Taking a Business Approach to Digital Marketing Strategy and Planning
In today’s digital world, it’s important to keep up with technology in order to advance your business. If you’re not actively promoting your company online, then you’re not reaching as wide an audience as you could, and you’re likely to be left behind by your competitors. This is why digital marketing is so important.
Of course, digital marketing is a pretty broad term. It can encompass a myriad of different things, from digital strategy to website technology to social media to content marketing and SEO, and much more. The process can be daunting if you don’t know what you’re doing. That’s why it’s so important to implement a comprehensive digital marketing strategy for your brand.
“Decisions about strategy and tactics become a lot easier when you know your customers, your competitors, your competencies and resources as well as market trends.” ~ PR Smith
Why Have a Digital Marketing Strategy?
Often, people mix up strategies with plans. Both are important, but they serve different functions. A strategy provides the what, why, and where of your digital marketing efforts. What are you doing? Why will this be effective? Where will you concentrate your efforts? A sound strategy can help you target customers more effectively, get them to your site, create high quality leads, and nurture them until they become sales.
A plan, on the other hand, is all about how you’re going to do something: things like creating content, posting to social media, building your e-mail list, etc. A strategy will evolve over time, but a plan doesn’t. If parts of your strategy aren’t working, you change them based on results and implement something that you hope will be more effective. If a plan isn’t working, you simply get a new plan.
When you put the time and effort into creating a strategy and a plan to direct your digital marketing efforts, you can have so much more success than if you simply go in unprepared. A strategy enables you to focus on the bigger picture of what’s best for your organization as a whole, while a plan lets you look at the details.
How can digital marketing help your company meet its overall goals? How can it help you increase revenue and improve your bottom line? That’s the business approach to a digital marketing strategy. Here are seven tips for implementing an effective digital marketing strategy and planin your company.
“Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. By WHY I mean your purpose, cause or belief – WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care?” ~ Simon Sinek
Build Your Strategy
Start with the “why”. This is very important and often overlooked. When any new marketing trend arrives on the scene, it’s the temptation of a lot of brands to adopt it merely because everyone else has. However, while it’s important to stay on top of trends and not get left behind, if you jump on a bandwagon without knowing why, or what you intend to accomplish, then at best you’re just wasting resources, and at worst, you may be actively harming your brand.
When blogs started to become popular, every company suddenly had to have one. Unfortunately, many failed to post on their blogs regularly, and site visitors who came looking for up-to-date answers would instead be greeted with a post from two or three years ago, prompting them to look elsewhere instead. Then when social media first came to prominence, plenty of brands started a Facebook page, just because it was the thing to do. But without knowing what kind of things to post, or how to gain followers, their actual social media presence was minimal, and had little impact on their leads or sales.
In order to avoid these pitfalls, it’s important to begin by creating a strategy. What aspects of digital marketing are best suited to your company? What kind of content will you create? What areas will you focus on? On which social media platforms do you need to have a presence, and what will you do there to increase your overall visibility? In digital marketing, a comprehensive strategy is the difference between success and failure.
“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.” ~ Pablo Picasso
Outline Your Objectives
Once you have your strategy in place, it’s time to determine what, exactly, you want to achieve with digital marketing. Take the time to outline your objectives. What are your ultimate goals? How will this particular digital strategy help you to accomplish those goals? What’s the best way to implement this strategy to maximize your success? What kind of content should you post, where, and how often? The better you’re able to answer these questions, the more effectively you’ll be able to implement your digital marketing strategy.
“1. Listen to your target audience. What do they value? What’s important to them? 2. Craft the way you engage and communicate with this audience around those content triggers. 3. Repeat.” ~ John Hall
Know Your Audience
Who, exactly, are you trying to reach with digital marketing? Who’s your target audience? Who’s your ideal customer? What are they interested in? What problems do they have, and how is your company best positioned to help solve them?
Create buyer personas to help you target your audience more effectively. Make basic outlines of who your ideal customers are: their position in the company they work for, their responsibilities, average salary, education level, etc. Think about what questions they might have about your company or your industry at different stages of their buyers’ journeys, what they’re Googling as they research each stage, and the problems you’re looking to help them with.
Then create content aimed specifically at those personas. Answer the questions you’ve outlined, address their problems and concerns, and position your company as the solution. Doing this allows you to target your audience more effectively and more personally and helps you understand better who they are and what they’re looking for as you create content for them.
Another important step in knowing your audience is to research what search terms they’re using with regards to your company and industry. What keywords are most effective in leading people to your site? What keywords are most effective in leading people to your competitors’ sites? What exactly are people looking for? Once you have that information, create content around those keywords that addresses your audience’s issues and points them in the direction of whatever they were looking for in their searches.
