Introduction to Week 10
Welcome to the last week of this course!
It is time to put everything together. This week, you will encounter a variety of slightly different approaches to developing a digital marketing plan. However, all the approaches share common elements.
Chapter 10 introduces a digital marketing strategy and planning process to maximize the chances that your campaign will be a success. After studying the chapter this week, you will able to:
- Explain and implement the 3i principles
- Describe how to gather essential information on the most important elements of the campaign: the market, your competitors, and your audience
- Define and segment your target audience
- Identify the exact objectives for your specific business plan
- Describe which digital tools to use for every type of business plan
- Explain how to separate your budget and identify the most useful resources to spend money on
- Manage and monitor your campaign with the suitable digital tools for the entire iterative process
- Details the benefits of monitoring and analysis
- Describe the importance of calculating ROI
- Explain the importance of keeping the iterative process in motion
Good luck and have fun! Please keep in touch, especially when you become the next digital marketing superstar!
By Elissa Hudson | HubSpot
In short: Your digital marketing strategy is the series of actions that are going to help you achieve your goal(s) using online marketing. The term ‘strategy’ might seem intimidating, but building an effective digital strategy doesn’t need to be difficult.
In simple terms, a strategy is just a plan of action to achieve a 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.
What is Digital Strategy?
In an ever-changing digital landscape, success in business can often depend on what you do (or don’t do) in terms of marketing your company online.
From SEO to content marketing and analytics, it can be overwhelming figuring out where to start — and, more importantly, what’s going to have the biggest impact on your business. To be effective at digital marketing, you’ll need a strategy.
Now 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.
Despite our simplification of the term ‘strategy’, there’s no doubt it can be difficult to get started actually building one. So, we’ve put together a series of seven building blocks to help you create an effective digital marketing strategy and set your business up for online success.
What is a Digital Marketing Campaign?
It’s easy to confuse your digital strategy with your digital marketing campaigns, but here’s how to distinguish the two.
As we’ve already outlined, your digital strategy is the series of actions you take to help you achieve your overarching marketing goal. Your digital marketing campaigns are the building blocks or actions within your strategy that move you towards meeting that goal.
For example, you might decide to run a campaign sharing some of your best performing gated content on Twitter to generate more leads through that channel. That campaign is part of your strategy to generate more leads.
It’s important to note that even if a campaign runs over the course of a couple of years, it doesn’t make it a strategy — it’s still a tactic that sits alongside other campaigns to form your strategy.
Now we’ve got to grips with the basics of digital strategy and digital marketing campaigns, let’s dig into how to build your strategy.
How to Build a Comprehensive Digital Strategy
1) Build your buyer personas.
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. (Need help? Start here with our free buyer persona kit.)
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 switch them up depending on your particular business.
Quantitative (or Demographic) Information
- Location. You can use web analytics 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, salespeople and customer service representatives.
- Challenges. Again, speak to customers, salespeople 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. If you’re a fashion brand, for example, it’s helpful to know if large segments of your audience are also into fitness and wellbeing, as that can help inform your future content creation and partnerships.
- 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.
Take this information and create one or more rounded personas like HubSpot’s Marketing Mary, and ensure they’re at the core of your digital marketing strategy. If you need more detail, check out this comprehensive buyer persona guide with templates.
2) Identify your goals & the digital marketing tools you’ll need.
As a marketer, your goals should always be tied back to the fundamental goals of the business. For example, if your business’s goal is to increase online revenue by 20%, your goal as a marketer might be to generate 50% more leads via the website than you did last year to contribute towards that success.
Whatever your overarching goal is, you need to know how to measure it, and more importantly, actually be able to measure it (i.e., have the right digital marketing tools in place to do so). 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.
(HubSpot Customers: Reporting in HubSpot brings all of your marketing and sales data into one place so you can quickly determine what works and what doesn’t. Learn more here.)
3) 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.
This refers to the digital assets literally owned by you. Whether that’s your website, social media profiles, blog content, or imagery, owned channels are the things your business has complete control over.
Quite simply, 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, etc.
Paid media is very self-explanatory and 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, native advertising (like sponsored posts on other websites), and any other vehicle which you directly pay for in exchange for visibility.
Gather what you have, and categorize each vehicle or asset in a spreadsheet so you have a clear picture of your existing owned, earned, and paid media.
