Effective marketing is imperative for any business, not just for growth but for survival in a highly competitive environment.
With digital media and online content now dominating communications in both business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B), you need to develop an up-to-date digital marketing strategy that both grows and retains your client base.
Let’s discuss the importance of digital marketing and how to develop a strategy that leverages the best tools at your disposal.
Digital Marketing Strategy – The Basics
A digital marketing strategy is an organized plan that businesses employ to methodically engage their target audience through modern digital media.
Although digital marketing has many unique features due to the dynamic nature of digital communication like social media and video platforms, developing a digital marketing strategy relies on many of the same steps and thought processes as any other type of marketing strategy.
Before we delve into the particulars of digital marketing, let’s talk about what a marketing strategy is in general and why it’s important.
What Is a Marketing Strategy?
If you approach the game of chess by making decisions one move at a time and hoping for the best, you may win an occasional match or two, but you’ll rarely beat the best players without a strategy.
If your competition’s marketing efforts are being guided by a strategy and yours aren’t, you’ll always be at a disadvantage. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1 in 5 businesses will fail in their first year.
Worse, only about 35% of businesses can expect to survive after ten years.
Strategy is the road map that keeps you competitive.
A marketing strategy is a deliberate plan to reach specific audiences in specific ways in order to maximize your marketing efforts. In order to get the most out of your marketing budget, you need a strategy that makes sense for your ideal prospects, your industry, your brand, and your business goals.
Since most marketing is digital nowadays, let’s focus on why your business needs a digital marketing strategy to get to the next level.
Why Do You Need a Digital Marketing Strategy?
Modern business networking and awareness building is now accomplished primarily through digital marketing.
B2B businesses generally allocate about 10-15% of their revenue to marketing, and digital channels comprise at least 58% (and rising) of that budget, making digital marketing the most important marketing activity by far.
Digital marketing is essentially table stakes for any business today. If you’re not doing it, are you sure your competition is playing the same game?
A quick depersonalized Google search for your most important keywords might be a real eye-opener. Who shows up at the top of the search?
What Comprises a Digital Marketing Strategy?
Digital marketing includes the following primary channels at minimum:
- Your website
- Your email list
- The social media in which you communicate
Your website is the only piece of internet real estate that you completely own, and is 100% under your control. Building great website content is a powerful way to attract and retain a customer base.
Everything you do in your digital marketing should be intended to drive visitors to your website. That’s where YOU control the message.
What Is a Marketing Campaign?
Most people think of a campaign as having a beginning, middle and an end. But in fact, the only endpoint for your digital marketing campaign is the day you want to sell your business. Generally speaking, your marketing efforts must continue as long as you have competitors who want market share too.
Your digital marketing strategy can span a stretch of time, say, a fiscal year or perhaps several years depending on your business cycle. Within that time you’ll conduct a number of marketing initiatives.
A marketing campaign typically focuses on the marketing tactics that serve your overall strategy. Your digital marketing strategy may be composed of several different campaigns like overlapping email, social media, paid advertising and SEO campaigns.
If a marketing strategy is a road map for getting you to a destination, marketing tactics can be thought of as the modes of transportation. And in digital marketing, you want your tactics to be the equivalent of a bright red Ferrari, not a horse and buggy.
Just a few examples of marketing tactics include:
- You write a deep and authoritative article on your website
- You create a buzz about your brand through a viral social media push
- You directly seek out business decision-makers via LinkedIn InMails
- You hire an agency to generate visitors to your website via Google Ads
- You hire a local PR agency to build buzz around a new product launch
The list of various tactics goes on forever, and your competitors are forever trying new tactics to test their efficacy.
Given the pace of business and the level of competition, standing still is not a viable option for predictable growth.
How Do You Plan and Execute a Digital Marketing Strategy?
Your digital marketing strategy can progress in four main phases: Identify, Design, Engage, and Acquire…get the I.D.E.A.?
The first step in planning and executing a digital marketing strategy is to identify the key players and how they relate to one another.
This means identifying:
- Your brand – Who you are and who you want to be; your mission and your niche.
- Your audience – Who you want to reach; the individuals and groups that need your services.
- Your competition – Who you’re up against; the others in your industry (and how they operate.)
This activity may take some initial time and expense, but it’s critical for setting the stage for your marketing strategy.
You must design your marketing strategy. There are a number of ways to go about reaching an audience, from your website, to old-fashioned billboards and print ads to viral video and social media campaigns. Even those dumb ads they play before movies!
