How to Plan Your Digital Marketing Strategy

How to Plan Your Digital Marketing Strategy

It’s that time of year again. Time to plan the next year’s digital marketing strategy. This is something we do starting in late October and usually complete around mid December. It can be grueling and time consuming for everyone involved. But as long as you have access to data, communicate clearly and have buy-in from senior executives the outcomes can be amazing.  

Below I’ve provided our planning process that we’ve developed over the years. A lot of this stuff I’ve borrowed from other great minds and I’ll try to provide credit wherever I can. I hope you find this useful.

When building out a plan, there are a couple of places you can start. You can either begin with the goals or you can go right into the assessment. When we sit down to plan marketing campaigns for some clients, some are dead-set on what they want to accomplish whereas others, not so much. They need to assess where they are, and would then like to realistically forecast on where they want to go. Where you start is completely up to you. For the sake of simplicity, we’re going to assume you have general goals in mind, but the best place to start is with your vision.

Marketing Vision Statement

The purpose of a marketing vision statement is to create a story of what it’s like the day after you’ve achieve everything your marketing strategy set out to do.

Imagine it’s exactly a year from the start of your strategy + 1 day. What’s it like? What did you accomplish? What does it look like?

Will there be a new website launched driving 20,000 new visitors per month?

Will your company control 20% market share with 99% customer satisfaction?

Will you have national press coverage and be on the cover of Time Magazine?

When will it be? Will it be years from now or a few weeks away?

Will you have spent a few hours on it or a few million dollars on it?

The more you can describe this “Day-after-the-achievement”, the more you’ll be able build a plan for getting there.

Goals

Marketing’s function is to increase sales opportunities. It’s up to the sales department to close on these opportunities. In some cases when it’s an ecommerce website, the website is the sales department. But in any case, there’s a sales funnel. This sales funnel is broken up into different stages depending on the customer. Yet, there are 4 stages in every sales funnel that do not change. These are the goals you should set for your marketing.

Sales Goal/Revenue Goal – The number of sales you want for the entire year. These can be separated into new sales, repeat customers or however you like. But set a number. How they’re broken up will be determined by the next stages in your sales funnel. This can be sales revenue or simply the number of sales that have to occur such as X number of units. It’s entirely up to you.

Convert Sales Opportunities – What is your current close rate when you’ve qualified a lead as a sales opportunity? These are potential clients that have moved through your sales process to the point where you’re nearly certain they’ll close. The easiest way to find this is by dividing your qualified sales leads by number of sales.

Generate Qualified Sales Leads –  How many qualified sales leads will it take to achieve your sales goal? You can find this number by simply dividing your revenue by the average sales price.

Increase Reach: Build Brand – This is your top of the funnel. The best way to look at “Build Brand” is your awareness. For instance, attracting website visitors, this is a brand building goal. In the simplest terms, how many people would need to go to your website before contacting you? You can also use your website’s conversion rate to determine this.

Now that you have your marketing goals, let’s jump into assessing your company’s ability to market.

Marketing Assessment

The assessment if done properly will save you loads of time down the road. When reviewing a company, you want to know as much as you can about what they have, where they’ve been and where they want to go.

What to Assess

  1. Marketing Team
  2. Brand Foundation
  3. Current Marketing Efforts
  4. Website & Domain
  5. Budgets
  6. Assets & Influencers

Marketing Team

Having the right marketing team is easier said than done. You not only want top talent, you want people that understand what you’re trying to accomplish and that work well together.

Disciplines Needed for a Digital Marketing Team:

  • Coding
  • Copywriting
  • Data Analysis
  • Email Marketing
  • Event Planning
  • Graphic Design
  • Lead Management
  • Mobile Strategy
  • Paid Media Management
  • Public Relations
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Social Media
  • Strategic Planning
  • Video Production
  • Website Management

Based on the list provided, look at your marketing team. Do you have an expert in each discipline? If not, this is a weakness and will cause issues down the road. Filling the gaps can be provided by hiring new employees, outsourcing to freelancers or hiring an agency.

Brand Foundation

Your brand foundation is a toolbox or communication system for your brand. When you have a clear understanding of who you are and what you do, it makes marketing a company a whole lote more effective. You won’t have to explain purpose, mission and vision to everyone that’s involved. You’ll have a clear communication plan, a foundation, of who you are as a brand and what your customers value. This helps align the marketing, operations and sales teams to communicate the same message in a consistent fashion.