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 amount of leads that content generates, you might have made a real effort to make it shareable, meaning others are distributing it via their personal social media profiles, increasing traffic to the landing page. This is the earned media component. To support the content’s success, you might have posted about the content to your Facebook page and have paid to have it seen by more people in your target audience.
That’s exactly how the three can work together to help you meet your goal. Of course, it’s not compulsory to use all three. If your owned and earned media is very successful, you might not need to invest in paid. It’s all about evaluating the best solution to meet your goal, and then incorporating the channels that work best for your business into your digital marketing strategy.
Now you know what’s already being used, you can start to think about what to keep and what to cut.
4) Audit and plan your owned media.
At the heart of digital marketing is your owned media, which pretty much always takes the form of content. Everything your brand says is your content, whether that’s your ‘About Us’ page, your product descriptions, blog posts, ebooks, infographics, social media posts — it’s all considered content. Content helps convert your website visitors into leads and customers, and helps to raise your brand’s profile online. Whatever your goal, you’re going to need to use owned content to form your digital marketing strategy.
To build your digital marketing strategy, you need to decide what content is going to help you reach your goals. If your goal is to generate 50% more leads via the website than you did last year, it’s unlikely that your ‘About Us’ page is going to be included in your strategy (unless that page has been a lead generation machine in the past!)
In fact, it’s much more likely than an ebook that’s hidden behind a form on your website drives far more leads, and as a result is probably something you want to do more of.
Here’s a brief process to follow to work out what owned content you need to meet your digital marketing goals:
Audit your existing content
Make a list of your existing owned content and rank each item according to what has previously performed best in relation to your current goals. If your goal is lead generation, rank them according to which generated the most leads in the last year. That might be a particular blog post, an ebook, or even a specific page on your website that’s converting well.
The idea here is to figure out what’s currently working, and what’s not, so that you can set yourself up for future success.
Identify gaps in your existing content
Based on your buyer personas, identify any gaps in the content you have. If you’re a math tutoring company and have discovered in your audience research that one of your persona’s biggest challenges is finding interesting ways to study, but you don’t have any content that speaks to that concern, then you might look to create some.
By looking at your content audit, you might discover that ebooks hosted on a certain type of landing page convert really well for you (much better than webinars, for example). In the case of this math tutoring company, you might make the decision to add an ebook about ‘how to make studying more interesting’ to your content creation plans.
Create a content creation plan
Based on your findings and the gaps you’ve identified, make a content creation plan outlining the content that’s needed to help you hit your goals. This should include:
- Promotional channels
- Why you’re creating it (e.g., ‘Marketing Mary struggles to find time to plan her blog content, so we’re creating a template editorial calendar’)
- Priority level (to help you decide what’s going to give you the most ‘bang’ for your buck)
This can be a simple spreadsheet, and should also include budget information if you’re planning to outsource the content creation, or a time estimate if you’re producing it yourself.
5) Audit and plan your earned media.
Evaluating your previous earned media against your current goals can help you get an idea of where to focus your time. Look at where your traffic and leads are coming from (if that’s your goal) and rank each earned media source from most effective to least effective.
You can get this information from tools like Google Analytics, or in HubSpot’s Sources Reports if you’re a customer.
You might find that a particular article you contributed to the industry press drove a lot of qualified traffic to your website, which in turn converted really well. Or you might discover that LinkedIn is where you see most people sharing your content, which in turn drives a lot of traffic. The idea here is to build up a picture of what earned media will help you reach your goals, and what won’t, based on historic data. However, if there’s something new you want to try, don’t rule that out just because it’s not yet tried and tested.
6) Audit and plan your paid media.
This process involves much of the same process: You need to evaluate your existing paid media across each platform (e.g., Google AdWords, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to figure out what’s likely to help you meet your current goals.
If you’ve been spending a lot of money on AdWords and haven’t seen the results you’d hoped for, maybe it’s time to refine your approach, or scrap it altogether and focus on another platform that seems to be yielding better results. (Check out this free AdWords guide for more on how to leverage it for business
By the end of the process, you should have a clear idea of which paid media platforms you want to continue using, and which (if any) you’d like to scrap.
7) Bring it all together.
