What is Digital Marketing?

Digital marketing is finding its way into the strategy (and operations) of many businesses and companies. It’s a business function meant to achieve a business objective or solve a business problem.

What does ‘digital marketing’ mean?

Digital marketing brings two key terms: “digital” and “marketing”.

Digital marketing marries two terms: 'digital' and 'marketing'. It covers one way your marketing is used to reach your target audience.

Let’s start with the bigger term: ‘marketing’.

It’s a business function. The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) defines it as:

Marketing is the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating, and satisfying customer requirements profitably.”

Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM)

At its core, marketing is understanding people (i.e. target audience or customers) and their behaviours (why they act the way they did) so you can increase the awareness towards your brand or organisation. In turn, this would bring in new leads and revenue.

Next is ‘digital’. In the slide, you’ll find the definition from Dictionary.com. In my own words, ‘digital’ is when it’s related to the Internet and gadgets with access to the Internet. This includes the use of apps or other digital asset.

Targetted or Mass?

Digital marketing presents businesses and organisations opportunities to scale up or down. You can run ads through social media channels. Your goal could be increasing awareness. At the same time, you can narrow down the audience. You do this by defining the location and behaviour of your audience. Another way is to stack interests of your audience.

At this stage, it goes without saying that you need to know who you are speaking to. And why they should care.

I’ve seen instances where clients, organisations, and businesses throw money into the campaign without understanding this marketing basic. It’s usually to hit a certain vanity matrix.

Looking at Reach

For example ‘reach’. Reach is, in digital marketing, defined as the number of people who saw your ads or content. Be higher the number, we think, the better. Just because the analytics reported that 1 million people saw your ad in the past 24 hours, you shouldn’t not immediately jump for joy.


We’re looking at how many eyeballs saw your add. This does not measure brand recall. What use is it to you when a million people saw it, but have no recollection of it?

Reach was good when there were not many paid digital marketing campaigns. It’s basic supply and demand. When more organisations engage in paid ads, users now have more content to see. They already have finite attention. Suddenly, you’re not just competing with those in your industry. You’re now competing with anyone pumping money to get the attention of the same customer segment or target audience.

This now becomes a numbers game. Or, rather, a game of ‘how much you’re willing to spend’?

Consider this: your ad budget is only USD5,000 for the coming week. You want to promote your ad to single women in their 30s, based in Sydney. At this stage, your product or service is immaterial. Come another marketer – perhaps a hotel chain – that wants to target the same audience: Sydney-based single women in their 30s. This hotel chain has a budget of USD50,000 to spend for a 2-month period.

What about other Sydney-based businesses aimed at the same target audience?

Sending Emails Out

On another extreme end, you can roll out a targetted electronic direct mail (EDM) campaign. You have a mailing list of 100. These are people who came to your store, have bought something from you, and want to know more about seasonal promotions.

The cost would be different. The resources consumed are different. Your content will be targetted.

Returning to the Bigger Picture

Digital marketing is a business function. The tactics deployed are based on the strategy you have meant to achieve a certain goal.

Just as any business functions, it’s something you should regularly examine vis-a-vis other business functions. Is your digital marketing supporting your general marketing goals?

What I like to do is to see how digital marketing complements itself and other business functions.

How do I do that?

Take a look at your business’ ecosystem. Who are you trying to reach? How is your business fulfilling these requests? Do you have enough headcount and resources to consistently carry out the initiatives? Are your digital assets – or the operations behind them – cannibalising itself and your other business functions?

Just because digital marketing is the trend today, it does not discount the basic principles of marketing. It always amazes me how organisations throw that out the window – and ignoring their target audience – in favour of a digital marketing trend.

Author: Aldric

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