If you own a business today, the chances are a big part of your marketing strategy is digital. Consumers spend their time online. This is evident in retail with a whopping 87% of purchases being made online in the UK.
When you’re growing business though, how do you prevent this from being overwhelming? How can you create a thorough and adaptable digital marketing strategy?
Here are our top tips for developing a digital marketing strategy that works.
What is a digital marketing strategy?
A digital marketing strategy is a set of tasks, that can help you achieve specific business goals, using online marketing channels.
By channels, we don’t mean platforms, preferably a mixture of paid media, owned and earned. They will all work together harmoniously around a common campaign theme to meet a particular business goal.
The word strategy is bandied continuously around in the digital agency space, and it sounds like a buzzword, but really, an effective digital strategy doesn’t need you to be a rocket scientist.
Simply put, a strategy is just an action plan. Let us say the goal of your business is to generate an extra 50 leads a month or grow your customer base by 20%. This forms the basis of your strategy.
If you have a large business, then your digital marketing strategy might be an umbrella of many digital marketing strategies. Each is having its own different goal, splinter content, and lots of individual elements.
But just breaking it down to the common goal can help you focus on meeting those core objectives of your marketing strategy.
This doesn’t necessarily help the overthinkers amongst us find it any easier to create or execute a strategy. So its useful for us to look at a few case studies and see what a digital marketing campaign actually is. Then we will share our top tips to help you create an effective digital marketing strategy that will form the building blocks for online success.
What is a Digital Marketing Campaign?
So, a digital marketing campaign is not a digital strategy. Here’s how to tell the difference between the two.
As we already said earlier, A digital marketing strategy is a set of tasks, that can help you achieve specific business goals, using online marketing channels. On the other hand, your digital marketing campaigns are the Lego blocks within your strategy that move you toward meeting that goal.
For example, you may decide to run a specific campaign around best selling products, a lead promotion or gated content on your website. The campaign is just part of the overall strategy to generate more leads.
Big brands employ digital marketing strategies that become viral household names. Here are a few examples of five highly effective digital marketing strategies, as first shown on a Hubspot article.
Digital strategy: Videos made by users (Earned Content)
GoPro is famous for its point-of-view style action footage, all taken from the company’s classic fisheye lens. The amazingly smart thing about GoPro is the video content you see on its YouTube channel wasn’t made by GoPro, but rather by its users.
Go Pro populated their YouTube channel with users video content. In doing so, they have grown a whole fanbase community of outdoorsy people to use their equipment, record their adventures, and post them online. They even send the credit back to Go Pro.
It’s an ongoing digital marketing campaign that has made perfect use of video to spread the word about the GoPro product line, and they didn’t have to produce a single piece of content!
Digital strategy: Twitter stories (Owned Strategy)
Airlines have done some great stuff recently, including the meme-
Delta Air Lines is a big user of social media, especially so on Twitter. They use Twitter to engage potential flyers in a number ways, but what they are best as is appealing to emotional sensibilities. One such campaign was in honour of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Delta shared personal stories from Delta employees via Twitter feed.
Digital strategy: Instagram tags (Owned Strategy)
Wayfair, we all know as a home furnishing online store, with the most gorgeous product range. They have a completely innovative and different strategy.
Most people use Instagram in a more informal way, including ourselves. It gives you a chance to go behind the scenes of an organisation and is much more personal. That’s not what Wayfair do though, they use it as a purchase strategy.
Wayfair shares home interior shots and use Instagram tags to tag the photos with products and price. Users can see how much each item in photo costs, meaning they can innovatively generate buyers right from their Instagram account.
Digital strategy: Travel blog (Owned Strategy)
For everything else, there’s Mastercard. Mastercard’s Priceless campaign is based around the stories and adventures that cardholders go on.
Priceless Cities is a travel blog by Mastercard. It gives readers a travel info site to go along with their credit cards that ultimately pay for the travel. Its great for marketing purposes as it brings in data not just on what customers buy, but where they buy it. Priceless!