You’ve done the planning and the research, and you now have a solid vision of the elements that are going to make up your digital marketing strategy. Here’s what you should have so far:
- Clear profile of your buyer persona(s)
- One or more marketing-specific goals
- A spreadsheet of your existing owned, earned and paid media
- An audit of your existing owned, earned and paid media
- An owned content creation plan or wish list
Now, it’s time to bring all of this together to form a solid strategy document. Let’s revisit what ‘digital strategy’ means — ‘the series of actions that are going to help you achieve your goal(s) using online marketing’.
By that definition, your strategy document should map out the series of actions you’re going to take to achieve your goals based on your research to this point. An Excel sheet is probably the best format. For the sake of consistency, you’ll probably find it easiest to map out according to the owned, earned and paid media framework we’ve used so far.
You’ll also need to map out your strategy for an extended period of time (usually 12 months or longer, depending on how your business is set up) so it’s helpful to 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 accompanied by paid promotion.
- In July, you might be preparing for your biggest business month.
- In September, you might plan to focus on earned media in the form of PR to drive additional traffic during the run-up.
By taking this approach, you’re also creating a structured timeline for your activity which will help communicate your plans to your colleagues — and help keep you sane!
Your strategy document will be very individual to your business, which is why it’s almost impossible for us to create a one-size-fits-all digital marketing strategy template. Remember that 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 strategy.
Sarah Brady l Vital
Preparation is key. Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Whether you are chopping down a tree or executing an integrated marketing plan, the steps you take ahead of time to lay out your plan and ensure you have all of the proper (and optimized) tools, are crucial to your marketing success.
Your marketing department might encompass digital marketing, print advertisement, paid search, website optimization, visual identity/branding, event marketing, etc. As a digital marketing agency, this marketing plan discussion will focus mostly on the digital marketing aspect, but the strategies and concepts in this post can be expanded to encompass your entire marketing department. For today’s marketers, creating an integrated marketing plan that includes social media marketing, content marketing, email marketing and SEO — all tenets of a strong digital marketing, or inbound marketing strategy — is necessary in order to attract and convert buyers in a digital age.
Maybe you work for a large corporation and have been tasked with developing next year’s marketing plan, or perhaps you are launching a new start-up and need to craft a plan from scratch. Maybe it’s been 20 years since you graduated from business school or wrote your last marketing plan, and realize that times have changed a bit. Whatever the case, the steps you take today to create a functional and straight forward marketing plan will lay the foundation for your year ahead, helping you to get results that are measurable and quantifiable.
But before we dive in, let’s take a quick look at an overview of how the marketing plan should be structured.
How to Structure Your Marketing Plan
List your Goals First
While developing goals may not be the first step you actually take when forming your marketing plan, listing them first on your final marketing plan document sets the stage for everything to come.
Explain Your Research
Research will be the foundation of your marketing plan and should include:
- Competitive Analysis
- SWOT Analysis – This is an analysis of your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, standard to any business or marketing plan
- Understanding Your Buyer Personas – This will include the demographics of the buyers you are targeting as well as include any personas you want to avoid.
- Learning Your Buyers’ Buying Cycle – Understanding how, when, where and why your target market buys is key to converting leads.
Explain Your Strategy
Once you have a clear grip on the landscape and understand your buyers, it’s time to explain the strategy. This phase includes:
- Defining Your Goals
- Knowing Your USP (unique selling proposition)
- Ensuring You Have a Strong Brand
- Making Sure You Have an Optimized Website
- Creating Kick-Ass Content
- Defining Your Distribution Channels (email, social, etc.)
- Having an SEO Strategy
Define KPIs and Measurement Methods
After all the heavy lifting is complete, your strategy is in place and you have begun pulling together and implementing your tactical plans, it’s time to measure. In fact, even before you have implemented your strategy you should be measuring to establish your baseline. What have you done in the past and what were the results? How can those strategies shift to improve ROI? Measurement should be done before, during and after — throughout the year, on a monthly or even weekly basis — to ensure your plans are showing positive results and to shift them if they’re not.
List Overarching Strategy and Tactical Plans
Having tactical plans and calendars gives life to your ideas and strategy. Try focusing on 4 or 5 main tactics for the year and create execution plans around these tactics. Keep in mind that your tactics may or may not be the same as your goals. If your goals are high-level, i.e. to increase traffic by 50%, then your tactic would drill down more on how to get that result — and be as the name implies, more tactical.
