Online digital marketing is an incredibly low-cost way to start a solopreneur business. Some solopreneurs have started with less than $100, and just immense enthusiasm, commitment and persistence. The reason why this form of starting a business and doing marketing appeals to a lot of small business owners – including solopreneurs – is because so many millions (if not billions) of people throng the Internet, and it’s become the haunt of vast numbers of “potential consumers” for all kinds of product offerings.
But while it’s such a beckoning place for budding business owners, it’s also therefore a very crowded and competitive place. There’s also one other factor to consider. Online digital marketing doesn’t get results as easily as it sounds. It takes an immense amount of grit, patience and perseverance to succeed. Which is why almost 94% of all businesses stagnate, and only about 4% seem to really succeed. But that shouldn’t be a damper to a lion-heart like you, right?
What is “online digital marketing” and how do you define it?
Before you arrive at a definition of “online digital marketing” (to understand it better), you have to realize that there is also its counterpart – “offline digital marketing”. Essentially, “digital marketing” as a whole means business marketing that uses electronic formats.
“Offline digital marketing” refers to all the electronic marketing that is done in the outer physical world, such as on electronic billboards, electronically-decked exhibition spaces, electronic message walls at malls – and who knows, we may soon also have electronic self-driving cars that also have internal screens acting as areas of messaging to those inside the cars!
“Online digital marketing” refers to all the different kinds of electronic marketing communication that can be addressed to people on the Internet. That includes formats like websites, blogs, emails and the social media – and devices such as laptops, tablets, mobile phones and so on.
Optimizely, who call themselves the world leading “experimentation platform”, offer one of the best definitions of online digital marketing: :”Online digital marketing is the practice of leveraging web-based channels to spread a message about a company’s brand, products, or services to its potential customers. The methods and techniques used for online marketing include email, social media, display advertising, search engine optimization, and more. The objective of marketing is to reach potential customers through the channels where they spend time reading, searching, shopping, or socializing online.”
Notice how this definition not only talks of where you market (online) but also why it’s so appealing to a businessperson to do that (because online is where people are now spending most of their time).
Two other things to note about defining “online digital marketing”:
One, there are so many ways people refer to “online digital marketing” that it’s easy to think they are talking about many different things. For instance, online digital marketing is also called Web Marketing, or Internet Marketing. You have to know that all these basically mean the same thing.
Two, when people say “online digital marketing” they may not be referring purely to “marketing done online”, but actually to “business itself done online”. In other words, doing business online has become synonymous with marketing the business online. Why is this so? Because online business can be done not only to market physical products, but also to market “virtual products” (i.e. products that are purely in electronic forms – like an ebook). Your store or office is also not a physical place – it’s a website or ecommerce “virtual storefront”. When you have physical products being sold via online channels, marketing online may be a reasonably large part of the total business activity … but when you have virtual products being sold via online channels, marketing online is almost 90% of the total business activity.
What is the appeal of online digital marketing to solopreneurs?
Lucy Alexander in her article “What Is Digital Marketing?” explains the extraordinary appeal that the online digital marketing idea has for solopreurs: “The reality is, people spend twice as much time online as they used to 12 years ago. And while we say it a lot, the way people shop and buy really has changed, meaning offline marketing isn’t as effective as it used to be. Marketing has always been about connecting with your audience in the right place and at the right time. Today, that means that you need to meet them where they are already spending time: on the internet.”
There are also many other benefits and challenges inherent with online digital marketing …
One key benefit of using online channels for marketing a business or product is the ability to measure impact. You can measure the performance of any given channel, as well as how visitors acquired through different channels interact with a website or blog. Of the visitors that convert into paying customers, further analysis can also be done to determine which channels are most effective at acquiring valuable customers. The value of the dollars you spend in terms of results is calculable. This would appeal to a lot of solopreneurss starting with small budgets, who need to be able to use resources wisely.
Another key benefit inherent in online digital marketing is that a lot of free tools, knowledge, skills and services are now available to aid the solopreneur. As the online world has become more and more competitive, the variety of free (or near-free) and innovative offerings that the online businessperson can easily access, and learn to use, have expanded beyond belief. The online world is nothing but conducive and helpful to the struggling solopreneur!
What are the best online digital marketing examples for solopreneurs?
Some great examples of online digital marketing and online businesses, run by solopreneurs, include ideas like these:
TheIntrovertEntrepreneur.com is a personal development website that provides some very encouraging services for introverts. Their stated goal is to “create empowered, productive environments where introverts can flourish”. Beth Beulow, the owner, has written the ultimate book with the same title “The Introvert Entrepreneur”, and offers coaching and strategy sessions to people who fight shy of “marketing” as a business activity.
Image courtesy: TheIntrovertEntrepreneur.com
WhateverLife.com is an online business site started by Ashley Qualls who has grown to be a solopreneur millionaire. And guess what, she reached this kind of income at the age of 17! As the tagline of the site says, her business runs an “alternative millennial magazine featuring videos, music, celebrities, teen fashion, yoga videos, art and more”. Ashley has made her money off the revenue she gets via allowing advertising on her hugely popular site.
Image courtesy: WhateverLife.com
Watchbox.com (which started out as WatchUWant.com) is owned by O J Whatley, who started the business as a side-gig while working in an insurance company. He did $6 million in revenue in just 6 years, working from his home, with ‘me, myself, and I.’ This ultra-light startup has had to hire 20 employees as they approached the $20 million mark.
Image courtesy: Watchbox.com
How to do online digital marketing if you’re a smart solopreneur …
There are two concepts to online digital marketing that would particularly suit solopreneurs: one concept is Inbound Marketing and the other is Content Marketing. Here is a short explanation of each of these concepts:
Inbound Marketing: As it’s name suggests, Inbound Marketing is the way you should aim to try and “attract” readers to your site and convert them to buyers, (rather than doing the old style “Outbound Marketing” of qualifying your prospects and going after them). In Inbound Marketing, you essentially use a passive approach.
You look for where your potential audience hangs out online, and then you make yourself part of that space. You integrate yourself into the communities of your potential audiences. You then “attract” them to spontaneously read what you write about. This is quite different from staking out “buyer prospects”, getting their email addresses or social account handles (by buying lists), and then bombarding them with advertising messages.
Content Marketing: At the core of Inbound Marketing is “Content Marketing”. It is a type of marketing that according to Wikipedia “… involves the creation and sharing of online, usually free, material (such as videos, blogs, and social media posts) that does not explicitly promote a brand but is intended to stimulate interest in related products or services”.
“Content” here clearly refers to “informational content” in various consumable formats – for example, as blog posts, articles, videos, podcasts, infographics, images, music, sounds, tweets, social posts, slide presentations, emails, ebooks etc. Content Marketing is at the heart of Inbound Marketing, in a sense, because you publish “content” to attract the interest of readers who can be then converted over time into potential customers. Obviously, different people like content in different formats. Some prefer watching videos to reading articles, others find articles easier to skim over than videos. Still others may prefer to hear podcasts as they drive their cars, and those who react well to images may prefer pithy infographics.
The process explained above is the gist of how the best online digital marketing is done these days, not just by small businesses but even by the largest businesses. It is about less of overt selling and more of “going to where the audience hangs out online and sharing valuable free content with that audience” – as the way to attract interest, engagement and eventually sales.
So what are your thoughts on this topic? Do share!
This post is incomplete without your input. The community of aspiring digital solopreneurs would feel galvanized to hear from you … so do share your thoughts on this topic with us in the comments field below this post.
This is Article 1 in our “Contented Solopreneur Guide 4: Content Marketing Basics Examined!”