How to create an effective digital marketing strategy

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A digital marketing strategy is important for every business seeking further growth, but how can you create an effective one?

More and more businesses jump onto the digital marketing bandwagon, hoping to achieve bigger goals, but even in 2016, not all of them start by creating a digital marketing strategy.

According to Smart Insights, 47% of businesses don’t have a set plan or strategy for their digital marketing efforts and this may affect their long term goals. Even the smallest business using digital marketing needs to document its strategy, in a way that it will help keep track with the objectives and their results.

Digital marketing strategy

What is a digital marketing strategy?

It may sound scary to hear that you need to create a strategy from scratch, but in fact, it’s simpler than it seems. A digital marketing strategy is the plan for your next steps, and it helps you make your efforts more effective.

There’s no need to see it as a big and terrifying process, but rather as a series of activities that will bring you closer to your set goals.

Once a business gets into planning its digital marketing actions, it’s already closer to achieve its objectives, as the strategy serves as the reminder on what still needs to be performed.

For example, even if a business starts with the objective of increasing leads during the year, a simple digital marketing strategy is turning an abstract goal into a measurable plan, highlighting the steps that need to be followed until the strategy is effective.

Five steps to an effective digital marketing strategy

1. Define 

The first step is to define the goals for your business in a way that you become aware of the next steps needed to achieve them.

  • What does your business want to improve?
  • How can it turn the plan into action?

A series of questions can lead to the right answers, or even create new questions that you may not have thought at first. This will give you a better understanding of how a digital marketing strategy can help you, providing the motivation to continue working towards your business’ growth.

2. Analyse 

Analysis should help you learn more about your:

  • audience
  • business
  • goals
  • existing assets

It may be a good idea to start by creating buyer personas, a sample of the customers you are trying to reach. The analysis of their profiles, their needs, their expectations can help you reach them more effectively, so there’s no need to ignore this step.

You can also start by analysing your existing assets and the digital marketing channels to find what you have already achieved, what works, and what can be improved.

Owned media

This refers to the digital assets that your business owns. It includes your website, your social presence, your blog, your visual content and anything else that belongs to your business.

Your owned channels are a vital part of your digital marketing strategy, as they are the starting point for your existing presence and what can be achieved while growing it.

Earned Media

Earned media refers to what you have gained from others about your business and it may include reviews, mentions, shares, PR coverage, guest posts and anything else that was earned through word-of-mouth.

An analysis of your most successful earned media can offer a great understanding of your next steps regarding your digital marketing strategy and how to reach your goals through the most effective sources.

Paid Media

Paid media refers to what you have acquired through paid promotion and it may include Google AdWords, paid social posts, native advertising and anything else that included an increased visibility through an additional payment for it.

Use each platform to analyse its success and decide on which ones to focus on, depending on the goals, the budget, or the effectiveness of each one.

3. Plan 

The documentation of the goals and the existing assets leads to the actual planning of the digital marketing strategy.

  • How can you turn the goals into actions?
  • What are the main priorities once you start with digital marketing?
  • Which channels should you use?
  • How many members will your campaign need?
  • Can you describe both your short and long term goals?

A digital marketing calendar can be useful to help you with the planning of your next steps and it may also help you track the milestones of your efforts and the pending actions for each campaign.

Moreover, there are many types of plans that can facilitate your digital marketing strategy, with each one having a different use:

  • Weekly and daily operational plans
  • Campaign plans
  • Annual plans
  • Long-term vision

Each plan contributes towards your ultimate goals and even if it seems time consuming to create them, the rewards may help your business stand out from its competitors.

According to Smart Insightsonly 32% of businesses create an annual plan for digital marketing, and the percentage is even smaller (10%) when counting the ones that think of a long term plan.

This may be justified by the constant changes in digital marketing, but it may still be useful to set a draft plan for the years ahead to help your business have a broader goal in mind.

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4. Execute 

This is the step where planning becomes action. The more detailed the plan, the higher the chances to to enjoy its execution and avoid any surprises.

When a campaign is ready to launch, the team should be ready to collaborate to complete the tasks and ensure that the goals will be met. Previous planning is always useful, but this doesn’t mean that it should be followed in every detail.

During the execution of your digital marketing strategy, there should always be room for experimentation, creativity, or even reaction if there’s a last minute change.

  • Is there a channel that doesn’t work as you expected?
  • Did you find a new opportunity that could benefit your campaign?
  • Is there any change to your set goals?
  • Do you really know your audience?

If you’re hesitating for any of the above questions, you can still adjust your digital marketing strategy during its execution, provided that all the team is flexible to proceed to the necessary changes.

5. Measure

The measurement of your digital marketing efforts can occur in every stage, from the planning and the definition of the KPIs, to the execution and the analysis of what works and what needs to be improved.

There’s no need to measure the actions that do not bring you closer to your goals, which means that you should focus on the metrics that can help you understand whether your plan is closer to be successful. This may even lead to a confusion, or a misinterpretation of what is considered as successful measurement, leading to wrong conclusions.

For example, if your initial goal is to increase the quality leads, but you eventually realise that your Facebook videos have increased your Page’s engagement, then this may bring the false assumption that you’re closer to your goal. Although this successful measurement can gradually help you increase your leads (through a series of steps), it’s not a metric that you’d initially set when seeking for new leads. Thus, you can either shift your focus on more relevant metrics, or think outside the box on how an unexpected success can bring you closer to your goal.

A clear definition of your KPIs can help you measure your digital marketing strategy and analyse what brings you closer to your goals and what needs to be improved.

Takeaway

Five steps of a digital marketing strategy

A digital marketing strategy can be the first step towards bigger plans for your business, provided that you invest the time and the budget on it.

In fact, by the time you understand that you need to create a digital marketing strategy, you’re already closer to your goals.

Not every business makes the effort to document a digital marketing strategy, as it may be easier to dive into its implementation and see how it goes, but it’s the initial planning that will guide you through the process, reminding you that every stage serves its own purpose.

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