In today’s world, digital marketing needs to be an integral component of every business’ marketing plan. Customers spend a significant amount of time online, and businesses need to meet those customers where they work and play.

Today we share four essential steps to achieve greater success in your business this year.

Digital Marketing Step 1: Branding

First, what do we mean by branding? “A brand is a name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers” (American Marketing Association).

Branding is a matter of positioning yourself to your customer. It’s what customers think of when they see your name. It’s your imaging. Branding includes the personality of your organization, who your customers are, the product or service you are selling, and what makes you different from the competition.

How to build your branding: Take into account any or all of these factors: mission, values, and visual identity, which includes your logo design, color scheme, and fonts you will use on a regular basis. Other branding items to carefully plan are your online and in-store experiences, packaging, and pricing strategy.

Branding builds recognition and a consistent customer experience.

Example: Apple focuses on innovation, imagination, creativity, lifestyle, passion, and dreams. Have you ever visited an Apple store? If so, you probably get more of a sense of customers playing rather than shopping. Apple regards its stores as town squares where consumers visit for an experience rather than just stopping in just to buy something.

Digital Marketing Step 2: Lead Generation

While your end goal is the purchase of your product or service, you must first attract potential customers and generate interest in your offerings. This is done through lead generation.

Lead generation strategies include creating gated content, that is, you offer a course or an e-book or worksheet in exchange for some contact information, like a name and email address. Other lead generation strategies include hosting an event, offering a coupon or discount, or a free trial.

Optimize your website, use CTAs (calls to action) and post content social media platforms. Write a blog. You can run Google or Facebook ads, retarget anyone who has engaged with you either online or in person, or publish a newsletter. Add a live chat feature or stream live events. Use email and direct marketing. Increase your backlinks.

There are many, many ways to generate leads. First and foremost you need to figure out who your target audience is, what types of activities and strategies they are engaged in or will respond to, and on what platforms. Not every strategy works for every business.

Digital Marketing Step 3: Database Building

Collecting customer and potential customer data follows lead generation

Decide which customer relationship management (CRM) system you will use and then get to work building it.

Take your lead generation strategies and review them so that they include a way for prospective customers to give you their names, emails, and/or phone numbers, depending on how you plan on using that information. Caution against asking for too much right out of the gate because people are protective of their privacy and need a good reason or offer to part with their personal information.

Use email marketing and content marketing to collect customer data. Gather customer information at point-of-sale. Once you have an email address, you can keep in touch via newsletters, special offers, and coupons or discounts.

Add all of this information into your database. Today’s CRMs are sophisticated and robust. You’ll be able to add notes from customer meetings, flag someone as a lead or customer, and set up reminders to keep in touch. You can create work flows and set up task automation, run reports and analyses of customer behavior, and email directly from the database. Many will connect with third-party accounting or emailing software.

Digital Marketing Step 4: Community Building

Build communities that engage with your brand on social media. By doing so, you’ll be creating a group of supporters who will endorse your product or service for you. Social proof will attract other buyers to your business.

These same people will provide you feedback when something goes wrong with your product or service. Or give you ideas of something new they would like to see you offer.

Communicating consistently on social media keeps the conversation with your customer going. It keeps you top of mind when the customer is ready to purchase.