In November I once again became a student, enrolling on a twelve week Digital Marketing boot camp with We Are Digital. I attended school before the internet revolution, learning to type on a manual computer and while I think I have kept up quite well with technological developments, I was increasingly finding there was much I did not know too. And I am not the only one, millions of people are digitally excluded. 11.9 million people do not have the essential digital skills needed for day to day life in the UK, 1.9 million households in the UK lack any kind of internet access and 9 million people struggle to use the internet independently.
What is digital marketing
Digital Marketing is any type of marketing activity that uses electronic devices or the internet and is different to traditional marketing which uses magazine adverts, billboards and direct mail such as flyers and catalogues. You can learn more about digital marketing in the short animation below.
What does the boot camp involve
The boot camp takes place online via Zoom, three hours a day, four days a week, for twelve weeks, with students benefiting from industry respected trainers and professionals from the world of digital marketing. It has been designed to be focused on commercial aims, so real world practical skills are taught and regular assessments are built into the timetable, with a final assessment – a group project to write and present a marketing strategy. Topics covered include:
Market research: understanding customers needs and problems to then develop solutions
Social media: Learning to plan, test, implement and measure social media campaigns
Search engine optimisation (SEO): How to plan, design, and implement an SEO strategy
Paid search: Learning to design and implement a paid search strategy
Analytics: understanding how to implement, test and measure results using analytics packages.
Tools: Learning about the tools that can be used to support digital marketing
Conversion optimisation: how to plan test and improve conversion rates on a website.
Competitor analysis: learning how to conduct competitor Analysis
Content marketing: learning how to plan and develop a content marketing strategy
Display and media: display advertising
Trends: understand trends in digital marketing, how it’s evolved and what is on the horizon.
Strategy: to take all the learnings from the course and develop into an overall digital marketing strategy
You can learn about these topics in more depth on the We Are Digital website below.
The boot camp is one of many free flexible training opportunities provided by the UK government Plan for Jobs programme, which aims to protect, support and create jobs across the country, whether you are a business owner, self-employed or a job seeker. To be eligible to study on the boot camp, students need to be aged 19+, recently made unemployed, self-employed, or working part-time and seeking a new career. Other training is available in construction, engineering and manufacturing, green skills and HGV driving.
If like me you would enjoy the opportunity to learn some new skills you can find out more about initiatives and the help available below.
A marketing strategy is a business’s overall game plan for reaching prospective leads and turning them into customers. Much like a game of chess, marketing strategy is concerned with evaluation, positioning, control of key areas and setting goals. The word strategy comes from the Greek language (στρατηγία stratēgia) meaning ‘art of troop leader; office of general, command, generalship’ and the ultimate goal of a marketing strategy is to achieve and communicate a sustainable competitive advantage over rival companies but where do you begin with writing one? Read on to find out.
Defining your goals is the first step in preparing your marketing strategy. Goal setting can encourage new behaviours, motivate, guide and focus us on things we want to achieve. When writing a marketing strategy, listing your goals will give you a clear direction of travel for everything that is to follow, so before you begin:
evaluate your current position in the market and consider this from both your perspective and your customers perspective
consider how this knowledge can help you find a niche or unique selling point
review your growth to date and set your goals accordingly
match your goals to the overall vision you have for your company
pick a small number of goals that you believe are obtainable and manageable but not easy – Rome wasn’t built in a day
remember that sometimes you will fail and not reach all of your goals – don’t think in terms of success and failure but rather hits and misses, which will enable you to learn from any mistakes you make
SMART goals are one way to set goals. SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound. So what does this mean?
