Digital marketing may be the sales buzzword of the moment- but do you really know everything you need to about this key cornerstone of the modern marketing landscape? Digital marketing agencies like Zebra 360 Online Marketing play a key role in assisting you to craft, shape and direct your digital and online marketing efforts- yet without a key foundation of knowledge of what we do, why we do it (and even a little about how we do it), you may be left wondering if a digital marketing agency is the right growth partner for you? Here’s the low down on everything you need to make a smart, informed decision.

What’s a digital marketing agency, anyway?

Let’s start at the very heart of the matter- what is digital marketing, anyway? When you hear the phrase, your mind probably leapt immediately to the online world and the ads you see on social media channels and Google. You’re certainly in the right area! However, digital marketing itself actually embraces a far wider remit. What you were thinking of there is actually a subset of digital marketing, unsurprisingly referred to as ‘online marketing’. Online marketing covers all your marketing efforts conducted over the internet, and is a critical cornerstone of most modern digital marketing. However, digital marketing is much more than that. It’s any activity undertaken in a digital medium (channels, devices or platforms), using the internet or not, that’s designed to build and promote your brand.

So you’re far from limited, in this exciting modern world, to just internet-based efforts. It’s very exciting for the smart marketer and their brand partners! Yet this also means many of the old marketing rules (from the days of print media alone) are out. You’re faced with the tricky challenge of addressing constantly shifting goalposts. The marvellous technological world we now live in evolves constantly. Today’s must-have phone or OS is tomorrow’s doorstop. How do you adapt and thrive?

Do you have the skills, knowledge, contacts and (above all) time to spend staying on top of the sometimes crazy fast-paced digital advertising world and it’s goalposts? In addition to your unique skills and passion needed for the critical role of building and guiding your actual brand and industry? With such a diverse digital marketing landscape open to you, it’s become a literal second (and third, and fourth) job. Luckily, you have the option of partnership with a thriving digital agency to help take the burden off of your shoulders!

So, what can you expect from a digital marketing agency?

The key roles played by your digital marketing agency

A digital marketing agency’s role is to combine graphic design and copywriting best practices with all the best of new technology and modern marketing techniques. The end result is a potent blend of art, technology, problem-solving (and even a little engineering), all taking place in an ever-changing landscape.

Your digital marketing agency will:

    1. Understand your marketing needs and objectives. This goes beyond a simple ‘drive sales’ into an analysis of what sales matter, how to close them, what your marketing goals really are (you’d be surprised) and so much more.
    2. Develop a clear marketing strategy and ‘campaigns’ to drive focused product lines, new services and other key areas of what you do.
    3. Put together a multimedia-rich, creative concept that translates well to a variety of target audiences, over many different digital channels
    4. Help you decide on the best channels of distribution. Marketing in the diverse digital age is no longer like Pokemon… it’s not about ‘catching them all’, but rather focusing on the key areas that will actually result in sales and growth for your industry and brand. Preventing wasted marketing effort is key, but you need a partner who understands the intricacies of digital marketing to do it without missed opportunities.
    5. Find the right target audience. Who really uses your products? How do they interact with the digital world? Where can you be most visible to them? Your digital marketing agency will answer all those questions and help you target your marketing efforts to the right people.
    6. Offer you reports and key data. This will happen throughout the process of a ‘live’ campaign, as well as after it completes. With this smart data in hand, you will know what worked, what didn’t, and how best to evolve your efforts in the future.

Traditional marketing practices no longer reach modern audiences. The old ‘numbers game’, simply throwing info out there in the hopes of attracting customers, doesn’t bring in the results you want and wastes budget.

Think of it this way- do you want to be the ‘radio station’ blindly pumping songs into the air, hoping for listeners? Or do you want to be the precision-chosen song your target audience is streaming directly to their devices? A great digital marketing agency will help you achieve that goal.

Where does content marketing fit into this?

If you know anything about the digital marketing landscape, the buzzword ‘content marketing’ has definitely been a part of it. What does that even mean, though?

Content marketing is the process of creating, incubating and launching valuable content to your target audience. Emphasis on ‘valuable’. You’re putting relevant (and hopefully consistent) content in front of an audience you can define clearly, with the aim of driving brand-boosting, profitable results from their interaction. You’re also positioning your brand as an industry leader, trusted and reliable, to the people who use your products.

