Like it or not, Internet technologies are impacting your business, and many of these you probably don’t know exist. Everything digital touches everything else that’s digital. Change is rapid and constant, so what’s hot one minute could be obsolete the next. Since most business owners are not data scientists, one obvious answer is to hire a digital marketing agency.

The challenges are the same whether you hire an agency or not, so let’s examine the marketing landscape from that lens. Next, we’ll identify digital essentials that apply to any business.

What exactly is a digital marketing agency?

Ask a dozen business owners and you’ll get a dozen variations of what they think a digital agency does. A typical agency provides some combination of web design, search engine marketing, email marketing, and social media. A few offer less known services like marketing automation, advanced analytics, CRM or landing page optimization.

A digital marketing agency is one that specializes in any of these or other strategies that utilize the Internet to attract leads and bolster relationships with customers. The question is, what is the right combination—the optimal digital marketing mix–that’s going to generate the highest level of growth for your business?

Everything touches everything and the walls have eyes.

The Internet is a crazy-house labyrinth full of tripwires and ads. As you surf the web, you’re sending clues about your needs and interests. Everything you notice is being noticed by someone that wants to sell you something. We all think it’s creepy, but we still run around with our wallets out.

It’s all cross-channel these days.

Cross-channel marketing is the natural result of digital technologies that share consumer data in real-time while online activities are taking place. It’s why you can shop for a pair of shoes, and receive an email the next day promoting socks and a belt to go with them. Cross-channel marketing is also what you don’t see. It’s the root of that big-brother feeling you get when Internet content seems a little too perfectly timed.

Let this sink in a minute because marketing will never be the way it was even a year ago. You can choose whether or not to embrace it, but the competitive landscape is what it is. It’s digital, data-driven and interconnected.

It’s your business. Make it thrive.

If this has you feeling a little intimidated and possibly overwhelmed, you’re not alone. Let’s simplify things and explore what you can control right now to stay relevant and in the game.

Effective digital marketing ensures your best customers will find you before they find your competitors. The landscape changes every day, but your website, search engines and social media are competitive staples. Let’s start with what your business must-have. These elements make up the minimum digital activities for most businesses to avoid lapsing into obscurity.

Your business must have these:

  1. Website that looks great, loads fast on any device, and presents the right message.
  2. Search engine rankings to make it easy for your best potential customers to find you.
  3. Social media activity level to keep you visible, relevant and top-of-mind.

While this is by no measure a comprehensive digital marketing strategy, mastering these will keep you in front of your consumers. Take a few moments to compare your efforts in these areas relative to your competitors. Is your website current? How do you stack up to your competitors in online searches? How frequently do you post to social media? Are your posts engaging? Do people share them?

Next steps.

With the digital fundamentals covered, you’ll be in a good position to begin leveraging data in your marketing. Tools like advanced segmentation, marketing automation, email marketing and all forms of digital advertising and relationship management exist to grow businesses like yours. As your tactics evolve, your marketing team should also.

As your efforts grow, look for:

  • Collaborative environment guided by expert advisors.
  • Reliable team to take care of time-consuming, technical, or redundant tasks.
  • Visibility and interpretation of measurable performance indicators.

In the end, how you choose to build your business depends on you. The important thing is to recognize that digital marketing is an iceberg. Just a tiny percentage of what everyone is familiar with makes up what is actually taking place. How to use highly advanced, data-driven marketing technology is a topic for many more discussions. Meanwhile, doing well with these fundamental tools provides the foundation for you to take control online.

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