5 Ds Of Digital Marketing For Small Businesses (SMEs)

Technological advancements have reshaped how companies operate and interact with their customers, especially with the rise of the digital economy. In these uncertain times, businesses need every advantage they can get to get ahead. Digital marketing is the new paradigm that is helping companies large and small generate far more business locally and internationally.


What is Digital Marketing?

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Digital marketing refers to the strategies employed by businesses to increase brand awareness, generate leads, and boost sales via digital means such as the Internet and social media. 

The most popular channels used for digital marketing include social networking sites, search engines, and email marketing, to name a few. In contrast to traditional media such as print advertising, billboards, and television commercials, most digital marketing platforms provide live feedback as well as the ability to generate reports for comprehensive, data-driven analyses of campaigns. 

Digital marketing also includes a variety of marketing strategies, which fall under the 5Ds of digital marketing.

How Digital Marketing Can Help Your Business Get Ahead 1

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The 5Ds of digital marketing represents the ways an audience can interact with a brand, as well as how businesses can choose to reach out to their customers, which are:


Digital devices 

Brands are experienced by an audience through digital devices including mobile phones, tablets, TVs, desktop computers, and gaming devices.


Digital platforms

Major platforms like Google, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn are accessed on digital devices and viewed on a browser or dedicated application.


Digital media

Audience reach and engagement are achieved through a variety of owned or paid communications channels.


Digital data 

Insights that businesses collect about their audience through user interactions, and the analysis that can be gleaned.


Digital technology 

Interactive experiences such as websites, email campaigns, and pop-up kiosks can be created through the use of different technologies.


Why Digital Marketing?


The primary reason for the increased adoption of digital marketing is that it allows companies to experiment with many strategies at a budget. It can also enable marketers to use analytics dashboards and other useful tools to track the impact and return on investment (ROI) generated by their online marketing campaigns. With traditional advertising methods such as billboards and print media, monitoring such metrics can be challenging. Digital marketing gives businesses the flexibility to adapt quickly and creatively to user response and the ever-changing digital landscape.

This allows businesses to tweak their advertising on the fly by scrutinising how their audience behaves and responds to different facets of their current strategy. Digital marketing also facilitates the customisation of content for specific audiences, so that the effectiveness of engagement can be maximised for better results.

Another reason for the growing popularity of digital marketing is that many people make use of the internet to perform research before buying a product. In addition, more people are now using digital and eCommerce platforms to make even big-ticket purchases, so generating click-throughs and revenue through effective digital marketing decisions can become a mainstay of many marketing strategies.


7 Top Benefits of Digital Marketing

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In order to take advantage of the boom of the digital economy, digital marketing is an essential tool in any business’s marketing toolbox. The following are a few benefits that can be reaped from mastering its many facets:


Broad Reach


Online marketing platforms such as websites, social media, and email have a far more extensive reach than traditional channels. For instance, sites and social media platforms can reach a global audience 24/7 every single day of the year, while the same does not necessarily apply to print advertising. The latter has a limited scope, and businesses often have to spend colossal amounts of money on expanding the reach of promotional messages in traditional marketing. On top of that, traditional marketing is usually available only during working hours or relies on foot traffic or viewership to reach their audience.


While the budget does still affect reach in digital marketing, it is exponentially easier to reach a brand’s target audience by focusing strategically on demographics and groups that would most likely be interested in a particular product or service. 

Generally, creativity and budget are the only limits when it comes to online marketing platforms. Consistently posting as well as posting quality content at the right time helps ensure maximum reach and engagement. In addition to reaching wider audiences, this also creates opportunities to actively interact with customers; such interactions are a good gauge of customer opinion and aid in making further adjustments.



It is much easier to measure the performance of digital marketing than it is with traditional methods, such as print media and radio advertisements. Various analytics tools can measure metrics such as conversion rates and dwell time, as well as track the activities of users on a website. The insights gained from analysis enable businesses to devise ways of improving their marketing strategies for better results in the future. 