It’s a Guide, Not a Bible
Nobody can predict the future, which is why it is vital to remember that your marketing plan should be a living, working document. This is not a style book, a brand handbook or a book on company policy. A marketing plan should be a reference that is used throughout the year, is malleable to a certain extent and is shared with all stakeholders and contributing members of the team. Transparency is important when developing and finalizing the plan. By getting feedback from all departments and being clear on goals, your marketing plan is more likely to be of value and to be seen as a successful tool.
A marketing plan left to collect dust is useless. What’s not useless is a fluid marketing plan that allows for change and is looked upon as a guide, not as a bible.
Do Your Research
A common mistake that many make is starting on the tactical plan before they have ironed out the strategic plan. In order to formulate a strategic plan, you need to do research.
If you don’t know who you are, what you’re selling or who you’re selling to, you’re going to have a pretty hard time convincing people to buy your product or service, never mind figuring out what tactical initiatives you should be working on. So, if you haven’t already, do your homework. Start with researching your competitors and audience; examine your customers’ buying habits; and do a SWOT analysis (more on that in a bit). These steps will help you lay a sturdy foundation for your tactical plans and allow you to develop reasonable expectations and goals.
Feel Out the Competition
In order to determine the likelihood of success and define your marketing strategy, you need to understand the competition. Researching your competition first will also help you through your next step of creating a SWOT analysis.
In the new world of inbound marketing there are a handful of strategies that are paramount. These strategies can also be useful when researching competitors. Using email and social media, and surveying the content landscape, will give you an immense amount of knowledge about your competition. Here are some quick tips on understanding who you’re up against:
- Subscribe to your competitors’ (or those you perceive to be your competitors) email lists.
- Follow your competitors on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram… any social site you can find them on.
- Examine what content your competitors are creating — who it is aimed at, how often is it produced, who is writing it, what the content topics are, etc. MOZ recommends using Wordle to get a pulse on the competition and keep your data organized.
For more on why these tactics are important, how to implement them and what data you can glean from them, read Competitor Research in an Inbound Marketing World.
Perform a SWOT Analysis
Standard to any business or marketing plan is the SWOT analysis. The SWOT analysis should help you clearly define your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats so that you can develop goals and objectives that are on point and tied to your overall mission. The SWOT analysis will also enable you to understand what differentiates you from your competition and how you should position yourself in the market. It will also help in developing your messaging and your unique selling proposition. Brutal honesty is imperative to a truly insightful SWOT. Use bullets and aim for 4–5 in each section. Limiting your lists will help you to focus on the most critical points and help retain focus.
In addition to completing a SWOT for your overall marketing plan, it is often helpful to do a SWOT analysis for the different segments within your marketing plan. For example, as we will discuss further down in this piece, content marketing, social media and SEO will all be important parts of your overall inbound marketing plan and would benefit from SWOTs of their own.
Create Your Buyer Personas
The days of outbound marketing have come and gone. No longer are we looking at audiences en masse. Instead, inbound marketers are honing in on the segments of those audiences that they want to target. This is a crucial step in developing an inbound marketing plan.
Creating buyer personas, in order to understand your target market, will let you see who you are marketing to, what their pain points are, where they live online and a number of other demographic traits. This information will help you to personalize your marketing materials so they are targeted and highly relevant to your audience segments.
Read How to Avoid 4 Buyer Persona Mistakes for advice and a free template on developing your personas. You may need to do research in order to completely develop your personas, but before you dive into that endeavor, check out 9 Questions You Need to Ask When Developing Buyer Personas. You may find you already have all the data you need!
And remember, you aren’t trying to catch every fish in the sea. You are only trying to catch the ones you want, the ones you are targeting because they have the strongest potential to turn into leads. Your net doesn’t need to be wide — it needs to be precise.