A digital marketing strategy will focus on how modern audiences consume information and media—generally through the web, email, and social media platforms.
You may have to design different campaigns for different segments of your audience. For example, marketing to new customers may require different tactics than bringing back old ones or retaining existing ones.
Timing may be an important factor in executing a marketing strategy to engage your target audience. Patience pays off, and many marketing campaigns are strategically timed to take advantage of business seasons, holidays, major events or even the activities of competitors.
One great advantage of digital marketing is that it can give you very fine control over the “who, how, where, and when” of your messaging.
Finally comes the big moment… closing the sale and acquiring new clients by converting those sales leads into revenue. This is your “end game” and why it’s so important to have a deliberate strategy instead of going blindly into marketing activities.
Think of marketing strategy as a cyclic process. See what worked and what didn’t in a campaign—in measurable ways—and you use that information to refine your strategy and tactics the next time around.
The Elements of a Digital Marketing Strategy
There are four main elements to consider when developing a digital marketing strategy: Goals, Audience, Channels and the Analysis.
You should have clear and realistic goals for your marketing strategy. These goals should be given in numbers that you can measure against your progress, like:
- Market share.
- New or retained customers/clients.
One of the most challenging aspects of marketing is ensuring that your strategy targets the right people and organizations with the right messaging. You may target specific:
- Market segments.
- Individual decision makers.
Not only do you need to understand which products or services your clients would be most interested in, but what they value most, and their pain points. What remedies do you bring your clients?
Key to this understanding is using the language your customers use to describe their problems. This type of language can often be found in your company’s reviews, as well as the reviews of your direct competitors.
One way of identifying and organizing your target audience is by Ideal Customer (or Client) Profile (ICP). ICPs are summaries of the people that are most likely to use your products and services.
When you identify shared characteristics of your customer base, like age, income, and occupation, for example, that gives you an idea for whom you should design your marketing campaigns.
Related to ICP is the concept of buyer personas. Buyer personas are fictional but specific examples of individuals that fit within your ICP and are used to help get an idea of how real people respond to your products and your marketing.
For example, if your company has an ICP consisting of a 25-40-year-old males making $50,000-$60,000 per year, a fictional buyer persona could be “John, 29-years-old, making $53,000.”
While real people rarely fit into such neat definitions, it can help to focus your marketing efforts by keeping the essential data points in mind when building marketing campaigns.
Digital Marketing Channels
Marketing channels in general include any medium or method that you use to reach clients. Digital marketing channels in particular include the use of electronic and internet-based communication.
Strategic use of written, audio, and video content to attract visitors to your website has become one of the foundations of digital marketing. When you know your customers and what content they consume on the internet, be it blog, video, or audio material, you can put that knowledge to work for you to establish your brand’s trust and authority.
While content marketing is focused mainly on providing your target audience with information they find useful, they have to know how to find you. Search engine optimization (SEO)—using frequently searched topics and keywords in your content—is a critical aspect of this channel.
Creating content that addresses key problems of your target audience is the single most important driver of website traffic — the number of visitors to your website.
Once you have your ideal prospects on your website, you truly and finally have their undivided attention.
Email marketing is a more direct channel for reaching out. While content is more generalized for the common denominator of your audience, email gives you the opportunity to better personalize your message, targeting individuals or market segments.
The holy grail in email marketing is to win subscribers, allowing you to focus effort on those who are amenable to more communication in the future, creating a great opportunity to build relationships.
Driving visitors to your website helps you build your email list, as you can offer downloadable ebooks or other gated content, as well as the more traditional “subscribe to our newsletter”. But, you’d better make them a stellar offer in that subscription attempt, or you’ll miss the opportunity.
Social media is now deeply woven into society and can be a powerful resource when used effectively. Like email, social media marketing can be tightly focused on messaging to individuals, but it also provides an opportunity to gain wide reach through creative tactics like viral marketing campaigns.
The weaknesses of social media are:
- You do not own the platform and ultimately, cannot control your message or the reception thereof completely.
- People are far less intentional when they’re on social media, and are likely to blow right by your post to get to the “next interesting thing”.
- Marketers tend to use social media as it feels more accessible. The flip side is, social media is far more disposable and ephemeral than the tightly controlled content on your website.
With so many digital marketing tools at your disposal, how can you know what’s working? You have to analyze the various channels, and see how they’re performing.
Here are some common methods of analyzing your marketing efforts.