Digital strategy: Lifestyle news (Owned Strategy)
Red Bull is becoming more about extreme sportsmanship than the energy drinks it is known for. So that’s what they focus on. What’s happening in the extreme sports arena. It is a very lifestyle-based approach, and what better way to gain a following than selling a lifestyle?
So that’s five great examples of marketing campaigns. But remember a campaign still isn’t a marketing strategy. Its just one cog in a wheel. The marketing strategy is to grow your customer base, or fill more seats on the airline right? Keeping this in mind is essential.
So now that we know the difference between digital marketing campaigns and an overarching digital strategy let us look at the building blogs of creating that strategy.
7 Steps to an effective Digital Marketing Strategy.
- Build your customer avatars (Buyer Personas)
- Identify your KPIs and the digital marketing tools you’ll need.
- Look at your existing digital channels and assets.
- Audit and plan your paid media campaigns.
- Review and plan your owned media campaigns.
- Audit and plan your earned media campaigns.
- Put it all together.
Build your customer avatars.
We don’t mean those blue people, but your customers. Who are they? For any marketing strategy, digital or traditional, the most important thing is who you are marketing to.
Its no surprise the Burma shave company became the biggest shave company in America, back when they posted billboard across old route 66, because they knew who would be driving the route. Creating detailed buyer personas is essential. Or avatars as we still like to call them.
An avatar is your ideal customer. There’s no way to do this other than research. Most business have a really good idea of who their typical buyers are, but only the large brands have it really hammered down, where they are regularly turning these into audiences for digital campaigns.
Use real data, and look at who interacts with your content and products already. Are they the people you want? If so why not. How old are they? What car do they drive? What keeps them awake at night?
But without the woo woo and inherent vaguery of the above, what are the real specifics of a buyer persona? Naturally, it will depend, whether you are B2B, B2C, the cost of your product and want versus need. But here are some starting points.
Demographic information (Quantitative Data)
- Location: You can easily find this information with web analytics tools such as Google Analytics. This will give you the specifics on where your customers are coming from.
- Age: Again, analytics can help you get a good idea of this information, based on browsing habits, purchasing habits, and trends in your own customer database.
- Income: Analytics can provide a good idea of income based on browsing and purchase habits again, as well as location, but you may also have a sense of this data. People often don’t like to share it online though.
- Job: Facebook is great for this, It’s more relevant in the B2B sector, to be honest. For example, we love to talk to marketing managers, and for more medium-sized SMEs, we want the business owner or decision maker.
Qualitative (or Psychographic) Information
- Goals: Does your product or service solve a specific problem? What is that problem? How do you solve it? Look at what your customer avatar is trying to achieve. Don’t be afraid to speak to your customers. This information isn’t always clear.
- Challenges. Speak to your customers. What are their specific problems? What is keeping them awake at night? How can you help them with this?
- Hobbies: Its good to be able to align with your target audience. If you sell campervan conversions, then its helpful to know that a large proportion of your audience like the outdoors, and likely within this country. This can help you forge partnerships with relevant industries and extend that all-important reach.
- Priorities. Find out what’s important to your existing customers. We are a digital agency. We know that in our industry, people are looking for one or all of three things. Quality, Time, and Price. (Fast, Cheap, Good). Chances are if they are looking for all three, we run a mile but its valuable information to know. Do your customers value your service, or your fast turnaround time, or is it your prices?
If you take this information, you can create a whole buyer persona. Give them a name if you have to. And then speak to them. They should be the centre of focus of your digital marketing strategy.
Identify your KPIs and the digital marketing tools you’ll need.
Any marketing goal should always go back to the fundamental marketing goal of your business. If you need to generate more online sales than last year, then your goal would be to drive more customers to the site.
If your goal is to increase profit, then your goal could extend to working with a digital account strategist to optimise your website for conversion, cut wasted spend and maximise profit.
