(For those of you who already read our post: Digital Marketing Strategies Need to be S.M.A.R.T, you may want to skip straight to this section: Motto 1: No Amount of Research is Too Much Research to avoid some repetition) A digital marketing strategy is the content plan that ensures any digital marketing efforts are tailored to your target audience, in order to maximise return on investment (ROI). While strategising and planning have always been important activities for larger brands and companies, that importance has never been greater than it is today, for businesses of all types and sizes. Why? Because at present there are more techniques, media channels and internet enabled devices available than ever before, both for you, and your customers (and your competitors!). In fact, there are currently over 200 social media channels available worldwide (Wikipedia) for you to promote your digital marketing content through, and with one in every five minutes spent online attributable to social networking sites (Comscore), it is becoming increasingly critical to use the appropriate ones. Social media isn’t just for B2C companies either. Currently, 50% of B2B buyers also turn to social media/peer reviews (Demandgen) to inform their purchasing choice. So it should be no surprise then, that in general, 35% of marketers consider social engagement to be the second biggest opportunity in digital marketing (2013) (Econsultancy). As well as multiple social media sites, there are also a number of platforms customers and clients can use to access these various media channels. Your audience may be arriving at your website or viewing your content from a desktop, or a tablet or as is increasingly common, from a mobile device. You should, in particular, consider optimising your content and brand for mobile because:
- 36% of digital marketing emails were opened on a mobile device (Knotice) last year (2012)
- 700,000 apps have been developed for the iPhone and Android devices (All Things Digital)
- 43% of marketers are tipping mobile optimization to be one of the most pivotal opportunities in digital marketing for 2013 (Econsultancy)
If you want to succeed in the digital space, it is vital to focus on what you want to communicate, who you want to communicate it to and how you are going to communicate it. To help you, we have prepared 5 stages for defining a successful digital marketing strategy:
The Rules of Engagement
1. RESEARCH THE BATTLE FIELD
2. SET THE GOAL
3. PLAN THE ATTACK
4. GATHER YOUR WEAPONS
5. REVIEW GAINS AND LOSSES
Motto 1: No Amount of Research is Too Much Research
STEP 1: RESEARCH THE BATTLE FIELD: no plan will be of any value if you have neglected to do the basic research beforehand. So, in keeping with the battle theme, this entails a few things: Number 1: Know your allies (A.K.A. understand and recognise your target audience and how they are accessing the content they are consuming). A good way to do this is to join forums and blogs which your target audience are also likely to use and take advantage of being able to see what material they are choosing to read and which discussions are engaging them. It’s also advisable to observe your target audiences’ demographic (age, gender, social status, income etc.) because these are the defining features that will help you recognize potential customers and understand their buying habits. This research will help you answer:
- Who you’re target audience are
- What you’re target audience want
Look too, at what your competitors are doing. Chances are you’ll be targeting the same people, so it helps to know exactly what you are up against. Information is power. For B2B products and offerings, knowing your audience may mean considering your target company’s business model, financial situation, size, industry, marketing assets and so on. For B2C companies you may need to look at your target audiences’ social characteristics, buying tendencies and any potential barriers to engagement. Either way, tailoring this research to your needs is a key factor for success. By defining your target audience demographic (age, gender, social status, income etc.), understanding their buying decisions and the way they access your content, you can tailor your marketing material specifically for them, capitalizing on being able to personalize your content. This helps define your brand and differentiate yourselves from the competition
Number 2: Know your enemies, (A.K.A. understand and recognise your market competitors). Knowing who your competitors are and what they are doing is essential. It will help you:
- Differentiate yourself in an increasingly crowded and competitive market.
- Understand their strengths and more importantly, exploit their weaknesses.
N.B. Many businesses come unstuck in their digital strategies because they have not considered what their industry, competitors and consumers may look and behave like in the future. The solution is to be:
- Proactive – Keep innovating.
- Active – Keep improving.
- Reactive – Keep flexible.
Number 3: Understand the battle field, (A.K.A understand where you are excelling in the digital marketing landscape, where you can do better and how you can adapt for the future). Understanding these three points ensures you can set an informed goal for your company to achieve so that your overall marketing attempts are improved long term:
- If you know where you are excelling in digital marketing, don’t rest on your laurels, do it better, if you don’t someone else will (Proactive).
- If you know where you need to improve in your digital strategy, focus on this and excel (Active).