So, you’ve spent a portion of your marketing budget on a campaign that seemed like a great idea when you were developing your marketing strategy… but was it worth it? One way to tell is by computing the return on investment (ROI) for each separate marketing activity.
ROI is computed by: (Value – Cost)/Cost
This formula gives a positive percentage when your marketing is profitable.
It’s worth the effort to track and count where and how potential customers are converted into sales. This is called attribution, and it’s a great way to see which of your marketing campaigns, channels, or tactics have the most traction.
Each “touch” of a customer’s journey from first engagement to the closing of the sale is a potential point of attribution to track.
You should also set “Goals” for your conversions. A Goal tracks the value of the total number of conversions to help you determine your ROI. A Goal can be anything from an actual sale (in which case, you know the value of the goal precisely), to a contact form submission, a statistical percentage of which may lead to a sale.
For example, if a product you sold costs $100, and you know that for every 10 conversions you historically make at least one sale, the value of the conversion goal would be $10/each.
Goals are heuristics that can help you understand the value of the visitors and the actions they take on your website.
One way to determine at least part of the value brought in by clients by your digital marketing strategy is to measure Client Lifetime Value (CLV), the B2B equivalent of customer lifetime value.
There are different ways to calculate CLV depending on the data you have available, but you need to calculate the total sales each client brings in over the course of the average business relationship. For example, if a service you sell costs $500, and you sell 2.5 services on average for each client, then:
CLV = $500 * 2.5 = $1250
Business models based on MRR (Monthly Recurring Revenue) makes CLV calculations rather simple:
CLV = Average Order Value * Number of Repeat Sales * Average Retention Time
Examples of Digital Marketing Strategy
We’ve learned the different elements and stages of a digital marketing strategy, now let’s see some more concrete examples of how it all can come together in the real world.
Here are some examples of common digital marketing strategies with some of the associated channels or campaigns that can be used to execute them.
Attract Visitors With Content
Publishing content that your audience is searching for is a great way to bring them to your website, and it’s the single most important factor in great SEO.
Content can be entertaining or informative depending on your customer profiles and your type of business. Using internet search engines to your advantage before your competition can be a key digital marketing strategy, and can include the following:
- Blogs – authoritative, informative articles that establish you as a brand leader
- Educational articles – text content that attracts your ICPs with in-depth “how-to’s”, etc.
- Webinars/Podcasts – live audio and video content that informs or entertains
- Optimized Product & Services Pages – Often ignored in the content game, but these are your “money pages” and deserve the most scrutiny.
In order for content to be effective, you must ensure that you are answering all the most frequently asked questions, and including all the subtopics that spring from the main topic. Tools like Content Brief generators can be a tremendous help in researching topics to ensure you’re hitting all the highlights.
Boomcycle takes this to an extreme with our SEO Hyper-Optimization service, which analyzes the Top 3 competitors for the given topic and helps us build content that is irresistible to the search engines, addressing everything our competitors address, and often, much more!
Advertise on Outside Platforms
Straight-up advertising is still a big part of many marketing strategies, with so many platforms in the digital world. These include:
- Google Ads – purchasing top billing on Google search results pages
- Bing Ads – these are often less expensive than Google ads, and quite effective if you’ve already saturated Google Ads
- Social media ads – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, et al.
- Remarketing – Other websites host your ad and you are charged for each click of your ad
The beauty of ICPs and buyer personas is that they can help you zero in on exactly the kind of customers you want to reach. You can do this through:
- Email campaigns – target individuals or groups with catered messaging or “drip” sequences.
- Social media marketing (SMM) – from wide viral campaigns to direct LinkedIn messages
- Marketing Automation – A wise man once said that success is 90% perspiration, 10% automation. It’s true that direct, manual outreach is extremely costly, and an automated strategy can still retain a human element, while leveraging machines.
Build Your Digital Marketing Strategy
It’s clear that thought must go into building your digital marketing strategy before you start executing tactics. Flaccid notions such as “Hey, let’s have the new kid build our website and do our social media!” are simply a waste of time in the modern digital marketing age.
Throughout the history of business, tremendous amounts of money have been wasted on implementing tactics before there was a strategy in place.
Don’t let your business fall victim to the latest shiny marketing object that promises to be the silver bullet to put your company ahead of the competition.
Design your digital marketing strategy first, understand your customers and their pain points, and go after them where they live.
You’ll be glad you did.
Your competition is probably trying to find the easy way out too.
Doing the legwork of building a digital marketing strategy will put you ahead of 90% of your competitors!