Beat the Barriers: Digital Marketing Helps To Improve Sales

Digital marketing needs to be agile and flexible to adapt to ever-evolving online conditions. But what does it need to do to generate sales?

David Ogilvy, the father of 20th-century advertising, once quipped, “if it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.” This same lesson can be applied to digital marketing today. Creativity strikes at the core of digital marketing and is the biggest challenge for small and big businesses when trying to generate sales.

After all, how does your brand even begin to be creative (needless to say, stand out) when you are still just trying to figure out what the heck SEO really means? Throw in the hodgepodge constellations of digital marketing acronyms (e.g., PPC, CPM, ROAS, A/B testing), and you’re left spiraling toward a black hole of utter confusion.

Fear not, kind reader! This article will help you break down the basics of digital marketing in plain English. You may not understand the market forces behind a dynamic ad-pricing auction, but you will certainly understand the fundamentals of digital marketing enough to engage the experts (who, if we’re being honest, are really just adding fancy terms to explain the fundamentals).

What Is Digital Marketing?

At a very high level, digital marketing is just advertising but done online. We’ve all been subjected to advertising’s power to linger in your head long after the ad itself ends.

For example, that famous Superbowl commercial about the death and reincarnation of Mr. Peanuts may not get you to drop everything and go buy Planter’s peanuts. Still, it will certainly cement the Planters brand in your head when browsing the hundreds of snack options in the supermarket aisle.

This is especially important as the currency you’re seeking as a business owner in the age of digital marketing is attention.

In fact, the average American is subject to between 4,000-10,000 ads per day, whether they consciously recognize it or not. We all know that attention = sales–and sales make you happy!

However, gaining that attention is not easy in the hypercompetitive world of digital marketing.

You might as well be forgotten if you’re not on the first few pages of the Google search results. If you’re not using strategies like affiliate or email marketing, your leads may as well be dead ends.

Marketers often look at all these customer acquisition strategies as a marketing funnel, with the broadest strategy, awareness, at the top leading down to sales at the bottom of the funnel.

Below, we’ll discuss some of the different types of digital marketing and where they fall in this marketing funnel.

What Are Some Different Types of Digital Marketing?

Let’s look at a few of the most effective types of digital marketing.

Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization

If you’ve ever used Google, you’re involved in search engine optimization. There are heaps of books written about Google’s search engine algorithm. But rather than get lost in the technical weeds of the 200+ semantic signals Google employs when ranking search results, it is far better to have a high-level understanding of how Google works.

Google’s algorithm was inspired by the concept of citations in academic circles. If you wrote something good and your peers liked and referenced your writing, your research is deemed impactful and relevant, pushing it out to even more peers.

This is how Google works at its core. The more your website or content you feature on your website is deemed relevant, good, and unique by Google and Google’s users, the more likely Google is to recommend your page first to others searching for similar keywords.

However, ranking on Google is often more art than science. You may have seen people try to game Google’s algorithm by jamming keywords into irrelevant articles in the early days. However, long gone are those days–Google’s algorithm constantly evolves to bypass cheaters. After all, Google has a multibillion-dollar incentive to keep delivering relevant content to its users.

In practical terms, when engaging in SEO, you must produce high-quality, relevant, and consistent content that directly answers customers’ queries.

For example, if you made surfboards, you want to produce articles or content on your website or blog (or on other authoritative websites) that Google’s users enjoy and deem relevant. The more your brand shows up with relevant content when a user searches for “best surfboards” on Google, the more likely your surfboard brand will rank higher.

Content Marketing

If SEO is all about the technical wizardry of getting your page to appear first in search engines, then content marketing is the man behind the curtain.

You may be able to manipulate page rankings, but you can’t fake good content.

Content marketing is anything that gets people talking about your brand, such as contests, case studies, social media posts, videos, infographics, articles, newsletters, podcasts, etc.

Unlike direct advertising, content marketing isn’t about whacking the user over the head with your advertisements. Rather, it provides valuable, interesting, funny, or engaging (often organic) content that informs, delights, or surprises the customer while subtly referencing your brand or solution.


