Upgrade Your Digital Marketing Ecosystem to Beat the Competition

Digital Marketing Ecosystem

In 1978, Gary Thuerk—a marketing manager at Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC)—identified a new marketing strategy. One that hadn’t been used by his company’s competitors or anyone else. 

According to marketing historians, Gary sent an email promoting DEC computers to roughly 400 recipients via Arpanet. This email blast resulted in $13 million in sales! It also served as the first documented instance of digital marketing (and, the first complaints about spam). 

A little over a decade later, Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web. This, of course, eventually led to websites, search engines, and everything else we associate with the digital marketing ecosystem.

While most businesses understand the importance of digital marketing in today’s online world, they don’t always know what it takes to compete and win.

Now, billions of email marketing messages are sent every day. Nearly $300 billion is spent on digital advertising each year in the United States, alone. And, fifteen new websites were created in the time it took you to read this sentence.  

Even marketing activities that take place offline usually connect back to digital in some way. For example, think of modern trends used in traditional ads, direct mail campaigns, and trade shows.

In other words, digital marketing is marketing. 

And, yet, most businesses still struggle to put their full digital ecosystem to use in a consistent, effective way. Their websites underperform. Digital campaigns waste money. Content goes unnoticed by search engines and unread by prospects.

Why? Because, while most businesses understand the importance of digital marketing in today’s online world, they don’t always know what it takes to compete and win. 

Fortunately, one company’s struggle is your company’s opportunity. No, it won’t be as easy to dominate your competition as it was for Gary Thuerk back in the day. Still, companies that invest in upgrading their marketing ecosystem have a significant advantage over everyone else. 

Before we get into the details, though, let’s clarify what we mean by “digital marketing ecosystem.”

What is a Digital Marketing Ecosystem?

A digital marketing ecosystem is a brand’s network of digital media channels and touchpoints. A brand’s ecosystem typically revolves around its website and includes digital advertising, content marketing, email marketing, and social media. These interconnected components work together to support an organization’s marketing and business objectives.

The connected nature of a digital ecosystem gives marketers continual access to data for performance measurement and analysis. This data can, and should, be used to inform strategy, steer tactics, and maximize results. 

To achieve these desired results, though, the components of an organization’s ecosystem must align with a cohesive brand strategy foundation (i.e., brand positioning, messaging, audiences, and identity). Without this foundation, your ads might get clicks, and your content might attract traffic, but your brand won’t resonate with audiences. And, your efforts won’t grow your business.

Fig. 1: The modern, data-driven, digital marketing ecosystem.

Upgrading Your Digital Marketing Ecosystem 

Ideally, all components should work together within a healthy ecosystem. Your brand makes sure audiences connect with your website and digital efforts. Campaigns generate quality traffic to your website. Your website converts visitors into leads and sales. Data and analytics clarify what’s working and inform strategic actions.

A perfect, balanced system. Every part supporting the others. That’s what successful marketing looks like.

Unfortunately, marketing is rarely that easy. 

Good marketing takes time, and, for most modern marketing teams, time is always in short supply. We understand that. We’re not here to criticize or add to anyone’s overflowing to-do list. 

Instead, we’re here to provide clarity about what it takes to compete with—and surpass—your competitors, online. Armed with this information, you’ll have a stronger business case to increase critical marketing resources.


Table Stakes: Build and maintain a well-crafted website. 

At this point, it’s a given that nearly every business needs a well-built, well-maintained website. Visitors expect a cohesive, user-friendly experience across all devices. They also expect to find information and take action without any issues. 

Businesses that don’t provide this kind of experience to website users run the risk of alienating their audiences and hurting their brand.

Compete: Keep your site fresh and engaging

To compete in the age of Google, it’s not enough to just have a well-designed website. If you want to attract and engage inbound traffic, you also need to update your website with fresh, interesting content on a regular basis. 

Keeping your site current sends a signal to your audiences—and search engines—that your website deserves attention. This is true whether you’re publishing blog posts, success stories, project summaries, landing pages, or anything else.

Surpass: Embrace the continuous improvement model.

While most businesses try to maintain an active website presence, very few invest in true website continuous improvement to boost their site’s user experience and search engine optimization. 

If you really want to beat your competitors, elevate the experience your site provides to visitors in focused, agile sprints. Find ways to increase your site’s conversion rate. Streamline your site’s architecture. Maximize the value of every visit. 

Embracing continuous improvement will elevate every part of your digital ecosystem.

