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How to Build a Comprehensive Digital Marketing Strategy

Clearwater Staff

A strategy within any area of business should always be built around the diagnosis of a challenge, as well as a guideline and subsequent set of tactics to overcome it. Building a digital marketing strategy is no different and can take many forms, so it is crucial every business looks at the real challenges they are facing, create obtainable and measurable goals to overcome them, and have all associated campaigns within the strategy aligned to achieving them.

While this might seem overwhelming, following a proven process of identifying your target audience (also known as buyer personas), defining objectives and marketing tools, evaluating existing digital efforts, and then budgeting and planning your campaigns will leave your business in the best position to draft an effective, comprehensive digital marketing strategy.


1. Building Your Buyer Persona(s)

  1. Define who you want to target with your marketing efforts. Too many businesses spread their marketing resources thin by trying to cast a wide net over multiple potential audiences, resulting in little return on investment (ROI). The best performing digital marketing strategies refine the focus of their campaigns on a specific corner of the market who would benefit most from their products or services. Creating a buyer persona, or several personas, is the exercise of developing fictional people who fit your ‘ideal’ customer traits, so marketing collateral and messaging can be far more effectively targeted.
  2. Avoid assumptions by collecting real data. Assumptions are the mother of all mistakes. While many business owners think they understand their target markets entirely, simply assembling a product or service that solves a problem doesn’t provide enough insight to build marketing campaigns. To properly segment your audience and avoid wasting resources, conduct reliable customer research through surveys, interviews, questionnaires, and focus groups. The type of data needed to be collected varies depending on your business models, the products or services offered, where they are located on the low-to-high pricing scale, and B2C or B2B relationships. There are, however, some common demographic information points and personality traits that can help to build useable foundations for your buyer personas.
  3. Develop demographic information. This information is more quantitative in nature and defines some key characteristics of your buyer personas to build campaigns around. These include:
    • Location: Where is your online traffic coming from? Where would you like it to come from? What are you service areas?
    • Age: How old is your target market? What period of life are they in that would influence their decision to consider your product or service?
    • Income Level: What is the purchasing power of your target audience? Are they aligned to meet your price points?
    • Job Title/Position: How do your buyers earn their income? How does this effect their decision to consider your product/service?
    • Education: What level of education is required to appreciate your marketing material, or to take full advantage of your products/services?
    • Family Status: Are your target audience married? Do they have children? Extended families?
  4. Develop personality traits. To better tailor your marketing material, it helps to gather a bit more depth around your buyer personas, such as what motivates them and their values. This works tremendously well to build a point of difference with your brand down the line, as well as establishing the rapport needed to obtain followers, generate leads, and ultimately make sales and conversions. These include:
    • Goals & Values: What are your target audience trying to achieve? What common statements of values have you noted from sales calls, consultations, reviews & feedback, or everyday service?
    • Hobbies/Interests: What engages your audience outside of the scope of your deliverables?
    • Challenges & Pain Points: What are your target audience struggling with day-to-day? What causes aggravation with them that your brand could perhaps relate to or solve?
    • Objections to Sale: Whether they are new customers, or those existing you are looking to retain, what elements might cause friction in their decision to convert?
    • Role in the Purchasing Process: Are your target audience the decision makers in your sales process? Or do they refer to their higher-ups for confirmation?
    • Source of Information: Where do you target audiences go to obtain their information? Are there separate platforms used to search for and receive different informational pieces?


2. Establish Digital Goals Amid Wider Business Goals 

  1. Define Wider Business Goals. Business goals and strategies flow through into implementation from a higher-level to lower-level basis. Wider business goals, for example, might be to increase profit for a specific period by 20%. With this defined, this would then flow through into marketing goals, or more specifically digital marketing goals, which may translate to boosting online revenue. The form this takes will be in a variety of subsequent actions using the range of tools available, such as cultivating more sales enquiries using lead generation strategies.
  2. Frame your goals in a ‘SMART’ format. It is easy to simply state your goals for your digital marketing will be to ‘reach more audiences’ or ‘convert more sales’. But isn’t this a given? It can be far more beneficial to direct your efforts and resources to achieve an outcome a little more tangible, and following the S.M.A.R.T. format can help you do just that. When defining your business goals, be sure to keep them:
    • Specific: Get precise with what your unique business is looking to promote, build, or earn. It has to be clear to avoid any ambiguity between your team, and specify whether it has been achieved or not in the future. After you know what you want to accomplish, define why, where it will take place, when it will start, and who is involved.
    • Measurable: Build a definite criterion for succeeding with your goal. This can be represented either in a quantitative way (such as target revenue figures, or year-on-year growth percentages in regards to your conversions), or in a qualitative aspect (such as developing customer service pathways to promote better engagement intervals).
    • Attainable: Dreaming big is always encouraged, but aiming far beyond your capabilities won’t help anyone, and can often leave teams feeling defeated and discouraged to continue. Look at the resources you have, the obstacles in front of you, and use them to develop goals you believe are attainable in reflection of that. Repeating this after each goal completion will build a more practical roadmap to your larger aspirations.
    • Relevant: When developing goals, question what benefit they will bring to your overall business and the teams within. This comes back to asking ‘Why?’ and outlining the potential benefits for achieving a specific outcome. Be sure to consider the opportunity cost of an outcome; in other words, what will it cost you to achieve this goal? Does what you are spending cost more than the benefit you will be gaining? If the answer is yes, then you have your validation to proceed.
    • Time-Bound: Leaving goals without deadlines or timelines can make it difficult to complete actions. Setting a time constraint can either be based on factors demanding the success, such as curbing dwindling sales before the end of a financial year, or simply put in place by managers to engage teams and remove the possibility of procrastination.