- The digital landscape is forever shifting (e.g. in terms of technology, social engagement and marketing) and no one can survive by standing still. Be adaptable and look out for the latest trends. Remember, being first to market does not always guarantee success, but you must know when it’s right for you and don’t get left behind (Reactive).
Motto 2: Focus on the Target
STEP2: SET THE GOAL/OBJECTIVES
You can’t measure success unless you’ve set specific targets and objectives. As a rule all objectives should be S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely). Good quality market research is essential to help you define your areas of improvement and set business objectives. Structuring your areas of improvement to attain business objectives is where Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) make their first appearance; these are the factors that are measurable so, for example, if you are looking to increase engagement, KPI’s might include: number of bookmarks, % of time spent on site, number of Facebook comments, Twitter retweets and number of email subscriptions among many others. So, to be S.M.A.R.T, your business objectives need to be:
Specific enough to easily build a plan of action to achieve the end goal (Technorati) and work as a focus for your marketing activity, for example, ‘we want to increase social engagement’ is too generic, because its open to questions like:
- Increase social engagement across what channel?
- Increase by what quantity?
- Increase over what time frame?
- This opens the door for a lack of focus. Therefore a better objective or goal would be something like: ‘we want to increase our email sign up by 20% over 6 months’.
Measurable – Measurability must be built into your digital strategy. Without it, you can’t quantify improvement or return on investment (ROI). Attainable – setting unattainable goals wastes time, and impacts on staff morale. Setting incremental, attainable goals keeps you focused, staff morale high and returns your investment quicker. You should consider whether an objective is either too ambitious and needs breaking down into more manageable goals, or in fact, is too easy and need altering to be more challenging to your business in order to maximise growth. Relevant to your customer behaviour,
- for example do you want customers to switch from a competitor and begin buying from you (GAIN),
- or do you simply want your current customers to continue buying from you (MAINTAIN),
- or on the other hand would like your current customers to buy more from you (INCREASE),
- Possibly the objective is even to achieve a combination of these behaviours.
- Often multiple objectives (Technorati) can be more effective than a single objective, either way it is important to ensure your objectives are tied to your customer’s behaviour and sales or in other words, tied to money. (M4b Marketing)
Timely – attaining an objective should be timed to a deadline that is feasible and appropriate for the task at hand. There should also be subsequent review deadlines as well. Making objectives timely aids measurability. They should also:
- Make life easier not harder (that is test number 1 for seeing whether you have set a good objective or not) because it should allow you to visualise the end result of your marketing efforts and the pathway (strategy) for getting there more clearly. Theoretically, if you invest time here, steps 3 and 4 will become easier to determine.
- Be decisive (Technorati), ask yourself, what you want to achieve, where you want to achieve it and when you want to achieve it, and set decisive, measurable limits. And most importantly….
- Be flexible, while you should be specific and decisive at first, you should also be prepared to be flexible in the long term, so that after a trial period and a review session, you can tailor your objectives to suit your company better. And most crucially for digital marketing, flexibility allows space in your strategy to plan for new developments in the industry (technological, social, commercial etc.) allowing you to keep ahead.
If you bear these points in mind you should have a good set of goals and objectives and be ready to begin planning how you are going to achieve them.
Motto 3: Plan, Plan and Plan Some More
STEP 3: PLAN THE ATTACK AND STEP 4: GATHER YOUR WEAPONS
When you are ready to “plan your attack” you should already be equipped with a strong knowledge of: – Where you are performing well in digital marketing and where you’re not – who your target audiences are – who your industry competitors are – what they are doing and how they’re doing it
So now is the time to plan what you are going to do.
As was mentioned earlier if you know who your competitors are, you have some idea of how to differentiate yourself in the crowded market place of your industry. However, it is your target customers that should be the strongest influencing factor on your brand because:
- it is your target customers that your company needs to engage to drive sales,
- so it is your target customers’ demographics and buying habits that will determine who you are, and therefore what your brand is, and
- your brand then affects how you communicate/sell to these target customers successfully
Therefore, your brand goes a long way beyond just your logo and website design; in fact it extends as far as:
- how your brand makes your customers feel,
- your tone of voice
- your company’s personality
- your services, products, prices, customer service policy etc. and
- your brand values and philosophies
This is why differentiating yourself from the crowd should be the first part of your plan that you address because it informs the type of content you will produce in order to engage your target audience, otherwise known as a content strategy, (more on this in our next guide). If you are unsure whether your digital branding is different as well as consistent the quick way to check is by asking yourself these 3 questions:
1) What are your company’s core values?
