As a business operating in the 21st century, it’s almost impossible to not have heard of digital marketing before. It seems like all anyone is talking about nowadays is how to increase your social media followers, land on Google page one or send the perfect email newsletter. And that’s all well and good, but what many companies fail to do is set up a good digital marketing strategy first.
Doing digital marketing without a strategy is like being on a boat without a sense of direction. No matter how hard you try, it’s unlikely you’ll ever get far. So here’s everything you need to know about creating a digital marketing strategy from start to finish. You can use the below table of contents to skip between sections if you like.
As a company, your brand goes far beyond the products or services that you sell. These days, the modern consumer is constantly bombarded with advertising and gets distracted easily. To be remembered as a brand, you need to stand out from the crowd and make a lasting impression on your customers.
Think of your brand values as the personality traits that piece together your company’s character. Do you place a big emphasis on honesty and communication? Are you determined to offer a friendly customer service? Are you committed to providing ethical working conditions for all of your employees? Brand values should clearly outline who you are and what you stand for as a business.
Closely related to brand equity, which is the value premium a company generates from being recognised, brand values lay the foundations for your mission statement. Your mission statement should outline why your company exists, what your overall goal is, and how you operate.
One company that’s nailed their brand values and mission statement is WeWork. On a mission to ‘create a world where people work to make a life, not just a living’, the American co-working start-up lists ‘inspired, entrepreneurial, authentic, tenacious, grateful and a sense of togetherness’ as their brand values.
A competitor analysis is probably one of the most important parts of your digital marketing strategy. Why? Because chances are there are already other companies offering a very similar product or service to you. Doing a thorough analysis of your competitors will, however, allow you to establish what makes you unique and stand out from the crowd. This is what we call your unique selling points, or USPs. You can then highlight these attributes when you market yourself online.
Start off by listing your five main competitors in a spreadsheet, and then answer the following questions:
What digital marketing channels are they selling through?
What are their strengths and weaknesses with each channel?
What potential threats do they pose for you?
What potential opportunities do they make available to you?
How much money do they spend on digital advertising such as social media ads?
What content (if any) do they create, and how is it received by their target market?
While the above questions are important to ask when building your digital marketing strategy, you may want to add any others relevant to your specific company. Once you have reviewed all competitors, you will surely find many areas they could improve on, or ways of reaching their customer audience that they are falling short on. With this knowledge in hand, you can now devise your strategy in such a way as to fill in all those gaps your competitors left open!
Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories that you tell.”
Seth Godin, Bestselling Author and Marketing Expert
Your unique selling points (USPs)
Briefly touched on earlier, your USPs are what makes your business stand out from the crowd. It tells your customers what is special about you, and will help them understand how you differ from your competitors. Our advice is to attach your USP to the 4 Ps of Marketing: product, place, price and promotion. To find your USP, you need to understand your competitive advantage (from your competitor analysis in our previous point), the needs and wants of your target audience, as well as current industry trends.
Your target audience
Targeting the right audience online is extremely crucial to the success of your business. You can be doing all your digital marketing right - from SEO and PPC to social media, email marketing and content creation - but if you’re not reaching the right people, you’ll just be wasting both your time and money.
The best way to understand your target audience is by creating buyer personas. According to HubSpot’s definition, a buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal buyer based on data, interviews and educated guesses. It outlines the lifestyle, habits, interests, needs and behaviours of your audience.
Creating a persona is easy, it’s the data collection part that takes some time. The first step you need to take is to define the questions you want answered about your audience. Do they get their product information on Google search? What device do they use to access their social media accounts? Would they ever buy anything off of an Instagram ad? The questions are endless, just make sure they are relevant and tailored to your specific business.
Once you have completed step one, there are three ways you can find this information:
Look at historical data: this is particularly useful if you have already been sending some traffic to your website. Look at your Google Analytics account to determine key demographic traits, most popular content and engagement with that content.
Interview customers: for each persona, try to interview a minimum of 15 people. Ask them the questions you came up with in step one, and then look for common themes to pinpoint behavioural traits.
Make educated guesses: for any unanswered questions, pull the team together and try to make educated guesses.
Remember that personas change over time and need to be reviewed and updated periodically, so there is no harm in testing whether your guesses are accurate or not.
Your digital marketing channels
The next step in your digital marketing strategy is to determine which digital marketing channels you will use, and how you can utilise them to best reach your audience. Which channels you should use is largely based on three things:
The digital channels your audience uses (based on your investigation in step 3)
Your goals as a business (we will dig deeper into this in chapter 5)
Whether you are a B2B or B2C company
Let’s take a step back and review the different types of digital marketing channels that we have at our disposal:
Search engine marketing (SEM) SEM is a type of marketing that involves promoting your website by increasing its visibility in search engine results pages (SERPS) such as Google. This can be broken down into two parts:
Search engine optimisation (SEO) SEO ensures your website is as optimised as possible to achieve high rankings in SERPs organically, or, in other words, for free. This includes activities such as keyword research, optimising your on-page content and link building.