Learn Your Buyers’ Buying Cycle
After you have identified your buyer personas, the next step is figuring out how these personas think and ultimately make the decision to buy. According to Hubspot and adopted by all those who believe in the inbound marketing methodology, there are three steps in the buyer’s journey: Awareness, Consideration, Decision. Each of these stages are major opportunities for you as a marketer to nurture your potential customer by providing valuable content about the product and or problem they are trying to solve for. Here are three stats from a Forbes.com article that prove just how important content is in nurturing a prospect throughout the buyer’s journey:
70-90% of the buyer’s journey is complete prior to engaging a vendor (Forrester)
A consumer engages with 11.4 pieces of content prior to making a purchase (Forrester)
Consumers are 5x more dependent on content than they were 5 years ago (Nielsen)
To learn more about the buyer’s journey and how you can align your marketing plan with your customers buying habits, read Understanding the Buyer’s Journey. And if you are a B2B company, read B2B Lead Generation Starts with Mapping the Buyers Journey.
Create a Strategy
Now that you’ve done your research, you’re ready to start formulating a marketing strategy for your plan.
Whittle Down Your Goals
Goals are the most important part of your plan. If you have completed your research, you should have been able to identify your weaknesses and areas of opportunities. Setting both quantitative and qualitative goals around these findings, as well as developing KPIs, will be essential. They will help you to set a clear path, understand your marketing ROI and redirect your tactics as you move through the year, if you find certain strategies are working better than others.
Goals should be obtainable, but not easy. You want to make sure you are reaching for growth but not shooting for the stars and ending up discouraged and overwhelmed.
Here are some general tips to keep in mind when developing marketing goals and objectives:
- Evaluate your current position in the market and set realistic goals
- Understand your growth year-to-date and set attainable but challenging goals accordingly
- Tie your goals to your businesses overall mission and vision
- Don’t overwhelm yourself. Pick no more than 2 main goals and 3-5 supporting goals
- Accept that sometimes you will fail and not reach all of your goals. Be OK with that and learn from your failures
- Create goal milestones to make reaching the goal more digestible
And remember, we are marketers, not heart surgeons. Have fun, get creative and don’t take yourself or your marketing too seriously.
Know What Makes You Unique
Knowing your unique selling proposition (USP) and marketing that USP is essential to beating the competition and solidifying your company’s value in the marketplace. Your USP ties in closely with your brand and your content because those are the conduits your USP will be communicated through. And communication is key. Clearly state your USP and do it often, on your website, in your emails, through your ads etc. For tips on formulating your USP read The Ultimate Guide to Finding Your Unique Selling Proposition
Ensure You Have A Strong Brand
Branding can be fun, but it can also be tricky. A brand can be one of the strongest assets a company possesses and if done right will attract the buyer loyalty every business dreams of. Brand consistency is key. Is your brand consistently represented across all channels, including your logo, website design, tradeshow booth, print marketing materials, business cards and email signatures, advertisements, packaging design, social media profiles and sales collateral? Take a look at all the places that your audience comes in contact with your brand, and ask yourself what each piece is saying about your brand as a whole.
If your brand encompasses several sub-brands or subsidiaries, have you strategically audited your brand architecture to leverage maximum brand equity? Not only will a well-designed, cohesive brand architecture benefit you in brand value and recognition, but an online brand strategy will benefit your SEO/Search rankings will improve as well.
Optimize Your Website
Website design is more than just a pretty page. Your website is often the first impression your prospects will get of your company. That means that your website has to be more than pretty (that helps), it needs to be clear and functional. If your site is cluttered and hard to navigate you will automatically lose potential buyers. Just think about the last time you went to a poorly designed and over cluttered site. Did you stay long? Did you get an immediate impression of that company? Similarly, if visitors can’t tell what you sell or what your value proposition is, they will leave. All it takes is the click of a button and they are on to the next provider. There’s often a direct correlation made that if your website is hard to work with, your company must be hard to work with.
So be clear in your messaging. Make sure your site is a place that people want to stay, not only because it is pretty but also because the information they need is easily found. There is an entire science and methodology behind website design including where to place buttons on the page, what content works best where, what colors convey certain feelings and so on. Read, 4 Examples of Fantastic Web Design for inspiration and consider hiring a web designer who specializes in Inbound Marketing and SEO to ensure your website is reaching its full potential.
Create Kick-Ass Content
If you have read anything about inbound or content marketing you have likely heard the overused phrase “content is king.” While it may be overused, when it comes to inbound marketing, it’s pretty spot on. Content is the meat that will attract your buyers. It is what Google uses to search for keywords and drive users to your site and what buyers use to glean information and knowledge about their problem as they move through the buyer’s journey.
