Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat. — SunTzu
There are still many companies that believe they don’t need to have a strong digital marketing strategy to be successful, and while they may be able to maintain or even grow their revenue, their customers are gradually moving to the internet to make buying decisions. That is why companies without a great digital strategy aren’t only leaving huge amounts of money on the table, they are losing customers to those that do.
You need a Digital Marketing Plan.
Any company no matter the size or industry can benefit from a strong digital marketing strategy. In this article we will be discussing some of the best practices in putting together a digital marketing plan that allows you to strategically outperform your competition and create results in the marketplace.
In digital marketing, like all forms of business, it is best to have your strategy defined before you dig in to implementation. So before you create your first Youtube video or Facebook group, lets begin by discussing what you need to think through:
- Your target customer & the problems you are solving
- Differentiation and branding plan
- Customer assessment (where they are and where they will be)
- Competitive analysis & timeline
- Your tactical plan
- Results and feedback
Once you have figured out the following you can begin to think about which marketing channels will be best for your business.
Targeting your customers
The first step in most marketing strategies is to figure out who your target customers are. It allows you to focus your message, differentiate your product and figure out how you will reach people who might buy your product. Unfortunately, many companies approach this step incorrectly. In an attempt not to exclude any potential revenue, a common mistake many companies make is to describe their targets by a range of values and characteristics. For example, any company with over $5 million in revenue in the business of selling blue widgets. This doesn’t allow you to focus at all.
The right way to do targeting is to narrow it down to one hypothetical target individual, or if you need to, one target individual in every market segment you care about. And then tell the story of this individual.
A high-end ski resort would want to pick a single character profile e.g. Jim, a 42 year old physician living in in L.A. He is a republican, went to college, loves skiing and will be taking his family on a ski trip this year. The idea is to focus on a single person and maximize the width of your value curve by catering to others, not marketing to them.
Other factors you could look at in your hypothetical target customer include the following:
- (If part of a business) Company Size, type, revenue($), business model, cash available, etc…
- Buying habits – How do they find and learn about product they buy.
- (Do they use the internet? Then a digital marketing strategy is probably right for you).
- Psychograph (e.g. social characteristics (A-type, B-type), political views).
- All the problems they have including the problems you can help solve.
- Other products they use.
- Why they will buy your product.
- Why they might not buy your product.
Digital Branding & Differentiation
Contrary to what many believe, branding isn’t about your logo. Branding is about how your company makes your target customers feel. It can be extremely difficult, but very powerful once mastered. Here are the steps.
Step 1 — Are You Differentiated?
One major key to effective branding is whether or not you are differentiated. It turns out that our brains are hard wired to only notice what is different. This means that everything that you do should be as unique, yet consistent, as possible to ensure you are noticed. This process starts with your company name and logo, but covers everything from your advertising to the service you deliver. Consider the differentiation Apple has created with its website, advertisements, retail stores and actual products. Fundamental rule to remember: Be different yet consistent.
Step 2 — Are You Focused?
As we just stated, to maintain your differentiation, you need to provide a consistent message. You don’t want your customers to see a fuzzy picture of you or your company. To make sure you are focused, take the focus test below and see if you can answer the questions in one sentence or less, in a way your competitors can’t.
The Focus Test
- Who are you?
- What do you do?
- Why does it matter?
Step 3 — Do You Communicate?
The last major question in your branding strategy– Do you have a good plan for communicating it? If you want to do this online, this means getting digitally integrated, which is what Pagelines is all about. Digital Brand integration is the science of creating a consistent message across several digital marketing channels and media. It means always being consistent no matter how many people are working with a brand. One way of testing if you are communicating your brand, is to consider every point of contact your company has to your customer, and make sure they can tell whether something is from your company without you telling them.
- Join Target Customer Forums, Groups, Blogs and Channels. Since you have already identified all the problems your target customer faces, identify which sites they are using to address them online and join.
- See what companies with the same target customer are doing to attract visitors. If other companies have been successful at reaching your target customer online, you should take note of what they are doing. While it isn’t always easy, there are many free online tools such as alexa.com that allow you to research websites and give you information about where their visitors are coming from.
Conducting thorough and useful competive analysis is a skillful, and difficult, art. Competitors are, by their nature, hard to predict and difficult to characterize. There are some very basic, and effective, tools for tracking and analyzing competitors such as competitious or compete. It is important to put together a competitor spreadsheet that identifies critical customer characteristics and allows you to differentiate.
Another huge factor that many businesses fail to take into account in strategy is to consider what the industry time-line looks like in the future. In order to have a strong and timely response to competitive actions, you must construct a hypothetical worst-case prediction of what they will be doing in the future. This helps you realize that if there is a huge industry shift coming in two years, you need to start acting now to be ready.
Digital Marketing Tactical Plan
After you have considered your competition, your customer, and your brand; it is time to determine which marketing channels you will use. Every tactical plan is different. The reason why marketing on the internet is so powerful is that there are a huge amount of channels to use, and almost every potential customer is online for one reason or another. So there is a lot of room for creativity.
Here is a partial list of potential online channels you could use to reach your customers: Affiliate marketing, social media, rich media, email campaigns, search(organic & paid), feed services (e.g. Twitter), Blogs, PR engines, online stores, meta engines, application development, etc…
There are two additional steps we recommend for determining which to use. 1) You must determine what channels your customers are using and 2) Determine which ones your competitors aren’t. To illustrate this point, you may not want to start a new blog if a competitor has already created a successful one, or you might not want to use Twitter if less than 1% of you customers have even heard of it.
Results and Feedback
Any good marketing program has a way to attain customer feedback and adjust their strategy accordingly. As with many things in marketing, this has changed with the internet. Most particularly, Google Analytics has changed this game.
Today it is very easy to determine whether or not marketing campaigns are successful by tracking the amount of visitors to your site. You can test your site design with A/B tests and see where potential customers are exiting your sites. This is how you will judge how well your digital marketing is performing, so become familiar with it.
On another note, I recommend the book “The Ultimate Question” to marketers who want to get serious about getting great customer feedback from surveys.
I hope you have learned something from this article that will make you a better digital marketer in the future. We will be following this up with more articles about how to take advantage of individual marketing channels to generate revenue. If you would like to see how Pagelines can help you with your strategy or to give us feedback, please send us a message on the about us page or write us at firstname.lastname@example.org.