Pay-per-click (PPC) PPC is Google’s paid advertising model that lets you pay to show up as one of the first few listings on a SERP. The effectiveness of PPC ads relies on how well you choose your keywords for targeting potential customers.
Social media marketing (SMM) Social media marketing consists of producing and sharing content on social networking websites (such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter) to help you increase brand exposure and reach more customers. Depending on the type of business you have, certain social media channels will be more important than others (for example, a B2B company will want to focus on LinkedIn instead of Instagram). Social media marketing compromises both organic and paid social posts:
Organic We refer to organic social media as any post you publish on your social media account that isn’t paid for. This is important to build a social community, engage with online users and respond to customer service requests.
Paid Paid social media posts are display adverts you put money behind. Depending on the social network you use, you can target your audience based on different traits such as demographic information, interests, behaviours and job roles. You can choose to either boost an existing post or set up a social media campaign from scratch. We always recommend the latter as it allows for much more specific targeting.
Email marketing Email marketing is an excellent channel to reach out to prospects and customers in a more ‘personal’ way. It tends to generate a higher ROI than other digital marketing channels and should be a top priority in any digital marketing strategy. Just be aware that you are adhering to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) when contacting people via email.
Digital display advertising (DDA) DDA is a great way to reach people with display ads on blogs, forums and websites on Google’s Display Network. Ads can be in the form of banners, videos or interactive ads and will send people to a landing page or website. While click through rate is usually not as high as with other channels, using display ads is an excellent way to raise brand awareness for your business.
Content marketing The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience - and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action. Long story short, content marketing is a way to raise brand awareness, nurture leads and generate sales by creating different kinds of content. This can include blog articles, downloadable e-books and videos, to name a few. The type of content you create depends on the stage of the buyer’s journey your audience is at.
Affiliate marketing Affiliate marketing is the process of earning a commission by promoting a company’s products or services on an external website. For businesses, it’s a great way to reach a specific audience by targeting them on relevant websites they visit, such as blogs.
Now that you have an understanding of the different digital marketing channels available to promote your business, you’ll need your strategy to outline the following for each channel:
Activities: the specific marketing activities you will undertake for each. As an example, for SEO this would include activities related to technical SEO, on-site optimisation and link building, to name a few.
Frequency and time frame: how often you will conduct the above listed activities, and how long you predict it to take until you see certain results.
Budget: how much budget you can allocate to each channel. This should include the cost of any online promotion (such as PPC or social ads) but also employee costs.
Tone of voice (if relevant): how your brand will convey its message online. Do you want to come across as friendly? Professional? Funny? Or perhaps a mix of all three? It’s best practice to create a style guide document to outline your tone of voice for each channel beforehand.
Set your goals
Which digital marketing channels you ultimately end up choosing depends on your business goals, and what you want to achieve online. Do you want to raise brand awareness, generate leads or convert sales? While the digital marketing channels mix is different for each company, we have listed a couple relevant channels and metrics for the three main goals below:
Social media marketing (both organic and paid but placing a particular focus on social media engagement)
Content marketing (blogging in particular)
SEO and PPC
Website traffic: traffic increase, referring sources, exit pages, bounce rate and time duration
Content downloads: views vs. downloads
Social engagement: shares, likes and comments, follower increase
Email marketing (to nurture your leads through periodical newsletters)
Social engagement: video views and engagement rates
Visibility on SERP
Conversions (e.g. sales)
SEO and PPC
Revenue generation: first-touch vs multi-touch
Customer service response rates (to deal with any pre and post sale questions)
Customer retention: how many will continue to buy from you?
Roles and responsibilities
Now that you have set out your main activities in your digital marketing strategy, it is important to note who is involved in carrying out the operational work. Maintaining successful digital marketing campaigns is not easy, and requires a lot of work, time and skill. Whether you choose to do your digital marketing in house or prefer to work with an agency, always ensure you have the following skill-sets in your team:
Development skills: to build websites, add tracking code for your Google Analytics or help out with technical SEO
Design skills: excellent design is needed to make content stand out
Writing skills: to create any written copy for content marketing, email newsletters or social media posts
Search skills: to set up search marketing campaigns
Social skills: to engage with social media followers
Creating predictable, sustainable growth for SMEs with digital marketing.