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Digital Marketing, Survey

How Businesses Use Digital Marketing in 2018

July 18, 2018

Digital marketing is an essential investment for businesses. Most businesses rely on a variety of digital marketing channels to drive sales and revenue, according to a survey of more than 500 digital marketers.

Technology is now integrated into consumers’ everyday lives; from smartphones and smartwatches to tablets and laptops, people are always connected.

That trend will continue to shape the way people make purchases and interact with businesses. By 2020, there will be more than 2 billion online shoppers around the world.

Consumers are online, so it’s essential for businesses to also have an online presence, even for brick-and-mortar stores. Businesses of all sizes and industries can benefit from digital marketing, defined as the marketing of a product or service through digital media such as search engines, social media, email marketing, and a website.

Clutch surveyed 501 digital marketers at businesses across the U.S. to discover how they use digital marketing.

Businesses can use this report to learn how they can create and better their digital marketing strategies.

Our Findings

  • The top three digital marketing channels businesses use are social media marketing (81%), a website (78%), and email marketing (69%).
  • The least popular digital marketing channel businesses invest in is SEO (44%).
  • Businesses’ main goal for digital marketing in 2018 is to increase sales and revenue (28%).
  • Larger companies are more likely to use digital marketing to stand out from competitors (21%), while smaller companies are more likely to use digital marketing to improve brand awareness (21%).
  • Eighty-three percent (83%) of businesses think their digital marketing efforts are effective in helping them achieve their goal.

Businesses Invest in a Combination of Digital Marketing Channels

Businesses understand the importance of using multiple digital marketing channels.

The most common digital marketing channels businesses use are social media marketing (81%), a website (78%), and email marketing (69%).

Top 6 Digital Marketing Channels for Businesses

Businesses value social media marketing, websites, and email marketing because they can use those channels to tell a story about their products or brand.

“Those three avenues are so common for businesses to use because you can highlight what your company is all about,” said Jeremy Greenberg, founder of web design and digital marketing agency 97 Switch. “People are responsive when you have the ability to tell your brand story, whether it’s on social media, your website, or email. With other mediums, there’s not as much ability to tell your story.”

"People are responsive when you have the ability to tell your brand story, whether it’s on social media, your website, or email." — Jeremy Greenberg, 97 Switch

Businesses can reach their customers directly through social media, a website, and email marketing, so it makes sense that these are the most commonly used digital marketing mediums.

For example, B2B content management software company IntelliChief uses the top three digital marketing channels, among others.

IntelliChief regularly uses a variety of content, including posting videos to social media.

IntelliChief YouTube video

Using a combination of channels helps IntelliChief achieve its goals of attracting leads, promoting brand awareness, and engaging current customers.

“Digital marketing is like a complex recipe,” said IntelliChief Content Marketing Manager Faith Kubicki. “If you leave one ingredient out, you’re not going to completely ruin the entire dish, but it will be pretty evident that something’s missing from the final product.”

IntelliChief invests in many digital marketing channels, which helps it achieve its goals more than if it used just one channel.

Using several digital marketing channels is a recipe all companies should follow.

SEO Is the Least Popular Digital Marketing Channel

Relatively few businesses actively invest in search engine optimization (SEO).

44% of businesses incorporate SEO into their digital marketing strategy.

In fact, 56% of businesses do not invest in SEO in 2018. This means less than half of businesses (44%) chose to invest in SEO this year.

Why SEO Is Unpopular for Businesses

There are two reasons SEO is less popular than other digital marketing channels:

  • Businesses lack awareness about how SEO functions.
  • SEO results aren’t immediately obvious.

1. Businesses Misunderstand SEO

Businesses may not think they actively use SEO, but other channels go hand-in-hand with it. This reveals a knowledge gap between the number of digital marketing channels businesses invest in versus the ones they actually use.

Greenberg notices that many businesses don’t fully understand how SEO works alongside other digital marketing channels.

“They’re saying they’re not investing in SEO, but if they’re investing in and telling their story on social media and they’re doing email marketing, that’s part of it,” Greenberg said. “If they’re creating shareable content online and they’re investing in their website, that’s SEO.”

Businesses likely participate in more digital marketing channels than they think, even if they don’t actively invest in these channels.

2. SEO Doesn’t Produce Immediate Results

One reason SEO isn’t as popular as other digital marketing channels is that the results aren’t as obvious or immediate as other channels.

“Businesses have a harder time with SEO,” said Jon Borg-Breen, co-founder and head of sales at B2B lead generation agency Symbiont Group. “It’s not as immediately impactful as having a brand-new design on your website that people can say, ‘Wow, that looks cool.’”

Although the results aren’t as obvious, businesses should reconsider their lack of investment in SEO because many find success with that channel. Failure to invest in SEO can also undermine the success of other digital marketing channels.

IntelliChief, for example, spent several months on SEO before the channel delivered measurable results.

IntelliChief Google search

“When I first came on board, prospective customers were getting confused and leaving our website, and absolutely nobody was finding us in the first place,” Kubicki said. “So, by researching the keywords that our prospective customers are using, creating valuable, optimized content that focuses on those keywords, and promoting that content across various channels, we’re working hard to increase our digital profile.”

