Crafting a Digital Marketing Strategy
Crafting a Digital Marketing Strategy
Any activity with an end goal (whether it’s winning a war, building a city, or selling a product) should have a blueprint in place for every person in the organization to follow. In digital marketing, however, there is no single definitive approach—each business must create its own roadmap. However, there are questions you can use to guide the process.
A strategy needs to cover who you are, what you are offering and to whom, and why and how you are doing so. The steps and questions below cover what an organization should be aware of when creating and implementing a strategy that will meet its marketing objectives and solve its challenges.
Step 1: Examine the Context
The first step in crafting a successful strategy is to examine the context of the organization and the various stakeholders:
· What is the context in which you are operating (PESTLE factors) and how is this likely to change in the future?
· Who are you, why does your brand matter, and what makes your brand useful and valuable?
· Who are your customers, and what needs, wants, and desires do they have?
· Who are your competitors? These may extend beyond organizations that compete with you on the basis of price and product and could also be competition in the form of abstracts such as time and mindshare.
Thorough market research will reveal the answers to these questions.
Step 2: Examine Your Value Exchange
Once you have examined the market situation, the second step is an examination of your value proposition or promise. In other words, what unique value can your organization add to that market? It is important to identify the supporting value-adds to the brand promise that are unique to the digital landscape. What extras, beyond the basic product or service, do you offer to customers?
The internet offers many channels for value creation. However, the value depends largely on the target audience, so it is crucial to research your users and gather insights into what they want and need.
Content marketing is the process of conceptualizing and creating this sort of content. Examples of value-based content include a DIY gardening video for a hardware brand, a research paper for a business analyst, or a funny infographic for a marketing company.
Step 3: Establish Digital Marketing Goals
When setting your digital marketing goals, there are three key aspects to consider: objectives, key performance indicators (KPIs), and targets. Let’s look at each one in turn.
Objectives are essential to any marketing endeavor. Without them, your strategy would have no direction and no end goal or win conditions. It’s important to be able to take a step back and ask several questions:
· What are you trying to achieve?
· How will you know if you are successful?
Objectives need to be SMART:
· specific—The objective must be clear and detailed, rather than vague and general.
· measurable—The objective must be measurable so that you can gauge whether you are attaining the desired outcome.
· attainable—The objective must be something that is possible for your brand to achieve, based on available resources.
· realistic—The objective must also be sensible and based on data and trends; don’t exaggerate or overestimate what can be achieved.
· time-bound—Finally, the objective must be linked to a specific timeframe.
Key Performance Indicators
Key performance indicators (KPIs) are the specific metrics or pieces of data that you will look at to determine whether your tactics are performing well and meeting your objectives. For example, a gardener may look at the growth rate, color, and general appearance of a plant to evaluate whether it is healthy. In the same way, a marketer will look at a range of data points to determine whether a chosen tactic is delivering. KPIs are determined per tactic, with an eye on the overall objective.
Finally, targets are the specific values that are set for your KPIs to reach within a specific time period. If you meet or exceed a target, you are succeeding; if you don’t reach it, you’re falling behind on your objectives and you need to reconsider your approach (or your target).
Example of Digital Marketing Goals
SMART objective: Increase sales through the eCommerce platform by 10 percent within the next six months.
· Search advertising—number of search referrals; cost per click on the ads
· Facebook brand page—number of comments and shares on campaign; specific posts
· Search advertising—one thousand search referrals after the first month, with a 10 percent month-on-month increase after that
· Facebook brand page—50 comments and 10 shares on campaign-specific posts per week
Step 4: Establish Tactics and Evaluation
Tactics are the specific tools or approaches you will use to meet your objectives, for example, a retention-based email newsletter, a Facebook page, or a CRM implementation. As a strategy becomes more complex, you may have multiple tactics working together to try to achieve the same objective. Tactics may change (and often should), but the objective should remain your focus.
Many digital tools and tactics are available once you have defined your digital marketing objectives. Each tactic has its strengths. For example, acquisition (gaining new customers) may best be driven by search advertising, while email is one of the most effective tools for selling more products to existing customers.
The table below expands on some of the most popular tactics available to digital marketers and their possible outcomes.
Common Tactics and Their Outcomes
SEO—This is the practice of optimizing a website to rank higher on the search engine results pages for relevant search terms. SEO involves creating relevant, fresh and user-friendly content that search engines index and serve when people enter a search term that is relevant to your product or service.