Content Marketing

Table Stakes: Publish useful content on a regular basis.

Content marketing has evolved over the past decade, but the underlying rationale behind the strategy remains the same. If you want users to recognize your site’s value, create content that answers their questions and speaks to their challenges. 

It’s best to publish as often as possible, but brands can still see results publishing less frequently. As long as their content is useful and targeted. Without this content engine in place, your site will struggle to attract traffic.

Compete: Distribute and amplify your content. 

If you build it, will they come? Maybe. As search grows more unpredictable, though, the idea of publishing something and seeing an immediate traffic increase is not realistic. Especially if your site hasn’t built up much search authority. 

To be more competitive in a shorter period of time, you’ll need to develop a content distribution strategy including email, social, paid, and earned channels (i.e., guest posts, mentions, etc.). Focusing on distribution will help get your valuable content in front of target audiences. 

Creating quality content costs money, so don’t let it go to waste.

Surpass: Repurpose and diversify your content. 

While generative AI promises to ease aspects of content creation workflows, creating good content still takes a significant amount of effort. So, it’s crucial to maximize the value of every content asset you create. 

Publishing a new industry research report? Write a summary blog article, create a reaction video, and publish a series of social posts highlighting key report takeaways. 

Repurposing will help stretch the value of your content while diversifying into formats that may expand your reach.

Digital Advertising

Table Stakes: Establish a foundation with paid search ads.

Does your website show up when users search for variations of your brand name? What about when they search for your products and services? Who else shows up, and what do the results look like?

In the digital world, Google is an entry point for individuals looking for information about your business. The results, though, can be unpredictable, and users often don’t distinguish between paid and organic listings. 

Running paid search campaigns can help protect your brand while making sure it appears in the searches most relevant to your business.

Compete: Fine-tune and expand your campaigns.

It is possible to set up digital advertising campaigns and let them run on autopilot. Unfortunately, that approach will almost always lead to poor results and wasted ad spend. 

To compete while protecting your budget, invest your efforts in testing and fixing campaign targeting and messaging. As you hone campaign elements, you’ll increase your return on investment. You’ll also have data to justify increased ad spend so you can expand your paid media campaigns to cover more channels and more of your funnel. 

This expansion is crucial. Paid search ads are great at driving traffic from high-intent users, but they aren’t as useful for building awareness, promoting top-of-funnel offers, or reconnecting with users. For these objectives, you’ll need to blend paid social, display, and other digital ad channels into your mix. 

Surpass: Personalize your digital ad campaigns.

Ultimately, every business has access to the same ad platforms. To really set your campaigns apart and leave your competitors in the dust, you’ll need to hone your understanding of your audiences. 

Who are they? What are they interested in? What actions have they already taken? The more you work to tailor your ad messaging, design, and landing page experience to the unique characteristics, needs, and behaviors of an individual, the more likely that individual is to respond and convert. 

Digital ad campaign personalization takes work and commitment, but the results speak for themselves. In fact, companies using advanced personalization tactics report seeing a 20 to 1 return on their investment

Email Marketing

Table Stakes: Connect with existing audiences.

Email marketing has certainly grown since Gary Thuerk pressed “send” on his historic message. Today, it’s deeply ingrained in business operations. It’s also arguably the easiest, most effective way to communicate with customers and contacts. 

In other words, businesses that don’t take advantage of email marketing are neglecting a valuable opportunity to connect with audiences. 

It’s always important to understand how much is too much with email. But, marketers should look for opportunities to share important updates, promos, and even thought leadership content with their contacts on a regular basis.

Compete: Segment and personalize your email campaigns.

Personalization improves email open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates. In other words, a good email is a personalized email. 

Test your subject lines, format, and calls to action. In other words, test everything.

To drive results from your email campaigns, then, make sure you’re taking advantage of the personalization tools available in nearly every email marketing platform. And, make sure you’re properly segmenting your list in order to give yourself even more powerful personalization options. 

As with every other part of the digital marketing ecosystem, the more you can tailor your communications to the specific needs of an individual contact, the better results you’ll see.

Surpass: Automate and refine your email strategy.

In addition to personalization functionality, most email marketing platforms offer automation tools, as well. With automation, your brand will be able to send pre-written, personalized emails to your contacts based on specific triggers and conditions. When managed correctly, these campaigns increase effectiveness and save time. 

Automation campaigns also provide a stream of performance data, which can be used to support the most important email marketing tactic: testing. Test your subject lines, format, and calls to action. In other words, test everything.