IntelliChief’s hard work on SEO has paid off – the company saw a 25% increase in website visitors from organic search between the first and second quarters of 2018.

SEO is hard work, but businesses shouldn’t count it out.

Businesses Use Digital Marketing to Increase Sales and Revenue

Businesses’ main goal for digital marketing is to make more money.

Nearly one-third (28%) of businesses’ top goal for digital marketing is increasing their sales and revenue.

Top 5 Digital Marketing Goals for 2018

Every digital marketing strategy should ultimately lead to a sale.

“We call it digital marketing, but I really think it’s digital sales,” Borg-Breen said. “You’re trying to convert and actually get people to buy something.”

Digital marketing’s value is its ability to influence purchasing.

For example, Pupford, a website that sells dog nutrition products and provides training resources, uses several digital marketing channels to help increase its revenue: content marketing, social media marketing, email marketing, and SEO.

Pupford blog post

Pupford would struggle to make a sale without digital marketing

“If we didn’t have digital marketing, the only sales we’d have would be friends and family and word-of-mouth,” said Marketing Manager Devin Stagg. “It’s our main method of exposure, and all our efforts are pushing us toward getting more revenue.”

Digital marketing helps e-commerce companies like Pupford increase its revenue.

In an increasingly digital-focused world, businesses should use digital marketing to achieve their ultimate goal: earning more money.

Digital Marketing Goals Vary by Business Size

Businesses have different digital marketing goals based on their size.

Businesses with more than 5,000 employees are more likely to use digital marketing to stand out from competitors (21%).

Digital Marketing Goals Vary by Business Size

By comparison, businesses with fewer than 5,000 employees are more likely to use digital marketing to improve brand awareness (21%).

Large Businesses Use Digital Marketing to Stand Out From the Competition

Large businesses want to use digital marketing to stand out from the competition because they already have established brand awareness and want to encourage potential customers to convert.

“For larger organizations, your efforts to grow your company are based on longer sales funnels,” said Flynn Zaiger, CEO of Online Optimism, a digital marketing agency in New Orleans. “Using your digital marketing to help differentiate yourself will get you more leads and increase your close rate, an essential growth strategy for larger companies.”

Digital marketing helps businesses differentiate themselves from the competition.

For example, HealthLabs.com, a website that offers online lab testing, uses digital marketing to humanize its brand.

HealthLabs.com Facebook post

“[Digital marketing] really gives us a voice,” said HealthLabs.com Digital Marketer Lauren Crain. “It shows customers that we’re more than just a brand – we’re people who care about our customers’ health and wellbeing.”

Businesses, such as HealthLabs.com, can use digital marketing to show off their unique voice, which will help them stand out from the competition.

Small Businesses Use Digital Marketing to Increase Brand Awareness

Small businesses use digital marketing to improve brand awareness because they are trying to break into competitive markets.

“Smaller companies aren’t known,” Borg-Breen said. “If you don’t get awareness, you’re never going to get someone to buy from you. Getting a big enough base of people who know who you are is critical.”

A business can’t make a sale if consumers don’t know what it is in the first place.

For example, Hope & Harmony Farms, a peanut farm in Drewryville, Va., uses digital marketing to spread word about its brand.

Hope & Harmony Farms blogs

“Digital marketing helps increase [our] web footprint and visibility,” said Hope & Harmony Farms co-owner Stephanie Pope. “It allows us to position ourselves as an expert in peanut nutrition and sustainable farming practices.”

Companies like Hope & Harmony Farms use digital marketing to increase website visitors and brand knowledge.

Businesses Believe They Are Effective in Achieving Digital Marketing Goals

Most businesses think they successfully achieve their main digital marketing goals.

Eighty-three percent (83%) of businesses think their digital marketing efforts are effective in reaching their goals.

83% of businesses believe they are effective in achieving their digital marketing goals.

Businesses believe they are effective in achieving their goals because it is easier to reach customers with digital marketing than more traditional forms of marketing.

“That number is high because digital marketing is where customers are,” Zaiger said. “Walking down the street, people aren’t looking at billboards or checking newspapers – they’re staring at their phones.”

Compared to traditional marketing and advertising, businesses feel they more effectively increase sales and revenue with digital marketing because it allows them to appeal to customers where they spend time: online.

Digital Marketing Is Essential for Driving Revenue

As more consumers turn to technology for their shopping needs, businesses must use digital marketing to reach consumers and stand out among the competition.

A business must have a digital presence, whether it uses social media marketing, SEO, email marketing, a website, or, ideally, a combination of channels.

Most businesses believe they effectively use digital marketing to increase sales and revenue, which, ultimately, is what a business is about: making money.

About the Survey

Clutch surveyed 501 digital marketers from companies across the U.S. with more than 100 employees.

Most survey respondents are managers (36%), associates (15%), C-level executives (13%), senior managers (12%), and directors (12%).

Nearly three-fourths (73%) of respondents are from B2C companies; 27% are from B2B companies.

About 29% of respondents’ companies had a 2017 revenue of less than $50 million; 32% $50 million to $500 million; 39% more than $500 million.