Often shortened to PPC, Pay-Per-Click is the advertising model often employed by major ad platforms such as Amazon, Instagram, Facebook, Google, or Tiktok to run your digital marketing campaigns automatically.

These companies have incredibly sophisticated ad-buying platforms that allow you to purchase advertising directly from them at any given time.

Pay-per-click is simply how these companies charge you: every time someone clicks on the ad, you pay the company a set amount for that click. This amount can vary from 30 cents to a few dollars a click, depending on how lucrative your target audience is.

Email Marketing

Email marketing, unlike the first two examples above, is lower on the marketing funnel and is a direct way to generate customer interest beyond awareness. Customers who visit your brand page may sign up for a newsletter and give you their email in exchange for a 10% discount.

Email marketing is often seen as gold, as users have trusted you and opted to receive emails from you. However, don’t abuse this trust, as there’s a fine line between being delighted by your discount campaigns and being so annoyed they unsubscribe.

Tools such as Mailchimp and Klavyo help you automate, schedule, and run more sophisticated email campaigns based on prompts for when certain emails get sent out to which customer base.

In the digital marketing world, email marketing is gold because it often leads to the highest conversions to sales, even more so than display or video advertising.

Mobile Marketing

This is exactly as it sounds: marketing for the smartphone. After all, statistics show that over 70% of the world now owns a smartphone.

In fact, many users don’t even own desktop computers, and the majority of e-commerce transactions today are done on smartphones.

This means you should reach customers where they spend the most time: on their smartphones. Mobile marketing can include anything from an app-driven or QR-code campaign.

Other examples of mobile marketing include SMS, location-based promotions, or social media contests using mobile devices. You should prioritize optimizing all your content (i.e., blog, website) for mobile devices.

After all, why would you want to annoy most of your mobile customers with a poorly designed desktop page that looks like crumpled cakes on their mobile devices?

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is basically you (the brand or seller) relying on someone else (usually an influencer or content creator) to promote your product on their respective sites for a commission. Affiliate marketers earn based on the amount of traffic they direct to your brand or the number of sales they help you directly generate.

Amazon Affiliates, for example, is one of the biggest affiliate networks. Creators can sign up as Amazon Affiliates and pick from a list of available products to promote. Brands can reject affiliates that don’t speak to their brand’s story.

If there’s a match, the affiliate gets paid a commission every time someone purchases a product from Amazon via a link generated by the affiliate partner. You’re happy because affiliates often have access to niche audiences that you usually do not have access to–which means more sales!

5 Common Barriers to Small Business Digital Marketing Success

All the above marketing strategies work well for big businesses with big budgets who can hire people to do big things for them.

However, as a small business or brand owner, you’re left to your own devices to do everything, often with a limited budget!

This can be challenging for many reasons, the least of which are the many digital marketing barriers small businesses are more likely to encounter.

1. Creating Consistent and Engaging Content

Creating consistent and engaging content helps to improve sales, but it’s no easy feat for a small business! In fact, creating content alone is a full-time job. Companies have entire marketing departments dedicated to this task.

If you’re a small business, besides digital marketing, you’re almost certainly also handling inventory, sourcing products, human resources, and operations, among many other tasks!

An easy way to fix this is to outsource your content creation to a freelancer or specialized agency that can help you pump out high-quality content. Your mileage will vary, and you often get what you pay for with freelancers.

Another challenge you might face is deciding where to place your focus. Is it worth procuring quality and original content, or do you think generic content designed for advertising will suffice?

Our experience is that it’s often always better to publish high-quality, original, and evergreen content–whether generated by you, your team, or your contracted content creator.

High-quality, consistent, and organic content will remain on the web forever, while a paid advertising campaign will quickly end when the money runs out, which is often sooner than you may expect.

2. Generating Quality Leads and Driving Traffic

Another challenge you might face is getting quality leads that convert to purchases.

You might run a digital advertising campaign that gets a lot of interested people to click on your ads, but if people don’t actually buy, then the campaign is not very effective.

This is why segmentation in digital advertising is so important when generating quality leads and traffic.

For example, if you’re selling wedding dresses, it might make sense to only market in media that women primarily visit, such as online bridal magazines or online fashion sites.

