What is digital marketing? The complete small business guide

by | Marketing, Strategy

Types of digital marketing? Importance to your business? Digital marketing trends? We answer 'what is digital marketing' in our comprehensive guide.

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What is digital marketing?

It’s definitely a top 5 trending keyword in marketing discussions around the world. But is there more to it than that?

Pick which one is just waiting for an opportunity to say, “digital marketing”.

If you are happy to just know it as a marketing buzzword, then just hit the back button now.

In fact you can get away without reading this post. Just get our marketing course delivered to your inbox now.

But if you want to understand how to use digital marketing then read on. Seleqtive have created the one-stop-shop guide to digital marketing.

Definition of digital marketing

“Digital marketing is the all-mighty gateway between electronic technology and marketing psychology.” Cory Firth

It is no surprise that most people associate digital marketing with the 21st century. Why? Because its explosion is linked to the growth of the internet.

But digital marketing is more than just using the internet. In simple terms, digital marketing is:

Marketing using technology. Both online and offline.

Origins of digital marketing

Using modern technology for commercial purposes can be traced back as far as the 1890s. The development of the wireless was driven by Guglielmo Marconi’s vision of its commercial potential.

It was not long before its reach through public broadcast made it a marketing method. But technology purists will say that it was using analogue rather than digital technology.

So fast forward to where digital marketing established firm roots in the development of the computer. In 1986, there were some key events in the history of digital marketing:

  • SoftAd Group ran the first digital marketing campaigns for car companies. Magazine readers could send in reply cards and in return get floppy discs with multimedia files promoting cars.
  • ACT! a contact and customer management company, introduced the first database marketing software to the business world.
Since 1990, Digital Marketing has piggy-backed the meteoric rise of the internet. Check out this infographic from Simplilearn charting the evolution of digital marketing from the launch of the first search engine.

Types of digital marketing

So let’s get specific about what digital marketing looks like today.

Part of digital marketing is online marketing – also referred to as web marketing or internet marketing. This includes

  • Search marketing (SEO and SEM)
  • Content marketing
  • Social media marketing (SMM)
  • Email marketing
  • Affiliate marketing

Lots of blogs and articles out there will say that digital marketing is online marketing. This is easy to understand given the massive growth of online marketing.

But this assumes digital marketing only uses technology that allows multi-party engagement. It’s a nice take, but we are not there yet. Not all technology is online and their are still plenty of digital broadcast methods.

We deal in depth with our post on the online marketing marketing services you need.

The difference between digital and online marketing is going to get less. More offline technology will be networked and become a part of the Internet of Things.

Until that time, there are four offline digital marketing methods that impact on us on a daily basis:

  • Phone marketing
  • Electronic (device) marketing
  • Radio marketing
  • Television marketing

Phone marketing

Most often when we think mobile phones, we think apps and web – i.e. the online marketing channels. But that is missing a huge part of phone marketing.

Telemarketing has a bad name through outsourced call centres making cold calls at dinner time. If you think about it, the Do Not Call Register was the 20th century’s version of an ad blocker!

But telemarketing remains a regular part of many company’s strategies. With a lead conversion of around 1% or less, it is in the same ball park as many other tactics.

Messaging however is where the growth is. Using SMS or messaging achieves the same reach as telemarketing, but without the overhead.

Here are some facts to knock you off your seat:

That is some pretty serious conversion!

Source: Squeezemobi

Last of all for phone marketing, don’t forget the neglected stage of ‘Delight’ in the buyer’s journey. Customer service plays a big part in marketing to customer retention. Of which telephony often provides the single channel or key element to a multi-channel experience.

Electronic (device) marketing

Remember the old billboard?

Well they are a big deal in some places these days:
Its marketing using electronic devices to enhance the impact on the consumer. The large broadcast devices get massive exposure in crowded areas. According to Billboards Australia, 78% of Australians notice Outdoor Advertising each month.

Hand-held or compact devices are also big contributors. The inside of a car is a perfect case study.

The boring billboard on the side of the road no longer gets the attention. But it is now directed at a smaller platform, that can also add its own digital marketing. Just check out the product placement in this computer game:

 Source: flowjournal.org

Or at a shop. Every technology product is its own marketing platform.

Source: Digital Signage Collection

Digital marketing using electronic devices and media impacts on our lives on a daily basis.

