All great digital marketing campaigns start with a built-out strategy. Whether your goal is brand recognition or conversions, it’s essential to have your research and tactics in place before interacting with your audience. Follow these nine steps to develop a strategy and reach your marketing goals.
Digital marketing has evolved rapidly. From social media and email to consumer insights and analytics, digital marketing provides more opportunities than ever.
How can you take advantage of all digital marketing has to offer? Every digital marketing initiative starts with a powerful digital marketing strategy behind it. However, 49% of organizations don’t have a clearly defined digital marketing strategy. Without a defined strategy in place, your plan loses purpose and team members will have difficulty understanding how their tasks tie to the larger objective.
Don’t be a part of the 49% that is unequipped. Whether it’s your first or 100th time developing a digital marketing strategy, our tips will help you build a strong foundation for your marketing team.
A digital marketing strategy is your plan of action to achieve a business goal through online marketing channels. It focuses on explaining the what and the why behind what you're trying to accomplish. When determining your digital marketing strategy, you want to ask yourself the following questions:
What are our goals?
What are our objectives?
Who is our target audience?
What are our Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)?
What is my time frame?
Not only is your digital marketing strategy the framework that informs your plan, but it also helps you determine which digital platforms, media, data, and tech will be required. If you're thinking about executing a digital marketing campaign or larger initiative, having a strategy in place is critical to success.Free marketing strategy template
Before diving straight into how to build a digital marketing strategy, let’s walk through the digital marketing mix. You can’t build your strategy without first understanding the key components that contribute to it.
Have you ever heard of the digital marketing trifecta? It highlights different areas that contribute to your digital marketing efforts. The trifecta is broken down into three categories: earned, owned, and paid media.
Earned media includes article mentions, social media shares, reposts, and reviews.
Owned media includes your brand’s websites, mobile sites, blog sites, and social media channels.
Paid media includes pay-per-click (PPC) ads, display ads, retargeting ads, paid influencers, paid content promotion, and social media ads.
Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with the digital marketing trifecta, it’s time to dive deeper into the digital marketing mix. The digital marketing mix includes the following tactics:
SEO and SEM:Search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) determine where your website and web properties rank in a search engine. SEO brings in traffic organically whereas SEM brings in traffic via ads and online marketing. If you’re looking for a toolkit to help with SEO research and reporting, check out SEMrush.
Content marketing:Content marketing encompasses all the online content you produce. This includes everything from the videos you host online to the blog posts and e-books you write and design. Companies of all sizes and types are constantly delivering new content across digital channels.
Social media marketing: More than 1 million new people are joining social media platforms every single day. Social media includes any type of social network (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Snapchat to name a few) that acts as an online community to share information.
Influencer marketing: Influencer marketing is one of the newest digital marketing tactics that uses endorsements and product mentions from influencers—individuals with a dedicated social media following who are viewed as experts in their field—to boost brand awareness and conversions.
Email marketing:Email marketing is the modern alternative to the traditional snail mail approach. Marketing by email is a quick and low-cost method to reach your prospects and customers.
Online advertising:Online ads can get expensive, but they’re effective for driving traffic to your website and web properties. With online ads, you can choose what to display and on which channels.
Website marketing: Your company website is your home base on the internet. It deserves to get as much attention as possible and needs to have a unique web design to stand out from the crowd. Your landing pages are one of the first places potential customers visit when they want to learn more about your company and product.
Analytics:Analytics can be gathered from various digital channels to provide valuable data and insight. These learnings can help you improve both your current and future digital marketing strategies.
Mobile experience: We can’t forget about the mobile experience, especially when up to 70% of internet traffic comes from mobile devices. Any time you’re thinking about doing anything related to digital marketing, consider how it will look and feel on mobile. You want your mobile experience to be as flawless as your desktop experience.
With the digital marketing mix in your back pocket, let’s get started on building your digital marketing strategy.
Research as much as possible before taking any action. By performing research and analysis, you can better prepare and formulate your digital marketing strategy. Research includes looking at your company, industry, and even competitors.
One of the most effective tools marketers use during this phase is a strength, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis. Conducting a SWOT analysis before diving into your marketing strategy will help you gain full awareness of where your business is at competitively. From there, you can find ways to improve or eliminate your weaknesses and capitalize on your strengths in your marketing strategy. Use SWOT to determine your:
Strengths: Internal initiatives that are performing well
Weaknesses: Internal initiatives that are underperforming
Opportunities:External initiatives that could put you in a stronger competitive position
Threats: External initiatives that can weaken your current position
There are numerous benefits to looking at your competitors specifically. By seeing what your competitors are doing, you can find creative ways to differentiate your brand and dominate your competition. When it comes to your competitors, the more research the better. If you’re curious about what your competitors are up to, check out Moat, a tool that gives you a peek at what your competitors’ ads look like.
The most important step to building any digital marketing strategy is identifying your goals, audience, and positioning (GAP). What are your goals for building this digital marketing strategy? And how do your marketing goals tie back to the larger company objectives? You need to have a clear understanding of how your digital marketing strategy contributes to the bigger picture.
Once you write out your goals, you want to determine who your audience is and what your positioning — how you’re going to persuade your audience to complete an action — is going to be. Below is an example of how to draft a high-level GAP:
Goal: Increase marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) by 20%
Audience: Sales managers and above in the tech industry located in North America
Positioning: Use a competitive positioning strategy to highlight our key differentiators and reposition the competition in the minds of our target audience
Buyer personas—also called customer personas—are fictional customers that represent your target audience. A persona profiles who the customer is, what they like and dislike, and their general motivations or frustrations. This can include:
Demographics: Factors such as age, education, and gender
Firmographics: Organizational characteristics such as revenue, industry, location, and the number of employees (typically only used in B2B marketing)
Psychographics: Factors such as personality, lifestyle, opinions, and goals
Behavioral: Metrics that help identify how a customer interacts with your brand, such as customer loyalty, seasonal buying patterns, or how they use your product or service
Geographics: Where your customers are located, including international, national, or regional customers
By looking at buyer personas, you’ll have the information you need to create messaging that resonates with your customers.
