Digital Marketing Made Simple: A Step-by-Step Guide

Digital marketing. Just another one of those new, fancy buzzwords you should use to sound smart in meetings or is it the real deal?

Maybe a better question is: what is digital marketing?

This digital marketing guide will show you what’s what.

First popularized as a term in the early 2000’s, digital marketing has actually been around much longer.

Like, WAY longer. About 100 years longer, to be exact.

Here’s a pic of the first digital marketer in history:

gulielmo marconi

(Image source: Wikipedia)

His name: Guglielmo Marconi.

What? Marconi?

Yup. In 1896 he was the first human to demonstrate a, “public transmission of wireless signals.”

This dude invented the radio.

Shortly after his little demonstration in England, morse signals were transmitted across open water.

And, while it would take another 10 years for the radio to reach the general public, it sure didn’t take the creators long to realize they could use it to sell stuff.

The first live broadcast was from an opera performance at the Met and guess what people did after it?

They bought show tickets!

Digital marketing strategy was born.

I bet you’re surprised. I didn’t mention smartphones, apps, Facebook ads or blogs at all.

That’s because digital marketing has nothing to do with the internet.

Business consultants almost never use the word "problem"; instead, they talk about opportunities to enhance value. Ask any consultant what they do, and they'll likely say "I'm in the solutions business." Despite criticism that's sometimes leveled at business consultants, they truly can add value to your middle market company, but you need to know when and why to use them. There is a huge range of business issues that consultants can provide solutions for, and different types of consultants bring different ideas to the table.

Types of Consultants

Business consultants can generally add value in five major areas of your middle market business:

  1. Management and strategy. Qualified consultants should have a deep understanding of your particular market and bring the best practices from your industry (or even other industries) to your company. If you're looking to expand your markets geographically, extend your product portfolio, reorganize your middle market company to promote efficiency and cost-effectiveness, buy out a smaller competitor, or increase your overall capabilities, then hiring an experienced management/strategy consultant can make perfect sense. Firms such as McKinsey & Company are famous for helping clients develop and execute better strategies.
  2. Operations. Want to improve the quality and efficiency of your production processes? An operations consultant such as Accenture can help you create and implement a new way of doing just that. Some consultants specialize in business process re-engineering, meaning that they come in and map out your existing processes, analyze opportunities for reducing the number of steps in that process while maintaining quality, and re-engineer your processes in a way that reduces steps and costs. Other consultants are experts in quality control systems and can help you make changes that will reduce defects.
  3. IT. This is a fast-growing area for consulting, as the demands of new technology are impacting middle market companies every day. Whether you need to develop a new system or integrate your old systems so that they work together, an IT consultant can help. IT consultants such as IBM will enhance your capabilities and also make your IT more flexible in meeting the dynamic needs of internal and external customers.
  4. HR. Need to improve the overall satisfaction of your employees, recruit top talent, and retain your top performers? HR consultants such as Hay Group specialize in developing compensation strategies that align with your overall business goals, training, and developing your people in areas such as business communication and leadership. They can help you improve performance-related feedback and evaluation to your team, making your employees work smarter.
  5. Marketing. Whether you need a new logo for your company, a new market position for one of your brands, or a new social media strategy to interact with your customers, marketing consultants can help. Consultants such as The Boston Consulting Group can offer you a creative spark when your own people have run out of ideas, letting you see what other companies have done to attract more customers.

Reasons for Hiring a Consultant

Now that you know the major types of consultants, why would you need to hire one? Here are five common reasons:

  1. Rent a brain. You don't have the human resources you need because some internal person has quit or your head count has been slashed, so hiring a consultant for a project or on a temporary basis can fill the gap until a full-time internal person is found. You won't have to make a consultant a full-time employee, so breaking off the relationship is relatively easy and cost-effective.
  2. Manage change (and take the heat). Consultants are experts at fostering change in organizations, so if your midsized company is rife with internal squabbling concerning imminent changes, bringing in a consultant can break the logjam. Consultants know that they're often brought in for political cover and will shoulder blame for unpopular changes such as reducing head count and other cost-cutting measures.
  3. Teach and implement best practices. Consultants are often the leading experts in the fields they work in. They not only have academic and theoretical expertise, but they've also worked directly with leading companies to implement change. If you want best practices in areas such as IT and management, then consultants are the best source available. Why try to invent a best practice when consultants have already implemented some with multiple clients?
  4. Infuse creativity. Consultants have a fresh perspective on your business, so having an outsider come in and offer ideas can be tremendously helpful. Sometimes your in-house people are too close to your company and don't have the perspective to examine the bigger picture within your market, but consultants can share valuable insights that boost your internal creative thinking.
  5. Deliver training. You can hire a consultant to share knowledge about almost anything. Consultants are born trainers, so they're a natural choice to do a training course or day-long presentation for your company in almost any area. A good consultant blends theory and practice, and this can deliver high value to your midmarket company.

Consultants can obviously be expensive, and you need to carefully weigh the costs and benefits. Only you know the particular needs of your midsized firm, but chances are that a consultant can help turn those needs into highly beneficial solutions.

Where are some of the best places to search for and choose between similarly qualified consultants? Let us know what you think by commenting below.

High-impact training and development programs don’t just happen. Instead, they’re the result of a careful planning and alignment process. The following steps can help you translate business objectives into a tailored training plan.

foundation of success chart
1. Identify Business Impact:

Design and develop your training to meet the company’s overall goals. Keeping business goals in focus ensures training and development makes a measurable impact.


2. Analyze Skill Gaps:

How are your employees’ behaviors helping meet the business goal? By finding out what the gaps are between employees’ current and ideal skills, you can better pinpoint what your specific learning objectives should be. Categorize these learning objectives into these three groups, and have activities in your training plan that target all three.

  • Motivation: How can you help learners understand why they need to change their behaviors? By working with employee motivations–for example, pinpointing a purpose–you’re more likely to change behavior over the long term.
  • Skills Mastery: What do your learners need to be able to do the job? These behaviors will have the most impact on performance.
  • Critical Thinking: What must your learners know to perform their jobs well? Distinguish critical knowledge from nice-to-know information to identify what content should be in the course, and what should be in optional resources.

3. Layer Training Methods:

The most effective training programs use layered, sustainable learning activities to create performance improvement over time. A layered approach makes sure your program targets the essential employee, customer, and business needs while training the right people at the right time in the right way. A layered approach is the best of all worlds because it blends learning experiences and training methods that maximize the benefits of your time.


4. Evaluate Effectiveness and Sustain Gains:

Employees’ need for training and support don’t end when they get back to work. In fact, continued support is required to ensure that initial training sticks. Measurable learning objectives are the foundation for you to evaluate an initiative’s impact.

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