Build an agile, strategic approach to digital marketing

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To fly through the digital landscape you need to discover, plan, build and deliver defined marketing strategies for your online objectives.

It is of key importance, in all our businesses, that we have a marketing strategy. This strategy spells out, amongst other things, the way your company intends to rationalise its resources, engage in production and even handle clients. There's no question that, in the modern landscape, a big part of your marketing strategy is digital. Consumers and businesses alike are almost always online — and you want to be able to reach them and observe their online behaviour.

But when you're growing a business, it seems like this ever-evolving landscape can quickly become overwhelming. There's already enough to do — how are you also supposed to create, fine-tune, and maintain an agile digital marketing strategy?

Digital marketing planning is considered a creative process. Here, the management and operations teams strive to come up with and implement a practical digital marketing strategy that can guarantee a stable flow of customer engagement for your company.

What is a digital marketing strategy?

In simple terms, a strategy is just a plan of action to achieve the desired goal or multiple goals. For example, your overarching goal might be to generate 25% more leads via your website this year than you drove last year.

Depending on the scale of your business, your digital marketing strategy might involve multiple goals and a lot of moving parts, but coming back to this simple way of thinking about strategy can help you stay focused on meeting those objectives. 

How to build a comprehensive digital strategy?

For any marketing strategy — offline or online — you need to know who you're marketing to. The best digital marketing strategies are built upon detailed buyer personas, and your first step is to create them. 

Buyer personas represent your ideal customer(s) and can be created by researching, surveying, and interviewing your business's target audience. It's important to note that this information should be based upon real data wherever possible, as making assumptions about your audience can cause your marketing strategy to take the wrong direction.

To get a rounded picture of your persona, your research pool should include a mixture of customers, prospects, and people outside your contacts database who align with your target audience.

But what kind of information should you gather for your own buyer persona(s) to inform your digital marketing strategy? That depends on your businesses and is likely to vary depending on whether you're B2B or B2C, or whether your product is high cost or low cost. Here are some starting points, but you'll want to fine-tune them, depending on your particular business.

Quantitative (or Demographic) Information
  • Location Utilise tools like Google Analytics to easily identify what location your website traffic is coming from.
  • Age Depending on your business, this may or may not be relevant. It's best to gather this data by identifying trends in your existing prospect and customer database.
  • Income It's best to gather sensitive information like personal income in persona research interviews, as people might be unwilling to share it via online forms.
  • Job Title This is something you can get a rough idea of from your existing customer base and is most relevant for B2B companies.
Qualitative (or Psychographic) Information
  • Goals Depending on the need your product or service was created to serve, you might already have a good idea of what goals your persona is looking to achieve. However, it's best to cement your assumptions by speaking to customers, as well as internal sales and customer service representatives.
  • Challenges. —​ Speak to customers, sales and customer service representatives to get an idea of the common problems your audience faces.
  • Hobbies and interests​ Speak to customers and people who align with your target audience. 
  • Priorities​ Speak to customers and people who align with your target audience to find out what's most important to them in relation to your business. For example, if you're a B2B software company, knowing that your audience values customer support over a competitive price point is very valuable information. 
Identify your goals & the digital marketing tools you'll need.

Your marketing goals should always be tied back to the fundamental goals of the business.

Whatever your overarching goal is, you need to know how to measure it, and more important, actually be able to measure it. How you measure the effectiveness of your digital strategy will be different for each business and dependent on your goal(s), but it's vital to ensure you're able to do so, as it's these metrics which will help you adjust your strategy in the future.

Evaluate your existing digital marketing channels and assets

When considering your available digital marketing channels or assets to incorporate into your strategy, it's helpful to first consider the bigger picture to avoid getting overwhelmed. The owned, earned, and paid media framework helps to categorize the digital 'vehicles', assets, or channels that you're already using.

  • Owned Media​ Refers to the digital assets that your brand or company owns –– whether that's your website, social media profiles, blog content, or imagery, owned channels are the things your business has complete control over. This can include some off-site content that you own but isn't hosted on your website, like a blog that you publish on Medium, for example.
  • Earned Media Refers to the exposure you've earned through word-of-mouth. Whether that's content you've distributed on other websites (e.g., guest posts), PR work you've been doing, or the customer experience you've delivered, earned media is the recognition you receive as a result. You can earn media by getting press mentions, positive reviews, and by other people sharing your content on social media, for instance.
  • Paid Media Refers to any vehicle or channel that you spend money on to catch the attention of your buyer personas. This includes things like Google AdWords, paid social media posts, sponsored posts on other websites and any other medium for which you directly pay in exchange for visibility.

Your digital marketing strategy might incorporate elements of all three channels, all working together to help you reach your goal. For example, you might have an owned piece of content on a landing page on your website that's been created to help you generate leads. To amplify the number of leads that content generates, you might have made a real effort to make it shareable, meaning others are sharing or liking it via their personal social media profiles, increasing traffic to the landing page. That's the earned media component. To support the content's success, you might have posted about the content to your Linkedin or Facebook page and have paid to have it seen by more people in your target audience.

It's all about evaluating the best online solution to meet your goal, and then incorporating the channels that work best for your business into your digital marketing strategy.

What is a Social Media Content Calendar?

At the heart of digital marketing is your owned media — content. Every message you broadcast can generally be classified as content, whether it's about you, your product descriptions, blog posts, email newsletters, ebooks, infographics, or social media posts. When it's optimised, it can also enhance any SEO presence you have around search/organic traffic.

Content calendars are a way to plan and organize upcoming content and set a roadmap for the months ahead. To build your calendar, you need to decide what content you're going to publish, on which social network that is it going to help you reach your business goals. 

First, decide how often you're going to publish.

12 months is a good starting point, depending on how your business is set up. That way, you can overlay when you'll be executing each action. For example:

  • In January, you might start a blog which will be continually updated once a week, for the entire year.
  • In March, you might launch a new ebook, send a newsletter, accompanied by a paid promotion.
  • In July, you might be preparing for your biggest business month — what do you hope to have observed at this point that will influence the content you produce to support it?
  • In September, you might plan to focus on earned media in the form of PR to drive additional traffic during the run-up.

Determine your content mix—that is, how much of each type and category of original content you'll publish, as well as how much-curated content you plan to share.

This should typically be expressed as a ratio. A good rule of thumb is the 80-20 rule: share 80 percent helpful and interesting content for every 20 percent of content where you're trying to sell your product.

One of the key things a content calendar must contain is key dates that matter to your business — holidays, events, product launches, campaigns, and more. This allows you to plan content for those dates and ensure that you don't end up missing important dates. Additionally, they help keep your publishing schedule organised. Staying organised not only means you remember important dates, it also means that you know what you're publishing, where, and when. 

Additionally, a content calendar helps you establish a regular cadence for each of your social channels.

Your digital media strategy flight success

Your digital marketing strategy flight plan will be unique to your business, which is why it's almost impossible for you to create a one-size-fits-all digital marketing strategy template. Remember, the purpose of your strategy document is to map out the actions you're going to take to achieve your goal over a period of time — as long as it communicates that, then you've nailed the basics of creating a digital marketing strategy.

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