How to Create A Digital Marketing Plan in 10 Steps
What is Digital Marketing and What Does it Entail?
Digital marketing is an effective go-to-market business growth strategy that includes utilizing top-notch company websites, a strategic communications approach, and aligning business goals with these strategies -- through an ever-expanding marketing technology (aka “Martech“) stack.
Your digital marketing plan requires proficiency in search engine optimization (SEO), paid and organic social media, content strategy, user experience (UX)-focused web design, and data analytics. Digital marketing is complex, and a great medium through which people can be both creative and critical in their thinking and their design skills. This article can help you dissect the most important parts of digital marketing so you can build your unique plan and achieve your goals.
Why Is Digital Marketing Important?
Digital marketing is important in a world of ever-changing technology and streamlined communication, where people depend on the internet for everything. The internet is as powerful as it is convenient, and that provides a unique opportunity for digital marketers to reach their target customers.
Whether you are marketing in a business-to-business (B2B) setting, or direct-to-consumer (business-to-consumer or B2C,) the power, reach, and precise targeting that digital marketing offers can effectively reach and connect with your prospects.
The key is to get the right message in front of the right people at the right time. Hence the reason why social media advertising continues to be so effective. People’s personal likes and habits inform the targeting, so the advertisements they receive are extremely personalized.
Digital marketing benefits businesses by targeting customers with specific communications at every stage of the buying funnel. Prospects at the top of the funnel, also known as the “awareness” stage need to understand the value of your brand. In the mid-funnel, sometimes called the “consideration” stage, prospects will be ready for more detail about features and benefits. At the bottom of the funnel or the “buying” stage, they are ready to hear the offer.
Finally, digital marketing is also very affordable, making it a smart investment for growing businesses.
How Do I Write An Effective Digital Marketing Plan?
Step 1 | Goals
The first step in creating your digital marketing plan is to set marketing goals based on your company’s mission statement. A solid method to record your aspirations is to use the SMART goals strategy, in which you set goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based.
For example, you may set a goal to update your content strategy. Simply putting it as ”Our goal is to update our content strategy” is too vague to make any measurable progress, so you can make it more detailed using the SMART goal strategy. You can instead phrase it as:
“Our goal is to update our content strategy because our data shows that customers are struggling to find specific content on our website that lists the accommodations we offer. We will address this challenge by addressing ADA Compliance standards for our website. Then, we will use our analytics tools once a week, every week, to test and measure how many customers find and use the part of the website that lists this content, and we will continue to iterate to increase engagement.”
This is a SMART goal because it lists the specific and relevant problem: users not finding content about accommodations easily enough. There is a clear plan of how to solve it, updating the website, and it is something that can easily be done. There is a chosen time to update the website, and there is a chosen time frame for measuring the progress made. Make sure to apply the SMART goals strategy to every task you need to do. Create a calendar to keep track of which goals you plan to prioritize on a given day to fit a scheduled task.
Step 2 | Market Research
A SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis is a commonly used step-by-step strategy that keeps track of the internal and external factors that can affect the status of your business.
Make a list for each of these four things. Ask yourself important questions related to them, for example, under strengths, you can ask, ”What is our best quality during customer interactions?” Think about what all of these are for your business and record them. Go back to these lists regularly for updates and changes. This strategy can help you measure and evaluate your performance and set new digital marketing goals for the future.
Strengths are internal factors, things that happen inside the company within your control that determine how well it is thriving and could continue to thrive if the strengths remained intact. Strengths include competent staff, responsible use of marketing tools, good financing, and strong, cordial relationships with suppliers.
Weaknesses are also internal factors, and failing to acknowledge them would be a blunder. Weaknesses include high staff turnover, low productivity rates, unmanageable debt, or an unwillingness to try out new marketing activities.
Opportunities are external factors, things that happen outside the company beyond your control, but can change your company for the better if taken advantage of at the right time. Opportunities include new, high-quality technology efficiencies, expansion into different sectors, new digital marketing channels, and changes in the marketplace.
Threats are also external factors, and failure to address them is dangerous for your company. The existence of threats is not something that you can control, but the way you approach your threats is what saves your company before it goes under. Threats include world events, disruptor brands, economic issues, and labor shortages.
Pros and Cons of a SWOT Analysis
As commonplace as the SWOT analyses are, the reality is that using them is not all cut and dry. On the positive side, your SWOT analysis provides a great visual representation of the company’s performance that is easy to use. It broadens your perspective and encourages you to leave no stone unturned. However, not every factor you track will age well or be relevant at any given time, the information could turn out to be skewed, and some of the input might be too subjective.