Brand Foundation Checklist:

  • Brand Vision Statement
  • Purpose (Why Statement)
  • Mission Statement
  • Unique Value Proposition (UVP)
  • Core Values
  • Logo
  • Brand Identity System
  • Style Guide

If any of these items are missing, I highly suggest filling the gaps. These may seem trivial, but they’re integral to taking your company from where it’s at today to brand status. Look at this list as the minimum. There’s a lot more that goes into it, but having this will help save countless hours in communicating to team members and keep things consistent without your oversight.

Current & Previous Marketing Efforts

Understanding what’s working with your current marketing can help plan for the future. How are the current campaigns performing? Are they being measured properly? What can be gleaned from and learned from the previous campaigns?

Checklist for Reviewing Previous Campaigns:

  1. Social Media
  2. Email Marketing
  3. Content Marketing
  4. Programmatic & Paid Search
  5. Search Engine Optimization

Social Media Presence – you more than likely have a social media presence. Whether it’s good or not is another story. How large is your social media reach? In other words, how many social media followers do you have? This number is integral as this will be one of the distribution lists for your content. What is your engagement rate? Are you actively participating in social media and having a conversation with your followers? Or are you just posting and praying?

Email Marketing – today email addresses are like gold. If you’ve collected them based on your previous sales, website contacts or through your content marketing efforts, your database can be nurtured into profitable outcomes. How many email addresses do you have? Are you keeping your list up to date? Are you emailing on a consistent, regular basis?

Content Marketing – how many blog subscribers do you have? How many premium content downloads did you receive last year? Your content marketing is cold call or today’s replacement for advertisements. The better the ad, the better it performs. The more ads you have in the right places, the more people contact you, or in this case sign up for your offer.

Search Engine Optimization – approximately 51% of website traffic comes from organic search. How do you rank for your key terms? Has SEO been a focus for your business? Were you impacted by Google’s algorithm updates and unable to recover? You should have a good handle on how your website ranks for key terms.

Website & Domain

All roads lead here. Your website is the conversion station for all of your market efforts. Whether you’re promoting your content on social media, spending money on paid search media or trying to rank for a particular key term, all of these actions lead people to your website. But is your website optimized to convert these people once they get there?

What is the status of your website? Is it ready to market? Does it need to be updated? Is your domain healthy? Has your website been properly managed?

Your website should exude the best possible user experience for your customers. Remember, you want everything to be brutally simple. Your customers shouldn’t have to think; using your site should be intuitive.

Budgets

How much can you afford to invest in your marketing? If your marketing budget is not aligned with your strategic goals, you’re doomed to produce lackluster results. There is no single best way to determine how much you should spend on your marketing, but here are a few ways to go about it.

Forecasting & Insights – speak with your executives and compile their forecasts and vision over the next year, two or ten years. Not all budgets must be predetermined in the confines of a single year. What’s important is that your goals have the resources necessary for you to achieve them.

Cost Plus Planning – if you have the historic data to understand how your company has performed over the years, you can determine a realistic growth rate. But with a little cost planning, you can determine how much it would cost to potentially double down and achieve twice as much in return. For instance, if you spend $200,000 on paid search and generated $1,000,000 worth of sales in the previous year, you could roughly assume that if you doubled your spend, you’d bring in $2,000,000 in sales.

Passive vs. Aggressive – another way to determine your marketing spend is by pure alignment. Using the table below, compare your growth goals to the average marketing budgets and see where you fit.

Growth Goal Marketing Budget (% of revenue)
50% or More 30% – 35%
40% to 50% 25% – 30%
30% to 40% 20% – 25%
20% to 30% 15% – 20%
10% to 20% 10% – 15%
5% to 10% 5% – 10%

Needless to say, if you want to increase your revenue and sales by anything more than 1-2%, you’re going to have to invest more than you did the previous year. Remember, you want to have the necessary resources to achieve your strategic marketing goals.

Assets & Influencers

What do you have that can create impact? Are you in any groups or have any affiliations that can help drive sales or revenue?

Your website is an asset. It’s age, SEO rankings, blog content, etc. All of these are assets. Your social media properties and the reach you’ve acquired are also assets.

