First things first, before we discuss digital marketing strategy, we must first understand the term “digital marketing” and its concept. You can refer to our previous guide on digital marketing concept .
Digital marketing strategy, in a nutshell, is a holistic approach interlinking all the different digital marketing channels, platforms, and tactics.
There are many different channels included in the digital marketing umbrella: SEO, social media marketing, paid advertising, email marketing, and many others. It’s important to understand that digital marketing strategy is not about designing a campaign for one of these channels (which is called digital marketing tactic). Instead, digital marketing strategy is about choosing the right tactics for your business, a campaign for each of them, and how to make all of these channels work together to achieve your business goals.
A good digital marketing strategy example is an integrated digital marketing plan with clear goals, clear-cut plan for each channel, and a measurement system (KPIs) to track your performance.
Why Do You Need a Digital Marketing Strategy?
Planning a strategy can be a tedious task, and yes, a gung-ho approach where we simply “do it and see how things go” might seem more enticing at first. However, there are several crucial reasons why you actually need a digital marketing plan:
1.Effort without direction is meaningless
We often have the misconception that hard work and a lot of effort always bring results. Yet, that can’t be further from the truth: effort put in the wrong direction will get you nowhere, in fact, it can put you further from the goal.
Digital marketing strategy is essentially about defining your digital marketing goals, finding the right roads to reach these goals, and finding ways to evaluate whether you are on the right track and make adjustments when necessary. In short, having a proper road map for your journey!
2. Having a strategy means you understand your audience better
A huge secret of digital marketing success is about understanding your customers, and a huge aspect of planning a digital marketing strategy is about understanding your customer’s behavior.
Understanding your audience, however, will bring more benefits outside marketing purposes. For example, it will significantly help in new product development or even help in setting a new direction for your business.
3. More control over your budget
Digital marketing can be extremely expensive when you are not careful. On the other hand, they are necessary investments.
A clear digital marketing strategy can help you optimize these investments: maximizing ROI of each channel and making the most of your money. A good measurement system will also allow us to evaluate the performance of our channels, and so we can decide to invest more on effective ones and less (or, none) on the ineffective channels.
4. Continuous optimizations of our campaigns
No matter how good our initial plan is, no marketing activities will be perfect at first try. We will need to evaluate the performance, conduct trials and errors, and adjust our approach to better meet our goals.
These will be impossible if you don’t already have clear marketing goals and clear KPIs to measure. This is where planning a digital marketing strategy can help in minimizing the need of experimentations and giving you clearer insights in the evaluation process.
Digital marketing strategy is not a luxury, but rather, a necessity for any business serious in generating more prospects and converting more customers through digital means.
How To Create a DIgital Marketing Strategy
Here, we will discuss a step-by-step approach to plan and create your digital marketing strategy from start to finish. Each step is equally important, so don’t skip ahead and follow these carefully:
Step 1:Defining Your Digital marketing Goals
What do you want your digital marketing efforts to accomplish? Is it to simply get more prospects? Build an online brand awareness? Focus on sales?
There are three important things in defining these goals, that they have to be:
- Realistic: in the sense that they are achievable. Unrealistic goals can hurt your team’s morale, and can be counterproductive. You might want to break down a big goal/vision into smaller, more realistic milestones.
- Specific: the goals must be clear and can be properly understood by everyone on your team.
- Measureable: so we can evaluate our progress by measuring the right metrics (and KPIs) and make adjustments when necessary.
Step 2: Understand Your Audience’s Behavior
A huge aspect of any marketing effort is about understanding your audience. The better we understand the customer’s behavior, needs, and problems, the better we can develop a strategy to address them.
Here, we should develop a buyer persona, the idealized model of your audience. For example, if you are a business selling a B2B SaaS (Software as a Service), your buyer persona might be something like, “an IT manager, 25-40 in age, tech-savvy and regularly consume information through blogs and online videos.” This will give you a clearer picture about your audience, and what you can offer to them.
Creating a buyer persona should be based on data and insights, not intuition and experience. There are plenty of marketing analytics tools that can help you do the job. For example, if you already have a website running, you can use Google Analytics to analyze your site visitors. If you have a Facebook page with a sizable amount of followers, Facebook’s Insights can help you. You can also use these analytics tools to analyze your competitors’ sites and social media profiles, as they might also target a similar audience.
Step 3: Defining Your Marketing Funnel Strategy
With all products and services, there are certain steps a typical customer will move through before they finally make the purchase. For example, a buyer might be aware about a restaurant from an influencer’s post, then this buyer will check online reviews. If reviews about this restaurant are positive, this buyer will finally visit the restaurant.
We call these steps the buyer’s journey, which is, in turn, translated into a marketing concept called marketing funnel—or sometimes, sales funnel—.
