How to Effectively Leverage Digital Marketing

By Ethan Gibble
Contributing Writer

With the size of the digital content market projected to grow by $283.3 billion by 2023, according to market research firm Technavio, it’s more vital than ever to understand the importance of an effective digital marketing strategy. No industry, including foodservice equipment, is immune from the rising digital influence.

“There’s a great opportunity for foodservice distributors to market their products to potential customers,” says Lindsay Goetting, vice president of sales and marketing for Corporate Strategies & Solutions, Inc. “Digital marketing enables them to determine where and how buyers digest content, and then use that knowledge to reach them as they’re actively searching for information.”

According to Richard Hegarty, learning and transformation specialist for Digital Marketing Institute, the time to act is now. “You’ve got the opportunity to build a really strong digital presence in preparation for this ongoing digital revolution that keeps growing bigger and faster. It can really help put you in a position for long-term, sustainable growth.”

New Opportunities
Traditional marketing tools like direct mail and billboards offer little (if any) interaction between customers and the medium. Digital marketing, however, opens up a completely new world of possibilities. Envision a restaurateur scrolling through social media when she comes across an eye-catching piece of customizable food-prep equipment. Intrigued, she clicks the picture, which starts a stylish video that concisely highlights the product’s features and benefits. And, at the end of the video is a form where she can enter contact information, specifications, and other details to quickly receive a quote.

With the help of digital marketing, companies can achieve extremely targeted exposure in specified markets, while also boosting visibility in new markets to drive brand awareness to potential customers.

“Organizations can now take folks through the customer journey,” Goetting says, “from unaware to aware, to interested, to being a client.” Taking prospective patrons on that journey will require an investment of both time and money, but detailed analytics help ensure that time is spent efficiently – and that the finances are cost effective.

“Think about the data we have access to in the digital realm,” Hegarty adds. “We can measure results very accurately, which holds us accountable for our spend and allows us to show return on investment. In essence, we can spend a small budget on a campaign and measure the results with precise data points to see if it was successful. If it was, then we can consider rolling it out on a larger scale.”

The ability to accurately track things like incremental sales, purchasing funnels, customer attrition, click-through rates, customer acquisition cost, and other key information is an invaluable asset in the 21st century. Put simply, says Goetting, this kind of data tells you what is working and what is not. “In a constantly evolving world, these analytics provide valuable insight into gaps that must be closed to reach and convert more prospects.”

The Challenge of Change
“Digital marketing is one of the fastest growing areas of marketing that the business landscape has ever seen,” Goetting says. That incredible growth provides businesses with plenty of exciting new opportunities, but with more platforms and content for consumers to choose from than ever before, developing a successful marketing campaign is still just as challenging.

“There’s a lot of noise out there,” Hegarty notes. “Not all channels are going to suit any one business, so you need to understand where to focus and what makes sense for your audience. Trying to figure that out can be difficult and then, by the very nature of digital, we’re in a dynamic environment that’s constantly changing.”

Developing a solid plan is one thing, but executing and adjusting that plan while dealing with shifting tech trends, adjustments in search-engine algorithms, and other unpredictable variables can be a challenge in and of itself. Ensuring an operation’s marketing stays relevant means cultivating a creative, flexible, and technologically-savvy roster of employees who can help a company deliver a safe, consistent, and engaging customer experience.

“Right when a company believes they’ve cracked the code on how to market to their ideal customers, there is a new, shinier, better way,” Goetting says. “The question becomes whether they are equipped with the right employees, the right tools, and the right activities to ensure they’re taking the right steps and making the right investments.”

Aligning Strategy with Brand
With the caveat that a company’s digital marketing strategy must be fine-tuned to cater to its unique needs, there are some general, high-level suggestions that can help executives get headed in the right direction.

“Begin by creating a simple yet effective monthly digital marketing calendar,” Goetting says. She recommends selecting two areas to focus on — social media and content generation, for example — and then building out an activity plan for a month at a time.

“Like with anything in life, if we try to do too many things at once, these efforts are watered down and inefficient,” Goetting adds. Pick two areas and do them well. Once you’ve mastered these areas for a minimum of three months, either identify how you’ll raise the bar or pick two additional areas to weave into the mix.”

For Hegarty, thoroughly testing different channels and platforms is key. “You need to look at all the different channels and options you have,” he says. “Think about email, SEO, PPC campaigns, social media, and really just take a holistic, measured approach. You might start by testing paid and organic campaigns on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. If you find the audience is there and engaged, that can become part of your strategy. But overall, the most important piece is that the strategy is aligned with the overall business objective and there’s consistency that’s delivering on the brand promise.”

Finding a Holistic Approach
While the advantages of digital marketing are well documented, it’s important that you don’t assume an either/or mindset when weighing the benefits against those found with traditional media. A careful balance of digital and traditional marketing is sometimes the best recipe for success.

The critical thing, according to Goetting, is knowing how your target audience gets their information. “If you’ve identified that more than 80 percent of your ideal clients digest content digitally, you should invest the majority of your marketing budget digitally and spend minimally on print,” she says. “On the other hand, if a large percentage of your ideal clients read catalogs and magazines, print will be more important.”

Hegarty believes that an omnichannel approach between traditional and digital may be the best-case scenario in many instances. “You can see declines in traditional marketing, but it’s not disappearing anytime soon,” says Hegarty. “Imagine we’ve got print media that we’re delivering. Let’s track that back onto digital so we can begin to show return on investment. Include a QR code or a link to a site that customers need to go onto to register for something, and then start to report on the success of those more traditional campaigns.”

This scenario, where somewhat disparate approaches not only co-exist but actively feed off one another to form a more cohesive strategy, is just a glimpse of what’s possible when navigating the dynamic landscape of the digital revolution.

In addition to presenting a March 3 FEDA live webinar, Building A Simple, yet Effective Digital Marketing Plan to Drive New Business, Goetting will be discussing digital marketing as a presenter at the upcoming FEDA Conference in San Diego.

Members attending Goetting’s presentation will learn about:

  • What the “customer experience” is, and how to optimize it to attract new clients
  • How to use digital marketing to stand out in a heavily saturated marketplace
  • The necessary steps to create a frictionless journey for potential customers
  • How to increase chances of conversion by offering fresh, relevant content
  • Technology tools to generate and automate digital marketing for an optimal customer experience

What FEDA members can expect to learn from digital marketing courses:

  • An understanding of language, terminology, acronyms, and how digital marketing works from a high level
  • A practical approach to implementing a digital strategy
  • How courses are structured:
  • Provides flexibility for busy professionals to make consistent progress
  • Designed to maximize understanding and engagement
  • Utilizes recall to confirm retention before moving on to new material
  • Highly interactive format includes quizzes at the end of each module
  • Features exercises where users practice strategies within a simulated environment