Business owners have lots of different things to fret about. But nothing gets the worry pumping quite like the topic of digital marketing.
We know that digital marketing can yield incredible results when it’s done right: significant web traffic, robust social media channels, and emails that get opened and read.
The trouble is, most of us don’t know how to do digital marketing right. We often think the answer to amplifying our mission lies in better SEO, more frequent social media posts, or a fancier website.
These are all essential components of a solid digital marketing plan. But they come later.
Effective digital marketing begins and flourishes with just one action—fully understanding and empathizing with your audience. If you’re able to do that, you will always see results, no matter your budget size or project scope.
What amplifying your mission really means
The internet is a crowded, noisy place. There are over a billion websites and nearly 4 billion people actively using social media platforms on a regular basis.
People are rightfully concerned about how to amplify their business’s mission online. How will they be heard over the din of billions of voices?
But it’s not about being the loudest. It’s about being the most valuable.
“Amplifying your mission online doesn’t mean just getting customers, serving them, and accomplishing your purpose,” said Lindsay LaShell, Business For Good board member and owner of Diamond + Branch Marketing. “It’s about educating your customers and empowering them to become advocates for your cause.”
Lindsay is a data-driven digital marketing expert who has delivered meaningful results to clients for over a decade. That journey led to her current role as a proud Marketing Activist—providing digital marketing instruction, strategic consulting, and entrepreneurship support to womxn-owned businesses and purpose-driven organizations of all kinds.
When clients come to Lindsay for help, they’re almost always certain that their lackluster marketing is rooted in bad SEO, a tenuous social media presence, or poor website copy. But the real problem often runs much deeper.
“Forget about how many social media followers and email subscribers you have,” Lindsay said. “First and foremost, I always advocate for taking a step back and looking deeply at your audience’s journey with you. Are you empathizing with your customers in terms of what brings them to your door? Are you paying super close attention to who they are and what they care about?”
Only when you can answer yes to both of these questions will you be poised to amplify your mission with digital marketing efforts that really work.
Common digital marketing problems for different types of businesses
Putting those digital marketing efforts into action can still be tricky, though. This is especially true for purpose-driven or BIPOC-owned businesses, nonprofits, and solopreneurs.
“As a bootstrapping entrepreneur myself, I realized early on that women, BIPOC, young, and first-time entrepreneurs often don’t have the resources they need to run and market a business,” Lindsay said. “Not just financially, but in terms of strong networks or a safety net at home of a partner supporting them. Many of the things that make entrepreneurship a little easier to be successful, they lack.”
Lindsay shared the most common digital marketing problems her clients experience, and how she helps solve them so that they can find the success they deserve.
Entrepreneurs: “Most entrepreneurs have huge to-do lists and need help prioritizing tasks. I tell them exactly what marketing activities they need to do and which ones they can ignore so that they can focus on running their business.”
Women solopreneurs: “Like entrepreneurs, women solopreneurs also need help prioritizing their to-do lists. But they want coaching help as well. In other words, they want me to give them permission to go ahead and create the plan that will empower them and promote their business. I know this very well; I have been there myself!”
Larger organizations and nonprofits: “My work with these groups is almost always around strategic alignment. They need to get all their departments and leadership onboard with the same plan. I help them understand how to prioritize, better collaborate, and hold each other accountable for working toward the goal that we set together. My marketing framework exposes the places where they can get the most impact with the least amount of effort.”
Underserved / BIPOC / womxn-owned businesses: “These folks are always overcommitted and under-resourced. Having someone clearly tell them what digital marketing efforts they do and do not have to do is super valuable to them. I help them feel confident that everything they’re spending their time on is well informed and will produce the results they want and need. The success of these businesses really contributes to more justice, sustainability, and equity in the world, so I am eager to support them however I can.”
5 tips to get started with an effective digital marketing plan right now
If you’re at a loss on how to launch a digital marketing plan that will truly amplify your mission, you are hardly alone. But these five tips from Lindsay will help keep you sane, customer-focused, and seeing real results from your hard work in no time.
Center your customer: Start by sitting down with either your best customer or someone who represents your ideal potential customer. Ask them how they would go about solving the problem that they’re trying to solve today. What are they searching in Google? What websites and social platforms are they seeking out? Then, use those exact same channels as a means of outreach to get more of that customer. You have to figure out what they need, where they need it, and then give it to them. And that takes some work.
“It’s very tempting to say, for example, ‘I’m selling vacation rentals to C-suite professionals, so I’m going to go on LinkedIn to reach those folks,” Lindsay said. “But that’s wrong. Because people who are on LinkedIn are not thinking about vacations. Vacations go on Instagram. So, it’s not just the question of where your people are; it’s where are your people going in order to solve the problem that you solve.”
Do not try to be active on all social channels: Trying to be everywhere often means you’re nowhere. Focus your time, energy, and content efforts only on the social media platforms where your people are.
“I tell clients that if they want to protect their brand by creating an official account on all of the main social media platforms, they can do that,” Lindsay said.“But for the platforms where your audience does not live, pin a post that says, ‘I’m not active on this channel, but you can go find me on _____.’ If your audience doesn’t hang out on a certain social media platform, you shouldn’t either.”
Focus on behavior and motivation, not demographics: When thinking about target audiences, we’re often told to hone in on demographics, like age, genders, and location. But people’s behavior and motivation directly informs what you should say to them, which is why they trump demographics every time.
“I don’t like to talk about audience demographics unless demographics inform behavior and motivations,” Lindsay explained. “It’s not just about, ‘I have to be on Facebook simply because all 55-year-old women are on there and that’s who I’m selling to.’ It’s, ‘What am I going to post here on Facebook that these 55-year-old women actually care about?’”
Adhere to the channel’s culture: Speaking of what people care about, every social channel has a different overarching theme and purpose. For example, activism happens on Twitter. If your service or product is personal or lifestyle-oriented, that goes on Facebook.
“Pay attention to what you’re offering and where it makes the most sense to talk about it,” Lindsay said. “This way, you’ll automatically reach your people because you’re focusing on behavior and motivation.”
Always start with the bottom of your sales funnel first: Start by making your conversion content and the buying experience absolutely amazing for your customer. Once you’ve nailed that, then move up into focusing on brand awareness.
“I’ve worked with clients who have a gorgeous website and on-point social media, but when you go to their e-commerce store to buy their product, the site is buggy, quirky, and off-brand,” Lindsay said. “That is the exact opposite of what you should be prioritizing. You spend all these resources getting people to your checkout line, and then you give them a terrible experience. It causes distrust, and you lose them. On the other hand, if you start by making the checkout a wonderful experience and work up from there, then you don’t lose anybody.”
Again, it all boils down to understanding and empathizing with your audience. It’s a process, but one that generates solid results over and over again.
“The biggest takeaway I can offer is, make sure every customer has an experience that turns them into an evangelist for your product or service,” Lindsay said. “If we all centered our customers around making them happy and satisfying them with everything we say—before, during, and after their purchase—they will do all of our marketing for us.”