Customer retention and acquisition—SEO has a key role to play in acquisition, as it ensures your organization’s offering will appear in the search results, allowing you to reach potential customers. A site that is optimized for search engines is also a site that is clear, relevant and well designed. These elements ensure a great user experience, meaning that SEO also plays a role in retention.
Search advertising—In pay-per-click or search advertising, the advertiser pays only when someone clicks on their ad. The ads appear on search engine results pages.
Sales, customer retention, and acquisition—The beauty of search advertising is that it is keyword based. This means an ad will come up in response to the search terms entered by the consumer. It therefore plays a role in sales, acquisition and retention. It allows the advertiser to reach people who are already in the buying cycle or are expressing interest in what they have to offer.
Online advertising—Online advertising covers advertising in all areas of the Internet – ads in emails, ads on social networks and mobile devices, and display ads on normal websites.
Branding and acquisition—The main objective of display advertising is to raise brand awareness online. It can also be more interactive and therefore less disruptive than traditional or static online advertising, as users can choose to engage with the ad or not. Online advertising can be targeted to physical locations, subject areas, past user behaviors, and much more.
Affiliate marketing—Affiliate marketing is a system of reward whereby referrers are given a finder’s fee for every referral they give.
Sales and branding—Online affiliate marketing is widely used to promote eCommerce websites, with the referrers being rewarded for every visitor, subscriber or customer provided through their efforts. It is a useful tactic for brand building and acquisition.
Video marketing—Video marketing involves creating video content. This can either be outright video advertising, or can be valuable, useful, content marketing.
Branding, customer retention, and value creation—Since it is so interactive and engaging, video marketing is excellent for capturing and retaining customer attention. Done correctly, it provides tangible value— in the form of information, entertainment or inspiration—and boosts a brand’s image in the eyes of the public.
Social media—Social media, also known as consumer-generated media, is media (in the form of text, visuals and audio) created to be shared. It has changed the face of marketing by allowing collaboration and connection in a way that no other channel has been able to offer.
Branding, value creation, and participation—From a strategic perspective, social media is useful for brand building, raising awareness of the brand story and allowing the consumer to become involved in the story through collaboration. Social media platforms also play a role in building awareness, due to their shareable, viral nature. They can also provide crowdsourced feedback and allow brands to share valuable content directly with their fans.
Email marketing—Email marketing is a form of direct marketing that delivers commercial and content-based messages to an audience. It is extremely cost effective, highly targeted, customizable on a mass scale and completely measurable—all of which make it one of the most powerful digital marketing tactics.
Customer retention and value creation—Email marketing is a tool for building relationships with potential and existing customers through valuable content and promotional messages. It should maximize the retention and value of these customers, ultimately leading to greater profitability for the organization as a whole. A targeted, segmented email database means that a brand can direct messages at certain sectors of their customer base in order to achieve the best results.
Once the objectives and tactics have been set, these should be cross-checked and re-evaluated against the needs and resources of your organization to make sure your strategy is on the right track and no opportunities are being overlooked.
Step 5: Ongoing Optimization
It is increasingly important for brands to be dynamic, flexible, and agile when marketing online. New tactics and platforms emerge every week, customer behaviors change over time, and people’s needs and wants from brands evolve as their relationships grow. The challenge is to break through the online clutter to connect with customers in an original and meaningful way.
This process of constant change should be considered in the early stages of strategy formulation, allowing tactics and strategies to be modified and optimized as you go. After all, developing a digital marketing strategy should be iterative, innovative, and open to evolution.
Understanding user experience and the user journey is vital to building successful brands. A budget should be set aside upfront for analyzing user data and optimizing conversion paths.
Social thinking and socially informed innovation are also valuable and uniquely suited to the online space. Socially powered insight can be used to inform strategic decisions in the organization, from product roadmaps to service plans. Brands have moved from a mere presence in social media to active use, aligning it with actionable objectives and their corresponding metrics. This is critical in demonstrating return on investment (ROI) and understating the opportunities and threats in the market.
Managing the learning loop (the knowledge gained from reviewing the performance of your tactics, which can then be fed back into the strategy) can be difficult. This is because brand cycles often move more slowly than the real-time results you will see online. It is therefore important to find a way to work agility into the strategy, allowing you to be quick, creative, and proactive, as opposed to slow, predictable, and reactive.
Licenses and Attributions
2.7 Crafting a Digital Marketing Strategy from eMarketing: The Essential Guide to Marketing in a Digital World, 5th Edition by Rob Stokes and the Minds of Quirk is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license. © 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013 Quirk Education Pty (Ltd). UMUC has modified this work and it is available under the original license.
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