A traditional advertising pamphlet listing prices and products is great to know what you sell, but it doesn’t add much value to the customer’s life. They may use it briefly at the end of their consumer search, but rarely will they seek it out or want to interact with it. It doesn’t create a need or answer their questions. A key guide to selecting their next purchase, or a smart expose of how to make the best choice of your products for their lifestyle, on the other hand… that’s the sort of information that builds true value for customers.

On the surface, that may not look much like ‘marketing’ if you’re from the era of the ‘hard sell’ sales technique. Who cares what shoe the customer picks for their hiking trip as long as they buy it from you, right? It’s about selling those shoes, not helping the customer pick one or convincing them they need it!

Wrong. Providing valuable, decision-driving ‘soft-sell’ content that helps build trust and confidence with your customer drives loyalty. It makes you the expert the customer trusts. And it’s what will bring them back to your brand over and over again.

Enriching the customer’s life with a wealth of information on how your brand will fit into that same life is a key modern marketing strategy- and that’s content marketing in a nutshell. It’s not just about products- it’s about creating a lifestyle that needs them and the trust that makes yours stand out when it’s time to purchase.

What forms of content marketing multimedia are there?

Who would you rather buy from? A faceless corporate entity that ‘sells shoes’, any shoes at all? Or the caring brand whose ‘how to choose the right hiking shoe’ and ‘how to properly break in your hiking boots’ articles inspired you to get out on the trail, have fun and meet new friends? Whose fun shoe-related memes and quick infographics hooked their brand into your brain?

The company that added value to the customer’s life will always win. What are some content marketing methods you can use to give customers that value? Let’s take a look.

1.)    Video

Who hasn’t had their heart captured by a sweet video? We don’t remember dry, cut-and-paste adverts long-term, but we do remember inspiration, feelings and even the thing that made us laugh on a bad day. Video is a powerful way to connect with audiences and tell the real story of who you are. This puts a face and personality on a brand.

2.) Gifs and still images

Open up your phone or Facebook profile, right now. What’s the bulk of content you have on there? We’re betting it’s fun, inspirational or otherwise interesting images. From memes that made you laugh on a long day in the office, to that helpful infographic you saved so you chose a safe sunscreen in the shop or that gif of how to do a deadlift properly, a picture really is worth a thousand words to your customers.

3.) Creative posts and blogs

How do you know what to wear on safari? How do you choose your next fridge? What’s the best way to get value for money at a day spa? How does a woman buy tyres without getting upsold on stuff she doesn’t need? Navigating the modern world is full of questions. We might have once turned to a peer, or the library, and hoped it was good information. Today we turn to Google for our answers. Imagine the trust and personalisation your brand will receive in the eyes of your customers if you’re the one giving them the honest facts (and inspiration) they need? Creative posts and informative blogs build community and position you as a trusted face in the marketing landscape.

4) Captions

We’ve all shared a picture because the caption made us laugh. We all have a folder of inspirational quotes on our desktop. Sometimes a brief injection of humour, inspiration or even simple fact is just what we need to help us through the day. Being able to deliver your marketing message swiftly and succinctly is a key part of positioning your brand as trusted and the best choice in a crowded landscape.

5) Engagement

People don’t just want to be told things. They want to feel part of something bigger. They want to feel like their voice is heard. Marketing isn’t passive anymore- it’s an active process that hinges on building a supportive community for your brand. Enter engagement. Be it the blog or post you make encouraging others to share their opinions, a competition, a quiz or a fun mind game puzzle, people want to feel you care about them, not just their wallet. And the more you’re (subtly) in their face while doing it? The more likely you’re the first choice when it’s time to put down some cash.

6) Content in the moment

The entire world is interconnected now. We know worldwide news in a heartbeat. From silly celebrity squabbles to important political shifts and global conservation issues, there’s a lot going on every day. While it’s not smart to make the wrong comment about the changing trends around you, a pithy (or funny) take on things happening ‘in the moment’ keeps your brand relevant in the public eye and looking like a great consumer choice.

So what creative content should I be using! Help!

That’s an overwhelming amount of possible content, isn’t it? Picking through it all is literally a job (or two) in itself. Then you have to make smart decisions about what to pursue, when to pursue it, and who to aim it at.

But you have your digital agency for all of that, remember? This is what we do! Let us help you craft digital marketing campaigns that actually work. Gone are the days of flinging creative work (and budget) into the ether, hoping it lands. It’s time for tailored, focused approaches.

