For modern businesses, a huge amount of marketing takes place online, with examples ranging from content marketing and social media marketing, to PPC advertising and search engine optimisation. For this reason, getting the most out of your digital marketing efforts requires a comprehensive strategy.
With new communication channels opportunities such as Live Chat for instance, as well as the increased adoption of smartphones, the need for this kind of strategy is greater than ever before. This is simply because it will open up new revenue streams for your business by ensuring you have a presence where your customers, or target audiences, go online, and that you remain at the forefront of their minds.
In this post, we will examine what a digital strategy entails, why digital requires its own strategy, and the benefits of creating such a strategy.
What is a Digital Strategy?
First, it is crucial to explain what is meant by the word 'strategy'. In essence, building a strategy is about specifying goals or objectives and creating an action plan that will allow you to achieve them. For marketers operating within the digital world, this means identifying specific marketing actions that can be carried out digitally.
"It's easy to confuse your digital strategy with your [digital] campaigns," says Elissa Hudson, writing for HubSpot. "Your digital strategy is the series of actions you take to help you achieve your overarching marketing goal. Your digital marketing campaigns are the building blocks or actions within your strategy."
The objectives you set need to be specific. For example, you might set the aim of improving your landing page conversions by 20 percent, or increasing online sales by 30 percent. Objectives should be realistic and measurable.
Moreover, you need to define who the target audience is for your marketing strategy, or define multiple different audiences, if necessary. Be as precise as possible, so that you can aim your marketing content towards specific demographics. This can help you to give your marketing material real direction, keeping it coherent.
Which Actions Might Be Included In a Digital Strategy?
As stated, a digital strategy requires marketers to think about the various different actions and methods that can help them to achieve their goals. The precise actions you opt to take will depend on the nature of your business, your target audience and your specific objectives, but some of the most common are outlined below:
1. Paid-For Advertising
One of the most obvious forms of marketing within the digital sphere is paid-for digital advertising, such as banner adverts on other websites, or paid search adverts. As the name suggests, this involves paying for adverts to be hosted and this could be on a cost-per-click (CPC) basis, or in accordance with other pricing strategies.
Paid advertising methods also include social media, and this covers native ads, sponsored listings and ads on associated messenger services. Premium native ads deliver 400 percent higher click-through rates on mobile devices, so they are a crucial part of most strategies that place a value on paid social advertising.
Paid social is a focus point for all marketers with a digital strategy because they understand its worth. The Adobe Digital Insights' 2018 State of Digital Advertising Report confirms that social media ads drove three times more non-customers than existing customers to retailer websites as of the end of 2017. In fact, researching new products was ranked in the top 10 reasons why people use social media.
So, if the competition has created a strategic and targeted ad campaign on a platform like Facebook, you can bet that their content is getting pushed in front of the right people over a company relying on organic posts to get the reach or traction they need.
With paid social, correctly implemented, you can bring down the CPC and CPE as you continuously fine-tune your ads. Within social media, paid social is a specialist skill with the best social media strategists being highly sort after for their ability to understand fast moving trends, and catch the wave to use them to their advantage. Curalate found that 76 percent of U.S. consumers have purchased a product that they have seen in a brand's social media post. (Hootsuite Social Media Advertising Stats 2018)
2. Content Marketing
Content marketing includes everything from blog posts, e-books, white papers and web articles, to marketing videos and landing pages. It involves creating marketing content and distributing this content online, with common aims being to increase brand awareness, generate leads, increase sales and establish expertise.
Digital content often includes a call to action, which openly invites the audience to carry out the desired action. Video marketing, meanwhile, has grown in popularity and audiences retain 95 percent of a message when viewed in video form, compared with just 10 percent of a message when reading it in text form.
3. Organic Social Media Marketing
The use of social media as a marketing tool has grown rapidly over the past decade. Today, it encompasses not only the likes of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram, but also Snapchat, Pinterest and YouTube. Techniques within this category include marketing posts, social selling, competition marketing and viral marketing.
As they are often public, customer service interactions can also be classed as marketing and there is a trend towards providing feedback to customers that either goes above and beyond, or which includes humour, in order to generate attention.
