There was a time – not too long ago – when marketing in the digital arena was as basic as buying space for ads on websites or posting promotional material on social media. These simpler times meant that a company could execute a series of thinly aligned tactics without much need for an overall strategy.
That’s no longer the case.
With the increased creation and popularity of social media platforms, the over-saturation of content across the web, and the large number of businesses competing for audience attention, your company needs to think in strategic terms in order to ensure your digital presence becomes effective at acquiring quality traffic. Otherwise you’ll just be a tiny speck floating aimlessly in an ocean of indistinguishable particles.
Regardless of the type of marketing channel you are looking into -- whether e-mail, social media, affiliate, content, paid, or even multilingual -- you need a strategy in place to get the best results.
So, why should you invest time and resources into creating a digital marketing strategy?
- It helps you align and focus all your efforts in specific directions, to accomplish explicit objectives.
- It helps differentiate your brand from the rest by creating a unique voice.
- By perfecting the way you engage with your prospects and customers, you’ll gain new insights into their behaviors, allowing you to tailor all your tactics to their specific needs, which in turn will increase their effectiveness and reach.
- It provides a roadmap to help streamline efforts, optimize results, and even reduce costs by choosing how to execute at a tactical level, whether in-house or by outsourcing tasks.
Prior to the creation of any plan, you need to have some idea of the kind of resources you’re counting with. The very task of developing the strategy will be tedious and inefficient if you don’t have an estimated budget assigned to this particular area of work, as well as some idea of the kind of people that’ll be actively engaged in following it through.
In order to develop a powerful digital marketing strategy, you also need to be acquainted with the more important elements surrounding audience attraction and engagement, including but not limited to:
- Content Presentation, Generation, and Optimization (Web design, copywriting, SEO)
- Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
- How much does it cost to attract a client and how long do they remain as customers? (CAC, CLV)
- Paid Search and Social Media
- Analytics and Metrics
- Marketing Services and Support (Digital marketing agencies)
Content Generation and Optimization (Web design, copywriting, SEO)
Your company website is the main gateway through which most (if not all) of your prospects will pass before becoming actual customers. That means it needs to be designed for efficiency, appeal, and smoothness of user experience. Without properly developing these components, inbound traffic will fail to convert or, even worse, leave without any significant engagement.
Basic web design concepts should be employed in the creation of your website to ensure optimal results.
How the pages are set up and laid out isn’t enough, though, if the content itself is not relevant and interesting. Careful attention should be placed on creating engaging material for visitors to connect with.
Here are some best practices in terms of writing content for the web:
- Make sure the introduction can hook people. The content should begin with ideas or questions or statements that shock, entertain, awe, interest, or inspire. If the reader is not hooked within those first few lines, chances are he or she will leave the page. Speaking of which…
- Keep the main idea above the fold. The fold is that bottom line where most screens cut off the initial display. Make sure your first (or at least the second) paragraph succinctly explains what the content is about. Readers want to be sure what they’re getting into before going forward.
- Use multimedia. Images, videos and infographics are all valid tools to keep your content dynamic. Too much text on a screen can feel burdensome for some readers, and the idea is to keep them engaged.
- Use your own voice. Every company – every brand – has a unique voice. You want people who visit your company website to know what yours is, so be sure that all your content matches it. If the people engaging with the content feel the tone is insincere or that something is off, even if it’s at some unconscious level, they are more likely to leave or react negatively.
Writing is by no means an exact science, but there is some common ground that most people can agree on. As a good point of reference, the University of Maryland in Baltimore put together a nice list of best practices to keep in mind when creating web content.
Once you’ve got the website and content ready, it’s time to start thinking in terms of ways to ensure the material is found. The best (and cheapest) way to accomplish this is by optimizing content so it can be found organically through search engines.
Search engines power the internet. It’s estimated that Google alone processes over 3.5 billion queries every single day. With staggering numbers like those, it’s no wonder companies are working hard to rank their content in those highly coveted first results pages. With 71% of traffic remaining in that first page, it’s imperative to apply proper Search Engine Optimization (SEO) as part of your digital marketing strategy.