After your SWOT is complete on the organizational level, begin your marketing research by surveying the competitive landscape. Review competitor websites, as well as marketing content you admire from other industries.
With today’s work-life blending, there is definitely overlap in B2B and B2C strategies and tactics, as well as applicable communications that cross industries. Researching the competing organizations will help you understand how they operate and where they succeed, and, by extension, where you may have opportunities for success. Study the current demand for your products and understand how users are setting out to get those products. You‘ll have a better idea of how to reach out to them and get them what they need.
Also, remember that constant learning is key. Stay up-to-date on the state of your specific industry, as well as the current marketing trends and technologies. This mindset will help you prepare for disruptions and take advantage of new trends.
There are new online marketing tactics entering the marketplace constantly that will help you keep up with changing times and find more potential customers for your business. From Tik Tok to the latest Martech technologies, these tactics have become increasingly popular in everyday life and can help large, midsize, and small businesses introduce people to the brand, engage with the content, and become happy customers.
A few examples include:
Next, research potential partners to decide how working with them will help boost your resources and influence in the community. Partnering with the right organization or agency can often be mutually beneficial.
Finally, get to know your customers at a personal level. Define your target audience and their demographics and create your buyer personas. A buyer persona is a tool that helps you understand your potential customers at a personal level, through a mixture of qualitative and quantitative research. Buyer personas often feature a sample photo and name, including their pain points in their roles and their interests outside of work. Buyer personas, combined with a messaging strategy document, and your stated goals will inform your digital marketing strategy.
Step 3 | Brand Strategy
Brand awareness is everything. It‘s how you put yourself on the map. Do you prefer Nike or Under Armour? Bose or Beats headphones? iPhone or Samsung? All of these products seek to accomplish the same purpose, but branding assigns emotions and values to these products and leads to customer preference.
Be strategic and specific when forming and defining your brand and spreading your message. Align marketing, sales, and the executive team to your brand strategy. Define what your goals are and what your brand vision is. Decide where and how the brand fits in with similar brands and how you expect your target audience to perceive your brand when it is compared to similar brands.
How do you plan to stand out to your target audience? What are the strategic imperatives necessary to take your brand from where it is to where it could be? Hypothesize what will happen if your brand declines as well as the potential it has to grow. Make careful plans for both of those scenarios proactively.
Explore how to put your digital marketing plan into action with the right team
Step 4 | Budget
Finances are a vital element in creating your digital marketing strategy. Ask yourself: What is the company trying to accomplish? Why should it be prioritized? How much is it going to cost us and how do we spend that money responsibly and ethically to accomplish our goal?
Calculate and schedule your marketing budget and make sure that the segmentation of said budget is compatible with your business goals. Be sure to budget for additional fractional marketing resources and digital advertising you might need.
Step 5 | Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Strategy
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a digital strategy that involves optimizing your content to make it more likely to be found in an online search. It has become a critical component in the world of digital marketing and e-commerce.
SEO starts with understanding your potential clients’ search intent. You can research search terms using a tool like SEM Rush, Moz, or even Google Keyword Planner. In the course of this research, you may discover that the terms you use internally don’t quite match what people are searching for. Reviewing search terms, search volume, and keyword difficulty will help you refine your language as you focus on the terms you want to rank for.
An SEO strategy should include brainstorming about all of the keywords that search engine users would search to find your website, researching their importance, utilizing the terms in your content, and interlinking them. Interlinking is simply linking pages on your site to other pages on your site -- and also to pages outside of your organization. This strategy helps you create a unique online presence that is more likely to be found by searchers and draw attention to your website’s relevant and helpful content.
Every business should take advantage of SEO tactics in their digital marketing campaigns, as it increases your likelihood of earning recognition with your potential customers. The goal is to be at the top of the page when someone googles you, and SEO strategy helps you do that so that the ideal customer finds the ideal business and its services.
Step 6 | Content Strategy
Content strategy is closely related to SEO strategy. Once your SEO strategy is in place, you need a plan of action to carry it forward.
Content strategy generally includes:
Longform pillar page development
Monthly SEO-optimized blogging
The development of lead generation assets (such as ebooks or infographics)
Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) to move site visitors to the next stage of the funnel
Marketing automation to nurture potential customers throughout the buying process
Your content strategy will also likely include optimizing services pages, developing case studies and other social proof points, and other key communications initiatives for your organization.