Whatever your goal is, it’s crucial that you can measure it, and more important, actually be able to measure it. Do you have the tools set up correctly? How a campaign is measured will be different for each business and for each campaign. It needs to be done, however, because if you can’t measure, you can’t adjust your digital marketing strategy in the long term.
Look at your existing digital channels and assets.
Start with the big picture. We talk a lot about Owned, Earned and Paid. It’s been drummed into us by Google training and by Squared Online digital Marketing. Let’s imagine these like three vehicles you use to get from one place to another. It really helps me to think about them this way.
This is your car. You own it outright. You can drive it whenever you feel like it. So in digital marketing, this is the digital assets you possess as a brand or as a company. This would be your website, your social media pages. All the content of your site, even articles you may write for other blogs that directly owned by you.
This is the train. You have to get a ticket. No matter how many times you take the train, you always need a ticket. That said, it can get you there faster. In digital marketing terms, this would be paid advertising, like Google Ads, Facebook Ads, syndicated content like Outbrain, boosted social media posts or sponsoring your content onto other websites.
You pay directly for visibility. And if we are going to go back to the train, a first-class ticket can be a better ride, right?
Syndicated content like Outbrain, boosted social media posts or sponsoring your content onto other websites. You pay directly for visibility. And if we are going to go back to the train, a first-class ticket can be a better ride, right?
This is like when your mate owes you a favour and drives you to the pub.
Sit down, collate what you have, and categorise each piece of content into paid owned and earned media. A spreadsheet will do nicely.
When you create your digital marketing strategy, you may choose to use elements of all three vehicles. How does this work?
You may have a lead magnet on your website, and you may want to look at increasing and amplifying the number of leads that content generates. To do this, you may have made a concerted effort to both share and make that content shareable, so that other people are also choosing to distribute it via their own personal channels.
This is earned media. To help this along the way, you may have posted about it yourself on your own social media page, or included several calls to action about it on your website. You may have even physically sat at an expo, engaging directly with your target audience, signing people up to that content. You may be running paid campaigns to send people to it directly.
In this way, the three vessels can work together as a cohesive whole to help you achieve your marketing goal. You don’t have to use all three methods. If two of them work together and are successful, you may not need to employ the third. Mainly you have to evaluate each campaign on a case by case basis and incorporate whichever channels work best into your digital marketing strategy.
The next thing to do is really look carefully at what you are using. What’s working and what do you need to ditch?
Audit & plan your paid media campaigns.
Evaluate what paid channels you are using across each media platform. For example, Facebook marketing, Google Ads, Twitter ads. What is working and what is most likely to help you reach your current goals.
If you have lost money on Google ads, it could be time to evaluate the way it’s being done seriously, or in some instances move to a different platform. There is no one size fits all. Ads can be highly successful when done right though, so we would advise auditing your existing campaigns and seeing why there is no yield.
You aim to get a clear idea of which paid media channels you want to continue using and what percentage of spend to put to this. Do speak to an expert to help you with this.
Plan and Audit your owned media campaigns.
Your owned media is your baby. Don’t think of it as blogs or articles. Everything on your site is content. From your contact form to your delivery information. Anything you personally create as a business is owned. So is every social media post you write.
This content is what is ultimately driving visitors to your site and is designed to convert those visitors into paying customers. Optimising content for search engines can also help your organic rankings.
If you are in an industry where keywords are highly competitive, like the digital agency space, then well-optimised content can drive traffic to your site via long tail or secondary keywords. This content can also establish you as an authority in your niche, whatever that may be.
To create an effective digital marketing strategy, decide which content can help you reach those goals. For example, if that goal is to generate 25% new leads, then your ‘meet the team’ page is unlikely to cut it. Unless of course, your team are the thing you are selling.
You may have found in the past that a particular piece of gated content is the driving force in lead conversion. This might be the thing you want to promote. Which owned content do you choose to meet your goals then?
