Digital Marketing is one of the key areas that we cover for our clients and creating a digital marketing plan is critical to any success. What I will be covering today is the foundational blocks to creating a plan that will allow any small business to grow online. A digital marketing plan can be done on a single sheet of paper. It won't be complete but will give you a start. What I am going to cover is something a bit deeper than the single page start and not as complete as a book. This is what I feel every business needs at a minimum to be successful and grow their business online.
A digital marketing plan should be a long-term vision of what you do on the Internet. This means that every post, reply, like, comment, video, article, etc. should be guided by and driven by a long-term plan to not only grow your business but also match your marketing goals. Digital marketing is not just creating a plan for social media. Digital marketing is an umbrella term that encompasses everything you do marketing wise on the internet. This includes, but not limited to, social media, search engine optimization, search engine paid advertising, social media paid advertising, websites, link building, and more.
I've talked a lot recently about influencers and how to become one. I believe that an influencer is also more than one individual, although that is what it typically is referred to. An influencer can be an entire company where together the entire team becomes an influencer. We believe that every one of our clients has the ability to become an influencer in their industry by showing their expertise, educating others, and growing to their long-term expectations.
Objectives and Goals
With any digital marketing plan is defining your objectives and goals that you want to achieve. This is where you establish how you want to become a better organization. By defining your goals and objectives you are going to be able to determine your return on investment (ROI) as you will be able to gauge the success or failure of your marketing. The goals that you set should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. If that sounds familiar it should. Those are part of the S.M.A.R.T. framework. Examples of key items you might want to include for objectives and goals (with descriptions are):
- Increase brand awareness
- High quality of sales
- Drive in-person sales
- Improve ROI (return on investment)
- Create a loyal fanbase
- Reach existing customers more
- Bring on new customers
- Better pulse on your specific industry
- Reach those in a different demographic
- Release and bring awareness to a specific product or service
Define your strategy
For any plan, you need to have a strategy. When you are looking at your strategy you will define your goals, define your unique selling proposition, define your brand, look for holes and fix them in existing plans, how to create kick-ass content, defining your distribution channels, and have a solid search engine optimization strategy that aligns with everything else. This will allow you to grow and meet your objectives. Your strategy should be an interest and make the person want to interact with your business.
Defining a baseline
The first item you need to do when creating these goals and objectives is defining where you are today. This is the number of people that are fans of your social media, engage with your social media, visit your website, pages they visit, etc. When you complete this initial assessment, you will be able to make decisions on what measurable actions you should expect. During this initial evaluation if you are able to look back in time (e.g. you have analytics that goes back) you can know even more about what you should be able to expect.
Defining your customer
One of the hardest parts of creating a marketing plan is defining who your ideal customer is today. These customers are defined as personas that you create. A persona is a person that you define who will be interacting with your site. This customer will be male or female, will have a specific age or age-range, be single, married, separated, divorced, or widowed. The defined customer will either have a job or not, they will be happy where they are at or looking for specific opportunities to grow personally. The more defined you create these persona's the more accurate and targeted your marketing will be.
Part of any strategy is looking at your competitors. Your competitors may not even be those local to you. When we look at our competitors we don't look at those in Northwest Indiana but those across the United States and around the world. Those are whom we have as competitors. Your competitor could be the business across the street. Your competitor is determined by a long-term plan. Today a competitor could be down the street but your long-term competitor could be hundreds or thousands of miles away. You want to stay abreast of those near you but you need to focus your energy on the longer-term vision of success. The reason for this is if you look close rather than where you want to be you will not grow, achieve, or push yourself as hard as you should.
A part of digging into your competition should involve:
- Look where they are currently on social media
- Their website and how frequently they are updating it
- Where they are spending their paid advertising dollars
- Don't forget offline (e.g. old school) techniques. They should be forgotten and still used as part of your benchmark.
- Look at the content they are creating (or curating)
- How in tune are they with your targeted customers
Part of any good competitor analysis will involve a SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Here you break down in each area how you compare to your competitors.
- Strengths – what separates you from your competitors and why your products and solutions are better than everyone else. These are the core reasons you are the best there is and can be seen as what is a threat to your competitors.
- Weaknesses – what is slowing you down from performing at the highest level. List everything that you need to work on and improve.
- Opportunities – where opportunities exist that you could take advantage of. Are you able to expand into new markets, bringing resources in-house or outsourcing resources to get a better standing in your industry?