It’s likely you’ll need to create multiple buyer personas—one for each type of person who buys your goods or services. Audience segmentation will help you better target specific sections of your audience.Read: How to find and engage your target audience
Have you ever put yourself in your customers’ shoes? Document their full experience by creating a customer journey map. A customer journey map outlines every step a new customer goes through when they interact with your company or brand.
By creating a customer journey map, you’ll be able to visualize the steps it takes to go from point A to point B. You’ll want to make sure the customer experience is seamless and easy to walk through. When mapping everything out, you may find opportunities to improve the experience.
To get started, ask yourself, “Which channels and content are along the path?” This question helps you determine which channels you want to invest in and which ones take priority.
Below is an example of a customer journey. Let’s say you’re a customer of Apollo Enterprises:
You see an Apollo Enterprises online ad
You follow Apollo Enterprises on LinkedIn
You visit the Apollo Enterprises website
You submit your email address to download an Apollo Enterprises e-book
You read the Apollo Enterprises e-book and find the content engaging
You get an Apollo Enterprises promotional email with an opportunity to sign up for an Apollo Enterprises product demo
You sign up for the Apollo Enterprises product demo
You walk through the Apollo Enterprises product demo and love the offering
You purchase the Apollo Enterprises product
You’re so excited about your new purchase and leave a positive review online
We just walked through a customer journey from beginning to end. We’re able to see the exact path a customer would take, from the first step of seeing a company name to the final step of purchasing a product. Building a customer journey map will help you envision how your digital marketing strategy can come to life.
We walked through the digital marketing mix together, and now it’s time to pick and choose what pieces make sense to include in your plan. It’s important to establish which digital marketing channels will be involved in your strategy beforehand. After determining which channels of the digital mix will help you accomplish your goals, you’ll want to ask yourself two questions: What will each piece encompass and what will the frequency of each piece be?
For example, do you want to focus primarily on email marketing and online ads, or do you want to include every piece of the digital marketing mix? If you want to include every piece, then you need to map out where each piece fits in your timeline and how everything integrates with one another.Free marketing strategy template
How much money will you need to execute your digital marketing strategy? Will you need any outsourcing, such as agencies or vendors? Detail your investment early on so you can quickly determine which vendors you’ll need to work with and get the gears moving on paperwork and creative briefs. It’s important to understand what will be made in house and what will be outsourced so you can allocate resources appropriately.
Make sure you solidify your budget by getting price quotes. These major details can ensure you’re on target and that you can accomplish your goals with the current budget in hand. Once you’re confident you and your team can accomplish every activity within the current budget, you can move toward building an implementation plan.
Start crunching numbers and determine what your total spend and return on investment (ROI) will be. You want to take a close look at how your investment matches up against your reward to ensure your digital strategy is worth pursuing.
After breaking down the numbers, begin setting your KPI targets. Ask yourself, “What KPI targets am I trying to hit for each activity? What are we going to test and when in the year?” Popular digital marketing metrics and KPIs to follow include:
Web traffic sources
Cost per lead
These KPI targets will guide how you measure and track the success of your digital marketing strategy.
You can never be too prepared when it comes to executing your digital marketing strategy. Make sure every activity stays on track and each team member takes accountability for their work. Always monitor your marketing initiatives before, during, and after their life cycles to ensure everything is moving as planned.
You might be taking advantage of digital tools such as email and cloud sharing already, but what about work management tools? The right work management software can give your digital marketing strategy a competitive edge. Mapping everything out with existing tools, like spreadsheets or docs, can be a pain; they don’t stay up to date and can be easily forgotten. With a work management tool, you can plan and view your entire digital marketing strategy in various ways, whether as a timeline, calendar, or Kanban board. Housing your entire digital marketing strategy and plan on one platform will make work and collaboration much easier for you and your team.
Remember to update your project status as you go and adjust due dates if needed. Always refine your strategies and shift priorities based on changing needs. By monitoring and tracking work on a regular basis, you can address any bottlenecks immediately to move faster.
One of the best perks of digital marketing is having access to all the data that comes with it. You can get real-time insights on how your initiatives are performing and adjust as you go. You don’t have to walk in the dark every time you push out a new campaign, launch, or project. With analytical data at your fingertips, you can optimize as you go to improve results.
Remember when we set KPI targets in step 7? Now is the time to report on those KPIs and compare your results side by side with your initial targets. This can help you see if your results are hitting the mark.
If you missed the targets, ask yourself, “What didn’t work?” If you shot above and beyond the mark, determine what contributed to the spike in performance. Take your key learnings and apply them in the future. Sarah Charlton, Head of Performance Marketing at Asana, offers a pro tip:
“Package your insights for stakeholders to help demystify what can otherwise seem like a complex 'black box' process. Share what worked, what didn’t, and what you need to further test to learn more. Knowing what didn’t work is just as useful as what did to help you improve your next digital marketing strategy, and it helps create trust and transparency with your stakeholders.”
With our step-by-step guide, you’re on your way to building an effective digital marketing strategy. Once you’re ready to start your implementation phase, use one of our free digital marketing plan templates.
You can easily customize each template according to your exact needs and wants. Whether you’re planning a digital marketing campaign or building out an editorial calendar, we have the right template for you.Free marketing strategy template