformation and company growth, and engage their audiences effectively online.

If your business doesn’t have a strategic marketing plan you will suffer from the ten problems I highlight later in this article and you will lose out to competitors who are more digitally savvy.

For each of the ten problems, I will also recommend marketing solutions and next steps to help you optimize your marketing strategy to win more customers in 2022.

What is digital marketing?
Digital marketing, specifically, refers to ‘Achieving marketing objectives through applying digital technologies and media’.

A truly omnichannel digital marketing strategy will integrate technology and media across different marketing activities, organizing not according to the type of technology, but according to the campaign objective.

Digital technologies and media options for marketing campaigns today:
Different types of marketing technologies include:

Company websites
Mobile apps
Social media company pages
Search Engines
Email and automation
Digital Partnerships with other digital companies

However, to be truly successful, digital techniques must be integrated with traditional media such as print, TV, and direct mail as part of multichannel marketing communications. More importantly, now more than ever, you need to be able to demonstrate the value of your work.

Our RACE planning framework splits up the customer’s digital experience over Reach, Act, Convert and Engage – the full customer journey.


Within each technique, there are lots of detailed tactics that are important to success. So, they need to be evaluated and prioritized. For example, dynamic content for email automation, website personalization to programmatic, retargeting, and skyscraper content for organic search.

Not sure where to begin? Our dedicated marketing training gives you all the tools you need to optimize your marketing strategy across 10 of the hottest marketing channels and strategies.

Find out how your company can benefit from Business Membership and instant access to marketing tools and templates today designed for growth. Thousands of Business Members are already applying Learning Paths to strategize, upskill, and grow their businesses. From campaign planning, to email marketing, SEO, content, and more.

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Drive business growth with a winning digital marketing strategy when you join Smart Insights as a Business Member

The challenges of digital marketing
In my experience, a common challenge is where to start drawing up your digital marketing plan. I think there is a fear that a massive report is required, but we believe that lean planning works best. That’s why all our Learning Paths are integrated across the RACE Framework, so you can create one integrated strategy.

Your plan doesn’t need to be a huge report, a strategy can best be summarized in two or three sides of A4 in a table linking digital marketing strategies to SMART objectives within our RACE Framework. As a Business Member, we can support you to get it right the first time.

Digital marketing for beginners
From talking to companies, I find the creation of digital plans often occurs in two stages.

First, a separate digital marketing plan is created. This is useful to get agreement and buy-in by showing the opportunities and problems. At this stage, you can map out a path by setting goals and specific strategies for digital.
Second, digital becomes integrated into marketing strategy, it’s a core activity, “business-as-usual”. But, it doesn’t warrant separate planning, except for the tactics. This is the stage at which your integrated omnichannel marketing will be the most effective. This is the aim, and we can get you there.
How does your digital marketing compare?
Our Managing Digital Marketing 2020 report found that that nearly half of companies don’t have a clearly defined digital marketing strategy. But of those who do, the majority have integrated it into the marketing strategy (the second step mentioned above).

Currently, about 12% are still using a separate digital document, which is the first step in the process towards a fully integrated strategy.

Digital marketing benchmarking

So, what are your next steps to fully optimizing your digital marketing strategy?
I’m sure many of the companies in this category are using digital media effectively and they could certainly be getting great results from their search, email, or social media marketing.

But I’m equally sure that many are missing opportunities for better integration, or are suffering from the other challenges I’ve listed below. Perhaps the problems below are greatest for larger organizations that most urgently need governance.

We’ve got bespoke marketing solutions to support both large and small businesses to optimize their marketing strategy with Learning Paths. Our step-by-step marketing training supports you and your team to plan, manage and effectively optimize both your daily marketing tasks and longer-term strategic action towards your goals.

All our marketing tools and templates are integrated across the RACE Framework. This renowned marketing structure is designed to empower managers and marketers with a clear, concise winning marketing strategy, to win more customers. Find out more.

Grow With Business Membership
Drive business growth with a winning digital marketing strategy when you join Smart Insights as a Business Member

10 reasons why you may need a digital channel strategy?
So, if you don’t yet have a strategy, or maybe you want to review which business issues are important to include within a strategic review, we’ve set out the 10 most common problems, that in our experience arise if you don’t have a strategy.

  1. You’re directionless
    I find that companies without a digital strategy (and many that do) don’t have a clear strategic goal for what they want to achieve online in terms of gaining new customers or building deeper relationships with existing ones.

And if you don’t have goals with SMART digital marketing objectives you likely don’t put enough resources to reach the goals and you don’t evaluate through analytics whether you’re achieving those goals.

