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The 7 Types of Digital Marketing: Which Should You Be Using?

Mar 15, 2022

Digital marketing is essential, but there are many types of it. Which should you be using as a small business? Read on to find out.

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Gary FroniewskiContent Writer
The 7 Types of Digital Marketing: Which Should You Be Using?

What we'll cover

It’s no secret that digital marketing is essential to running a successful modern business. Companies big and small utilize various types of digital marketing every day for a wide variety of crucial tasks. 

As a small-business owner with a limited budget, how do you make sure you’re getting the most bang for your marketing buck?

In this guide, we’ll discuss what digital marketing is, define the different types of digital marketing, and share some tips for you, as a small-business owner, to optimize your own digital marketing strategy.

What is digital marketing?

Digital marketing is anything you do online to market your company and achieve business goals.

There are various components to digital marketing, however, with Gartner defining it as a set of integrated techniques, technologies, and information that enables marketing to create new products and services. Digital marketing can also help businesses enter new markets, engage in dynamic conversation with potential customers, and ultimately target, acquire, and retain those customers.

That’s all well and good, but the bottom line is that digital marketing works. 

The 2021 GetApp U.S. Small Business Post-Covid Changes and Marketing Trends survey* reveals that SMBs are leaning on it more than ever to connect with their customers. 

Over 40% of respondents named things such as brand messaging, the addition of online chat, and connecting with customers on social media as methods that had the biggest impact on attracting and retaining customers.

Additionally, analysis of digital marketing efforts broken down by type reveals that over a three-year period businesses can expect, on average, 36% return on investment (ROI) from pay-per-click ads, 261% ROI from email marketing, and an astonishing 748% ROI from well-targeted SEO efforts. Yes, you read that right. 

Now let’s learn more about these types of digital marketing and how you can best utilize them for your own business.

Types of digital marketing

There are several types of digital marketing that suit a variety of purposes and goals. Let’s take a look at these and see what they can do for you, as a small to midsize business owner.

1. Social media marketing

Social media marketing is the use of social media platforms to connect with audiences to build a company's brand, increase sales, and drive website traffic. 

This can involve paid, owned, and earned media efforts, including publishing organic content on your social media channels, listening to and engaging with your target audience, and running social media advertisements.

More specifically, paid media is typically ads or influencer-created content (we’ll get more into that later). Owned media is organic social content you create and post yourself, and earned media is engagement from fans in the form of user-generated content or by sharing to their own social channels.

  • Who it’s best for: All businesses can benefit from a well-laid-out social media marketing strategy. It’s especially good for SMBs who have less of a budget or those in industries such as retail or restaurants who have a product offering that lends itself to the visual nature of social media. Organic social media is free (aside from the time put in to create it), and you can scale this tactic almost endlessly while integrating paid options as they become cost effective.

Tips to get started

Do an audit of your social media presence. Assess what social media platforms you’ve created profiles on, decide what channels you want as your primary focus, then optimize them. Start small by making sure information, such as your business name, location, and bio, are accurate.

Now it’s time to post! If you’re starting from scratch, visit competitor pages to see what content works, think about what you personally like to see when browsing, and keep a close eye on your content’s analytics as you go. Consider focusing on one social media platform in the beginning to learn and develop your own style of posting before adapting it to other platforms.

There are many tools to help you manage this, examples of which can be found on our social media analytics software page.

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An example from AgencyAnalytics of a social media analytics dashboard (Source)

If you’d like to know more about developing a social media strategy for your small business, check out the video below:

2. Email marketing

Email marketing is a type of outbound marketing that uses email messaging to promote a business's products or services. This can mean informing existing customers of new offerings, generating new leads, building brand awareness, or keeping in touch with customers who are between purchases.

  • Who it’s best for: Similar to social, email is a marketing tactic utilized by a wide range of businesses for many purposes. It shows its true strength for SMBs in fields such as eCommerce which have clear checkpoints along a well-defined buyer journey.

It’s also particularly useful as a foundational form of internet marketing since most every consumer has an email address. This makes it easier for businesses to build a list of engaged individuals and keep customers informed. It can also function as a form of one-on-one communication if other forms are not available.