There’s no one-approach-fits-all in digital marketing. All your campaigns, and even what content you use, needs to be tailored to your brand, your goals and your audience. It needs to be positioned to serve the needs and wants of your target audience.

The key advantage of using a digital agency is the omnichannel creation and distribution of creative content that meets those needs. Not only will it serve your audience, but it will also serve your creative direction too.

The role of graphic design in your content creation

Traditional print advertising relied heavily on the use of graphic design to help bring unity and sparkle to their work. With the digital age upon us, you may be surprised to learn that graphic design- just like copywriting- is still as critical to your successful content creation as ever.

It comes as no surprise that visuals matter in advertising. They grab attention, and drive engagement with it. After all, what sort of content do you interact with in your free time? We’re betting it’s a clever, provocative or interesting visual or two that’s gotten you hooked on something you maybe didn’t intend to consume!

Why do visuals work?

Information surrounds us. Now we have instant access to almost anything, exactly when we want it, you can even argue that there’s information overload. Wherever we turn, on- or offline, we face stimuli our sense organs carry to the brain. Humans are a very visual species- we may have 5 senses, but we rely heavily on what our eyes tell us, even over our other senses.

That’s why compelling visuals are a keystone of great marketing. No great marketer or designer will downplay the importance of using visual marketing in your efforts. You’d probably agree! But you may be asking- do I really need custom generated visual content? Can’t I just snag a picture from the internet to back up my marketing, or use a standard Windows font to make my logo?

Not really, if you want to establish your brand in the eyes of your customer. It’s the graphic design element that will take those images and knit them into a cohesive whole. And remember what we’ve learned about the importance of cohesion and consistency? Every marketing item you put into the world tells a story about you. It’s important that that story is consistent across all platforms, and matches the image you want others to take for your brand.

Does colour, font and tone really matter?

Just consider the power of colour and even typography (fonts) in shaping your first impressions of a company. Do they use cool, soothing pastels and soft, rounded fonts? You’ll probably walk away with the impression they’re in the childhood care or the beauty industry, wouldn’t you? Something where warmth, comfort and softness are the name of the game. Zany neons and enthusiastic fonts, on the other hand, may give the impression of a funky, ‘hip’ industry catering to a young adult demographic. Now imagine either of those features on the letterhead you received from your investment broker, or saw on their post on your Facebook feed! Would you still feel they were an appropriate source of financial advice and stability?

It shouldn’t make sense, should it? They’re just words and colours and images. But those visuals, thanks to the visceral reactions we have to what we see and the importance the brain places on visual stimulus, play a powerful role in shaping our perception of the brands we use.

Using graphics as part of your digital marketing efforts

If you’re looking to communicate an official, authoritative tone to your Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn audience, you need a different approach than if you’re trying to communicate a friendly, open brand personality. Instagram and Snapchat lend themselves to a casual, relaxed vibe that wouldn’t look good at all on LinkedIn. These visual design nuances matter- and so does the key role visuals can play in your digital marketing efforts.

There’s a ton of visual matter you can use in your campaigns. Think photos and videos, infographics, animations and quotes. Even screenshots for tutorials or graphs and other data-conveying visuals. Which of these work best for your brand, and how to harness them as a cohesive, synchronised whole, is something your digital marketing agency will help you determine.

What on earth is a digital marketing campaign, anyway?

You’ll see this piece of industry jargon floated around a lot. We just used it above! What on earth is a ‘marketing campaign’, however? Isn’t all marketing about selling everything then selling some more?

Let’s get a little dramatic. If we look at the history of every long war, we have individual ‘campaigns’ that furthered one goal or another. Each is a focused push to achieve a specific goal, under the wider banner of the overall cause. In World War 2, for example, perhaps the most famous campaign of all was the attack on Pearl Harbour. This military history is, in fact, exactly where the marketing use of ‘campaign’ comes from! If you view your marketing efforts as a ‘war’ to reach your goals, ‘campaigns’ are the smaller, tightly focused ‘goals’ you’ll set along the way.

Putting it more formally, however, each campaign is a targeted, specific marketing effort by your brand, intended to drive a tangible goal. Those goals are typically either engagement (building your community), conversions (turning leads into customers), traffic (getting your brand visible and your website/social media more popular) or revenue (generating a target amount of money).