3. Determine Digital Marketing Platforms & Tools Required

  1. Use buyer persona information & digital marketing goals to determine platforms required. Now you know who you are trying reach, and what goals you are trying to achieve in reaching them, you can begin to plan what digital marketing platforms to utilise (websites, search engines, social media platforms and so forth).
  2. Set up analytical tools to measure performance of platforms. Any good strategy needs to have metrics and measurement tools in place to evaluate efficacy of targeted actions. Fortunately, there are a variety of online tools available to make this possible, both on free and paid platforms. This will help you to understand:
    • The amount of traffic generated within a period
    • User journeys
    • Content performing well across different/multiple platforms
    • Uptakes of lead generation tactics and relationships to final conversions
  3. Introduce Marketing Automation tools. Seasoned marketers will be aware, but if you are new to digital marketing, you will quickly find the repetitive, manual tasks required across each platform will eat into an overwhelming amount of your teams’ available time. A common way to overcome this limitation is by automating these tasks using sophisticated tools that can be set-up to respond based on certain actions or criteria occurring in other areas of your business. This is most popular with email marketing, but can be utilised across social media and pay-per-click campaigns. For example, if a customer interacts with your website in a specific way, such as downloading a free resource in exchange for an email address, you can have a pre-prepared email sent directly to them, welcoming them to your brand. When properly established, marketing automation tools can assist to lower customer acquisition expenses, increase sales volumes, increase average sale amounts, and actually improve the frequency of repeat customers.


4. Measure Performance of Existing Digital Platforms

  1. Organise existing digital assets. Unless you are a brand new business creating new digital assets from scratch, it is important to organise your existing digital assets to measure their efficacy in reaching not only your newly established buyer personas, but also in achieving the goals set out in the wider strategy. This can be separated by assets that are:
    • Owned Media: digital assets owned by your business or brand, such as websites, social accounts, articles and content.
    • Earned Media: digital assets that have been accumulated from exposure to your business or owned media, such as public recommendations, online reviews, and guest posts.
    • Paid Media: digital assets that are created on platforms which will increase visibility to target audiences in exchange for attributed budgets, such as Google Ads, social media advertising, and remarketing efforts.
  2. Review how owned, earned, and paid media work together. Digital marketing strategies work best when assets aren’t utilised in isolation. Do each of your assets build off and promote the success of others? Do your owned assets generate further earned assets, for example? With this information, you begin to understand what needs altering.
  3. Establish platform specific KPIs. Key performance indicators (KPIs) are a set of measurements or value-based assessments to determine how well a digital marketing platform is performing in relation to your wider business goals. It is important to recognise that each of your campaigns will have a different purpose, and need tailored marketing KPIs to reflect that. For example, your search engine optimisation campaign could be measured on the web traffic generated by new users, whereas social media advertising campaigns could have a closer to return on ad spend (ROAS) from conversions. Be sure to develop a clear lineation between your KPIs and how, should they be achieved, they will also help your business accomplish its wider goals.


5. Format Your Marketing/Sales Funnel 

  1. Appreciate the importance of a marketing/sales funnel in place. Funnels are adopted by successful businesses to segment their digital marketing efforts to different areas of their buyer persona’s purchasing journey. This is done in order to gently encourage audiences through each stage and meet their goals, as although every interaction within your business may differ, they will all likely follow these four stages:
    • Brand Awareness
    • Interest
    • Consideration
    • Conversion
    • Retention/Advocacy
  2. Learn how to boost brand awareness by capturing buyer personas’ attention. At the top of the funnel is efforts used to build the awareness of your business and it’s products/services. With the information collected on your buyer personas, consider the type of content or marketing efforts that would catch their eye, and where exactly they would find it.
  3. Consider how to maintain the interest of your buyer personas. Everyone can make someone stop scrolling on their phone with an outrageous social media post, but the real skill is utilising that attention into creating genuine interest from your target audience into your brand. This will move them one step closer to a sale in your funnel.
  4. Scope how to leverage brand interest to build consideration and desire. Your target audience will now start to see the benefits of your products or services. They will consider how their life will be improved after making a purchase, desiring those benefits, and begin to weigh up their decision against costs.
  5. Developing encouraging actions to convert. This doesn’t necessarily mean close everyone into a sale, but at least get them to follow a specific action, such as making an enquiry, or leaving an email address.
  6. Build a plan to secure retention and advocacy. If you want customers or clients to not only continue using your brand’s products or services, but also recommend them to their family and friends, there needs to be a plan in place to reward them for their loyalty – otherwise they may be swayed by the offers of competitors.