Radio marketing

People still listen to radio and they still broadcast ads. Check out these recent examples of award-winning radio advertisements.

Think radio is dead? Statistics suggest otherwise:

  • 10.3 million – Australians tune in each week to commercial radio.
  • 30,000 – more listeners in the 18-24 age group than the previous year.
  • 2 hours and 12 minutes – of live radio is listened to by Australians each day.
  • 5.8% – increase in advertising revenue in 2015/16, continuing 4 consecutive years of growth.

Streaming music services have entered the market. But Australian radio continues to have nine times the daily reach of Spotify and almost 25 times the reach of Pandora.

The launch of an app like RadioApp for broadcast radio channels blurs the lines with online marketing services. But radio continues to play an important part in the marketing strategies of many companies.

Television marketing

TV is a giant in the entertainment industry. It remains in 99 % of homes and 91% of TV is watched live.

But abandonment of TV is on the riseSVOD (e.g. Netflix and Stan) and online video platforms (e.g. YouTube and Vimeo) have had a pretty big impact.

So TV advertising revenue remains flat. But in Australia it is still $4 billion. Just like billboards, broadcasting major events provide massive exposure. In 2016, millions of dollars were spent on advertising for the Rio Olympics, sports grand finals and elections.

Most of the growth in online advertising bugets is currently moving from print rather than from TV. As advertisers take a cross-channel approach.

The broadcast nature of TV is combined with the segmented approach of online marketing. It is important to note that TV marketing is not for everyone – it has a high cost of entry. The top 10 advertisers account for 16 % of ad spend.

Importance of digital marketing

So far we’ve gone to a lot of trouble to explain what digital marketing is. That’s because it’s important to your business. Why?

Because the customer has changed.

The customer now expects that you will:

  • gain their attention in an area where they are looking;
  • re-gain it when they get distracted;
  • provide the right content at the right time;
  • demonstrate value to them that is different to others;
  • provide a common experience across platforms; and
  • engage in a relationship pre, during and post transaction.

Your engagement with a potential buyer can be across 5, 8, 10, or 12 touch points. The buyer will use multiple channels in between distractions.

Source: Customer 360

Digital marketing provides an amazing spectrum of channels to customise the experience for your customer. It is using the technology of the 21st Century to best market your business.

Not all businesses can use all the channels available, nor should you. But digital marketing provides all businesses to engage with their target segment. It is just a question of strategy.

Digital marketing trends


Technology allows us to reach almost anyone in the world. But the offset is that customers are increasingly unavailable. They can access most answers anytime and anywhere.

Consent to engage is the basis for a relationship. Otherwise the customer will not only shut you out, but also punish your business with unfavourable reviews.

Advertising is important to getting attention. But consent is required to navigate the multiple touch points that lead to conversion.

In 2016, at least 419 million people are blocking ads. PageFair 2016 Mobile Adblocking Report

This trend is definitely only going to get stronger in direct response to more invasive technology.


The primary reason for the decline of broadcast methods of advertising, are that they are one-size fits all. Everyone sees it.

Online marketing enables segmenting right down to individual demographics and preferences for content.

Any user of the internet can search for an answer and get it. For the searcher to become a buyer, they need to see personalised information that demonstrates the right value at the right time.

Sound impossible? Well it isn’t. But it doesn’t happen automatically. Companies that deliver a personalised experience get better results than those that don’t.

Omni-channel experience

A single channel might be telephone. A multi-channel experience might be telephone, email, chat and social media. But omni-channel is where a customer can transition between channels and platforms but have the same experience.

Omni-channel is a fancy term to describe reducing friction. Technology has allowed us to have many devices, but a single experience.

Right now, Software as a Service (SaaS) is the greatest enabler to omni-channel experience through your browser.

This trend is on the up and up. Check out these examples.


We’ve covered some ground on what is digital marketing. To recap:

It is marketing using technology. Both online and offline.

Online marketing includes:

  • Search marketing (SEO and SEM)
  • Content marketing
  • Social media marketing (SMM)
  • Email marketing
  • Affiliate marketing

Offline marketing includes:

  • Phone marketing
  • Electronic (device) marketing
  • Radio marketing
  • Television marketing

Digital marketing is important because the customer has changed. They are expecting to:

  • provide consent;
  • get personalised marketing; and
  • have an experience common to any platform.