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The Foundations of a Digital Marketing Strategy

June 6, 2017 - Fifteen

Updated: 26th February 2020
Originally Posted: 6th June 2017

Digitally transformed businesses with a strong digital marketing strategy outperform their peers every time, it’s fact. Many businesses will delve into the world of digital marketing with little or no strategy in place. They may set up social media accounts, have a go at Google Adwords, or plan a regular blog. 

The motivations can be just as varied. Maybe it’s just to test the waters or keep up with competitors. Whatever the case, when it comes to brand strategy, there’s no longer such thing as separate digital and offline approaches. The tipping-point came years ago – the number of online shoppers now far outstrip their physical counterparts in numbers. Brands need to recognise that an online presence is as much a part of their identity as all previous marketing strategies and, more importantly, acknowledge how these channels affect buyer behaviour.

This shift in consumer focus makes a digital marketing strategy all the more important. A defined digital marketing strategy is a comprehensive document that forms the foundation of all your marketing activities. It should highlight your goals, your online value proposition, agility (ability to adapt and try new things) and optimisation opportunities and more.

Marketing isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, and many practices that are suitable for other businesses may not suit your model or objectives. A digital strategy may seem time-exhaustive but it’s a worthwhile investment. Without getting the basics right your brand will struggle to grow online and, without mapping out your digital activities in advance, you could find your business steered towards a channel of marketing that isn’t right for you.

But where do you start? A digital strategy can be as comprehensive as the time you have to invest, filled with marketing models, theories, analysis and forecasts. Here are the fundamentals for anyone looking to start:

Define who you are, what you want to achieve and why

Your brand needs a solid identity and missioning statement. It’s no longer good enough to just want to do something, you need to know why. If you haven’t already, watch this great TED talk from Simon Sinek on the ‘why of brands’.

A brand is more than just a name and a logo. It’s an identity. Your brand should reflect your company’s DNA, from your office culture all the way up to PR and customer relations. 

In crowded markets, brand positioning is vital. Your business needs a clear, focused approach and it’s important that your messaging and tone of voice is consistent across all channels.

Already know who you are? Great. If you need more help, check out our branding strategies here.

Know your audience

Your customers are real people. So you should view them and treat them as such. Build a portrait of your key customers in your mind.

  • Who are they influenced by?
  • What platforms do they interact with most?
  • How and what are they searching for?
  • What devices are they most likely to look for your product or service?

These are just a few of the questions that can help you understand them better. You need to visualise and connect with your customers, find out what they need, and provide services that answer these needs. Authenticity goes a long way online so don’t be afraid to get to know your audience.

Customer Insight

Technical insight can also be helpful. Market insights, national trends, historical data… put them all down on record and you’ll be surprised how quickly (and thoroughly) you can build up a profile and spot patterns. Take the time to develop buyer personas. Map their customer journey. 

Customer segmentation is another key insight. Your market is made up of people from all walks of life looking for different solutions. Identify your main customer segments and weight them according to importance. This way you can decide how much time to spend on each and tailor your online strategy to meet their demands.

Get your finances in order

It’s important to know not just how much budget you have, but also where that money is best spent. Tallying up the costs and forecasting your expected returns from each practice allows you to prioritise your most cost-effective channels and plan for future investment.

Budgets can be throttled to meet your manpower. For example, there’s no point offering ads across the country if you only service a single county.

It’s a race (of sorts)

The purchase funnel is made up of several stages, and not all of your customers will be at the same one when they interact with your marketing campaigns.

This is where the marketing model RACE comes in. The principals of RACE are simple, covering all the stages of a customer journey: Reach, Act & Convert and then Engage.

Different channels will be relevant for you at different stages of this funnel. For example, PPC may give awareness to a consumer searching for your product. User-experience of your website will act and convert. Delivering an effective content marketing campaign will engage the buyer and bring them back as a repeat customer.

The key to creating a successful strategy is understanding the different role each marketing practice plays in guiding the user into conversion. Each channel has a different part to play and should be optimised accordingly.

Choose the right channels

For many businesses there are simply too many marketing channels to apply; so how do you choose the most effective for you?

When considering each channel refer back to your goals, KPIs and challenges. Do you need immediate sales? Paid Search is going to be a more effective channel than SEO. Does your business rely on building a community? Content marketing or an e-mail strategy will engage and delight your customer base.

Even within the marketing disciplines themselves, there’s an abundance of choice. Take Social Media: Is your business highly visual? Instagram is perfect for you. Business-to-business marketing? LinkedIn is a minefield of opportunities to target your audience. Every channel has different strengths (and weaknesses) that you need to consider when planning your digital marketing strategy.

Measure and evaluate your Digital Marketing Strategy

Google Analytics is your friend. Familiarise yourself with the platform quickly – it will be invaluable for measuring results and pulling some meaningful data from your marketing campaigns.

Set some KPIs, and ensure they’re right for you. Not all KPIs are as important, and all of them are contextual. Some companies are looking to simply drive traffic to their website. In this case, visits and sessions are a vital KPI in their analysis. But what if you’re looking to deliver good customer experience? This situation would see the session time as a more relevant KPI.

Your digital marketing strategy is not fixed; it’s fluid and reactive. Think of it as a living, and breathing document. Add to it, change it, record results and change your plans accordingly.

Need more help in creating a digital marketing strategy? Speak to one of our experts today. Fifteen Design is an award-winning digital agency with years of experience creating and carrying out effective digital marketing campaigns.

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