For instance, if you are running an email marketing campaign to promote a new product, you could send two different messages to your subscribers. The report from the subsequent analysis can show which of the two samples is more effective, and this information can then be used to boost sales.

With the above tools, digital marketing makes it convenient to measure the impact of any amount of investment.  This allows businesses to see what is working and what is not, and more importantly, assess whether the investment is worth the time and money. Losses can be significantly reduced and ROI increased when the impact of a digital marketing strategy can be measured in real-time. Hence, there is no need for guesswork when it comes to the effectiveness of a particular strategy, and ineffective tactics can either be finetuned or ceased at a moment’s notice.



Another benefit of digital marketing is its cost-effectiveness. In the past, startups and upcoming businesses found it hard to compete with established companies for advertising space, especially in mainstream channels. The introduction of online marketing has since bridged the gap, enabling small businesses to reach their target audience without having to compete directly with larger institutions. 

How Digital Marketing Can Help Your Business Get Ahead 4

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Small businesses usually find it challenging to compete with their established counterparts due to the enormous disparity in resources. Digital marketing helps a great deal in leveling the playing field by allowing startups to remain competitive on the web.

For instance, almost every business can launch a website or introduce an email marketing campaign. However, the same cannot be said for TV ads, billboards, and other forms of traditional marketing. Also, online marketing allows businesses to reach wider audiences, which can be a challenge in traditional marketing if a startup does not have adequate resources due to the hidden costs.

Smaller businesses can thus take advantage of how scalable a digital marketing budget can be. This is done through investing what they can to begin with, and increasing their budget once the initial efforts gain traction, making it a very cost-effective investment.



For traditional methods of advertising, such as print media and billboards, it is essentially a gamble whether or not the message will reach the target audience. Once an ad space is paid for, businesses can only hope that the message will reach people who are likely to get interested in the brand. 

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Digital marketing provides several ways of ensuring that ads reach the intended audience. By including specific keywords in your content, it is possible to broaden the range of interested people who will come across the brand. Also, some strategies, such as social media marketing and PPC advertising, allow businesses to target particular demographic groups. 

Targeting is critical because it gives the brand control over their marketing expenses, ensuring that they can access people who would most likely be interested and click through, thus generating views, hits, and even sales. Traditional marketing runs into difficulties when it comes to specifically target certain interests or age groups, which makes digital marketing a better choice when a more focused strategy is called for. 

One example of this type of marketing is a tactic called retargeting, where relevant ads are targeted towards users who have visited a specific page. For example, if users navigate through a tech company’s website and land on a page offering details about their laptop repair service, the company could then focus on targeting this user with further specific ads about laptop repair when they leave the site and engage with social media or even other websites. This keeps the advertising brand top-of-mind and could increase the likelihood of generating sales.

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In traditional marketing, companies often have to wait for the completion of the campaign to see its impact on business. While it is possible to use the findings to improve subsequent campaigns, too much investment will potentially be lost before positive results can be seen. 

In stark contrast, digital marketing allows for the continuous monitoring of progress. Performance is assessed in real-time, and companies can then make the adjustments needed to improve the outcome of the marketing campaign

For instance, for social media marketing campaigns, businesses can check the engagement levels received by various posts. If a post has a low number of likes, shares, and comments, it can be deleted, or modified, and reposted.  Similarly, if a post goes viral, the insights gleaned from it can be used to create a related blog post in order to drive more traffic to the main website.


Generates Qualified Leads

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Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)  is one of the standout strategies used for digital marketing. When certain keywords are integrated into a website, businesses can ensure that they become more visible to a specific audience. Only users who are interested in that particular keyword will see the site on search results, which increases the chances of a better conversion rate – that is, the ratio of users viewing an advertisement or website who then act on it to purchase an item or sign up for a service.

For businesses with a brick-and-mortar store, local SEO is a form of digital marketing that can be implemented. According to Think with Google, 28% of local searches often end in purchases. This internet marketing strategy is particularly useful for businesses that wish to target a specific geographical area or generate local sales.