Content is all of the written words used to convey your brand, from the copy on your site to the landing page users arrive at, to the blog posts, newsletters and emails you write. But it’s not just having content that matters, it’s having quality content that is consistent. Content marketing is about providing useful information to your customer base. It’s not about selling but about informing.
Think of it this way. If you write intelligent and thought provoking blog content, say on a weekly basis, that in some way solves a problem, answers a question or simply entertains your target audience, you will become a go-to resource for those potential buyers. They will come back to your site time and time again because you are providing a free service for them, all the while building trust and establishing brand clout in a non-intrusive way. And when these devoted followers realize they need the product you sell, guess who they are most likely to buy it from? You got it. They are going to go to you. The company they trust. Read Is Youtility the Future of Marketing by Jay Baer, New York Times best selling author and social media and content strategist, to learn more about this important concept.
So, your content is essential in nurturing your customers as they move through the buyer’s journey, but in order to do this successfully you need to know what types of content to use and when.
Here are the recommended content types for each stage of the buyer’s journey.
- White Papers
- Editorial Content
- Blog Posts
- Expert and Solution Oriented Guides and White Papers
- Product Comparisons
- Case Studies
- Free Trials/Downloads
- Product Focused Content
But it doesn’t stop there. Buyers aren’t the only ones that like helpful content. Google does too. Creating solid content is hugely important for your SEO strategy.
To learn more about creating a kick ass content plan read, How to Build a Compelling Content Strategy for Your Boring Industry or The Secret to a Stand Our B2B Marketing Strategy?
Define Your Distribution Channels
So if content is the meat, your distribution channels are the arms that feed that meat. As important as content is, without distribution your content goes to waste. It is useless. So it is essential to have a clear understanding of how each channel works and to use a mix of paid, owned and earned media.
In the world of social media it pays to have an overall strategy that is tweaked depending on the social channel you are working in. For example, the way you market on Twitter will differ from the way you market on LinkedIn or Facebook. They are different sites with different purposes and your messaging needs to reflect that. One strategy, however, that does work across them all is using photographs. Posts with pictures get higher clicks and engagement across the board. And because social media is all about getting your content and your messaging seen, timing is important. According to sumall.com the key is to catch people in their downtime, early in the morning, on their breaks or at night. Here is what they recommend for timing:
- Twitter 1-3pm weekdays
- Facebook 1-4pm and 2-5pm weekdays
- LinkedIn 7-8:30am and 5-6pm Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday
- Tumblr 7-10pm weekdays and 4pm on Fridays
- Instagram 5-6pm weekdays and 8pm on Mondays with a sweetspot at 6pm
- Pinterest 2-4pm and 8-11pm weekdays with weekends being the best
- Google+ 9-11am weekdays
Of course, depending on your industry and audience these times could vary. The key is to test and re-test in order to see when your buyers are engaging. Look at the competition. See who is doing social successfully in your space and note their patterns. And remember, your engagement on social media is key. When you interact with your audience you are telling them you heard them, you are enhancing your brand and you are showing authenticity.
Much like your content plan, your social media plan needs a strategy of its own that is then integrated with your overall marketing plan.
For more on social media marketing read, Everything Marketers Want to Know About Social Media Marketing But Are Too Afraid To Ask or Three Elements of an Effective Social Media Strategy
Email marketing is yet another tactic in your inbound marketing arsenal. Email is used most effectively as a lead nurturing tool, in that it is used to engage with potential customers as they interact with specific content on your website. For example, should a prospect visit your website and download an eBook, they will then begin to receive a set of triggered emails related to the eBook topic, encouraging them to further interact with the brand. Email is also commonly used for announcements, newsletters and promotions. Just as with social media, email frequency and timing matters. While incorporating email into your marketing plan is important, overdoing it can backfire. People don’t want to be overrun with emails and if you are overzealous you could risk losing potential buyers.
Remember, when creating your emails, keep the content short, include one main call-to- action, have links back to your website, use images and make sure the subject line is catchy. And when it comes to email, you can never test or measure too much.