Tips to get started

Start collecting email addresses. A solid list of addresses from potential (and existing) customers is an invaluable resource as a small business. Email marketing software can help you maintain this list, and as it grows, you can experiment with what type of content keeps your readers engaged. Offer them valuable and entertaining messages–not just sales and promotions–to increase the chances that they keep reading.

constant contact

An example of email campaign reporting from Constant Contact (Source)

3. Content marketing

Content marketing is a type of inbound marketing that involves the creation of content with the goal of providing value to consumers. Content in this context refers to things such as blogs, videos, eBooks, and infographics that are shared on a variety of digital channels. The main goal of content marketing is to provide valuable information to consumers so they are more likely to engage with you as a brand and, ultimately, become a customer.

  • Who it’s best for: Content marketing is a marketing tactic best suited for SMBs with specific subject matter expertise, or those who have products and services that people tend to seek more information on. Personal finance is an excellent example as there are a wealth of topics to discuss in this industry and, therefore, lots of content for marketers to produce.

Tips to get started

Devise a content marketing strategy that works for you. The end goal with content marketing is to garner your target audience’s attention and trust. You can do this by creating content that entertains, informs, or inspires them. Start small by determining what topics you want to focus on and what type of content you can realistically produce.

Following our personal finance example, you could create a blog and write pieces that cover basic topics such as addressing consumer debt, creating a budget, and investing for retirement.

After a few months of posting (even if it’s just one blog post a week), you will have created a branded resource for your target audience to seek information on key topics and made yourself that much more discoverable by potential customers.

If you’re interested in software solutions to help accomplish this strategy, check out our content marketing software page to get a feel for the most effective options.

divvyhq

An example of content marketing workflow from DivvyHQ (Source)

4. Search engine optimization (SEO) marketing

Speaking of being discoverable to a potential customer, search engine optimization (SEO) is a search engine marketing (SEM) technique that focuses on marketing a business by improving qualified traffic to its web pages. This is accomplished by analyzing the nature and intent of consumer searches to enhance the user experience and deliver highly relevant search results (preferably from your business).

  • Who it’s best for: Optimizing SEO strategy is most suited for businesses who already have some form of content marketing plan in place. This goes hand in hand with our previous point about subject matter expertise: Financial services, real estate, and similar markets all have dense information that can be shared in an easily consumable way. Not to mention it’s easiest to optimize your content for search when you have content to optimize. 

Don’t worry, though. If you’re starting from square one, you have a unique opportunity to establish a solid SEO foundation to build on as you learn and develop the strategy.

Tips to get started

Conduct keyword research for your business’s product or service. This can be as simple as Googling a term and seeing what type of content shows up on page one of the search results. Read some examples of what you see and try to identify what makes it valuable. Does the content answer specific questions? Is it entertaining? Is it formatted as a larger resource that covers a topic well?

This type of basic research will allow you to get an idea of what type of content is successful so you can go about producing your own. As a small-business owner, starting from scratch with SEO can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. 

Businesses can select an in-house digital marketer to pick up SEO marketing skills and take on technical SEO duties, or they can hire an SEO service to outsource the strategy.

There are also many SEO software solutions out there to get you up and running, as well as resources such as The Moz Blog’s Beginner Guide to SEO to learn more about getting started.

semrush

An example of an SEO metrics dashboard from Semrush (Source)

5. Pay-per-click advertising

Another type of digital marketing that goes hand in hand with SEO is pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. PPC is a form of digital advertising that involves utilizing paid media such as targeted ads and promoted search engine results.

  • Who it’s best for: PPC advertising is the easiest to take full advantage of as a complementary strategy to existing SEO or content marketing efforts. Having a solid organic foundation to build on ensures people aren’t just seeing targeted ads for the duration of your spend. 

Ideally, there’s always organic traffic coming from your SEO efforts which is then bolstered by those paid ads. When executed well, this combination creates a feedback loop of continuously improving paid and organic results.

Industries such as product retail and those who sell eBooks or online courses especially stand to benefit from PPC as they tend to have a simple call to action. It’s much harder to get people to click on ads with complex terminology or an unclear message.

Tips to get started

Experiment with a small spend as a complement to your organic efforts. Refer back to the SEO section of this to guide to conduct basic keyword research for your first round of ads. A good avenue to pursue first is social media, so refer to that section’s tip on identifying your primary profiles to determine where you want to place your ads.