But there are other assets that should be taken into account as well. Primarily, your relationships. For instance, do you have any media contacts? Have you built a following in a particular niche area of your industry? Do you participate in conferences where you have brand recognition? Are you an influencer within your industry? Or do you have a relationship with an influencer in your niche?

The assets and influencers need to be written down and in your face, for these will come in handy when planning your strategy. You can use these to create dramatic impact at a low cost.

SWOT Analysis

A SWOT analysis is a powerful tool to isolate an opportunity to your digital marketing strategy. Many of times I’ve used this tool alone to determine a big idea that created a huge impact.

As you probably know, these are all connected. They have an inverse relationship to one another. Your strength has an equal weakness. But I think the most effective use of the tool is aligning strengths with opportunities. I don’t know what it is, but when I add the strengths to the box, my mind explodes with ideas to capitalize on the opportunities.

Based on the information you’ve acquired from your assessment, answer the questions in the boxes below. This along with your buyer persona will be a guiding light for the rest of your planning.

Strengths
  • What do you do well?
  • What unique resources can you draw on?
  • What do others see as your strengths?
Weaknesses
  • What could you improve?
  • Where do you have fewer resources than others?
  • What are others likely to see as weaknesses?
Opportunities
  • What opportunities are open to you?
  • What trends could you take advantage of?
  • How can you turn your strengths into opportunities?
Threats
  • What threats could harm you?
  • What is your competition doing?
  • What threats do your weaknesses expose you to?

Target Customer

The biggest change in the digital revolution is the way people purchase products, and in turn, the way we market to our customer. Understanding your customer, what they want, what they need to know, where they go for information and how they want to be marketed to will help you produce better marketing communications, and actually they’ll tell you what campaigns need to be created.

If you have existing customer data, start here. Review customer databases. Take a look at leads and opportunities within your pipeline. Look back to deals that didn’t close. Find the customers online and take a look at their footprint. What are they doing? What are they sharing? Who are they connected with? Begin crafting questions that you want ask them.

Next, schedule interviews with your favorite customers. These should be the customers that you want more of. They should embody the perfect fit for your business. This is the start of building your buyer persona.

Example Questions for Interviewing Your Target Customer:

  • Age, race, sex, education, marital status?
  • What are their challenges or pain points?
  • What are they responsible for?
  • Where do they look for information when researching your product or service?
  • What problem do you help them with?
  • What social media sites do they prefer?
  • Who or what influences their buying decisions?
  • How long did they research a solution contacting your company?
  • How do they describe what it is that you do for them?
  • What’s most important in their profession?
  • What do they find most important in their personal life?

When you have a better understanding of your target audience take additional time to research their answers even further. You’ll uncover nuances and information that will help you build marketing campaigns.

Campaigns

Campaigns are anything that needs to be completed within the next year. Depending on the results of your assessment, there may be some assets and foundation pieces missing from your marketing that need to be completed such as a website redesign, premium content creation, etc. In any case, depending on your budget and timelines, you can start dreaming big. But first, it’s best to know what kind of impact your marketing efforts can generate.

You can determine this by reviewing your analytics while reviewing your previous marketing initiatives. If your data is muddled or you simply have nothing to glean from, I recommend jumping right into the research phase. In this phase, you want to look at your target customer and your market. What’s missing? What opportunities do you have in your SWOT analysis that you can use for your marketing strategy? What did your customer tell you they want or need?

How to Define a Marketing Campaign

Defining a marketing campaign sounds easy enough, right? But it can become confusing if you’re not encapsulating everything properly. The best way to define your campaigns are by the approach or core effort. What’s everything inside of a campaign to drive say eBook downloads or holiday sales or blog sign ups?

Now all of these can be integrated within your sales funnel, but the best way to think of these are action based. I also like to separate these by the different goal, usually separated by the stage of the marketing funnel. The final tie-in is the deadline. When should your campaign be completed? Some can argue that campaigns for SEO, blogging and social media never truly end. While this may be true from the standpoint of an effort or the perspective of looking at it like a system, there’s an end date. Simply, break everything up into quarters. This helps measure what you’re doing and it’s effect on growth goals within a specific time frame.

Campaign Examples in the Form of Actions, Deliverables or Milestones:

Build Brand Awareness

Build Brand involves building awareness of your brand, products and services on other websites and in online media to build traffic to different web presences like your main site, microsites or social media pages. It involves maximising reach using continuous inbound communications and planned campaigns to create multiple interactions using different paid, owned and earned media touchpoints.

