Digital Marketing is the term most frequently used today, as we can see from these digital marketing definitions, so that is the term we focus on.
Because of the recent debate about the use of the term ‘digital marketing’, we thought it would be useful to pin down exactly what digital means through a definition. Do definitions matter? We think they do, since particularly within an organization or between a business and its clients we need clarity to support the goals and activities that support Digital Transformation. As we’ll see, many of the other definitions are misleading.
Boiled down to its simplest form, digital marketing is defined in Dave Chaffey’s book Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice as simply:
Achieving marketing objectives through applying digital technologies and media.
I expand on this definition of digital marketing to explain that, in practice, digital marketing includes managing different forms of online company presence and presences such as company websites, mobile apps and social media company pages. This is in conjunction with online communications techniques including the likes of search engine marketing, social media marketing, online advertising, e-mail marketing and partnership arrangements with other websites. These techniques are used to support the objectives of acquiring new customers and providing services to existing customers that help develop the customer relationship through E-CRM and marketing automation. However, for digital marketing to be successful, there is still a necessity for integration of these techniques with traditional media such as print, TV and direct mail as part of multichannel marketing communications.
If we look at these other definitions of digital marketing such as this definition of digital marketing from SAS: What is Digital Marketing and Why does it matter? or this alternative definition of digital marketing from Wikipedia we can see that often there is a focus on promoting of products and services using digital media rather than a more holistic definition covering customer experiences, relationship development and stressing the importance of multichannel integration. So for us, the scope of the
term should include activities across the customer lifecycle:
Digital media and communications channels
Digital and mobile experiences such as web design and mobile apps
Prospect and customer relationship management through marketing automation
Digital strategy and integrating multichannel communications and experiences
Digital technologies and platforms to manage all digital marketing activities
The role of digital platforms in supporting integrated multichannel marketing is an important component part of digital marketing, yet is often overlooked. In many ways, this highlights how important it is to break down silos between ‘digital’ and ‘traditional’ marketing departments. Online channels can also be managed to support the whole buying process from pre-sale to sale to post-sale and further development of customer relationships.
“Marketing is the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably”.
This definition emphasizes the focus of marketing on the customer while at the same time implying a need to link to other business operations to achieve this profitability. Yet, it’s a weak definition in relation to digital marketing since it doesn’t emphasize communications which are so important to digital marketing. In Digital Marketing Excellence my co-author, PR Smith and I note that digital marketing can be used to support these aims as follows:
Identifying – the Internet can be used for marketing research to find out customers’ needs and wants
Anticipating – the Internet provides an additional channel by which customers can access information and make purchases – evaluating this demand is key to governing resource allocation.
Satisfying – a key success factor in digital marketing is achieving customer satisfaction through the digital channel, which raises issues such as: is the site easy to use, does it perform adequately, what is the standard of associated customer service and how are physical products dispatched?
Optimizing digital marketing can be tricky, and a simple definition does not necessarily translate into something that is useful for achieving business objectives. That is where the RACE Digital Marketing Planning framework comes in, as it can help break down digital marketing into easier to manage areas that can then be planned, managed and optimised.