How do you optimize for search engine results (SEO)?
Search engines operate by quickly crawling through every single indexed website when a query is performed, then processing the information with an algorithm that assigns a rank to each page based on a very specific set of criteria.
While the details surrounding that process are kept under wraps, some parameters have been proven to influence rank, such as:
- Use of keywords that clearly define the topic being addressed by the content
- The number of links, both internal and external, that connect to and from each page
- The number of quality visits and level of engagement each page gets
What this means for your content is that you need to ensure that it addresses each of these points so the page can obtain a higher rank and increase your chances of showing up on that coveted first page. This is what sets the content apart from all the other material of the same subject saturating the searchable landscape.
By showing up on that first page, your company is boosting the probability of getting that content accessed, which as mentioned is itself an important metric for engines such as Google when assigning rank. This is called the Click-Through Rate (CTR), which much like the name describes, is the rate at which users who perform a query click to access your content as a result. Much like the number of backlinks to the page, this metric helps establish credibility for the content and authority for your website as a whole.
A good point of reference to get these basics down – and a very wise instructional choice if you’re learning the ropes – is Moz’ renowned guide for SEO beginners.
Making these considerations a part of your marketing strategy will ensure optimal results in luring organic traffic to your website, which is where the journey begins for these visitors who will then need to decide just how much they engage with what they find.
Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO): Ensuring Each Page Becomes Its Best Possible Version
So, what are these steps that should be a vital consideration for your digital marketing strategy?
First, you need to audit your website. With the help of tools such as Hotjar, you can assess page performance through heat maps that reveal click and scrolling engagement. This powerful service also provides anonymous recordings of page visits, showing exactly what each visiting user did, what he or she stopped to read, where his or her cursor moved, and what they chose to click.
This cornucopia of information can be used to determine what areas of the pages aren’t getting attention or engagement, which is in turn the kind data that experienced minds can use to define concrete and effective changes that will radically improve performance.
This is an intricate process, and it’s often recommended that companies make sure their teams are knowledgeable in this area of work to reduce the level of testing and trial and error. If your company is planning to employ digital marketing services from a third party, it’s a good idea to make sure they’ve the tools and know-how to boost your conversion optimization rate.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM): Keeping Prospects Happy, and Clients Happier
Once visitors are attracted to a page and significantly engage with the content, they become leads. Leads are like small seeds that need to be nurtured and cared for so they’ll blossom into customers. The best way to accomplish this – and, of course, a key component of any digital marketing plan – is to have efficient Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools in place.
What a CRM service or software does is provide a series of tools to obtain contact information from those who engage with the content, and sort it out efficiently so your sales, client relations or any client-facing department can quickly access it if necessary.
How that information is obtained is entirely up to you, as it requires implementing changes on your website so visitors willingly hand it over. This is another point where conversion optimization comes into play, as it’ll help you define which solution is the best for this particular objective.
Is it a simple form that asks for contact information to subscribe in a weekly newsletter? Is it a call to action button that offers access to download a free guide in exchange for an email address? Using data to determine which alternative works will be crucial in increasing your database of prospects.
Of course, this database is also important in terms of keeping existing customers engaged. By keeping tabs of those who’ve already become clients and applying some clever marketing tactics to keep that interest going, companies can increase their rate of return for more purchases.
Be sure to discuss with your client-facing team members the available options – whether a specific CRM system or a more complex and all-inclusive platform where customer relationship management is actually one of many aspects – so a choice can be made, because this decision will have an impact.
How much does it cost to attract a client and how long do they remain as customers? (CLV)
Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) is a metric that determines how valuable each client is to your company in the long run. The reason this particular piece of information is useful is because it can be compared to the cost of acquisition in order to learn if the current business model and practices are resulting in profit or not, and create future projections and estimates along those lines.
