For many SME's developing a strong digital marketing strategy can be convoluted and overwhelming. The multitude of tools, channels and tactics that are used in modern marketing makes it difficult to know where to get started. The aim of this piece is to simplify the notion of a digital marketing strategy. By following these 10 essential steps, your business will be well on its way to defining and executing an outstanding digital marketing strategy.
Step 1: Align business goals with clear digital marketing objectives
Each one of your marketing goals needs to be tangible, specific and have measurable targets associated with them. Without them, how do you know if the digital marketing strategies that you are putting in place are working or even contributing to the achievement of your goals and objectives? With specific and measurable goals in place, it will be a far smoother process to develop your digital marketing strategy. What combination of digital marketing channels and activities will help you achieve those digital marketing objectives? Set SMART goals to ensure the long term success of your goals. Below, you will find a template for you to start setting your SMART goals.
Step 2: Do not outsource all digital marketing understanding and knowledge
If your role as the business owner or manager doesn’t permit you to take a hands on role in the company’s digital marketing, you need to have a trusted internal resource in marketing/sales, IT/technical with some digital knowledge and understanding. If you are a very small business and cannot afford a dedicated resource of that nature, I would strongly recommend that you go and do an introduction to digital marketing course yourself. You cannot allow yourself to totally outsource all your digital marketing understanding and knowledge. Otherwise, there is a fair chance that you will not get the results that you are expecting or hoping for. When that happens, it will also be difficult to critically evaluate the suggestions and recommendations that others will be giving you. There are unfortunately still some cowboys out there in digital marketing agency land. At best they will just do the minimum that is required and at worst they will take advantage of you signing you up to a lengthy contract with few measurable results. If your agency changes or moves on all the digital marketing knowledge and learning goes with them.
Step 3: Focus on owned digital assets such as your website and email database
Concentrate on building and leveraging assets that you own such as your website and your email database. By contrast in social media, you may think that you own your Facebook page and your Facebook followers but you do not. For every piece of content that is posted on your Facebook page, you cannot guarantee or even know how many people it will reach beforehand. It is totally up to Facebook if the content meets with it’s own guidelines, and if it does how many people and who will see that content. Contrast this with email. Once you acquire a customer on that email list (and assuming they opt in), you own that customer record and it becomes free to communicate with that contact however as frequently as you wish. As outlined in an earlier Expert360 post, email is still one of the most effective digital marketing tools to use.
*Focus on owned media
Step 4: Do not use a close sourced CMS for your website
I can’t tell you the number of small businesses that have been taken in by a persuasive sales pitch from a digital marketing or web development agency that their new website should be built using their unique software tools and analysis capabilities blah blah blah, not realising the implications of a closed source content management system (CMS). Once the website is built, you are tied to that provider according to whatever they want to charge you as the system is proprietary to them. A small proprietary CMS is also unlikely to have the same amount of investment in upgrades, technology and capabilities compared to more widely used open source CMS. If you develop a website using an open sourced CMS such as Wordpress, Joomla or Drupal it is very easy to find an alternative agency or freelancer with expertise in that CMS that you can switch to, without needing to build a whole new website.
Step 5: Make SEO an ongoing high priority
In most cases on an ongoing basis, organic traffic will be the #1 source of traffic to your website. When your marketing budgets run out and your campaigns finish, what remains will be your organic search traffic which will be a direct reflection of your SEO efforts. With the costs of Search Engine Marketing on Google Adwords and paid advertising on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc continuing to escalate year upon year, SEO will give you one of the best ROI for your digital marketing efforts in the long run.
Step 6: Define your content marketing strategy
Your brand proposition will form the basis of your content marketing strategy. Specifically, what makes your brand unique and different to your competitors. Aside from communicating the unique benefits of your brand through your content, how are you going to engage your audience?. Will your brand act as a utility offering practical and useful information on the category area? Will this information be internally generated or where will it be sourced from? Alternatively will you engage your audience via entertainment and/or using techniques such as gamification.
*Define your content strategy
Step 7: Understand that no employee will have an in-depth knowledge of every digital marketing aspect
If a digital marketing supplier tells you otherwise, be very skeptical. Whether you engage a series of digital marketing specialists directly or an agency/generalist with skills in more than one area will depend on your own internal level of digital marketing knowledge and resources available. Find a trusted supplier in the area of digital marketing that is most important to you – i.e. web development, social, SEO etc.. and build your resources from there.
Step 8: Be data driven
Most large organisations talk about being data driven and the importance of big data. However in my experience, I see a significant number of small businesses that still don’t even link their website and digital campaigns to Google Analytics and Google Search Console. They don’t realize how much valuable diagnostic information is available for free on Google Analytics. Know what worked and what didn’t work in each campaign you implement. Demand that a formal review is conducted for each and every digital marketing campaign that is conducted. Virtually everything in digital is measurable so there really is no excuse not to do so. Keep those results in a central directory or library so that others can learn from what has already been tried and don’t repeat what has already proven not to work.
Step 9: Remember social media is content and resource intensive
Many small businesses that embark upon social media underestimate the resources required for content creation in order to make social media successful. To be effective, it requires constant sourcing and creation of new imagery, both still and increasingly video. In many cases, the internal or external resources tasked with managing the social media pages are judged primarily on the number of posts that they create. Without a steady stream of supporting visual content for their brand, they end up curating a lot of general news articles and other material from around the web as it is easily available visual content. When this material doesn’t have an immediate impact when measured against their key digital marketing objectives set, the business owner can think that social media in general is a waste of time, when really it was their social media strategy that was the issue. Whatever your available digital marketing budget, it is essential to allocate at least 20 – 30% of that amount specifically for visual content creation, including photography and video. That content will have use across all areas of digital marketing, not just social media.
Step 10: Allocate a small amount of your budget to testing new digital developments
Digital is constantly changing and new marketing opportunities arise all the time. Even if those opportunities are unproven and untested, it is worthwhile incorporating some of these into your digital marketing strategies for trial and testing whilst the costs are relatively low and/or they have relatively good cut through. One recent example is Facebook live streaming. As a new feature, Facebook is actively pushing posts from brands or individuals that do live streaming. A recent client campaign of mine using Facebook live streaming achieved record levels of engagement. Later on, once the service or product gets more established and more people do it it may not get the same internal push or cut through from Facebook.