For more on email marketing read, The Definitive Guide to B2B Email Marketing or Best Email Service Providers for Salesforce:MailChimp vs Constant Contact vs Native Apps
As we have already established, the content you create is important to your strategy but it is only useful if it finds its way into the right hands. SEO is what Google and other search engines use to index your pages and allow your content to be found by your prospective customers. In a digital world, SEO is hugely important. You could think about it as another distribution channel with a whole different set of rules.
In order to use SEO effectively, you must optimize your content and when we say content we mean all your content – from your blogs to your landing pages to your social tags. In order to do this you need to create a keyword list, which will then allow you to create messaging around the words and phrase you are targeting. But SEO is much more than just targeting keywords. Link building, content and social media all play key roles in a successful SEO strategy
This is the phase of your plan that should be ongoing. As soon as you put your marketing plan into action start tracking, measuring and reporting.
The ability to measure your inbound marketing efforts is one of the most valuable parts of your plan and the beauty of inbound marketing. The amount of things to measure and test are endless. And that’s a good thing because when you are able to test and measure you are able to improve areas of weakness, report quantitative results and prove the value of your marketing efforts to the broader organization.
You should be measuring, reporting and testing your inbound marketing on a monthly basis to see what is working and what isn’t and to learn more about your buyer base. It might sound like overkill, but this actually can be the really fun part!
Creating Tactical Plans
Once you have your strategy in place its time to decide what tactics are most important to the success of that strategy. For example, a company might decide to focus on four main tactics for the year: blog creation, a website re-vamp, SEO improvement and custom list development for email campaigns. While they may still want to work on their social media strategy and PR, for the year in question, they will devote the majority of their budget towards the four main tactics listed while continuing to allocate smaller budgets towards social media and PR, to keep them running. In addition, tactical calendars will be needed to help lay out the specifics of each tactic. For example, an editorial calendar will be needed for the content blogging strategy.
There is a lot that goes into creating an inbound marketing plan. But when it’s done right it can be one of the most valuable assets your marketing department has.
A Step-By-Step Guide to Structuring a Digital Marketing Plan
Putting digital marketing actions into motion without a previously-devised plan or strategy could lead to failure for not considering all the aspects that could impact their development. When developing a digital marketing plan, you have to include components such as determining your target audience business objectives, and an adequate value proposition.
What is a digital marketing plan?
A digital marketing plan is a document sharing the details for all the planning for your digital marketing campaigns or actions. It details, among other things:
– Short, medium and long term business goals.
– The strategies to achieve the goals at the digital level.
– The channels to use.
– Action and development plans.
– Investment and budget.
– The timing and roadmap.
According to Philip Kotler, considered one of the fathers of modern marketing, a traditional marketing plan serves: “to document how the organization’s strategic objectives will be achieved through specific marketing strategies and tactics, with the customer as the starting point. It is also linked to the plans of other departments within the organization.”
With this in mind, does your company need a digital marketing plan? According to Puromarketing and in our opinion, the answer is a resounding yes: 100% yes. You need it to:
- Attract, convince, convert, and make your customers fall in love with your product or service.
- Plan all the strategies and actions to reach your target customer.
- Segment your marketing campaigns to provide value in every stage.
Before developing the steps that define a digital marketing plan’s structure, you need to feel comfortable in your corporation’s online domain, your target, the channels where you should be present, and who your competition is and what they do.
Next, we’ll give you a break-down of the step-by-step structure for your digital marketing plan:
Structure a digital marketing plan step-by-step
Step 1: Situational Analysis
The first thing you need to do when developing your digital marketing plan is to carry out an internal and external analysis (SWOT analysis) of the firm. A useful framework for this is the SWOT analysis that allows you to look at the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and weaknesses for your company and the market at large.
We need to be familiar with the ecosystem we operate in, what our customers’ needs are, and where they get addressed. This analysis is equally qualitative as it is quantitative through looking at factors such as digital habits, intermediaries, influencers, and more.
Implementing benchmarking techniques (Links to an external site.) that aim to identify the best digital practices and success stories and applying them to the business is an increasingly prominent part of the overall corporate strategy.
We also need to conduct an internal study to know what our company’s situation is like in the digital age: is our website customer-oriented? How is the usability and browsing experience? Do we update our blog periodically? What is our website’s current positioning? And what is our social media presence?