Testing and optimizing your email campaigns will help make sure your messages rise above your competitors in inboxes.

Social Media Marketing

Table Stakes: Establish your social media presence.

Social media habits have changed, but people still use social channels to research companies and individuals. So, what are they finding when they look for you or your business?

Even if you’re not especially active on social, it’s important to establish your presence. Claim your social accounts across all relevant platforms. Set up your profile photos, images, and descriptions, and be consistent with your brand. 

Taking this simple, initial step will help protect your brand while providing a foundation for future social expansion.

Compete: Focus your efforts and get “social.” 

New social channels pop up, frequently. Unless you’re a large organization with a sizable social team, though, you shouldn’t try to be active everywhere, all the time. 

For most brands, it makes more sense to select two or three primary channels that align with your organization and your audiences. Focus on these channels, publish interesting content for your audiences, and, most importantly, remember why it’s called “social media.”

To engage with your audiences, spend as much time—or more—sharing other people’s content as you do publishing your own. Listen. Respond. Participate. The sooner you stop thinking of social as a broadcast channel, the sooner your brand will break through the noise.

Surpass: Humanize and personalize.

To take your social media efforts to the next level, you’ll need to find ways to humanize your social channels. Refine your brand’s social media personality. Showcase the real people behind your brand. Seek out chances to interact with individuals, and, when you do, be human. 

To take your social media efforts to the next level, you’ll need to find ways to humanize your social channels.

Depending on your organization, you may also be able to amplify your reach by interacting with individuals within your company. A thought leader within your company who shares and responds to brand posts will help boost your engagement. 

Performance Measurement

Table Stakes: Track your website performance.

Google Analytics is free and relatively easy to set up and use. So, there’s really no excuse not to be tracking website performance. With this data, you’ll be able to identify which digital channels are driving site traffic. You’ll also be able to see what’s happening once that traffic arrives on your website. Are visitors spending time on your site? Which pages are they viewing? Are they converting?

Without this critical data, everything you do with digital marketing will be based on assumptions, which means you’ll probably end up wasting your time and money. 

Get your analytics set up before doing anything else.

Compete: Connect your digital marketing goals to business outcomes.

As digital marketers, we talk a lot about traffic, engagement, and conversions. All of these things, though, are a means to a more important end: business outcomes. What specific outcomes matter most to your organization? 

Equipped with this knowledge and historical data, you should be able to develop a marketing measurement framework that connects desired business results to digital marketing S.M.A.R.T. goals. This framework will also define how these goals will be tracked, and call attention to issues related to your data infrastructure.

Once your framework has been defined, you’ll be able to evaluate performance in a way that reveals real results and resonates with your organization’s leadership.

Surpass: Incorporate more visitor tracking intelligence.

Google Analytics is a powerful platform, but it’s far from the only tool that provides marketers with meaningful insights. In fact, many other tools can provide perspectives not found in Google Analytics. 

To get an extra edge on your competitors, expand your analytics toolset. UX platforms like Hotjar show you how your visitors actually behave on your site. Visitor tracking tools like Leadfeeder reveal a visitor’s company. Marketing platforms like Hubspot allow you to track user interactions to determine everything a prospect has done on your site.

With these insights, you’ll be to optimize every part of your digital marketing ecosystem. And, you’ll be able to provide useful intelligence to help focus your sales team’s efforts.

Unleash the Full Power of Your Digital Marketing Ecosystem

That’s a lot. We know. The good news is that you don’t need to ramp up every part of your ecosystem at the same time. What you should prioritize—and the details of your strategy—will depend on your business, your situation, and your goals. 

If you’re an emerging B2B technology brand with an underperforming website, your ecosystem priorities should look very different from those of an established university looking to build awareness with a new group of prospective students.

Focus first on the components that are most critical to your business. From there, work to elevate the other elements of your digital marketing ecosystem until everything is working in sync to drive the outcomes your business needs. 

Your digital marketing work will never be perfected. Gary Thuerk may have come close back in 1978, but the rest of us still have work to do. By continually working to upgrade your ecosystem, however, your organization will gain an upper hand over every competitor that doesn’t fully grasp what it takes to succeed online.

Ready to get started? Send us a note and tell us about your business’s goals.

Erik Norsted

Erik Norsted

Erik has spent his entire career immersed in every aspect of marketing and branding. His expertise around current digital trends, content strategy, and technical best-practices proves invaluable as he guides clients through the dynamic Modern Marketing landscape.