Response times are also critical, with research showing that 72 percent of Twitter users who complain on the platform expect a response within one hour. This is an area where AI can be of particular benefit. Not having an organic Social Media strategy in place only puts your business behind the curve with the competition. Social media is as crucial to your marketing strategy as the original email-shot was.
If you think about how your demographic now consumes their news for example, most individuals head towards Twitter or Facebook when breaking news happens as Social Media has the ability to provide true, live feeds from its millions of content producers, namely it’s users.
In a recent article John E Lincoln of Ignite Visibility reported that, "86 percent of Twitter users say they use the site for news, and 70 percent say that they do so because it’s a great way to get news in real time".
The article also noted that, "the same is true for when a potential customer wants to find out more about your brand. In fact, almost 90 percent of marketers say their social marketing efforts have increased exposure for their business, and 75 percent say they’ve increased traffic".
Brand awareness is the biggest, and first port of call for most businesses setting up their social media strategy (unless, of course, they’re Nike or Coca Cola for example!) Social media has the ability to reach millions of users at an unrivalled speed in comparison to any other marketing option. There are currently over 3 billion active social media users, and of every 3 minutes spent on the internet, 1 of those minutes is taken up by social media usage.
It’s safe to say then that you truly have a captive audience like no other before. It’s been found that the average person spends 15 minutes longer watching social media than television on a daily basis. When you think about your own habits, do you look at your phone when you wake up to find out what’s going on in the world? Where do you go to get the fastest snap shot to update you quickly? Do you check your social media feeds whilst watching television in the evening? Do you have a quick scan through your Instagram feed, Twitter or Facebook on your lunch break or your commute in. When waiting to meet a friend at a restaurant or bar, do you get your phone out and scroll through your feeds, so you don’t have that awkward wait on your own?
There are numerous, micro-moments where we take a peek at our various feeds. If you’re a business and you’re not tapping into that fact, then you’re missing out on one of the biggest current opportunities to showcase your brand.
4. Search Engine Optimisation
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process of optimising web content, in order to make it as visible as possible on search engine results pages. This can be done to whole websites, specific landing pages, but it also can be carried out on blog posts, articles and other fresh content too. The goal is to use the increased visibility on search engines to achieve a purpose.
For example, a landing page may be designed to attract sign-ups for a newsletter. The landing page can be optimised through the inclusion of links, content, through mobile optimisation and through other techniques that are rewarded by search engine algorithms, in order to boost the number of people who land on the page from search engines and sign up.
Content Development Plan
In addition to defining the various marketing actions that will be taken to achieve your goals, you also need to devise a plan for the creation of your digital marketing content, regardless of whether it is paid ads, blog posts, in-depth articles, e-books, viral content on social media, videos for YouTube, or a combination of those things.
This may mean, for example, creating a schedule for publishing new blog posts, so your audience knows when to check back. It may also mean deciding between working with in-house content creators, or freelancers. Regardless of who actually creates the content, it is imperative that they understand the audience and corporate tone.
"Creatives who specialise in writing, graphics or design know how to create meaningful content to attract prospects from all types of industries," says Karina Tama-Rutigliano, writing for Forbes. "Experienced writers and designers create the tone and voice that helps your prospects connect with your brand on a personal level."
Measuring Marketing Performance
Finally, it is important that the performance of your marketing is continuously measured and compared against your objectives. This will enable you to see progress and prove a return of investment to the business leaders or management, but will also enable you to make changes to your strategy, when necessary.
Some key marketing objectives, such as improving brand awareness, can be difficult to accurately measure, which is why targets need to be made specific. For instance, an alternative to that may be to increase interaction and engagement on social media platforms, or to boost the number of mentions in mainstream media sources, which can be accurately measured. Setting clear targets and measuring performance against them is the only way to truly see success or failure.
Ultimately, the reason you need a digital marketing strategy in the modern era is to provide structure, precision and purpose to the huge number of marketing actions that can now be carried out across various digital platforms. It allows marketers to define their audience, clarify their aims and build a marketing plan that gives them the best possible chance of reaching that audience, achieving those aims, and delivering a clear ROI.