A Digital Marketing Strategy is a top down process that produces a practical and achievable action plan, with measurable performance indicators, that support the business objectives.
Define the goals
By defining the revenue, profit or quality expectations of the strategy there are clear measurable success criteria.
Define the audience
Understand the demographics, interests and the problem you are solving for your audience and digitally engage them.
Define the channels
How much content delivery through natural positioning, pay-per-click, social media or outreach?
Make the business case
How will digital marketing impact the business? What will the infamous rate of investment be on the campaigns?
Analyse the now
Where are weakest points and therefore the quick wins? What is the gap between where we are and where we need to be?
Design for results
Which campaigns we need to run to reach the audience in order to achieve the goals we have defined?
Define the Goals
It may seem obvious but knowing exactly what you want from your digital marketing efforts is key to achieving success. It is too often that we are given the brief of simply making improvements to a web to “get more visitors”. This vagueness can only lead to disaster as no-one is ever satisfied.
Quit counting fans, followers and blog subscribers like bottle caps. Think instead about what you are hoping to achieve with and through the community that actually cares about what you are doing.
Amber Naslund, SVP Marketing Sysomos
The goals for a digital marketing strategy should measured in terms of:
- Unique visits, Visits by channel, Conversion rates, Subscribers, Cart Abandonment Rate, Branded Keyword Visits, etc.
- Pageviews, Return visits, Visitor Loyalty, Time on Page, Product or Service Page Conversion Rate, Landing Page Bounce Rate, Follower Growth Rate
- Revenue per hour/day/week/month, Revenue per channel, Cost of conversion, Campaign return on investment
The digital marketing goals need to co-incide with the overall business strategy and objectives. It is no good attracting another 100,000 visitors to an e-commerce site where the only way of selling to them is by lowering the margins and creating conflict with other business channels. Everything needs to be aligned.
The process differs from campaign to campaign but we start with looking at what is acheivable. We look at old campaigns and what their resutls and check what is realistic going forward. We can often benchmark against the competition in many terms: estimated traffic, estimated online advertising, blog entries, estimated online revenue, etc. the list goes on.
A digital marketing strategy needs to be durable. The digital ecosystem is characterized by rapid change. The process of arriving at the strategy and the goals must however remain constant. It is possible to adapt within the strategy changing the tactics or the channel percentage but the underlying strategy remains until the is a significant paradigm shift.
The digital marketing strategy aligns your business strategy with your online presence. It needs to be a measurable and tangible set of tactics across all channels that endures the changing digital environment.
Define the Audience
By understanding your audience you will be in a better position to give them what they are looking for. Clearly their needs have to coincide with your porduct or service’s benefits to be able to have a mutually valuable relationship. It is quite likely that you will have different types of people looking at your site and for each of tehm you need to ahve teh correct information available to be able to influence them to make the call to action – what ever that might be.
Customer focused organisation develop different profiles for their products. Instinctively B2C organizations are more aware of their customers types than B2B organizations, hwoever they are equally important. Oftentimes there people that are going to interact with your web that are crucial to the buying process that might not be the final decision makers but you need to make sure that their needs are met with teh details they require as well as the helicopter view that a decision maker may need to sign off.
Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves.
The development of so-called “personas” is a method that will allow you to be able to focus the content you deliver in a way that is best suited for those groups that you see as giving you the best chance of meeting your goals. For best results you need to personalize them, give them names, understand their lives, their behaviours, their relationships, what their goals and aspirations are and above all how your product or service satisfies their needs. The ideal sitaution is that you can talk about them in the same way you would talk about your friends, neighbours or colleagues – you developed and understnading of them to know how they would react to certain situations or, more to the point the content you put in front of them.
The use of personas has been around since the 1990’s but our challenge is to develop Digital Marketing Personas. We need to add a layer of complexity that is all about channels. Don Draper had print and TV. We have to face a totally different world: 24/7, mobile, web, video, social media, email, paid and unpaid advertising, global reach, merging of TV with web, sales contact, customer service contact, play such as Pokémon Go etc.
Where do we get the information?
- Customer surveys
- Sales staff
- Customer service staff
- Web form input
- Google Analytics
- Facebook Insights
- Twitter Analytics
- YouTube Analytics
- LinkedIn Groups
Knowing the audience allows us to position our campaigns in line with our goals to be able reach the people we want as customers.
Define the Channel
There are many ways of slicing and dicing channels into the way you want to treat them. Basically they can be treated on a cost basis such as:
- Content – notionally zero cost as it is part of the web (although someone has to be paid to produce it)
- Paid Content – articles or advertorials on other sites
- Pay per Click – classic Google Ads
- Social Media Adverts or placement
- Traditional Social Media – often thought of as free
- Mobile marketing such as WhatsApp “word of mouth”
- Influencer Marketing
Our premise is that there is no such thing as free content, just like there aren’t any free lunches. If content is going to be good, you better believe that it is going to cost you money to produce, be it outsourced or in house.
“An omnichannel approach puts the customer, not corporate silos, at the center of its strategy. It acknowledges that mobile and social have enabled customers to not only quickly switch between channels, but actually use channels simultaneously. For example, checking out product reviews on their mobile phone while evaluating a product on a physical retail store shelf.”
Stacy Schwartz, Rutgers Business School
What ever the case it is important to identify the channels that are best suited to your company. Some channels will bring in more intereaction and sales than others and it is important to understand the profitability of each channel. A female focussed visual consumer product may well bring in sales from Pinterest whereas a heavy lift bulldozer company maybe better matched with LinkedIn. While these examples may be obvious, there is a huge specturm of goods and services that will require careful analysis to understand the best combination of channels to achieve the overall goals of the strategy.