“Content marketing is not only different from advertising, it’s the opposite of it. Advertisers inject themselves into other relevant media, hoping to be noticed. Content marketers attract their audience by being relevant. It’s pull versus push.” ~ Andy Crestodina
Once your objectives are outlined, it’s time to start working towards achieving them. Now we move out of strategy and into planning territory. In digital marketing, much of your planning will involve content creation. Almost anything you create for your brand counts as content, in one form or another. Blogs, videos, white papers, and eBooks are content, of course, as are your social media posts, from quick tweets to informative memes. E-mail blasts are content as well. Even paid ads on Google, Facebook, and other sites are part of your content.
No matter what kind of content you’re releasing, it’s important to build it around what your target audience is looking for with regards to your brand. Look at prominent search terms for your field or industry. Keep your finger on the pulse of trending topics related to your brand. Find out what questions people are asking, and what problems they’re looking to solve. Then, create content around what your research.
By giving people what they’re looking for and addressing the issues that are most relevant to them, you’ll more effectively be able to draw people to your site and your social media channels, get them invested in what you have to say, and ultimately turn them into leads and sales.
“When your marketing is credible, you begin to build a relationship with your audience based on trust. When you gain their trust, you can influence their buying decisions. The more trustworthy your content experiences, the more effective your content marketing becomes.” ~ James Mathewson, Mike Moran
Engage Your Audience
One of the main things that sets digital marketing apart from other forms of brand promotion is the opportunity to engage with your audience directly. If you have a blog or a YouTube channel, people will often comment on your posts, providing feedback, asking questions, or just letting you know they’re there. On social media, comments are even more prevalent, as well as messages, tweets, and more.
When people engage with your content and your brand, it’s important to respond to them. If they have issues or questions, do your best to answer them, or direct them to someone else in your company who can give them the help they need. If they provide feedback, thank them for their contribution and let them know you’re listening.
Of course, you may also receive comments from trolls: people whose sole purpose in commenting/interacting is to stir up trouble. They may post vulgar diatribes, or just plain lies, among other things. If you do receive these negative comments, your best course of action is not to respond at all. But if you do, always respond professionally.
Finally, if you’re not receiving comments and feedback, or not getting as much as you’d like, encourage more of it. Ask your audience questions. Open up the floor to personal stories and anecdotes relevant to the topic of discussion and get them to post theirs in the comments.
By engaging with your users directly, you get to show them that you’re more than just a faceless company. That your brand consists of real people, who really care about them and their issues, and are interested in what they have to say. This will go a long way towards driving people to your brand and building up an environment of awareness, trust and action, which will ultimately should increase your sales.
“Business goals feed into KPIs, so hitting and exceeding your KPIs will eventually contribute to achieving your goals and ultimately contribute to the success of your business.” ~ Ian Dodson
Look at Key Performance Indicators and Metrics
Once you’ve started releasing your content and engaging your audience, you need to gauge its overall effectiveness with regards to the objectives you outlined in the first section. One way to do this is to identify and measure Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
KPIs are measurable values specific to your company that can help you gauge your success or failure. Are you getting the results you want? For digital marketing, your KPIs can include things likethe number of people being converted to sales through your website, how much each lead costs you from one particular source as compared to another, the percentage of sales that are coming from your digital marketing efforts, and your overall Return on Investment (ROI).
KPIs can sometimes be confused with metrics, but they’re not the same thing. A metric is more focused on specific actions you take in digital marketing and the results they yield. Important metrics can include things like who’s opening the e-mails you send out, who’s clicking on your website, and much more.
“There is no perfect strategic decision. One always has to pay a price. One always has to balance conflicting objectives, conflicting opinions, and conflicting priorities. The best strategic decision is only an approximation –and a risk.” ~ Peter Drucker
Evolve Your Strategy
If your latest metrics are telling you that more people are visiting your social media profiles than your blog. What do you do with this information? You can start by looking for other metrics that show you what content is most popular on your blog, so that you can create more in that vein to drive your numbers up. You can also look at what specific content is playing best on social media, and see if you can integrate more of that into your blog.
You can promote your blog more on your social media channels and with email marketing, in the hope of tapping into those resources more. Or, you may want to put more focus on social media instead, if that’s where your audience seems to be concentrated.
There are plenty of options, but the most important thing is to use the information at hand, on what’s working and what’s not, to help you evolve your digital marketing strategy and make it more effective over time.
Implementing and maintaining a digital marketing strategy is no easy task. There are a myriad of platforms to explore, and a myriad of facets to take into consideration. Without a solid strategy, your efforts will have little effect on your bottom line, and may even do more harm than good. But if you channel the resources available to you and work to build a solid, comprehensive digital strategy that tracks the entire sales cycle from beginning to end, then the sky’s the limit.
gnooko Digital Marketing
Robert (Rob) Burns is the Managing Partner of gnooko Digital Marketing. Rob is a recognized specialist in digital business development strategy and its implementation. Rob has over 20 years experience advising companies of all sizes in various business development, sales, and marketing roles. In addition to global conglomerates, Rob has also assisted small and medium sized companies with digital marketing strategy, solutions, tactics and implementation.