Digital Marketing 101: An Executive Primer

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It’s easy to get confused with marketing terms and jargon. CPC, PPC, SEO – how do you keep it straight? How do these things fit together? What’s important?

With this in mind, I’ve created an executive primer, especially designed for SMB leaders in the B2B space who have other responsibilities and need to have a basic understanding of the new digital marketing landscape to make informed decisions on investment, agencies and strategy to drive sales.

It All Starts with Your Website

To start, your website needs to be the locus of your lead-generation engine and digital efforts. Almost all marketing activity is related to or will leverage your website. It is your storefront to the world. Virtually all of your prospects will likely visit the website before doing business with you. You present your story here, describe the problems you solve for customers, collect leads, establish credibility and so much more.

The website needs to be under your control. It is the center of your digital marketing and lead-generation activities. Almost without exception, prospects will visit your website to check you out before speaking with a salesperson. It is the first impression to your prospects. Your website conveys your story, the problems you solve and the value you bring to customers, and establishes your credibility.

Or not.

“A bad website is like a grumpy salesperson.” — Jakob Nielsen

So what are some of the important things to keep in mind for your website?

1. Make sure you speak to the customer problems you solve.

• Too often — especially in technology – the focus and messaging is “me, me, me.” The company talks about itself, how great we are, look at these cool features, check out our awards, etc.

• Prospects really don’t care about this so much. They care about whether you can solve a particular problem they’re having.

2.Include the “voice of the customer.”

• This can include logos, quotes, case studies, testimonials. Videos of actual customers are even better.

• These are trust cues and credibility builders.

• Someone else saying something great about you is ten times as effective as you saying something great about you.

3. If you have a complex product or service, consider an “explainer video.”

• Often the best are animated, tell a story and are 30–90 seconds long.

4. Have a place to showcase your content.

• Prospects will look here to understand your point of view on a wide range of relevant topics.

• Attempt to answer common prospect and customer questions on your blog.

• Create at least one premium content piece for lead-capture purposes. This is often in the form of an e-book (PDF download), whitepaper, webinar recording, etc.

5. Make sure your website has an effective lead-capture capability.

• Most important! Ensure you can capture prospect information.

• At a minimum, include a form on your “contact us” page and a form that prospects complete before receiving the premium content.

6. Make sure your website is responsive.

• Responsive means the website displays well and appropriately on desktop, tablet and mobile.

• A non-responsive website viewed on a mobile device is a terrible user experience and conveys that you’re a bit laggard with your website.

• According to StatsCounter, 42% of website visits were from mobile devices in October 2016, and the upward trend continues.

Graph of Mobile v Desktop Usage

7. Make sure your website includes keywords relevant to your business.

• This is how prospects will find you via Google searches.

• Keywords make up one of the foundations of SEO (search engine optimization).

8. Lastly, ensure you have your physical location’s address and phone number in the footer.

• This helps with what’s called “local search” on Google — ensuring you’re giving yourself ample opportunity to be displayed on local searches for your geographic area.

These are some of the basics. A helpful tool for assessing your current website is Website Grader.

Digital Marketing Terms You Need to Know

There are a handful of core terms and tools used for online digital marketing efforts and activities. These are organized alphabetically, not in order of importance.

Account-Based Marketing (ABM)

ABM is based on targeting specific accounts (companies) that would be ideal prospects for your product or service. Generally the larger the deal size and more complex the product or transaction, the more appropriate the application of ABM.


Content Marketing

This refers to creating content to attract and convert leads, build the company’s credibility and shorten the sales cycle. These are usually in the form of blog articles, e-books, whitepapers, video, webinars, podcasts and infographics. Premium content denotes content that requires a user to provide some information (typically email and other contact information) in exchange for the content. This is often used for e-books and webinars.


CRM - Customer Relationship Management

CRM software is a category of software that covers a broad set of applications designed to help businesses manage sales-related business processes, including but not limited to: customer data, customer interactions, opportunity (funnel) tracking and more.

Providers including Salesforce, Microsoft, SAP, Oracle, PipelineDeals, HubSpot and others.

Email Marketing

This is the use of email to reach and engage prospects, and move them through the sales funnel. It’s important to only email people who have opted in to receive your communications, otherwise your company may be labeled a spammer, which will limit your ability to send emails to your mailing list in the future. It’s also important to use an ESP — email service provider — such as MailChimp, Constant Contact, Eloqua or HubSpot to send your emails. These services automatically track who has opted out of your communications.

Inbound Marketing

Inbound is an approach for attracting prospects via content marketing, social media marketing and search engine optimization. Basically, being the thing your audience is interested in rather than the traditional approach of interruptive marketing — interrupting the content they are interested in.

Lead Generation

This refers to activities related to attracting leads (prospects). These can include content marketing and campaigns aimed at gathering name and contact information, usually in exchange for premium content.