However by forming organizational groups around channels there is a danger that the channel rather than the customer becomes the focus. Inter-channel competition can be detrimental to the customer with mixed messages and inconsistant incentives to purchase. Omnichannel strategy is based around the customer and acknowledges the reality of the digital world – we interact in many ways at different times of the day, week or year with information that we are served from different sources.
Furthermore there are clearly cases where a channel has generally more interaction than others because of what we call persistency – how long and how often the information is in front of the consumer. Another element to take into account is the popularity of the channel. Just like TV series some Social Media sites will enjoy a honeymoon period. After 27 series of of popular cooking competitions the attention can wane. The same with Social Media – during 2016 the interaction with Pinterest for example has declined dramatically, as it is probably over the first flush of digital marriage.
Trackmaven have published a report outlining the effectiveness of some different social media channels. The difference in the interaction across all sectors is revealing.
There are major differences with Facebook being 3 times more than Twitter. However if the product is visual we may need to include Pinterest but bear in mind that the number has reduced from 2 to 1 interaction per post per 1,000 followers during the year.
Not even on the scale is Instagram with a massive 38 interactions per 1000 followers.
Nonetheless it is important to understand that differences will occur with specific products types and sectors. The history of each case needs to be explored.
Interactions per post per 1,000 followers (2016)
Make the Business Case
Ensuring complete buy in for a project or a campaign must include the financial reasoning behind it. One the key components is to marry the goal of the project to real financial benefit. The so called Rate of Investment is a term that is used with such abandon that people take to for granted that it can be easily calculated. The arithmetic is the easy part – the difficulty lies in measuring the key performance indicators with enough rigour to allow a calculation of true revenue.
In an e-commerce environment the sales are easy to measure. If the project started in month 1 then all sales beyond that point must be due to the new campaign. Not true! We need to look at the incremental sales from this month onward and possibly even adjust them for seasonal changes to take into account Christmas or Back to School events depending on the product or service. Analysis of previous years sales can be crucial.
However a simple sale may not be the only revenue that a campaign can justify. Having attracted a visitor to a website that visitor has three further possible positive impacts on revenue:
- They may return and purchase again – so we need know the rate a which customers repeat purchases. This leads to the concept of a client lifetime value
- They may buy another product – so we need to know the cross sales rate
- They may influence a friend to purchase – so we need to know the rate at which referrals lead to sales
While the e-commerce scenario may be easy to measure but with the B2B business model the revenue streams may not be so obvious. However the campaign ROI also needs to take into account the above factors as the concepts are still valid although the sales cycle may be longer.
What is crucial is that there is a clear basis for calculating not only the success of the campaign but also the real impact to the bottom line.
Analyse the Now
We need to find what the state of the digital marketing efforts are currently. The analysis needs to look at the past efforts and campaigns that have been made and clearly show what their benefits were and what the lessons leaned were form each. Summarising all the previous work will shows us if there are trends in terms of success and failure. What were the Critical Success Factors (CSFs)? How would these CSFs be applied to new campaigns?
The lack of success of previous initiatives can often be put down to a lack of understanding of the full impact of what was going on. A very common early initiative for marketing departments is the use of Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. Very easily this can be shown to have driven traffic to the website. The numbers don’t lie. However the hoped for translation in sales never happened. Why? As an example the Analysis needs to look at:
- Where the visitors came from?
- Were they in the right demographic?
- What were the keywords they using?
- Was the landing page optimised for them to contact us?
In the Analysis phase we also make sure that we identify early wins or low hanging fruits, prizes that can be easily harvested to boost the confidence and revenue early on. Often implementing very simple changes in the website for SEO or Call to Actions can have a significant impact early on.
Clearly no analysis of what is needed can miss out the competition. We need to measure and benchmark how we rank in terms of success in the Digital arena. There are a number of tools that can help do this looking at such elements as SEO ranking and visitor numbers, Social Media channel presence and success, PPC spends and keywords, website usability etc.
The other aspect of the analysis is of the current resources available to organisation in order to achieve the required goals. This can obviously be financial budget related resources but also the people involved in the implementation of the campaign. There needs to be a core team that can manage the multiple and outsourced activities that may be part of the campaign. This requires understanding, experience and knowledge. This team needs further to be supported with administrative backup. All in all a team of dedicated people which has a major cost implication. The use of Digital Marketing Agency is often more efficient in terms of costs and can accelerate the flow of benefits.
Design for Results
This is the key part of the campaign. Once we have a picture of where we are, we can begin to build a Gap Analysis of what it is we need to be able to achieve the goals. This need to be prioritised into the immediacy and the impact. This can be done channel by channel in order to be able to easily see where the benefits will come from.
Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.
What are the elements that we are going to use in order to attract the right clients to the website and once there to make purchases of our goods or services? There are an amazing number of activities that can be undertaken but they need to coordinated.
Key decisions to be made are:
- What are the dependencies that they rely on? – for example do we need to build the landing page before the PPC campaign
- What benefits accrue to them? – are they low hanging fruit?
- What effect do they have on other elements of the project?
- Will they be managed in house or outsourced?
- How long do they take to design, create and implement?
Once the design of the full campaign is made we can implement and run. Critical to success of course is measuring the campaign based on the results. Any campaign needs to be adaptable based upon the results – if we see massive success in one area we need to look at the resources to ensure that the marginal revenue is maximised.