It’s a small part of the whole marketing effort, designed to tie-in with your overall brand goals. In digital marketing, of course, you’re using digital channels to achieve this. It may be focused on only one specific channel- like an Instagram campaign to showcase your new makeup line. Or it could be a larger, multi-channel effort. From the perspective of a fashion house, for example, this could mean you have a campaign across all your marketing platforms to drive your new winter clothing. Your overall brand goal (the ‘war’) is generating revenue from your clothes sales, while your campaign is focusing on the niche clothes people need in the cold weather.

What goes into a great digital marketing campaign?

There’s a few stages of planning, development and management needed to create a great marketing campaign:

  • Planning: Here you outline the large and small goals, target the right customers, and decide how long this campaign will be your focus (winter, in our clothing example).
  • Development: Now you will determine a strategy to reach those goals. This includes your ‘voice’ (lighthearted, serious, fun, edgy etc). Also the underlying ‘message’ you’re sending (how your brand identity/purpose and the voice intersect). You’ll then produce target keywords (how people would ‘find’ your campaign, and what the most important issues within it are) and make a strategy using these. How will you reach the audience? Is it location dependent? What channels will you use and how do you integrate the tailored channel content into a cohesive whole? This consistency is key. If your ‘winter wardrobe’ campaign looks entirely different depending on where the customer views it, how are you establishing your brand in the customer’s eye? They may not even realise they’re all the same company!
  • Management: Now you’ve got a cohesive, targeted campaign to launch, it needs to be steered and monitored. Adjustments can be made if necessary. Then you will determine the success and value of the campaign. What went great? What needs to do better next time?

How do I know my digital marketing is working?

Data collection is absolutely critical to the digital marketing process. Once you’ve tried out a few approaches, it’s fundamental that you have a way of measuring what worked and what didn’t. Yes, that means yet another ‘job’ you have to do to use digital marketing effectively!

But wait- that’s your digital marketing agencies job!

They will meticulously track campaigns, giving you key feedback as they are live and after they run their course. Using a host of reporting partners, they’ll crunch the confusing numbers, spare you the marketing jargon, and present you with key reports that explain everything you need to know. In a way that actually means something to you!

Clear, concise and valuable reporting is just another advantage of using a digital marketing agency.

How do I know who I should sell my product too (and how do I find more audiences)?

Hopefully, as a business, you have an idea who your target demographic is already. But have you really refined and developed that vision? What do you know about your audience’s other likes, and how they may intersect with your industry? What content marketing appeals to them most? Do you know how they interact with the online world? Do you know what causes and concerns matter to them, and how to harness that to your brand niche?

Don’t worry, those are key questions your digital marketing agency will help you answer.

You may be aware of the development of tools like Facebook Pixels, which help you measure, optimise and build the right audiences for your various content marketing campaigns. The data such tools create can also help you explore new niches and reach people you may never have realised could have an interest in your product. If you aren’t using these smart tools, you’re being left behind. Your digital marketing agency will help you roll them out in ways that enrich your brand and marketing efforts, and help you develop your target audience- and expand to new demographics too.

So what do digital marketing agencies really do?

Look at your digital marketing agency as your key partner and guide in navigating the sticky and confusing world of digital and content marketing. There are many key advantages to using a digital marketing agency. We’ve developed the skills, knowledge and tools you need in the industry so you don’t have to. We’ll help you take your marketing goals, refine them, and assign meaningful, brand-developing action to them. We’ll shape and create the content you use for them. Then we’ll let you know what worked, what didn’t, and how to do better in the future. All with the dose of creativity and nuance you need to look (and perform at) your best.

Digital agencies like Zebra 360 marketing help you truly master your brand and how it positions itself to your target audience. We help you improve your business, seamlessly. This translates, of course, to a boosted ROI too. No more wasting marketing budget hoping it gets the results you want! Through cost-effective solutions, we’ll get your message to the people that need to hear it, without wastage on the way. With measurable accountability through reporting and tracking, you’ll always know what you’re getting for your budget, too.

A savvy digital marketing agency harnesses a multidisciplinary strategy (sales, marketing, copywriting and more), along with clever creative content and strategic thinking, to drive smart campaigns. Paired up with a little technical innovation and experience on the marketing front lines, a digital marketing agency is your key partner in delivering on your marketing objectives.

Keen to get started on an all-new digital marketing strategy? Let Zebra 360 Online Marketing be your partner and guide through the world of content creation and digital marketing in South Africa. We’ll harness our expertise to boost your brand, today and into the future.