As many advisers and business gurus discuss the importance of digital marketing for the business, business owners rush to create social media accounts, integrate their businesses into online communities, or invest in search engine optimization. And despite knowing that it is crucial for a business to establish goals, objectives, and a plan to achieve these goals, business owners still skip developing a digital marketing strategy for their businesses. They hurry to be present in the online world without taking time to think why and how to do it better.
Establishing an online presence, advertising online, or spending money on search engine marketing without developing a digital marketing strategy is as useless as enrolling into a college without thinking about your future profession or buying a plane ticket without considering what you will do and where you will stay at your destination. In other words, it is absolutely necessary to know where you want to go, why you need to go there, and how you can track the progress of your journey.
The following five steps will help you create a digital marketing strategy, track your progress, and stay focused on the relevant channels and tools.
1. Describe Your Target Audience
There are too many social networks, online communities, social mobile apps, and chat rooms to be integrated into. It is almost impossible to be everywhere. The more online channels a business uses to promote its products/services or to communicate with potential customers, the more time and money this business needs to invest. Therefore, knowing where current and potential clients are is critical for effective execution and sound results.
Describe a target audience for your business. It is crucial to collect as much information as you can: who will be interested in your product/service:
- What are they interested in?
- Where do they spend their time?
- What books do they read?
- What shows do they watch?
Most companies have diverse clientele that can’t be relegated to a single group. In such case, the business needs to divide all customers into several groups with similar characteristics.
For example, a social media consultant can target:
- Young 25-35 year old entrepreneurs who have limited resources but would like social media to be part of their marketing efforts
- Mid-sized companies that are established on the market and have a substantial marketing budget and brand assets
- Large companies that from time to time invite speakers to educate their managers.
A survey among your current customers can help to identify main target audience groups. If the business is new, then a manager has to delineate characteristics of potential clients. The bottom line is that different people use different platforms. Knowing who your target audience is will help to decide which online channels the business has to use.
2. Define Your Goals and Objectives
No one starts the trip without knowing where he or she will go. So why then are so many companies doing random activities online without looking at the big picture first? One of the biggest mistakes in digital marketing is starting to promote the brand without considering what the business wants to achieve. A goal is a finishing line and an ultimate target the business wants to hit.
By way of example, a restaurant can define its digital marketing goal as, “to attract more customers by building awareness among potential clients in the area.” Objectives are measurable steps that the business needs to take in order to achieve the defined goal. Sticking to the restaurant example–objectives can be described as, “launching an Instagram account where the restaurant will share pictures of the food and recipes and gaining 1,000 followers in the first three months.”
Online strategies and activities, as well as channels that the business will choose, will largely depend on the business goals and objectives. Also, it is easier to evaluate the necessity of every activity by thinking how it can or cannot contribute to the overall business direction. Measuring success is more convenient against the business goals, too.
3. Determine Appropriate Channels
Once you know where you are going, it is time to evaluate roads you can take to get there. Compare the target audiences that you described in the first stage with demographics of social media platforms. Many websites post research on demographics of the most popular social media platforms (Pew Research Center and HootSuite are just two examples where you can find this type of information).
Choose several platforms that have users who are similar to your audience and then create accounts for your business on those platforms. Make sure to do research on content types that are popular on each platform. Start collecting email addresses of your customers and send them updates and useful information about the business on your social media profiles and in your newsletter.
4. Designate Measurable Performance Indicators
If a business doesn’t have a record of previous digital marketing campaigns, it is not easy to define how many “likes,” “hits,” or “shares” are good. Almost every platform provides free analytics to its business users. Make sure to start collecting data from each platform early on, so you can measure growth after several months.
Think of ways to measure results before launching each campaign. For example, offer discount coupons with unique code for different platforms to track how many customers came from each channel. Many companies now offer inexpensive social media automation tools that help you schedule and analyze online posts and campaigns. Buffer and Commun.it are just a few of such tools that can save tons of time and effort.
5. Develop a Plan
Do not share content randomly and occasionally. With thousands of business accounts of all types in each area, it is important to be consistent to have your brand’s message heard. Plan your brand communication at least a month ahead for your newsletter and a week ahead for social media.
A simple communication calendar in an Excel file can save time and help to focus. Make sure that all channels are integrated into the firm’s overall digital strategy–connect a website with social media, reuse newsletter articles in social media, and invite your newsletter readers to share their news and updates with you on social media.
Today, it is almost impossible to do marketing strictly offline. Nevertheless, the digital world has its own opportunities and rules. Follow the five rules described above to take your marketing efforts online, and soon, you will not be able to leverage the most effective ways to find and engage with potential customers.
About the Author
Anna Slyusareva is a marketing professional with vast experience in developing and executing brand strategy for both Fortune 500 and early-stage startup companies in the U.S., Europe, and CIS. You can find her on Twitter: @AnnaSlyu.