Lead Lifecycle

This is process for segmenting leads throughout the customer journey. People/prospects can fall into the following categories:

• Subscriber – someone who subscribes to your blog to get updates delivered automatically; they like your content!

• Lead – usually someone who fills in a form with their contact information

• MQL – marketing qualified lead – a lead that has engaged with your website/content and meets your target criteria for type of company, size, etc.

• SQL – sales qualified lead – an MQL that exhibits further qualification; a specific need has been identified and is ready for a salesperson to engage.

• Opportunity – SQL that has a specific deal opportunity.

• Customer


Lead Nurturing

This refers to specific campaigns to engage and further qualify leads and move them through the sales funnel. Primarily using email, but can include other nurturing activities as well including direct mail, phone calls and events.

Lead Scoring

This is the practice of assigning a numerical value to specific activities a person (lead) takes when engaging with the company. These can include website visits, form conversions, visiting specific pages (for example, the pricing page) and other actions. Companies can customize how leads are scored based on their specific situation and sales cadence.

Once a lead has achieved a specified numerical value, different actions can be triggered, e.g. designating the lead as an MQL (marketing qualified lead) or SQL (sales qualified lead) and follow-up from a salesperson.

Marketing Automation

Software systems that integrate and automate core marketing activities, such as:

• Email

• Lead capture

• Landing page creation

• Blogs

• Lead nurturing

• Lead scoring

• Sometimes includes a fully integrated CMS and CRM (customer relationship management system) as well

• Top providers include HubSpot, Eloqua, Marketo, Pardot (Salesforce), Act-On and Adobe. Here’s a great list of providers from G2 Crowd Grid.


Digital Marketing Word Cloud


This is the process of improving the performance of a campaign or web pages based on a measurable objective. This is often done using A/B testing, where two different versions are presented to visitors and results are tracked to determine the “winner” or better performer.

PPC – Pay Per Click

PPC is also known as paid search or even by the older term SEM (search engine marketing).

These are the text ads that accompany a search on Google or Bing. Google’s product for this is called AdWords, and is an auction-based system where you bid on specific keywords. The more popular the keyword (e.g. smartphone) the more expensive it is.

These ads are priced on a CPC (cost per click) basis — you only pay when someone actually clicks on the ad.

SEO/Organic Search

SEO stands for search engine optimization. It is the set of things you do to make it easier for people to find you through Google and to be displayed in the search results for specific keywords.

SEO includes technical and other things you can do on page (your website) to make it easier for the search engines to crawl your site and know what you’re about. SEO also includes off page techniques to improve search rankings — notably, getting other websites to link to yours, which is rewarded by Google.

Social Media Marketing

This refers to use of the major social media networks to deliver messages and engage customers, advocates and prospects. It includes both organic dissemination (non-paid) and paid social advertising.

Organic reach (the number of followers you can reach with free, organic posts) varies based on the social network. Facebook, for example, limits organic reach tremendously (generally less than 2 percent) and paid campaigns are really the only practical approach to reaching your target audience. That being said, the targeting on these four networks is generally very good and precise:

• Facebook

• Twitter

• LinkedIn

• Instagram


Website Related Terms

Here are some related terms you may run across as part of managing your website. These items are things you’d typically do at the launch of your site and then periodically modify afterward.

CMS – Content Management System

This is the software system that organizes the foundation of the website and houses content assets (e.g., images, copy, forms, video).

WordPress is an open-source option and very robust and flexible, with many add-on modules to add to functionality. Other CMS’ exist that can provide a seamless experience with your other marketing tools (e.g., HubSpot)

Three Types of Host

1. Content Host – the service provider that hosts your CMS and website assets and makes them available to the public. Computers, bandwidth, 24/7 support and other services are generally included.

2. Domain Registrar Host – you register your domain name (usually your company name or some form of it along with .com, .co or .org) with a domain registrar. This is typically a nomimal fee per year. Domain registrars are like mobile phone carriers (T-Mobile, Verizon) in that they are pathways to get your domain on the internet. To take the analogy further, your domain name ( is like your phone number — a specific address/place on the network.

3. Name Server Host – this points to a specific content host/server. Name server and domain registrar hosts are typically sold/attached as a pair. Providers include HostGator, GoDaddy and DreamHost. Here is a good list of recommended providers.


While this list is not exhaustive, it should give you a feel of the core aspects of getting your digital presence and marketing going.

What has your experience been with these areas?

About the Author

Gregg Makuch Portrait Gregg Makuch (“may-kish”) is a Seattle-based marketing expert/executive, primarily focused on B2B, tech and obsessively solving customers’ problems. He has a passion for building companies, inbound and content marketing, kids, cycling, good food/coffee/wine and all things Italian.

Connect with Gregg:

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Published: 06/23/2017

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