Step 7 | Social Media Strategy
The importance of organic and paid social media marketing increases with each passing year. Using social media is extremely straightforward and full of opportunities. Businesses all over the globe take advantage of it, due to its excellent targeting and reach capabilities.
There are a growing number of social media platforms that you can choose from to support your brand. Social media platforms that can be used in your digital marketing plan include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok.
The social media platforms you select will depend on your audience. Some platforms might fulfill specific business goals better than others, so give both your business goals and your social media presence some critical thought. B2B digital marketers often advertise on LinkedIn and Twitter, whereas B2C digital marketers are more likely to choose Instagram, Facebook, and Tik Tok. Some platforms are more common among certain types of demographics, so remember your target audience and the buyer personas you’ve created.
Step 8 | Email Marketing Strategy
Email marketing has been a digital strategy for decades, due to its low cost and high return on investment (ROI). It can work equally well for outbound marketing, or inbound nurturing.
We strongly recommend building a database of existing and potential clients by offering something of value in exchange for their email address, versus buying a mailing list, which can lead to damaging your domain‘s reputation.
For email marketing, consider the cadence and content you want to send. What is your strategy? Thought leadership? Relationship building? Discounting? Determine your direction, consider the phase of the funnel, and align email messaging to their needs.
Do basic research on the current thinking around cadence as well. For some direct-to-consumer markets, it may make sense to email several times per week. For B2B email marketing, it may be once or twice a month.
To gather input on how to make messages more personalized and consistently keep in touch with subscribers, make sure to utilize email automation software, such as HubSpot. Continue emailing the subscribers with useful information that addresses your audience’s needs. Email marketing can lead to long-term customer loyalty and business growth.
It‘s ideal to send your subscribers to a landing page, which can provide additional valuable information, as well as an opportunity to subscribe or exchange their email address for something of value (such as an ebook or a recorded webinar). A landing page can also be used as a tool to set up a meeting or even make a purchase.
When you provide valuable information and/or offers via email marketing campaigns, you build a relationship with your audience and move them through the buying funnel. Email marketing is simple, inexpensive, and has been proven to have a remarkable ROI.
Step 9 | Lead Generation
The goal of many marketing teams is lead generation. There are two main lanes to achieve this outcome: inbound marketing and paid media.
A blueprint for inbound marketing can be found in the Content Strategy section of this article. It provides an excellent baseline for your inbound marketing initiatives. Use SEO to be found on Google, provide excellent content to engage visitors on your site, use conversion rate optimization to turn visitors into leads, and set up a nurture strategy to move your prospects through the buying funnel.
The challenge is that inbound marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. Your first lead might not be found for months, and conversion and closing take longer still.
So, how do I use digital marketing strategies to generate leads quickly? The answer is digital advertising, which includes search and display pay-per-click (PPC) ads. The outstanding targeting capabilities of Google, Instagram, LinkedIn, and other outlets provide a unique opportunity to reach customers where they are with advertising messages that are interesting to them. It’s a great way to earn immediate leads. Testing, measuring, and iteration will ensure that the leads continue to roll in for the long term. And inbound marketing will complement your PPC ads to drive leads for your business.
Step 10 | Measurement Strategy
Once your digital marketing strategy is in place, how will you know if it’s successful? Modern technological tools are available to you for the purpose of helping you see the impact that your brand is making. Is your target audience’s brand awareness increasing or is it stagnant? Are you meeting all of your business objectives? Are your marketing efforts paying off? There are all sorts of metrics you can use that aid in the evaluation of your performance. With today’s powerful data and analytics tools, it’s easy to benchmark yourself and keep track of your progress.
The following things will help you measure the performance of your digital marketing strategies.
Be sure to set KPIs. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are metrics that businesses set and use to measure their performance. There are endless possibilities for KPIs, but in general: align marketing goals to the organization‘s overall goals. Here are a few examples.
Quality lead generation
Pay attention to customer insights and make sure to validate the customer experience. You can gather customer insights from:
-Customer testimonials and reviews
-User feedback and sentiment
You can use this data to improve performance by refining your messaging and customer experience. The bottom line is, customer insights help your business adapt and develop a digital marketing strategy to expand influence and earn valuable revenue, while providing the best services, in the most efficient and accurate way.
To summarize, your digital marketing plan should contain these ten key components and will need to continue evolving, alongside technological breakthroughs and market knowledge. Developing and presenting your digital marketing plan annually will set the stage for your business’ growth and your personal success. For more information on the perfect Digital marketing team structure or how to build a digital marketing strategy, get in touch.