As a leading digital marketing agency, a significant portion of our time is dedicated to developing digital marketing strategies for our clients. Given that we are in the beginning months of 2015, this is a great time to revisit what it takes to develop a well thought-out strategy.
First off, you should establish your goals. In many cases, there is a tendency to go right to a channel or platform and decide, "Let's do a Pinterest campaign!" or "Let's create viral videos." And even if you know the goals, it is a great exercise to go through the following steps to ensure that your colleagues and agency partners are fully aligned with your vision:
- Create a Problem Statement: What opportunity are you taking advantage of or what problem are you solving? Are you curing "pain"? Are you doing something new? Is this a branding goal? Direct response? New customers? Revenue? In many cases, campaigns should, and will, have more than one goal.
- Leverage Data: What research or data do you have to support your problem statement? There is no shortage of information you can leverage from your own analytics, easy-to-deploy surveys, or third-party market and analyst research. Data can include audience metrics, competitive intelligence, website or store activity, market trends and much more.
- Measure Success: If you achieve your goals, how will you know? Do you have the right infrastructure to capture performance, and if so, do you have the ability to develop actionable insights? Establishing KPIs and the proper analytics infrastructure is critical to understanding the value of your investment.
- Determine a Budget: There are two primary ways of building a budget - bottom up or top down. Top down means you typically have a given or available budget and your job is to allocate it as intelligently as possible. Bottom up means you are working with a blank slate and you must determine what it will take to achieve your goal set. In either case, you should assume you will need to make changes along the way and shift budget based on data.
- Test Everything: In essence, every campaign is a test. If it works, you should understand how to scale. Within a campaign, it also helps to have testable elements such as creative, audience, channel mix/allocation, landing pages, etc. Some say testing is the most important piece of a campaign. Make sure you're investing in understanding what works and optimize from there.
Once you have defined the business objectives and measurement strategy, you are now ready to start defining execution strategies. Outlined below are elements to consider during this phase:
- Channels: We refer to traffic generation methods as channels (i.e. paid search, display, affiliate, social, etc.). In many cases these are also categorized as paid, earned and owned. This topic could span an entire article of its own, but for the purposes of this entry, they are self-explanatory. In terms of defining a channel, you should think about how your audience engages digitally, where in the journey your outreach should be targeted (awareness, consideration, conversion), what creative assets are needed for success and how much time is needed for impact (see Figure A below). This will ultimately give you a list of prospective channels where you should invest, assuming you have enough budget to have a statistically relevant impact. If you only have enough budget for one channel, you can test other elements such as those outlined below:
Figure A: sample digital media plan (Click to enlarge)
- Tactics: There are many "plays" you can run in the digital marketing playbook and these will vary by channel. In social media, for example, there are sweepstakes and user generated content based strategies. For display, there is personalization, retargeting, video and more. And the list goes on. Once again, I caution against trying to spread too thin. Think about which tactics are most aligned with your business objectives, and be able to measure and refine.
- Platform/Vendor: Once you have chosen your channels and tactics, there are a great number of platform and vendor choices to make. For search, this may be Google and Bing. For social, there are the large platforms like Facebook, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Instagram, as well as the growing number of smaller audience or vertical based platforms. Some platforms are more effective for certain tactics, so make sure to take this into consideration as you align your plan with your chosen vendor. And again, like channels, choose a number that allows you to test so that you can shift your budget accordingly based on data.
- Messaging: How are you trying to engage with your customer? Are you doing this in a way that differentiates you from your competition? Is this a promotional opportunity or more of a brand awareness play? Are you sharing with your customers what makes you great as a brand? Messaging is certainly something that should be central to the strategic development of your campaign, you might even place it in the first section when developing your business plan. In any case, many companies get through all of the stages, but don't take the necessary steps to have a strong and unique proposition to drive impact.
Finally, optimization strategy should always be top of mind. As you test channels, platforms, vendors, and creative, think about what more you can measure and how you can shift strategy based on gleaned insights. No campaign should be set in stone. There should be many levers to make changes once the data points you in a certain direction.
While this is not exhaustive, this simple outline can help guide digital marketing strategy, get consensus from your colleagues and management team, and demonstrate best practices in data-driven marketing. For more help on crafting the perfect digital strategy for your brand, contact Rise Interactive.