In this HubSpot infographic, you have a checklist for when you run your analysis of your digital presence.
Step 2: Establish Digital Marketing Goals
Once you have your place in the market and your strong points in mind, work on establishing some goals to have a clear idea of where your actions should take you. Everything you plan has to work towards meeting those goals.
You can work on developing this part of your digital marketing plan with the SMART goals framework in mind: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely goals.
Here’s an example:
- Not a SMART objective: “I want to increase the number of visits to my website.”
- SMART objective: “I want to reach 20,000 visits a month on my website every month within three months. To do so, I’m going to do X, Y, and Z.”
Step 3: Define the marketing strategy
Once you’ve defined your business objectives, what are you going to do to achieve them? Personalization is becoming increasingly important in digital marketing. Therefore, when it comes to defining your strategy for carrying out your plan, keep these factors in mind:
Once you’ve defined your business objectives, what are you going to do to achieve them? Personalization is becoming increasingly important in digital marketing. Therefore, when it comes to defining your strategy for carrying out your plan, keep these factors in mind:
Segmenting your target audience:
Know who you want to address, what their tastes, needs, or preferences are, where are you looking to meet their expectations, etc. This is the time to create your buyer persona.
To achieve proper positioning, it’s crucial that you are very clear (and reach your audience in the same way) about what your value proposition is and what it entails. In short, it’s why the consumer should choose you and not the competition. You need to know how you’re going to communicate your unique value proposition and how to do so appropriately in the channels where your audience is present (social media, blogs, email marketing, and more).
This is important for creating, distributing, and managing original content that attracts users and positions the brand as referential in users’ top of mind. Besides, you also have to map out a specific communications plan (content marketing) for every channel. Some of the tools we use to execute this strategy are:
Keyword research: This involves identifying appropriate keywords for us to use correctly in our content to organically improve our SEO positioning. This is imperative for every content strategy if you want users to find you on search engines.
Content calendar: A content calendar is key for ensuring your strategy makes sense. It provides value; it lets you think long-term and optimize your resources, help create ideas, and more. In a content calendar, you should include the date of publication, author, post topic, keyword, the tags to use/take into consideration, and so on.
Social posting: Writing an article and not promoting it on social media is a mistake. It’s not spamming but instead planning out what you are going to publish and when on every social media platform with the copies best suited for each one, all while having the ideal number of characters, links, hashtags, and more.
You should also consider:
- What your audience is like.
- What topics you’re going to talk about.
- What tone you’re going to use.
- How frequently you’re going to publish.
Step 4: Digital Strategies and Tactics
Based on our objectives (attraction, conversion, and loyalty), we’ll start to carry out different strategies: email marketing campaigns, social media, CRM, web optimization, SEO strategies, Paid Media advertising, etc.
Today, considering that the number of channels to manage is multiplying and the amount of information we get about our customers is increasing, it’s critical we use Marketing Automation tools that let you automate your marketing campaigns.
Thanks to these tactics, you’ll be able to create workflows that will allow you to create hundreds of campaigns with mere clicks. You’ll be able to personalize messages based on your buyer persona, increasing your chances for success; not only that, you’ll be able to take them, depending on their interactions with the brand, towards the moment of purchase.
Technology has turned into a fundamental tool for implementing digital strategies, making it critical for you to learn to get the most out of it.
Step 5: Measuring Results and KPIs
The work doesn’t stop after you’ve designed and implemented your digital marketing strategy. The next step is one of the most important: analyzing the results. Analytics has turned into a critical pillar for successfully optimizing digital marketing performance and spending.
We have to measure every action using KPIs to figure out if we earned the ROI we expected. Measuring the effectiveness of the strategies and activities we implemented in our digital marketing will help us correct what doesn’t work to achieve the goals we set.
Make sure you have an effective real-time data visualization system. The digital world evolves rapidly, so you need to be on the lookout at all times to identify opportunities and room for improvement in an instant.
Keep these steps in mind when creating your digital marketing plan and don’t leave anything to chance; it’s your greatest enemy if you’re looking to position yourself and boost your presence in the digital space.
Likewise, keep in mind that technology can turn into your greatest ally to create personalized, automated, and ultimately, successfully marketing campaigns. As the task gets complicated, the new tools out there let you simplify your work and boost your performance.