Specific: detail the problem or opportunity you want to address and consider what needs to be accomplished, where do you want to be in three to five years time, what steps need to be taken and what is the budget to achieve it
Measurable: make your goals measurable – doing so will make it easier to track your progress and know when you have completed what you set out to do
Achievable: goals need to be attainable, not impossible to achieve – ask also, what things could block you from achieving your goals
Relevant: why are you setting a particular goal – while it is good to break things down to make them more manageable, keep referring back to what you want to achieve overall so you understand how your goals fit in with this
Timebound: what is the timeline for the project, when will it begin and when does it need to be completed by – asking these questions will ensure you remain focused on what needs to be done
Having clear goals from the get go means you can change your tactics as work progresses and also if you find certain ideas are working better than others.
Another method is to use the SOSTAC framework. SOSTAC stands for situation, objectives, strategy, tactics/actions and control.
Situation: where are we now
Objectives: where do we want to be
Strategy: how do we get there
Tactics and actions: what do we need to get there
Control: how will we measure performance
There are various techniques for undertaking research.
Market research is the action of gathering information about consumers’ needs for the purpose of guiding decision making. If a business doesn’t know who they are, what they are selling or who they are selling to, how will it convince people to buy their products and services.
There are different types of market research.
Primary research: this is information you have collected on your own from say surveys, interviews, feedback forms, polls, surveys, focus groups and customer observation – its strength lies in that it comes directly from customers themselves
Secondary research: this is second or third party data or information – it might be news articles and reports researched by people outside of your organisation and also includes information about say the market size of your industry and your competitors
Qualitative research: this can be primary or secondary and gives an insight into how customers think and feel – by asking qualitative research questions, you can gauge whether your product or service is meeting your customers expectations and if not, why not
Quantitative research: this can also be primary or secondary but focuses on collecting numbers for statistical analysis – think followers, subscribers, page clicks and bounce rates
Keyword market research: this is the process of finding the search terms that people enter into search engines – once you know what people search for, you can incorporate these keywords into your online work, so that when people search for these words, they find you
Trends and opportunities: trends and opportunities are exactly what they say on the tin – to identify these you need to research what is ‘on trend’ right now, what has fallen out of favour and what isn’t being done by your competitors that would enable you to create a niche market for yourself
Take a look at what your competitors are doing and how this could affect your marketing strategy. By checking out your competition you can determine your likelihood of success and also assess how what they are doing might impact your plans. Competitive analysis could include:
subscribing to receive your competitors’ emails
following your competitors on social media
examining what your competitors write and create – who it is aimed at, how often it is produced, what it is about and who is writing it
reading industry magazines and websites
attending trade shows
A SWOT analysis will help you define your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. It will help you understand what differentiates you from your competition and how you should position yourself in the market. A SWOT analysis will also help you develop your communications strategy and understand your unique selling point.
Create customer personas
A customer persona is a profile that represents your ideal customer, enabling you to tailor and personalise your marketing. Consider the ideal age of your customer, their gender, location, occupation, hobbies and lifestyle. Also, how, when and where do they shop, what is their online behaviour, who are they influenced by and what brands do they already buy or aspire to buy. Gathering this information will help you to personalise your marketing material so it can be targeted to your chosen audience.
Empathy mapping is another technique that can be used to understand your target audience. This focuses on four key areas.
Says: what do customers say out loud for example in an interview or telephone call
Thinks: what do customers think during their experience with you
Does: what does the user do and how do they go about doing it
Feels: how does the customer feel about the experience – do they feel fearful, overwhelmed or excited
Your should also consider:
Hear: what do customers hear from friends, family, bosses and influencers
Pain: what frustrates customers and what obstacles do they face in dealing with you
Gains: what are their wants/needs and how do they measure success
After you have identified your desired customer personas, the next step is to work out how these personas think and make their decisions to buy, so that you can convert these fictional personas to living breathing customers. The marketing funnel focuses on four key areas and by using the example of clothing, we can see how it works.
What do customers see: this could be clothing they see on websites and magazines, on social media and television, in blog posts and videos
What do they think: this is the consideration stage when people are thinking they might want to buy some clothes and are looking at various websites and company reviews before deciding where and what to buy
What do they do: at this stage people have undertaken research, decided they definitely want to buy clothes and want to buy them immediately
Care: this is existing customers who have now bought clothes from you – what can a company do to show they care about these customers and how do the customers demonstrate their appreciation
Each stage provides opportunities to connect with potential customers by providing information or solving a problem.