However, this doesn’t mean that you should artificially bias your segmentation. Going back to the above bridal example, if you owned a wedding dress business in Los Angeles, it would make sense for you to run a campaign on Facebook targeting unmarried women aged 25-65 living in the Los Angeles area who recently updated their Facebook profile status to “engaged.”

Nevertheless, that means you may accidentally exclude the 65+ marriage segment, which actually saw weddings grow by 54% from 2009-2014. You could easily have excluded a potentially lucrative segment without realizing it.

Digital marketing helps to improve the quality of the leads you’re getting, and the many available tools make targeting and segmentation for high-quality leads even easier. Experimenting to capture the best leads and drive high-quality traffic to your brand is important.

3. Getting to Know Your Target Audience

Another challenge with digital marketing is knowing your target audience. David Ogilvy, full of advertising quips, speaks to this when he says, “the customer is not a moron. She’s your wife.”

After all, how many of us truly understand our spouse’s preferences? Even though you live with them, do you actually know what brands they prefer? Do you know why they’re motivated to buy one type of coconut-scented shampoo over the other? Does your spouse actually care about organic products (or are they only pretending to fit in)? Will a 20% discount convince them to buy more from one brand over another?

The great thing about digital marketing is you have a lot of data available at your fingertips. More data points = more informed decision-making, which leads to capturing more sales. Take advantage of the data to truly understand your customers!

4. Sustaining Brand Uniformity Across Multiple Channels

Like point #1, not only is it difficult to be creative, it’s hard to maintain a high level of quality across multiple ad platforms and channels.

For example, Tiktok ads are shorter and vertical in dimension, while YouTube is not. Instagram requires postings of a certain pixel dimension, while Google has its own universe of rules. Twitter may work for big brands, but does it make sense for your small brand?

Without a system to produce content quickly and consistently, you’re often just scrapping things together and firing shots randomly.

Tools such as Canva can help you maintain a consistent brand identity without breaking the bank to hire a designer. Some brands will create an entire social media calendar and schedule content automatically to ensure consistency. A copywriting industry exists to help brands have a voice.

Does your brand have a consistent, authentic, and uniform voice and design aesthetic across platforms? Does it make sense to play it so uniformly?

5. Optimizing Your Efforts for Mobile Devices

Mobile devices now account for most purchases made online, yet many brands still regard (to their detriment) mobile as secondary.

Optimizing for mobile is more than just resizing images to fit a smartphone screen. It’s also about creating a more enriching experience for the user.

Brands that take this seriously often create their own apps, allowing users to do more than what’s possible on a desktop (e.g., IKEA uses augmented reality on smart devices to place furniture in a virtual room).

If you’re a small business, investing in a mobile app may not make sense, but it certainly makes sense to adapt your copywriting and design to be snappier and cleaner on mobile devices. These things require effort, but if you’re willing to invest in the work, the dividends will surely pay off.

So, What Digital Marketing Strategies Work Best?

We all understand that digital marketing helps to improve sales and reach wider audiences. However, there are many different digital marketing challenges, compounded by the fact that there are equally as many digital marketing platforms and solution providers.

It’s almost virtually impossible to be effective at EVERY digital marketing channel, so brands will often specialize and focus on a few platforms or channels which give them the most traction.

Any way you slice it, the fundamental goal of these tools and strategies is to produce creative, consistent, high-quality content. There’s a reason why content is always king. It works!

The next time you agonize over whether you should invest more in direct advertising, spend a little more time with the creativity and content.

Does your digital marketing material sound like every other copycat brand? If so, perhaps it’s time to reconsider and try a different approach.

So, if your brand works well with email marketing, capitalize on that channel. If SEOs are critical to your business, take the time to invest in producing content that directly answers the queries your customers are searching for on Google. Experiment with affiliates, and always have mobile in mind. And once you get big, make sure to automate content creation!

If you’re struggling with digital advertising for your brand, feel free to browse our other articles to learn more!

Do you want to create bespoke content for your brand? InspireMedia has curated a team of expert writers who can bring your vision to reality. Contact us today to get started on your digital marketing journey!