As part of your digital marketing strategy, this metric serves as the foundation from which customer acquisition and retention tactics will grow. If your CLV for each client is lower than what it cost your company to bring them in, then your entire promotional strategy needs to be restructured in order to reduce costs.
Calculating CLV should not be a daunting process as long as you understand the math and science behind it. If you find the entire process burdensome, just remember that neglecting this particular step in your marketing plan will have a negative impact on the quality of your future tactics.
Paid Search and Paid Social Media: Getting That Extra Bang for Your Buck
Every digital marketing strategy should include a part of the budget for paid web marketing. While the whole content and SEO aspects certainly drive traffic, paid marketing actually offers different insights that can be rather useful.
First and foremost, ads for both search engines and most social media offer immediate data that can be used to glean information from prospects, and because both those platforms want people to keep paying them to advertise, they offer opportunities for very precise remarketing – which is to say, your company can target prospects that showed some form of interest but didn’t actively engage with ads better tailored to their interests.
While ads are usually affordable and can be easier to manage, any paid search strategist will tell you that there is in fact a certain science to it all. Even ads need to be optimized, and best practices definitely come into play when laying out your tactics.
Learning the basics of paid search is extremely important if your company wishes to find success.
For paid social media, the same principles apply. The difference here is that, depending on how much budget you’ve allocated for this particular area, your company needs to be very careful and astute when making choices.
It’s very important to understand who your prospects (or Buyer Personas) are. This will help you narrow down the list of platforms you may wish to use. After all, each social media platform tends to have its own set of demographics, so knowing what your prospects are more likely to use will increase your success rate.
As a reference, the people at Hootsuite compiled a list that offers a rather nice overview of demographics per platform.
Equally important to the type of platform is the type of message you’ll advertise, so be sure to plan out what you’ll say or show, with a clear understanding of what your prospects are most likely to connect with.
Analytics and Metrics: Making Choices Based on Hard Data
A digital marketing strategy is all about removing speculation from the equation and focusing your tactics based on accurate information or at least educated estimates and approximations, at first. As your marketing work progresses, your company will start gaining hard data, which it’ll need to use to reshape, refocus and retarget all efforts in order to optimize and maximize results.
Data can come from all types of sources. Social media platforms, for example, use their own set of metrics based on performance, which is certainly very useful. But there is one tool that is absolutely remarkable in terms of understanding the traffic that reaches your website.
Enter Google Analytics.
Google Analytics’ tracking code installed on your website will acquire information about all the traffic, which pages it reaches, where it’s coming from – both source and medium – and how long it stays, how often it engages with other pages, or simply if it leaves without further action, among several more metrics. It’ll tell you which country the traffic is coming from, their demographic groups, and several other insights into who the type of people reaching your content are.
When it comes to marketing, information like this is a precious commodity, and Google Analytics is a goldmine.
The reason this information is vital is because it’ll show you just how successful the marketing tactics are and how they can be better. While closed sales and profit might be the ultimate measures of success for some companies, the metrics provided by these analytics can help increase the rate of customer acquisition simply by knowing what’s working and what’s not. This is where you’ll learn what expenditures need to be cut, which investment costs trimmed, and which ones boosted.
Analytics can be confusing for the inexperienced, but Google offers courses for both beginners and the more advanced users, which even include a Google Analytics Certification.
Marketing Services and Support (Digital Agencies): Getting Your Team the Help They Need So the Company Can Thrive
Digital marketing work can be very taxing because of how complex and diversified it is. In many cases, companies deal with a decline in the level of results or even a high rate of staff turnover, all because they ignore the symptoms of a very real problem: burnout.
There are several ways to address the issue of burnout, of course, but the best way – and most cost-effective one – for the company to deal with it is simply to hire out some of the workload.
Digital agencies provide an array of services which can help ease the load off overwhelmed and overburdened marketing departments, especially in medium to large companies where the flow of different tasks is continuous.
The products offered by these auxiliary agencies can range from web development and design to all the different aspects of digital marketing, which is why, if they are to be included in the overall strategy, it is imperative to sit down and examine which areas the company needs real assistance with.