Digital marketing revolutionises the way businesses reach out to and engage with their potential and existing clients. Companies that implement this strategy are often able to achieve profit margins that were inconceivable when they used traditional methods of advertising. 

For instance, blogging can increase ROI by as much as 13 times. If implemented correctly, internet marketing can empower businesses to attain their objectives within a short period.


The 3 Keys of Digital Marketing User Experience

Now that we have covered the benefits of digital marketing, it is crucial for business owners to understand how digital marketing works to ensure that they make smart decisions in their digital marketing plans. The key to understanding how it works is by understanding the three essential aspects of digital marketing and how each can help you in realising your business objectives.


Key #1: The User Experience

The first key to a successful digital marketing strategy is tailoring the user experience. As the name implies, the user experience delineates the journey from the customer’s first encounter with a brand and their subsequent interaction with the business, whether it be through traditional or digital channels. This shapes a customer’s feelings and impressions of the brand.

There are four stages, beginning from a user’s awareness and knowledge of the brand and ending when a customer takes action by going through with a purchase or advocating the brand of their own accord.


  1. Awareness: The customer’s first awareness or encounter with the brand.
  2. Evaluation: The interested customer evaluates their choice and considers other brands in comparison.
  3. Action: The customer commits to a purchase.
  4. Advocacy: The customer’s positive experience generates brand loyalty, leading to repeat purchases and/or word-of-mouth recommendations.


digita marketing user experience journey


A customer’s initial interactions with a brand typically involve encountering content on various digital channels such as social media or search engines.

Once a user lands on a business’s website, the goal of the content there must be to encourage them to evaluate the brand positively in comparison to other competitors, as well as to guide them towards taking concrete actions (also known as conversions). This can include signing up for an email subscription or newsletter or adding a product or service to their virtual shopping cart.

Digital marketing strategies can help in each of the four stages of the user experiences, as well as help to ensure that brand loyalty is nurtured in the customer.


Key #2: Digital Channels

digital marketing channels where visitors come in from

The second key to mastering digital marketing is comprehensive knowledge of the digital channels available.

A marketing channel is a medium through which businesses and brands communicate with their users and customers. 

Traditional marketing channels, as mentioned earlier, include print advertising and television or radio commercials among others. Digital channels can be an avenue that generates user traffic, such as:


Organic Search

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Search engines are the bread and butter of Internet research, and the market leader, Google, processes over 40,000 queries a second, or 3.5 billion searches a day. Nowadays, about 53% of consumers start the buying process by querying a search engine to kick off their research and find out more about their options. 

Having a website is not enough – strategies such as search engine optimisation or search engine marketing should be implemented to heighten visibility when it comes to search results so that businesses can tap into this enormous opportunity to reach out to potential clients. Such strategies can catapult a brand’s website to the top of the first page of the Search Engine Results Pages (or SERPs), where it is better positioned to take advantage of user traffic and helps a brand look more trustworthy.


Paid Search

Paid SERPs appear above the organic search results and is a form of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.

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 In order for a website to appear at the top of the paid SERPs in Google, a digital marketing strategy known as Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and a Google Ads account are required.


Social Media

Social networks are second only to Google when it comes to the number of active daily users. According to Statista, Facebook reported almost 1.88 billion daily active users during the first quarter of 2021. With roughly 2.85 billion monthly active users, Facebook is the most popular social network worldwide.

Going by the numbers above, it is easy to see why social media is a popular channel when it comes to digital marketing. Brands on social media can also engage with users in a more authentic and personal way, allowing businesses to get a good sense of how the audience reacts to certain marketing messages. This gives rise to the opportunity to tailor strategies and a brand’s voice to better fit their customers’ expectations.



Most people check their emails on a regular basis, so email is another digital marketing channel that can potentially reach a significant number of users a day. 

Businesses use branded emails to connect with existing and prospective clients, often to increase brand awareness, establish authority, to promote upcoming events, and inform them about special offers.


Digital Display

Digital display advertising is a channel that involves graphic advertising on third-party websites, social media, and apps through banners comprising text, images, flash, video, or audio – akin to a digital billboard.