- Threats – what are some of the threats that could threaten the existence of your marketing. This could be an algorithm change, a competitor bad mouthing or attacking and slandering your name, competitors aligning together to attack you, or a product you sell no longer having all of the parts available to continue making a product.
With this valuable information, you need to start gathering inspiration. The first place to grab inspiration is from those in your industry (competitor or not). These are businesses that are currently doing a positive job in marketing and growing their business. Don't focus on those that haven't posted often or frequently. If all someone does is share other articles most of the time to look at the sources they are linking to rather than what they are truly doing. When you do start looking take a look at what engagement they are receiving. Are people engaging? Are they sharing the content? Are there responses to the engagement they are doing?
Content Marketing Calendar
With all of this valuable information what you need to do now is answer a few key areas to create your content marketing calendar. This calendar will become your schedule. You need to:
- Define the types of content you intend to post
- Determine what social media platforms you will be posting on
- Who your target audience (per social media platform) that you are targeting
- How often you will be posting on each social media platform
- Who will be creating the content
- Where you will be curating content from
- How will you be promoting that content (organic or paid)
- What time of day you will be posting your content
- How you will be increasing the audience so that you grow your business
Once you start communicating with your calendar you need to look for ways to grow your audience. One way that we continually see dismissed is that of email marketing. Email marketing has been, rightfully so, been seen as spam. When you send to people who didn't sign up that is definitely true. But you are above that and only send to people interested in your products and services. This is where email marketing can truly come to be great. As we reach out with email marketing we will add 4-6 clients per year because of it. That makes email marketing worth it to us.
Beyond email marketing, you have the ability to do paid advertising. There are really two main sources of paid advertising that we do for our clients. The first is with Google AdWords that will track users from one site to another. The other is on Facebook where you utilize the Facebook Pixel to track user's actions and allow you to target a user more directly on Facebook. By using both you can truly follow your users even outside of your normal marketing channels.
As you are marketing look for areas that you can grow. Define the common areas but don't stop there. Some of the key areas that we always look at are:
- Polls – Ask people for a quick poll. A single question can go a long way and spread out over time will give you an indication of where the market is headed.
- Contests – Contests are always a great way of reaching your audience. If you do so on social media you have to abide by their rules. If you do it on your own website you have complete control and can grow your email marketing list.
- Text messaging – Text messaging is an often forgotten medium for marketing. A person has to opt-in which means they want a deal or information from you.
- Online surveys – Ask for feedback and offer an incentive for providing that feedback. This could be a free drink, a discount on an appetizer or even a buy one get one half off deal.
- Analytics – Use analytics that is available that can show trends that you might not otherwise notice. This is where deep learning can come into play to see trends you might not see that a computer algorithm can.
- Community – Look at your local community for events that are going on and see how you can tie in with them. If you know a business that is open to working together do so. Share your resources and build on each other's strengths.
I talk about being agile a lot and there is a good reason for it. When you are marketing on the internet you cannot think “old school”. Old school doesn't exist when it comes to the internet. Once you think old school your plan will most likely not grow the way you wish it to. Being agile means, you adjust rapidly to changing market conditions. You look at what works and doesn't work on a monthly basis.
The future changes at the whim of the market. Be aware, knowledgeable, and open to the change. Your plan should be a working and living document that is adjusted frequently.
Each month you should be asking yourself these questions?
- How are we performing to our long-term objectives?
- Where are we now in the market?
- Where do we want to be in the market?
- Which of our current objectives are we meeting and which should we stop doing?
- Are we headed in the right direction?
- Are we on target to getting to where we want to be?
- Are all of our platforms working together?
- Are we advertising on all the right channels (e.g. where our customers are at)?
- Are we using the correct call-to-actions for success?
We've gone through a lot of items but realize this is only the tip of the iceberg. These are the core items we start with every client and it has allowed us to grow every one of our clients by 20% year-over-year. What you need to do for any starting digital marketing plan is:
- List your objectives and goals
- Define your strategy
- Defining a baseline
- Defining your customer
- Competitor benchmarking
- Create a content marketing calendar
- Reach your audience
- Growth opportunities
- Be agile and adjust to change
As you do all the above do not make what I see as the biggest mistake of anyone that creates a plan. A plan is not written in stone, it is a guide that should and does change at a very rapid pace. When the market changes you need to change and adapt quickly.