You may or may not already have visual content to accompany your first ads. If not, you can create some yourself, hire someone on a project basis, or utilize marketing automation software to help guide the process. Once you’re up and running with your first few ads, PPC-specific software is helpful in tracking and optimizing your results.

active campaign

An example of pay-per-click ad creation from ActiveCampaign (Source)

6. Influencer marketing

Influencer marketing, similar to affiliate marketing, is the practice of utilizing paid ambassadors to endorse a business’s products or services. Businesses will seek out content creators with expertise, trustworthiness, or popularity in a certain area to convey the benefits of that business to their audience.

  • Who it’s best for: Influencer marketing is best utilized by brands who have products or services in a specific niche or those who already have a well-rounded marketing engine they want to further enhance. 

Influencers—even on a small scale—cost money, so it’s best to hire them as a complementary component since other efforts may yield better results at lower spends. For example, as a small-business owner, your marketing dollar may go a lot farther with some of the simple paid ads we described in the previous section. 

This strategy shines for SMBs who have a product or service that’s easily shareable with influencers. Think self-care products, a course or eBook to be reviewed, or consumer gadgets that can be easily tested.

Tips to get started

Be mindful of where your spend will have the most impact before utilizing influencer marketing. Ask yourself questions such as: 

  • Does our product or service have a passionate community surrounding it? 

  • Are we already taking full advantage of easier-to-implement methods? 

If the answers to these questions are yes, find where that passionate community resides and see who is creating content in that area that you may want to work with.

If you’re looking for a software solution to help you along the way, visit our influencer marketing software page to see what’s out there.

hashtag paid

An example of an influencer marketing platform from #paid (Source)

7. Mobile marketing

Mobile marketing is a strategy that helps businesses activate and manage marketing campaigns to target consumers directly on their mobile devices. It’s a unique type of digital marketing in that it can include nearly any of the areas we’ve already covered. Mobile marketing may come in the form of emails, text messages, mobile website experiences, videos, social media, and more.

  • Who it’s best for: Since mobile marketing can be used to deliver digital marketing messages of essentially any type, it can be utilized by anyone. However, SMBs with clear customer touch points that can effectively take advantage of mobile marketing stand to benefit the most. What we mean by this is messages sent to the customer that make it easy for them to act on in the moment. 

Do you have a piece of content on a new product you want to blast? Do you have a limited sale that customers can click to from a mobile message? Does your product or service require being in a physical location to enjoy?

For SMBs in industries such as eCommerce, those who produce educational content, or those who develop ongoing projects, mobile messages may be a good way to reach your customers where they browse the most.

Consumers in general are browsing increasingly on their mobile devices, with mobile capturing an average of 51% of a brand’s total site traffic according to Gartner’s Digital IQ: Mobile Marketing Benchmarks for 2021 (full research available to Gartner clients).

mobile device site traffic

Tips to get started

Build a mobile-friendly online experience. Start with your website, and make sure it’s a pleasurable experience for those who browse on mobile devices. Ensure the interface works properly, use concise messaging, include large buttons, and make sure your most important information is “above the scroll,” or able to be viewed without having to scroll down.

Once you’ve identified and addressed areas of improvement on your core website, you can turn to tactics such as SMS marketing software or an all-in-one mobile marketing platform to further strengthen your mobile marketing strategy.

avochato

An example of mobile marketing software from Avochato (Source)

What types of digital marketing are best for your business?

After reading this guide, you may be asking yourself which type of digital marketing channel is right for your small business. The answer will vary from business to business, but you’re now equipped with the knowledge necessary to find it.

Start by assessing what you’re doing already and where the path of least resistance is for introducing some of the tactics above. With our tips to get started and a wealth of marketing tools available to lend a hand, you’re primed for online marketing success in an increasingly digital era.

For a sneak peek into how to utilize these tactics to create an effective digital marketing strategy, check out the video below then read our article on the subject here.


Methodology

* 2021 U.S. Small Business Post-Covid Changes / Marketing Trends Survey Methodology

GetApp conducted this survey in April 2021 of 455 U.S.-based respondents to learn more about marketing and technology trends for small businesses. Respondents were screened for decision-making roles in sales, marketing, or customer service at companies with two to 250 employees.

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About the author

Gary Froniewski

Content Writer
Gary Froniewski is a Content Writer at GetApp covering all things digital marketing, with a focus on emerging trends in experiential marketing. A recipient of multiple AMD Spotlight Awards for flagship product launch campaigns, he has a wealth of experience creating compelling copy to support Fortune 500 companies and small businesses alike. In his spare time he loves to enjoy food experiences, play tennis and disc golf, and explore nature in his home base of Austin, TX.
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