Defining the right marketing funnel is an important step of developing a marketing strategy. First, it’s called a “funnel” because the steps on top will have more people than those below them (i.e. more people are aware about your products compared to those that actually make the purchase). The idea is to define these steps, and figure out the right marketing tactic(s) for each one.
While the steps might vary drastically depending on the product/service, here are the common ones:
- Awareness: people hear about your product/service, also called the discovery stage. Marketing tactics that can target this step are advertising, content marketing, and influencer marketing, among others. In short, this stage is all about lead generation.
- Consideration: the prospect compares your product/service with your competitors’ in this step, check for reviews, and weigh their options. This stage is about lead nurturing, and marketing tactics that educated and convince prospects are preferred. This can include email marketing, content marketing (to educate prospects), social media marketing, and others.
- Conversion: in this step, the prospect finally purchase your product/service and converts into a customer. Conversion-focused tactics belong in this step, such as offering limited-time offers, etc.
- Advocacy: the happy customers become loyal to your brand, and will recommend your product/service to their peers. Important tactics in this step are affiliate/referral campaign, loyalty programs, etc.
Your job here is to consider all the available marketing channels (both paid and organic options), and figure out how they belong in each of these steps/stages. Digital marketing success is about how to get more people in each of the funnels. We can achieve this by understanding how your audience are using each channel and approaching the different stages.
Step 4: Develop Your Digital Marketing Strategy Framework
By considering your goals/objectives and the marketing funnel, here we develop a framework to integrate everything together. We create specific tactics according to the marketing funnel to reach the digital marketing goals.
Your goal here is to be specific. Define specific milestones that are required to accomplish the goals. For example, if your goal is to increase revenue by 10%, the framework can be something like:
- Using content marketing paired with lead magnet to generate X% more leads
- Automated and targeted email marketing campaigns to nurture leads and convince them to convert.
- Starting influencer marketing campaigns to establish trust, and encouraging positive reviews by offering incentives. The goal here is to increase conversion rate by X%.
The more specific you can plan out the framework, the better.
Step 5: Implementing Marketing Automation and Personalization.
Gone are the days when digital marketing is all about brute and repetitive work. In this age of A.I. and machine learning, automation is essential for any digital marketing strategy.
The main idea of implementing automation is that you can move the tedious, repetitive tasks like sending email newsletters from your valuable marketing staffs. So, the marketing employees can instead focus their energy on tasks that matter. This can significantly cut down your labor costs, and you can achieve your goals faster.
Another important benefit of automation is the ability to implement more personalizations. Each one of your prospects is a unique individual and they might belong in the different stages of the marketing funnel. By sending the right message to the right people at the right time, we can maximize the chance of conversions.
Your goal in this step is to figure out which marketing campaigns and tasks you can automate. Marketing automation will require the presence of marketing automation software, so you might also plan your budget to invest on these tools.
Step 6: Setting Up A Measuring System and KPIs
No matter how good you’ve planned your digital marketing strategy framework, it will always need evaluation and adjustments in the long run.
Therefore, we will need to set up a measuring system where we can analyze the performance of our campaigns and make the necessary adjustments based on this data. This is mainly done by assigning KPIs according to our marketing goals, and defining the right metrics to track these KPIs.
All of your campaigns must be measurable. This is also useful with budgeting purposes, as you can evaluate which campaigns that are effective (and so you can invest more on these), and which campaigns that didn’t bring results.
Keep in mind that the market itself is always evolving with all the changes in technologies and disruptions. Constantly monitoring your progress will give you an easier time in detecting disruptions and make adjustments. For example, Google might publish an algorithm change that affect your SEO results. With a proper analytics tracking in place, you immediately recognize the drop in website traffic, and so you can rapidly make adjustments to your SEO approach.
Step 7: Finding Holes and Make Adjustments
As previously mentioned, no digital marketing strategy is perfect no matter how well-planned and well-executed the strategy is.
This step is about finding the flaws of your digital marketing framework by using the metrics we have discussed in the previous step.
In this step, we will also evaluate the relationships between one campaign and the others. For example, your ad might generate a lot of clicks and prospects, but the overall sales number is still below your expectations. Here we should evaluate all the campaigns between conversion and the initial awareness, and find the place where there’s a significant drop in the funnel.
If necessary, we might need to update or even revamp our strategy, and re-evaluate again.
With all the different marketing channels available today and their ease of use, it might be tempting just to start a campaign right away and hope for the best results. However, running a marketing effort without any direction can be a significant waste of money and time,
This is why planning a digital marketing strategy is extremely important, where we can define the right goals, find the best ways to achieve these goals, and evaluate our progress.