What else needs to be incorporated into a marketing strategy
Unique selling point
Knowing what makes your company different to others is known as your unique selling point (USP). Your USP needs to be clearly shown on your website, in emails, on social media, advertising and packaging. It needs to be incorporated in your brand strategy and your content strategy also, as these are the methods you use to communicate.
A brand is one of the strongest assets a company has. Ask yourself, is your brand consistently represented across all channels, namely your logo, website design, print marketing materials, business cards, advertisements, packaging and social media. You can learn more about branding in the blog post below.
Content is any written words you use to convey your brand. Content also needs to be consistent and to provide useful information to your customers as well as purely for selling. So consider writing a regular blog that solves a problem, answers a question or entertains. Providing added value in this way, will help keep you uppermost in customer’s minds and when your audience needs your product or service they will hopefully think of you.
Once you have great content, you need to ensure it is getting read. What communication strategies do you need to put in place to connect with customers?
Owned media: that is anything online that you own or produce, say a website, blog, your social media channels, podcasts, videos and webinars
Earned media: that is material written about you or your business that you haven’t paid for or created yourself
Paid media: that is sponsored social media posts, display ads, paid search results, video ads, pop-ups, and other promoted multimedia
Use a mix of communication channels and choose the ones that work best for you.
Search engine optimisation
Now you have fabulous content and you are working hard to ensure it gets read but search engines need to be able to find you too. Search engine optimisation (SEO) is what search engines use to index web pages, enabling content to be found and will improve the quality and quantity of website traffic to a website or a web page from search engines. So, make sure that your website is easily navigable and clearly presents the information you want to convey and that your customers are looking for. You can learn more about SEO in the blog post below.
And there you have it – once you have your strategy in place, all that is left is to decide what tactics are most important to the success of that strategy, for example, you may decide to re-vamp or review your website, start writing a regular blog, begin sending newsletters or to start creating podcasts.
Finally, tracking, measuring and reporting your success should be something that is put in place immediately to establish your baseline, for without it, how will you know if you have achieved your goals and how will you know what is and isn’t working. Measuring results will show if you are achieving your goals and enable you to change your strategy if not, so continuously test, learn, refine and reflect.
In late 2021 I became a digital marketing student, learning a wide range of skills on a digital marketing boot camp. After 12 weeks I was required, with my fellow students, to write and present a marketing strategy and this post demonstrates some of what I learned during this time. It couldn’t have been written without We Are Digital Training who gave me the opportunity to learn and develop new skills with them. More information about my training can be found in the blog post below.
It is difficult to escape the words marketing and branding in the world today and it is easy to confuse them but marketing and branding are two different concepts and if you want your business to succeed, you need to understand the difference between the two.In this blog post, I will explain what marketing and branding are, how they are different and how they work alongside one another.
‘Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.’ ~ Walt Disney
Marketing is tools, processes and strategies used to promote a product, service or company, which enable businesses to find customers. Traditionally, marketing has been done in magazines and newspapers, in catalogues, magazines and flyers, on walls and lamp posts, on billboards, on public transport, in sports grounds and on the jerseys of the men and women playing sport, in window displays, signs and posters, on tv and radio and with telemarketing by phone and text message. Today such advertising still takes place but digital marketing uses websites, social media, adverts, videos and email marketing too.
Etymology online records the word marketing firstly in the 1560s as meaning the ‘buying and selling, act of transacting business in a market’ and in 1701 as meaning ‘produce bought or sold at a market’. Finally it records the business sense of the word as the ‘process of moving goods from producer to consumer with emphasis on advertising and sales’ in 1897.