Firstly, look over your existing content. Score it according to what has done best in the past. Do make sure this is in line with your goals though. You may have a page that ranks well but doesn’t meet any goal in particular. An excellent way to classify your content is by seeing which led to the most conversions. Is that an ebook, a product? It’s mainly about seeing what’s working.
Are there gaps in your existing content? Do your customers face a specific problem? You may be a jewellery company, and your ideal customer may want to know more about how to choose the right kind of diamond. Do you have specific content written around this? Speak to your customers’ concern.
Look at what kind of content converts. Its often true that if you are after leads and you are using gated content, a cheat sheet is way more effective than an ebook, because for the user it helps them without much effort on their part.
Plan your content according to the gaps you have identified. As a digital marketing agency, we found we were missing a great deal of material on Google Ads and SEO despite this being the primary service for us. We had lots of content around web design, but not marketing.
Marketing agencies often put themselves last with content creation, but we also identified that we were talking to the wrong audience too. All our content was aimed at people like us. Owners of small business.
Where the revenue we earn was generated through much larger companies and brands. So we changed our overall tone because we weren’t making our own content work for us. Perhaps this is the case for you too?
When creating content consider why you are creating it. If its a blog post for example, what topic will it address or what problem will it solve? For example, Head of Marketing, Jay Jones hasn’t got the expertise to manage the behemoth that is Google Ads and is out of her depth.
We might choose to offer some handy tips she can do immediately to improve her existing campaigns and stop losing money. If this works, Jay still realises its a big job, and it could be more profitable when managed by a Google partner team.
This could take the form of a cheat sheet and could include key metrics, like industry benchmarks.
audit your earned media campaigns.
Where is your traffic and leads coming from? Look at all your earned media and score it from most to least useful. Google Analytics can help with this. It could be that you get a lot of referrals from LinkedIn, from content that other people have shared. Measure and keep measuring! And don’t be afraid to try something new.
Putting it all
- A buyer persona or personas (avatars)
- Clear, specific and measurable marketing goals.
- A list of paid, owned and earned media.
- An audit of each of the above, knowing what’s working and what isn’t.
- A content creation plan based on the missing pieces.
Then its time to put it all together to create a comprehensive strategy.
Again, to reiterate, A digital marketing strategy is a set of tasks, that can help you achieve specific business goals, using online marketing channels.
Take Massive Action
So you should have a list of actions, based on goals and how you plan to achieve them, based on the research you put in. Keep it simple, and use a spreadsheet or a Trello board. (We love to use Trello). Try and stick to the owned, earned and paid approach, and work out which works best for you.
Write your strategy down and stick to it. If its owned content, you’re in it for the long haul, so don’t give up. Even a good paid strategy can take a good few months to bed in. Don’t expect everything to fall into place overnight. Set clear goals and stick to them.
When putting our own digital marketing strategy in place, we decided we needed to hit a certain amount of monthly revenue, and word of mouth alone couldn’t guarantee it. So this is what we did.
A basic content plan:
- From January we would put out eight pieces of content a month.
- In February we would start and continue optimising that content to rank for specific keywords.
- For March, we booked in an expo with a footfall of 6000 people where we are giving a talk on digital marketing strategy.
- In April we would focus on the lead funnel from the expo
- By May, we will start to use paid traffic on our best ranking organic pages, on the long tail keywords, as those would provide cheaper inroads to traffic due to a high-quality score.
You get the picture right? By doing it this way, you are starting to build up a timeline, which can be shared across your organisation. Create your strategy like a series of habits you stack on top of each other, and keep it in an organised place.
How to achieve Digital Marketing Strategy Success.
Your digital marketing strategy template should be unique to your business, so we don’t create any one size fits all plan that everyone can use. Your strategy plan will provide a clear roadmap to the actions you need to take when trying to reach your long term goals. As long as the plan makes that clear, then you are well on your way to creating a solid digital strategy.
If you need help mapping out your goals, arrange a free consultation today with a senior member of our team. We specialise in creating clear digital roadmaps and well crafted digital marketing strategy.