For instance, Google’s display campaigns reach 80% of Internet users and are thus an attractive way for businesses to reach out to the general users of third-party platforms.


Which Channel is Best?

The selection of digital marketing channels depends on a variety of factors such as:

  • Marketing objectives: Is the brand’s goal to increase awareness or persuade a customer to make a purchase?
  • Marketing Budget: Is there enough budget available to cover multiple digital channels in the business’s marketing campaign?
  • Manpower: Is the marketing team sufficiently equipped with the prerequisite skills and experience to oversee and run a campaign spanning multiple channels?
  • Customers: Which channels would potential customers be likely to frequent? How does the brand usually communicate with its customer base?

Digital marketing is not a one-size-fits-all solution but performs best when playing to a company’s strengths while keeping to its budget.


Key #3: Content


5 Ds Of Digital Marketing For Small Businesses (SMEs) 1


The final key to effective digital marketing is content. This can take the form of text, visuals, videos, or even audio, created in line with the brand’s vision and objectives – it is what draws customers in and what they consume, and forms the basis of their user experience.


Content can include:

  • Graphic banners
  • Text advertising
  • Flash advertising
  • Videos
  • Infographics
  • Blog posts or articles
  • Social media posts
  • Email newsletters


Again, different demographics and interest groups may have different preferences when it comes to the type of content they prefer to consume, so finding out the inclinations of a brand’s target audience is essential to the effective and efficient generation of content.

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Types of Digital Marketing

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With a better understanding of what digital marketing is and how it works, it becomes easier to pick and choose the correct channels and tactics to fit a business’s overall goals. Here are some examples of the different types of digital marketing that are popular with many brands today, and a brief rundown of its relevant aspects.


Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Investing in SEO is a necessary ingredient for success when it comes to digital marketing, especially for businesses that rely on organic Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) for hits. SEO refers to the adjustments made to a website so that it ranks higher on result pages for certain relevant keywords. Since most people usually ignore results beyond the first page, the main objective of an SEO campaign should be ranking at the top of the SERPs. A higher ranking means that more organic traffic is generated and funneled to a business website.

Another benefit of SEO is that it drives quality traffic to the website. The objective of digital marketing is to attract the attention of people interested in particular categories of products. By using the right keywords and publishing relevant content, the users who are attracted to the content are likely to be converted into customers with relative ease.

Lastly, SEO plays a significant role in establishing a business or brand as an authority in their niche. When a brand’s website appears on the first page of the SERPs, people are more likely to trust the information provided on the said website than a site that can only be found at the bottom of page five.


Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Although SEO is an effective way of increasing website traffic, it takes between four to six months to start working. Furthermore, businesses will have to fend off competition from rival websites which might be implementing similar strategies. In such a situation, it is advisable to include search engine marketing as part of a good digital marketing strategy.

Also known as pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, Search Engine Marketing is a digital marketing strategy where the advertising platform is paid every time a user clicks on an ad. Since Google is the most popular search engine, Google Ads is a good starting point for most brands.

The most significant advantage of PPC is that it works faster than SEO. If a business bids for the right keywords, the target site can easily rise to the first page of search results within a short time. Also, it is easier to measure its ROI because payment is only needed if a user clicks on the ad.

Moreover, PPC advertising ensures that companies get qualified leads. People who click on the ads are likely to be searching for keywords that are relevant to the specific business. This means that it is much easier to convert them into customers because they are already interested in similar products.


Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing is another popular option when it comes to digital marketing. It is a tactic where platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram are used to reach out to potential and existing clients to promote a brand’s products and services.

The most significant appeal of social media is that a single post can reach thousands of people simultaneously. For instance, a business page with 100,000 followers on Facebook can reach every follower with each of their posts. If these followers hit the ‘share’ button, it can reach even broader audiences. This makes it an effective strategy for generating new leads, as it can function as a medium for word-of-mouth recommendations.