  1. You won’t know your online audience or market share
    Customer demand for online services may be underestimated if you haven”t researched this. Perhaps, more importantly, you won’t understand your online marketplace. The dynamics will be different from traditional channels with different types of customer profile and behavior, competitors, propositions, and options for marketing communications.

We’ve got marketing tools to support your research and planning. Our popular competitor analysis module in our RACE Practical Digital Strategy Learning Path is packed with templates and matrixes to review the relative performance of your key competitors. Plus, find out more about your audience’s intent with our Google Keywords planning tools.

All our marketing training will support you and your team to build a winning marketing strategy to reach, convert and retain more customers and accelerate your ROI from digital marketing. Sound good? Take your next steps to a winning strategy by getting started today.

Grow With Business Membership
Drive business growth with a winning digital marketing strategy when you join Smart Insights as a Business Member


  1. Existing and start-up competitors will gain market share
    If you’re not devoting enough resources to digital, or you’re using an ad-hoc approach with no clearly defined strategies, then your competitors will eat your digital lunch!

As a member of Smart Insights, we’ll keep you updated on the latest trends and innovations in your sector. So you can stay ahead and not fall behind.

  1. You don’t have a powerful online value proposition
    A clearly defined digital value proposition tailored to your different target customer personas will help you differentiate your online service encouraging existing and new customers to engage initially and stay loyal. Savvy marketers tailor their marketing techniques to attract B2B, B2C of D2C sales and leads effectively.

Developing an omnichannel marketing strategy is key to this for many organizations, since the content is what engages your audiences through different channels like search, social, email marketing, and on your blog.

  1. You don’t know your online customers well enough
    It’s often said that digital is the “most measurable medium ever”. But Google Analytics and similar will only tell you volumes of visits, not the sentiment of visitors, what they think. You need to use other forms of website user feedback tools to identify your weak points and then address them.
  2. You’re not integrated (“disintegrated”)
    It’s all too common for digital marketing activities to be completed in silos whether that’s a specialist digital marketer, sitting in IT, or a separate digital agency. It’s easier that way to package ‘digital’ into a convenient chunk. But of course, it’s less effective. Everyone agrees that digital media work best when integrated with traditional media and response channels.

That’s why we recommend developing an integrated digital marketing strategy, so your digital marketing works hard for you! With your integrated plan in place, digital will become part of your marketing activity and part of business as usual. Find out more.

Grow With Business Membership
Drive business growth with a winning digital marketing strategy when you join Smart Insights as a Business Member


  1. Digital doesn’t have enough people/budget given its importance
    Insufficient resources will be devoted to both planning and executing e-marketing. There is likely to be a lack of specific specialist e-marketing skills which will make it difficult to respond to competitive threats effectively.

As a member of Smart Insights, you’ll have access to strategy and planning tools including performance and digital maturity benchmarking, and regular marketing data reports, so you can keep track of your position in a competitive landscape.

  1. You’re wasting money and time through duplication
    Even if you do have sufficient resources, they may be wasted. This is particularly the case in larger companies where you see different parts of the marketing organization purchasing different tools or using different agencies for performing similar online marketing tasks.

That’s why you need to invest in a marketing strategy that works for you and your team, to plan, manage and optimize your digital channels and platforms. Drive the marketing results you need to achieve your business objectives, and boost your marketing ROI.

  1. You’re not agile enough to catch up or stay ahead
    If you look at the top online brands like Amazon, Dell, Google, Zappos, they’re all dynamic – trialing new approaches to gain or keep their online audiences.
  2. You’re not optimizing
    Every company with a website will have analytics. But many senior managers don’t ensure that their teams make or have the time to review and act on them. Once your digital marketing strategy enables you to get the basics right, then you can progress to the continuous improvement of the key aspects like search marketing, site user experience, email, and social media marketing.

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Transform your marketing strategy and accelerate your results today with Searchmedia
So, the good news is that there are powerful reasons for creating a digital strategy and transforming your marketing, which you can use to persuade your colleagues and clients.

If you’re looking to integrate your digital marketing, Smart Insights membership is a no-brainer. We have options to suit small and large businesses, plus consultants, agencies, and individuals, so you can enhance your skills and grow your business.

Apply the RACE Framework to your marketing strategy today to see your results rocket. Our tried-and-tested marketing structure has been proven to boost growth for businesses investing in digital marketing to reach their goals. If you have any questions about membership, or just want to find out more about what’s on offer, why not book a consultation?

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