Example Activities for Building Your Online Brand Separated by Marketing Function:

  • Analytics & Review
    • Web Analytics
  • SEO
    • On-Page Optimization
    • Blogging
    • Local Search
    • Link Building
  • Social Media/PR
    • Social Engagement
    • Social Monitoring
    • Articles
    • Guest Blogging
    • Media Monitoring
    • Media Relations
    • Photo Sharing
    • Social Advertising
    • Press Releases
    • Public Speaking
  • Paid Media (PPC, Programmatic)
    • Print Advertising
    • Paid Search
    • Banner Advertising
    • Digital Display Advertising
    • Video & TV Advertising
    • Billboard Advertising
    • Radio
    • Sponsorships
    • Events
  • Content Marketing
    • Infographics
    • White Papers
    • Email Marketing
    • Blogging
    • Podcasts
    • Videos
    • Webinars
  • Development
    • Web Design
    • Add Development
Generate Conversions

Conversions involves encouraging interactions on websites and in social media to generate leads. It’s about persuading site visitors or prospects to take the next step, the next Action on their journey when they reach your site or social network presence.

Example Activities for Generating Conversions Separated by Marketing Function:

  • Analytics
    • A/B Testing
  • Social Media/PR
    • Contests
    • Referral Programs
    • Review Programs
  • Paid Media (PPC, Programmatic)
    • Affiliate Marketing
    • Banner Advertising
    • Events
    • Retargettings
    • Sponsorships
    • Sponsored Content
    • Workshops
    • Social Advertising
    • Direct Mail
    • Print Advertising
    • Retargeting
    • Remarketing
  • Content Marketing
    • eBooks
    • Email Newsletters
    • Webinars
    • White Papers
    • Lead Nurturing Emails
  • Development
    • Interactive Tools
    • Landing Pages
Sell (Convert Sales)

This stage covers the conversion from a lead to a sale. It involves getting your audience to take that vital next step which turns them into paying customers whether the payment is taken through online Ecommerce transactions, or online channels.

  • Analytics
    • A/B Testing
    • List Segmentation
  • Social Media/PR
    • Social Advertising
    • Social Engagement
  • Paid Media (PPC, Programmatic)
    • Affiliate Marketing
    • Banner Advertising
    • Strategic Reseller Programs
    • Retargeting
    • Remarketing
    • Pricing Promotions
  • Content Marketing
    • Automated Email Campaigns
    • Email List Segmentation
    • Lead Nurturing Emails
  • Development
    • Website Conversion Optimization
    • Dynamic Content
Build Advocacy and Increase Loyalty

Building advocacy and increasing loyalty is an investment in getting existing customers to buy more often and help you capture more customers.

  • Analytics
    • A/B Testing
    • List Segmentation
    • Behavioral Web Analytics
  • Social Media/PR
    • Social Advertising
    • Social Engagement
  • Paid Media (PPC, Programmatic)
    • Remarketing
    • Retargeting
    • Reward Programs
    • Print Catalogs
    • Mailed Magazines
  • Content Marketing
    • Automated Email Campaigns
    • Email List Segmentation
    • Lead Nurturing Emails

    Measurement

    How will you measure the success of your marketing? For each section of your marketing funnel, you should have a primary key performance indicator (KPI). These figures should be a direct correlation to your marketing funnel.

    Here’s an example:

    Build Brand Awareness

    • ___________ visitors in 12 months [1 year]
    • ________ visitors per month

    Generate Conversions

    • ___________ leads in 12 months [1 year]
    • ___________ leads per month

    Sell (convert sales)

    • ___________ Sales in 12 months [1 year]
    • ___________ Sales per month

    Build Advocacy and Increase Loyalty

    • ___________ customer referrals/reviews in 12 months [1 year]
    • ___________ customer referrals/reviews per month

    Now within each section of your funnel, there will be numerous activities, your campaigns. For each marketing system, you should set another primary measure. For instance, SEO’s primary measure can be improving your organic reach or organic website visitors within the Build Brand Awareness section of your marketing funnel.

    Jon Tsourakis

    Written by:

    Jon Tsourakis followed his dream of opening an independent digital marketing agency. As CEO of Revital Agency, he uses logic and intuition to help companies grow their business online.