Marketing is as old as time itself. The first printed advertising was recorded between 960 – 1279 and the first trade shows took place around 11th century A.D. The invention of the Gutenberg Press in 1450 saw the beginning of the mass production of printed advertising, while early trademarks and branding began in 1498, with the German painter Albrecht Duerer who created a distribution network of his works throughout Europe and undertook legal actions against those who illegally produced copies of his paintings.
In the 17th century, the first newspaper advertising appeared and the first advertising agency was founded in 1786. Sandwich men appeared in 1789 – these were people hired to wear advertising space on their body, in the form of printed cardboard on their front and back, while handing out flyers. Billboards, cinema advertising, radio and television advertising followed and as these mediums grew in popularity, companies began sponsoring shows and creating commercials, that allowed the companies to come into people’s homes with words, music and moving pictures.
‘Branding demands commitment; commitment to continual re-invention; striking chords with people to stir their emotions; and commitment to imagination. It is easy to be cynical about such things, much harder to be successful.’ ~ Sir Richard Branson
Branding is different to marketing, in that it defines a company by creating a unique name or image for a product. It includes a company mission statement and values, the company logo and the unique selling point (USP), which distinguishes a company from its competitors, making it memorable to existing and potential customers.
Branding has always been about making your mark and depicting ownership. In the Ancient Scandinavian language Norse, the word ‘brandr’ meant ‘to burn’, while the word ‘brand’ originally meant a burning piece of wood. Branding has been recorded in ancient Babylon and at the time of the Magna Carta, guilds made it mandatory to brand goods with proprietary marks. In the 1500s, it became common to brand cattle in order to show ownership – branding marks were unique to the owner, simple, distinctive and instantly identifiable, just like the product logos of today. Other examples include slave owners who would brand their slaves and the Nazis who branded prisoners of war. So too, publishers use branding in the form of a colophon, the emblem, logo, or imprint that appears on the spine of a book and or on its title page.
Advertising agencies first appeared in England in the 1800s and companies began to promote their ‘brand names’ using packaging and slogans. Then at the beginning of the twentieth century, products such as Coca-Cola (1886), Colgate (1873), Ford Motor Company (1903), Chanel (1909) and LEGO (1932) were born. These brands were innovative and ahead of their time – the Ford Motor Company for example offered American made, gasoline-powered vehicles before anyone else and Chanel made suits for women at a time when they had only been thought of as menswear.
Before television, companies ran commercials during radio programmes, propagating the idea that their products could buy happiness and as radio become more popular, station owners looked to advertising as a way of making their businesses more sustainable. Branding developed with radio jingles, catchphrases and with companies sponsoring both advertisements and entire programmes.
Today the internet is involved in all aspects of advertising and marketing and it now seems there is little that cannot be given the branding treatment, from politics, to charities and even personal brands for celebrities, who have built careers from simply being themselves. To ensure they do not fall behind, companies must ensure they engage with the online world. Marketing and advertising agencies need to be able to create adverts and logos with a consistent look and feel to represent products, with both a nod to the past and an understanding of the present, that will appeal to audiences who are saturated with messages fighting for their attention twenty four hours a day. However, it is important to remember traditional marketing too, for as long as people can read, there will be a place for this also and there may be many who prefer this quieter and subtler form of communication.
Working hand in hand
So, marketing and branding can be seen to work hand in hand, with marketing getting a customers’ attention and driving sales, while branding is a way to keep their attention and gain customer recognition and loyalty. Marketing will push a brand in front of people but to keep it there and have longevity, you need to build a strong brand. Branding is what will set your company apart from competitors and a well defined brand will help ensure consistency in your products and communications, which in turn, over time will build trust with your target audience – think Coca-Cola, Marks and Spencer, Virgin and the BBC.
Before putting a marketing strategy in place, focus on branding. Ask yourself, who are you as a brand, what do you do, what are your values and how will you communicate all of that to your customers? Marketing strategies and campaigns are temporary, with each having a beginning, middle and end. Branding on the other hand is the continuous work of defining your company, shaping the perception of your brand and ensuring you create long term relationships with your customers.