When it comes to digital marketing, it’s important that brands recognize the distinction between tools and strategy. Companies that use digital marketing tactics—blogging regularly and crafting strong e-mail marketing campaigns, for example—should have a clear plan in place about what these tactics are attempting to achieve.
What some brands don’t always realize is that employing digital marketing tools without having a strategy is a bit like trying to follow directions when you don’t know where you’re going. Sure, you’ll end up somewhere, but is it the place you wanted to be? And did you take the best route to get there?
A digital marketing strategy is the “big picture” piece of the puzzle that will guide and direct your digital marketing tactics. Having a digital marketing strategy in place is what will allow your brand to define where you’re going, how you should get there, and measure the progress you made. And while your strategy should be developed to suit the particular needs and circumstances of your brand, in general, you’ll want to make sure to include the following elements:
The first step in a successful digital marketing strategy is deciding what you want. The goals that you set for your brand at this stage will determine the direction and progress of your entire strategy, so it’s vital not to take any shortcuts here. There are two different kinds of goals you’ll want to think about: quantitative goals, which are goals that can be counted, measured, or described using numbers, and qualitative goals, which tend to be more abstract, conceptual, or descriptive. (Increasing online revenue by 20% is an example of a quantitative goal; improving a brand’s reputation is an example of a qualitative goal.) Quantitative goals, not surprisingly, are easier to measure than qualitative goals, but both types are important to the growth of your brand. In addition, keep in mind that your chosen goals should be challenging, but realistically attainable; clearly linked to the mission, vision, and values of your brand; specific and timely; and broken down into smaller, progressive milestones.
An overview of your audience
No matter how well-crafted your digital marketing efforts are, they will essentially be wasted if they’re not targeting the right audience. Ideally, during this strategy-building step, you’ll work to create a buyer persona—that is, a well-rounded representation of your ideal customer—by collecting and analyzing real data about your brand’s target audience. The following are some aspects to assemble:
Demographic information—Basic details such as location, age, income, and profession form the foundation of your buyer persona.
Qualitative information—In addition to knowing who your audience is, you’ll also need to know what they want and, even more importantly, why they want it. This means conducting deeper research into your audience’s goals (that is, how your product or service could potentially help them to solve challenges they face), their interests, and their priorities.
A review of your existing digital channels and assets
When you build a digital marketing strategy, you’re rarely starting with a completely blank slate. Even if you haven’t properly developed a strategy before, you’ve likely been conducting ad hoc digital marketing efforts, as described earlier, and you almost certainly have some digital assets (such as a website or an e-mail list). What you want to do at this stage is to conduct a thorough review of all of your existing digital marketing channels and assets. This will give you a clear picture of what you’re working with and allow you to identify any major gaps in your inventory. The three key areas to focus on are:
Owned channels—Digital assets that your brand owns or otherwise has complete control over are known as owned channels. They include your website, social media accounts, and blog or other content (either on your own site or a third-party platform such as Medium).
Earned channels—When your brand obtains exposure through word-of-mouth marketing, it’s referred to as earned media or earned channels. This could include guest blog posts you’ve created for other websites and mentions that you’ve received as a result of PR efforts.
Paid channels—Many digital marketing channels involve the exchange of payment for increased online visibility. Some of the most commonly used paid channels include Google AdWords, paid social media posts, or sponsored posts from your brand that appear on other websites.
A plan for auditing your campaigns
A successful digital marketing strategy not only outlines the goals you want to achieve through your digital marketing efforts, but it also includes a framework for measuring whether or not you did, in fact, achieve those goals. In other words, how will you know if your strategy was successful?
For this step, you’ll want to focus on some of the most relevant key performance indicators (KPIs) for your brand and specific goals. For example, if one of the quantitative goals you identified in your strategy is to boost conversion rates by 3%, you should make sure that you’re tracking KPIs such as cost per conversion and the conversion rate per keyword.