Additionally, social media can also boost other digital marketing efforts. For example, social media accounts can be used to promote an article written on a brand’s main website, which helps drive traffic to the website so users can read the article.  Excerpts could also be repurposed from the article and used to create posts for social media accounts as a way of ensuring that the content remains relevant and popular for long periods of time.


Email Marketing

With emails, it is crucial to establish trust with the audience before sending any sales pitches. The best way of doing this is by sending valuable content regularly. Once the reader trusts a brand, they can be sent promotional messages without the company appearing intrusive or predatory.

As the first thing, a recipient sees, short, concise, and engaging subject lines encourage users to open a message. The keywords in the subject should also provide an overview of its contents and prepare readers for the message within.

website design banner

Similar to website content, emails should contain messages that are valuable to the reader. The length is usually dependent on the complexity of the topic being communicated. Regardless, adequate spacing in-between paragraphs make it pleasant to read. Banner or display advertising should be avoided because they distract the user from the message. Lastly, a clear and compelling call to action helps persuade users to visit the website or make a purchase, depending on the email’s objectives.


Website Marketing

A website is the focal point of a brand’s online marketing campaign. It is where potential customers get the first impression of a brand and what it has to offer. More importantly, it is the platform where leads are converted into customer purchases.

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The primary objective of digital marketing is to generate, engage and convert all leads. All of the strategies used for digital marketing drive the leads back to the main website, where they get detailed information about a brand’s products and eventually complete the purchase.

Since it is the last step of the sales funnel, user experience is paramount when it comes to its visitors. According to Adobe, 38% of users will leave a website if it has a poor user interface.  Besides the UI, other factors that matter to visitors include ease of navigation and page loading speeds. If a site is either slow or hard to navigate, it will have a dismal conversion rate.


The following graph shows how page loading speeds affect conversion rates.

How Digital Marketing Can Help Your Business Get Ahead 7

Source: tagman


The best way of ensuring that a website is useful is by seeking assistance from development experts. Web design agencies have the experience needed to optimise a site such that it will become an asset to any digital marketing strategy.


Why A Digital Marketing Strategy is Crucial For Your Business


A digital marketing strategy ensures that any marketing objectives that are set by a brand can be achieved in a clear and actionable way, specifically through digital marketing campaigns like the ones discussed in the previous section.

Even as existing channels might change and new channels arrive on the scene, having a solid digital marketing strategy makes it easier for businesses to adapt to the ever-changing scene by anchoring any future plans and expenditures to their overall business objectives.

An integrated multi-channel approach, or the practice of using several digital marketing strategies to ensure that promotional messages reach a target audience, should be the target result when building a digital marketing strategy. The most significant advantage of this approach is that it allows businesses to deliver a unified message and improves the success of digital marketing efforts.

The best way of creating a multi-channel digital marketing strategy is by evaluating how each of the channels can contribute towards the attainment of planned objectives. For instance, if a company wants to boost sales and conversions, they would need to figure out how each platform will increase the number of leads that are generated.

Another example is that a brand can develop a website and implement SEO and SEM to increase its visibility, which in turn increases the number of visitors it gets. Email marketing and social networks can be alternative sources of lead generation, especially if used to share links to the main business website.

Consistent messaging across all platforms is key when adopting a multi-channel digital marketing strategy. The voice and tone used on Facebook should be similar to that which is used on the main website, as well as in email messages. This uniformity is vital in establishing a business’s ‘brand voice’, which contributes to a seamless user experience.

With a good digital marketing strategy and a sound understanding of its principles, your business will be able to harness the effectiveness of digital marketing channels to generate leads, conversions, and ultimately, revenue for your business moving forward. 


About the Author

Tom Koh

Tom is the CEO and Principal Consultant of MediaOne, a leading digital marketing agency. He has consulted for MNCs like Canon, Maybank, Capitaland, SingTel, ST Engineering, WWF, Cambridge University, as well as Government organisations like Enterprise Singapore, Ministry of Law, National Galleries, NTUC, e2i, SingHealth. His articles are published and referenced in CNA, Straits Times, MoneyFM, Financial Times, Yahoo! Finance, Hubspot, Zendesk, CIO Advisor.


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