If you want to develop a digital marketing strategy, where should you begin? It’s still a common challenge today, as many businesses are fully aware of just how vital digital and mobile marketing channels are for both gaining and keeping customers. But, many small, medium and even some large businesses fail to have a clear plan in place designed to get to know and engage with their audiences effectively. If you don’t have a plan, you’re going to suffer from some common problems with your digital marketing strategy, and ultimately lose out to the competition who may be more digitally savvy.

What Are the Challenges?

Where to begin drawing up your digital marketing strategy is a common challenge for many marketers. And, the sheer scope and scale of digital marketing can get in the way for many companies today. It can be hard to know exactly where to begin when there are so many great digital marketing techniques that you can use, including:

• Search engine marketing and search engine optimization

• Social media marketing

• Email marketing

• Improving the digital experience on your website

Within each digital marketing strategy, there are several tactics that are crucial to success, from dynamic content to email automation, website personalization, or skyscraper content for organic search that will need to be evaluated and prioritized depending on what works best for your business. Data analytics tools will help you best determine which kind of strategy and tactic is getting the best results for your company. Learn more about data analytics from Emerson College Online.

How to Approach Digital Marketing:

If you don’t have a digital strategy yet, you should:

1. Begin with a separate digital marketing plan that defines the transformation needed, then make the case for any investment needed to make changes to your current digital marketing efforts.

2. Following approval, come up with an integrated digital marketing plan which is a part of the overall marketing plan.

Bear in mind that:

• Using digital marketing without a strategic approach is still more commonplace than it should be; but many companies in this category do sometimes manage to use digital media effectively and get good results from search, email or social media marketing. But they could be getting better outcomes.

• The majority of companies do take a strategic approach to digital marketing; if you’re not, then you are increasing your risk of losing out to your competitors.

If you don’t have a digital marketing strategy, then you’re putting yourself at risk of suffering from these common problems:

You Have No Direction:

Many companies that don’t have a digital marketing strategy – and even some of the ones that do – don’t have a clear, strategic goal for what they hope to achieve online, whether that’s improving their relationships with their current customers or gaining new ones.

How to define digital marketing objectives using SMART:

• Be Specific: Can the details in the information sufficiently pinpoint issues or opportunities? Is the objective sufficiently detailed in order to measure real-world issues or opportunities?

• Measure it: Can a qualitative or quantitative attribute be applied in order to create metrics?

• Make sure it’s Actionable: Can the information you’ve gathered be used to improve performance?

• Is the information Relevant? Can it be applied to the specific problem that you’re facing as a business owner or marketer?

• Is there a Time period? Can objectives be set for various time periods as targets that can be reviewed?

Examples of SMART objectives in digital marketing:

1. Acquisition: Acquire 20,000 new online customers during the financial year at an average cost per acquisition (CPA) of $30 with an average profitability of $10.

2. Digital channel contribution: Achieve 20% online revenue contribution within the next two years.

3. Conversion: Increase the average order value of online sales to $50 per customer.

You Don’t Know Your Target Audience:

If you haven’t researched it thoroughly, it’s easy to underestimate or overestimate the customer demand for online services. And more importantly, not doing this means that you won’t know or understand your target audience as well as you should.

When it comes to digital marketing, the dynamics will be different compared with traditional marketing channels. There will be:

• Different types of customer profiles and behaviors

• Different competitors

• Different propositions

• Various different options for marketing communications

Today, there is a huge variety of exceptionally good tools available from the main digital platforms that allow you to determine the level of customer demand. Begin with a search gap analysis that can be performed using Google’s Keyword Planner, in order to figure out how you are tapping into the intent or searchers to attract them to your website over others. Or use Facebook Analytics to see how many people interested in your products or services you could reach using the social networking site.

You Don’t Know Your Online Customers Well Enough:

When you don’t know your target audience, you simply won’t know your online customers well enough in order to market to them effectively. It’s often said that digital is the most measurable medium, but you need to take it further. Google Analytics and similar tools, for example, will only tell you the volume of site visits. You can’t use these tools to find out what visitors think and what they want; you need to go further. You can do this by:

• Using other forms of website visitor feedback tools to find your weak points and address them. For example, you could embed a feedback form on your site and ask visitors to give you a quick response before they leave.

• Heat mapping tools that allow you to get a better idea of what users are doing when they visit your site; these tools show you whether or not users are scrolling down to the bottom of the page, whether or not they are getting confused and where, and where they are spending the most time on your website.

You Don’t Have a Powerful Online Value Proposition:

Not being data-driven when it comes to digital marketing means that you won’t have a clearly defined, powerful online customer value proposition that’s tailored to your different customer personas. This is important because it:

• Allows you to differentiate your online service from the competition

• Increases your chance of encouraging existing and new customers to engage with your brand and stay loyal to it

In order to achieve this, it’s important to develop a competitive content marketing strategy, since the content is what will engage your audience. Do this on a variety of different channels including social networks, on your company blog, and via email marketing. Keep the following in mind when developing a content marketing strategy:

• Set your goals and mission: Start with a content marketing mission statement; a brief statement that will help your content marketing strategy stay on track by focusing on what’s important and figuring out what isn’t. It should outline who your target audience is, the content that you will use to reach them, and the benefit that they will get.

Typical goals include:

1. Improving revenue

2. Driving more sales

3. Driving more traffic to your website

4. Improving the perception of your brand

5. SEO success

6. Reduced marketing costs

7. Improved social media engagement

• Establish Key Performance Indicators: As mentioned earlier, the best way to achieve your digital marketing goals is to make them SMART. You can do this for your content marketing strategy by setting KPIs. This will help you know when you have achieved your goals, or how far off you are, by providing milestones that you can check off. You should include what you plan to achieve in terms of:

1. Revenue

2. Traffic

3. Sales

4. Social

5. SEO

6. Email marketing

7. Other aspects of digital marketing

• Get to Know Your Audience: You need to be clear about who your audience is in order to create the right content to reach them. Take the following actions:

1. Collect demographic data on your website visitors, social media followers and email subscribers. Learn information such as their age, gender, income, education, and key interests.

2. Get customer feedback to learn even more about your target audience. You can ask questions to help determine how your current customers feel about the content you are currently producing, what their pain points are, and how you can best address these with your content in the future.

3. Create buyer personas using the demographic data and customer feedback that you have collected to describe your ideal readers and customers. Include information on their pain points, challenges, and behavioral motivators.

• Assess Your Current Position: If you’re like most businesses, you probably already have some content out there, such as social media content, videos, and blog content. The next step is to figure out whether the content that you’re already producing is helping you to meet your digital marketing goals. Carry out a content audit using these steps: 

1. Log all the pieces of content that you’ve produced

2. Assess their success or usefulness

3. Identify any gaps that you find

4. Determine how your content compares with that of your competitors

Digital may be the most measurable medium available, but it’s only useful when you’re using the data available to you to make informed decisions on how best to reach your audience online.