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4 min read

Are You a True Digital Marketer? (Oops, not yet?)

 Are You a True Digital Marketer?_Digital_Marketing_1

Yes, it may be time to raise your game as a digital marketer. Oh sure, you’ve probably developed some form of the trifecta of website, email list and social media presence, but I’m guessing you haven’t had a lot of extra time to match your mission, your marketing channels and your paid-owned-earned-media (POEM) strategy to today’s ever-more-digital audiences. Because board members and donors may not realize the time and effort necessary for you to evaluate the latest, greatest digital options, let’s look at a digital strategy checklist for evaluating your next steps.

First some terminology

The terms float around and rise and fall in popularity, but Internet marketing, online marketing, e-marketing and digital marketing are used interchangeably in some circles. To save you hours surfing through search engine links for definitions and academic tomes, I am using the following common definitions.

  • Internet marketing, also called online marketing, refers to marketing channels that require a live, real-time Internet connection. Common examples are search engine advertising, website display or banner advertising, and social media advertising. (You cannot access Facebook offline.)
  • Digital marketing refers to using digital media channels, devices and platforms regardless of whether they are online or not. Common examples are podcasts, SMS text messages, email, digital TV and mobile applications. (An iPhone app may work independently of the Internet after it has been downloaded.) Increasingly, it seems digital marketing is becoming the umbrella term as it extends beyond online marketing to include channels and electronic media that do not require the use of the Internet.

You are not alone in not being there yet

Would-be Vermont digital marketers at many mission-driven organizations and small-and-midsize businesses may think your current status is unusual, but you are not alone.

  • While four out of five people use search engines to find local information, like business hours and addresses, only 37 percent of businesses have claimed a local business listing on a search engine. (Google official blog)
  • Almost half–48%–of all emails are opened on mobile devices. Yet 39% of marketers say they have no strategy for mobile email, and only 11% of emails are optimized for mobile (Email Marketer)
  • 60% of all Internet activity in the US originates from mobile devices and about half of total Internet traffic flows through mobile apps. (Chief Marketing Officer Council)
  • A survey of nonprofits found that 74 percent of nonprofits do not have a mobile app for their organization, but 63 percent have considered acquiring one. (Charity Dynamics)
  • Although podcast listeners tend to be highly educated and affluent, few small businesses or nonprofits are podcasting. (Edison Research)


Digital marketing vs. traditional marketing: What are the differences?

Digital marketing compared to traditional marketing

Includes marketing efforts using digital devices such as: Includes marketing efforts using traditional media channels such as:
  • Websites
  • Blogs
  • Social networking sites
  • Content marketing
  • Banner and display ads
  • Google AdWords
  • Video marketing
  • Podcasts
  • Print media (newspaper and magazine ads, newsletters, brochures, posters, and other printed material)
  • Broadcast media (TV and radio)
  • Direct mail (including flyers, postcards, catalogs)
  • Telemarketing

Advantages include:

  • Highly cost-efficient
  • Unprecedented audience reach
  • Enables direct response from intended audience

Advantages include:

  • Proven techniques with high success rate
  • Long-standing context that the public already understands
  • Metrics for measuring success


On a cost-per-person reached basis, digital advertising wins hands down. The key factor for you may not be cost-per-person reached, however, it’s whether or not your target audience will be reached. The latest, greatest streaming technology often requires high-speed broadband access and the latest smartphones.


A recent campaign for client Champlain Valley Head Start is a good example. Although a mobile-friendly website landing page lets parents leave contact information during off-hours, image-heavy printed posters and counter cards proved the best way to reach a target audience of New American families with children under age 5 and limited English language skills.


Checklist for deciding if a digital strategy is good for your nonprofit or mission-driven business

I suggest using this simple checklist of questions to help you decide if now is the time, or when, where, and how a digital strategy might be your next best move.

1. Is there a mission match?

Does the media environment reflect your values and mission? As always, mission-driven businesses and nonprofits want to start by matching your marketing channels to your mission. If your mission is to serve a lower income, lower literacy population then some costly digital media environments may be inappropriate.

2. Do you have an expectations and strategy match?

Which paid media option best complements your audience’s expectations and your overall strategy? If developing a mobile app that meets your audience’s expectations will be costly, is that the best use of your resources? Can you charge for a mobile app, or would that seem totally inappropriate in your world? Is your core media strategy based on broad audience reach or frequency for a select few?

3. Is this media you can own, or only rent?

Several of the podcasting platforms enable you to host episodes on your own website as well as subscription platforms such as the App Store on iTunes or Android Apps on Google Play. Media you “own” and control always trumps media you rent or share. (Think Facebook. It can change tomorrow and you have no control.) See the classic warning post “Digital Sharecropping: The Most Dangerous Threat to Your Content Marketing Strategy” from Copyblogger.)

4. Can you handle the technology in-house, outsource cost-effectively, or will the digital medium become a distraction?

After an initial learning curve, do you think you can sustain and maintain this digital medium in-house, will you need some ongoing support from digital marketing professionals, or is there a risk this could become a costly distraction from your mission? Until you’ve conquered posting to social media and getting a newsletter or blog posts out on a consistent schedule, you want to be cautious about adding weekly podcasts, digital TV videos or a mobile app to your workload.

5. Should you be a digital marketer?

Maybe you already are, maybe you will be, and maybe you shouldn’t be. You cannot afford to be swayed by the latest "shiny object." Each situation is unique and ultimately it is the match between your mission, your audience, your goals, and your capacity to sustainably execute a digital marketing strategy.

Defend yourself against the latest marketing shiny object:

Get Your Digital Strategy Checklist

What’s your thinking? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below, or connect with me via social media.

Related posts

Is Sponsored Content Good for Values-Led Business?

Paid, Owned, Earned Media: Are You in the Right Place?

Video Strategy Take Two: DIY Video Production


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