2) How does your company’s proposition differentiate you from your key competitors?
3) Why do your customers choose your company above others?
If the answer doesn’t come easily, then you should reconsider your digital brand identity. The next element in your plan of attack should revolve around communication. You know who you are and what you do as a company, so now; you need to spread the word to your target audience. This means integrating your digital brand across all the marketing channels, media outlets AND technologies appropriate and available for you (Appropriate and available is where the 4th Step: Gathering your Weapons comes in to play). This means you should be considering things like: optimising your site for mobile/tablet devices and increasing social engagement through the appropriate channels. (Which media and marketing channels are indeed appropriate for your company varies hugely, across industry, B2B, B2C, and other such factors making it a topic in its own right which will be covered in a future guide). However, as a good place to start deciding which of these channels are right for you, in other words, which weapons to arm yourself with, look at first, which channels your target audience (and current customers) are actually using, and second, which channels your competitors are not using. Between considering these two points you will be able to generate a list of media outlets you must use to target your audience and some niche sites you could use to be a step ahead of your competitors and of course use to differentiate yourself. The final element of your digital marketing plan to devise is what analytics services and techniques you are going to use in order to monitor the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) relevant to each of your marketing objectives, how often you will record this data and what date the trial period is over and ready to be reviewed, which of course all leads on to the next and final step
If at First You Don’t Succeed…
STEP 5: REVIEW GAINS AND LOSSES
It is important to review progress regularly in order to ensure you are on track to reach your goals. This means you should be recording the fluctuations in your statistics and figures related to your KPIs (at least daily), in order for analysis and of course review. This is where taking the time to make your marketing goals specific, decisive and measurable all comes in to play. With the access now to free services such as Google Analytics, among others, this process is the easiest it has ever been. However, you can of course outsource this service from a third party which can often result in more detailed, accurate, regular and frequent measurements, which simultaneously passes on this often time consuming but absolutely necessary practice to a third party, allowing your marketers to focus on producing quality content, which in the end is the key element in a digital strategy for driving engagement. Review and understand…. Nevertheless, whether your analytics and KPI recording and analysing is out sourced or not, the findings of that analysis should then be applied to your original business objectives to determine whether you are on track and should continue with your current strategy or whether you need to make adjustments to your strategy in order to get back on track. It is this process that makes a good digital marketing strategy cyclic, so you can return to research and planning when necessary in order to generate return on investment in the long run.
Why we think digital marketing is important.
Here is some of the research and case studies that make us certain that having a digital strategy is important for success. Several big high street retailers have recently either found themselves in administration or needing to close high street outlets in order to keep their heads above water. While there are many factors that lead a brand into administration, a common thread between all these particular retailers is that they have suffered strong online competition and/or a demand for online and mobile services which they have struggled to respond to.
This is supported by the latest comments from industry experts at the BBC, NME, Design Week, Econsultancy and others:
- Jessops has continued to struggle with competition from online rivals and the proliferation of smartphones equipped with cameras, undercutting its core market. (The Independent)
- Comet didn’t move with the times. It was caught out by lower-priced web rivals, and didn’t have sufficient pull in-store to lure customers. (Channel Register)
- HMV could have been successful enough to have taken on Amazon had it gone online 10 or 15 years ago” (Design Week). So, ‘It’s definitely the internet that’s killed HMV’ (Luke Lewis, editor of NME.com – Metro News). An whatever bad decisions HMV might have made, the fact is that no bricks-and-mortar record store group has successfully resisted the onslaught of digital music downloads.’ (Robert Plummer (BBC) in Design Week)
- Blockbuster became unstuck initially because Netflix was eating into the retailer’s customer base with its postal DVD rentals (Business Week) and the online rental market became increasingly crowded with rival services, and now the popularity of streaming films over the internet is growing fast. (BBC)
In the case of these last two retailers, Econsultancy sums it up by noting that the companies and those in charge of them, failed to recognise and act on the increasing importance of online, and how that would affect their businesses. And in truth the statement probably applies to all the other struggling retailers as well. So, planning and strategising for digital marketing and mobile optimization is clearly a vital component of becoming a successful company, brand, business or retailer in this modern marketplace.