If you are either a start-up or an established entrepreneur, there is no question that it is essential to have a digital marketing strategy to stay competitive in today's tech-focused world.
Consumers and business owners are spending a significant amount of time online to get information, purchase items, or to connect with people and brands. To successfully promote your business in today’s economic environment, you need to leverage digital marketing tools, techniques and best practices to reach your audiences.
With 4.39 billion internet users and 3.48 billion people on social media, businesses need a plan on how to reach their specific audiences. The challenge is that it is hard to know where to start . And, with the constantly changing digital landscape of new technology and consumer behaviours, how do small business owners keep up?
An effective digital marketing strategy must be SMART [Strategic, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely] and agile enough that it can be updated, as needed, to stay current with the constantly changing digital landscape.
Here is a simple 7-step method to create a digital marketing strategy that is both SMART and agile.
Even though each step of this marketing plan flow chart follows a linear path, each section is interconnected. As you develop your plan it is important to gather new information and apply it to the relevant sections on an ongoing, and timely basis; to update, refine, and make adjustments as needed to optimize your plan for best results.
1. Business Plan
The Business Plan establishes the goals, financial projections, and operations of the business; it is a written guide for making decisions and mapping out the future of the company. Understanding the goals, available resources, and timelines are essential to ensuring a successful marketing strategy.
2. Target Audiences
Target audiences are people that you want to reach to help you build a successful business. These may be clients, influencers, employees, etc. It is essential to know your ‘target audience’ - communication behaviours, their challenges, what type of language they use, their personalities, where they live, etc. Knowing your audience will help you develop messaging, channels to use, and type of content to develop to help reach the right people with relevant and compelling information.
3. [Marketing] Goals
The marketing strategy includes marketing goals to support the business goals. As part of the business plan, you will have a sales and marketing strategy that includes goals, market research, product and service descriptions, competitive analysis, and methods to promote the business. Digital marketing is a sub-section of the marketing plan and should support the goals and objectives of the overall marketing strategy. When using this seven-step process for creating nested plans, or campaigns, throughout the year, refer to the marketing plan to ensure the goals of your campaign support these goals, and ultimately the business goals.
A channel is a method to send your message (one-way) and engage with your audiences (two-way). There are different kinds of channels including OWNED, PAID, and EARNED. Owned are channels where you have full control of the channel and content (e.g. website); paid channels typically include advertisements but may include methods such as influencer or affiliate marketing, and earned media are when someone ‘picks up’ or story to tells someone about your business. Earned media holds the greatest value and is considered the ‘sweet spot’ for content. The reason for earned media value is that people believe it is a more genuine message due to the fact it is not coming from the business as ‘promotional’ or biased messaging. The business owner may send media kits or information to a media outlet or encourage a happy customer to write a testimonial, but they do not have any control over what is published. It is ideal to have a mix of all three types of content, with owned content having the majority.
Content is the materials created and shared across the various channels. The type of content created, including the topic, tone, and type of material will depend on the audience, industry, resources, channel, and goals. Types of content may include website pages, videos, blogs, text, infographics, slide decks, gifs, e-books, white papers, and interactive content (such as augmented reality).
The plan is where the marketing strategy comes to life! It is the who, what, where when and how you are going to reach your audience with the right message, at the right time. The sections of a strategic marketing plan include: business goals, marketing goals, background/ /situational analysis, target audiences, evaluation methods and metrics, tactics (such as what type of content and channels to be used), timelines (e.g. events, scheduling content, and milestone review dates), and budget. This plan template can be used for setting up the initial digital marketing strategy, and then used again for each campaign throughout the year; such as a new product launch, an event promotion, or even a Facebook paid campaign.
7. Track Performance
It is important to know if you are reaching your business goals and to track the performance of the metrics that are the key performance indicators (KPIs) of success. Goals may include traffic, engagement, leads, sales, [customer] retention. KPIs may be website traffic, cost of acquisition (paid campaigns), search engine rankings, calls from directory listings, feedback from surveys, comments, page views, # of media articles written, bounce rate, applications filled out, shopping cart sales, online free consultation forms submitted, referrals, and more. Certain goals have certain performance metrics, so make sure you track the right KPI’s for the goals in your plan. Methods for collecting this information may include, Google Analytics, surveys, social media analytics, Google Adword campaign results, e-commerce reports, email campaign reports, and in-house feedback (e.g. sales team).