Behold the vast wilderness that is the Internet. If you’ve spent some time in nature – say, scuba diving – you’d be familiar with the feeling of being overwhelmed: one minute you’re zooming in on vibrant corals teeming with life, but make one quick turn and suddenly there’s nothing in front of you except for the boundless, dark expanse that is the deep ocean.
Working in the digital world is like that sometimes, but with fewer crustaceans.
For a brand to stand out online in a vast sea of other brands that are just as smart, innovative, engaging, etcetera etcetera etcetera, they need a strategy. A digital marketing strategy. Luckily, these days, you don’t need to enlist the help of a tentacled sea witch who’ll steal your voice in exchange for a few website clicks. This is the True-approved guide to setting up a successful digital marketing strategy.
What is a digital marketing strategy anyway?
First things first. Wikipedia gets real technical with the definition, but basically, it’s a strategy to market your brand through digital technology, a.k.a. an electronic device. Not just online, but also offline. When you mention digital marketing, most people will think of the Internet, and of course, online marketing will play a major role in your strategy but don’t forget about the offline digital touch-points, like in-store digital activations and interactive displays.
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So how to set up a digital marketing strategy?
1. Get deep and meaningful with your brand
When Simon Sinek’s TED talk went gangbusters, it became obvious that brand purpose is where it’s at these days. In his talk, Sinek invites businesses to “start with why”, to ask themselves why they do what they do, arguing that the only businesses to survive in this economy are ones with a clear purpose.
What does this have to do with digital marketing, you ask? Having a clear brand story and voice is essential to your brand’s communications, and ultimately, your content and strategy. It sheds a pragmatic light on your marketing strategy – would your brand “speak” to its followers via Snapchat or LinkedIn, or somehow both? What words would you use for your Google AdWords? What’s the length and frequency of your marketing communications?
For many, the brands they associate with or advocate are what they perceive to be extensions of their own personality, uniqueness, and style. What is your brand saying and
2. Build your audience’s personas
This is essential Marketing 101: you need to understand who your customer is, and not just through your own assumptions. Create three or four user personas, be as detailed as humanly possible with their stories, and if possible, get real data through interviews or surveys.
Go outside of your social circle and contacts database – get on Reddit, ask on Facebook, send a HARO call-out; get creative with your researching skills.
Start with compiling the following types of data:
- Quantitative or demographic (their location, age, income, occupation)
- Qualitative or psychographic (their goals, challenges, hobbies, priorities)
Even though your personas are fictional characters, infuse as much reality as you can into their story. Give them names (for example, Cassie), pick out their wardrobe (Cassie is in activewear most days, and if not, she’s wearing comfortable staples made by local designers), and map out their day (Cassie’s daily schedule revolves around yoga and running) and their online habits (Cassie is on Instagram, but nothing else), and – well, you get the idea. Have fun.
3. Create a user journey map
Now that you know who you’re talking to, you need to identify two important things in your persona’s journey: touchpoints and pain points. Create a map to track their interaction with your brand:
- Where does your user first meet your brand, whether online or offline?
- What brand touchpoints help the user make a decision about your product or service?
- What pain points do they encounter?
- What makes them leave and what makes them return?
Hopefully, at the end of this very short Q&A session, you’ll be able to understand your audience’s habits and behaviors. The more detailed the journey map, the more actionable insights you can use for your marketing strategy. If you can collect this data from real sources through interviews, surveys, or even through a user experience consultancy, do so.
4. Set specific goals
If you’ve figured out your brand purpose through some blue-sky thinking, good for you. Now it’s time to get back down to earth – a purpose and a goal are different. While a brand purpose might be something like: “To end deforestation in Borneo”, a goal needs to be measurable; something like: “To plant a tree in the Borneon rainforest for each item sold, and reach at least 250 trees each month”. See the difference?
Set yourself three alternative goals and don’t be afraid to use numbers. A handy guide is for your goals to be SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.
5. Identify your channels and tool
Your digital marketing channels and tools go hand-in-hand. First, select the channels you’ll be using based on your target audience and goals. This will inform what tools you’ll need. For example, if your brand is primarily on Twitter, you’ll want to invest in tools that will optimize that channel – from planning to delivery, to analytics, and everything in between.
Having clear-set goals means you’ll need to be able to actually measure the results, and a digital tool can come in handy for that.
6. Audit and plan your media
In digital, there exist three types of media: owned, earned, and paid.
- Owned media refers to the digital assets that you own, this can be your website, social media profiles, or imagery – assets that you have complete control over.
- Earned media is the exposure you’ve earned through word-of-mouth, through a generous friendship, or good karma. This can be in the form of guest blog posts on another site, reviews of your brand, or mentions on social media.
- Paid media needs no explanation. This includes Google AdWords, native advertising, paid social media posts, and so on.
Go through all your media and place each asset within a category. This will give you a great overview of what you have, and what you need to achieve your goals. Sometimes, all you need are owned and earned media, without having to pay.
For example, you might create a blog post intended for lead generation (that blog post is owned media). You might also put in extra effort to make it shareable, in the hopes that people in your network will share it on their own social media profiles (earned media). This increases traffic to your site, but you want to narrow the targeting, so you then pay Facebook to amp up the visibility of this blog post among your chosen target audiences (paid media).
Understanding this framework can help you map out your content strategy, which brings us to the next point…
7. Develop a content strategy
A content strategy outlines all your content channels, your target audiences, content types, content calendar, and your resources. To make sure the content itself is up to par, check that it’s:
- Findable (a light dusting of SEO magic will do, such as including at least two links in the body copy, alt tags for images, and having your h1 and h2 tags)
- Readable (break up the content into chunks with subheaders, include bullets or numbered lists, and make it easy to scan)
- Understandable (write for humans, respect your readers, have personality)
- Actionable (include the all-important call to action, including sharing options, or space to comment)
- Shareable (sometimes all you have to do is ask, sometimes including a straightforward “Share this article” link with the use of widgets for ease of use is all it takes. Also, consider personalization through creating unique hashtags)
8. Integrate, measure, analyze, and improve
And rinse and repeat. It’s an ongoing process. Map out your strategy for the next 12 months or more (depending on your business), and have regular check-ins to ensure the health of your strategy. Track and measure everything, make improvements as you see fit, prepare content at least a month in advance, stick to your content calendar, and don’t be afraid to change your approach throughout the journey.
Ultimately, your strategy is a list of actions that are meant to get you closer to your goal, so as long as you keep your eye on the prize, you’ll do great.