6. Plan Your Digital Marketing Budget & Campaigns 

  1. Build periodic budgets. A common question from businesses new to digital marketing is how much they should spend on certain campaigns. There is no clear answer to this, as return on investment can vary based on platforms and the quality of content created.
    • Begin with an appreciation of how fast goals need to be achieved. Paid media often delivers faster results, but at a higher acquisition cost. Owned media that is more cost-effective to create will deliver similar results when done well, but over a longer period.
    • Obtain a good understanding of your wider financials. How much can you dedicate to your marketing without impacting other expenses and commitments, such employee payments, cost of sales, or operating expenses? This will give you a keen idea as to not only how much you can budget for within a given period to your marketing efforts, but also insights into what a goal ROI should be on that investment to achieve your goals.
  1. Use insights to build owned media campaigns. This will be the core of your digital marketing strategy and take various forms of content produced by you or your team. From website copy and images to blog posts shared across social media platforms, to free courses or eBooks as lead generation tools, these will be the branded materials created and distributed to achieve certain goals within your wider marketing funnel. It can be difficult knowing what content to distribute, so be sure to use your buyer persona information and place yourself in their position to ask, ‘What would they find valuable?’ Where would they want to find this piece of content?’
    • Create content that grabs the attention of your target audience, followed by more content that retains their interest, and then makes them consider/desire your offerings, before eventually being encouraged to make a purchase again and again, as well as advocating for your brand to others.
    • Always ensure your content is related back to your goals. Many businesses and marketers waste valuable time and resources on assets that, although are very appealing, hold no value towards achieving their end goals.
    • Use data to refine your ongoing efforts. Failing to appreciate what the numbers are telling you will lead to the repeated failure of content distribution, wasting your periodic marketing budget, and missing your overall goals.
    • Ensure your content is search engine optimised (SEO) for maximum visibility across search engines, boosting organic traffic to your digital platforms.
  1. Develop a Digital Marketing & Content Creation Plan: To build a digital marketing strategy that successfully achieves your goals time and again, you cannot rely on set-and-forget campaigns. Consistent creation of content paired with constant refining of digital platforms is crucial. To keep on track, create a plan or calendar outlining the digital marketing tasks needed to be completed within a given period (whether it be monthly, weekly, daily or something more specific). Include the key details, such as:
    • Title of the piece
    • Format: the medium this content will take, such as a blog article, social media post, or repurposed across multiple formats
    • Stage of the marketing funnel: is this content set to promote brand awareness, interest, consideration, conversion or retention/loyalty within your buyer personas?
    • Goal: Based on the marketing funnel, what objectives will this content piece strive to meet?
    • Metrics: What metrics will be used to measure the performance of this content piece in relation to the objective it was trying to achieve?
    • Promotional channels: How are you going to distribute this content for maximum visibility within your target audience?
    • Priority Level: To help with task management, gauge how critical each piece of content is to your marketing efforts (for example, certain events on the calendar, such as Christmas, may place time constraints to the worth of a piece of content).

7. Compile a Comprehensive Digital Marketing Strategy

  1. Document your strategy for consistency. A marketing strategy locked away in someone’s imagination is only going to lead to errors in delivery. Documenting your buyer personas, specific marketing objectives and how they relate to wider business goals, metrics for success, periodic budgets, and a content creation plan will ensure consistency across delivery on your various digital platforms.
  2. Distribute to all involved parties and partners. Unless you are working on your own, it is likely you will have people both in-house, and external to your business, assisting with your digital marketing strategy. Be sure to distribute your strategy to all parties involved so they can follow guidelines and create unified actions towards success.
  3. Schedule Periodic Assessments for Review. Once you have a digital marketing strategy assembled, you and your team need to continually schedule time for thorough assessment and review to ascertain whether it is still working. After all, digital platforms, algorithms, and user behaviours shift – now faster than ever – and working with an outdated marketing strategy is a guaranteed way for your brand to be left behind. Whether it be every week, month, or quarter, allocate time to evaluate whether your KPIs are still being met; question old campaigns and their relevancy in the changing market; breakdown what is working, why, and how you can use marketing resources to build on that success in place of efforts rearing a lower return on investment. This constant refinement and adjustment to changing external factors and wider business goals.


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