First, I am up to my neck reading listicles daily – 5 points to remember, 7 tips to success, 10 things to decide upon and so on…. I know they create a titular interest for readers but most of them come with no or unimportant content most times…. I am sure that those serious readers who are really really interested in a topic would read the content anyway, listicle or not if it contains some great content. Listicles have been a part of everyone’s digital marketing strategy for too long now, and I have really stopped reading those, for me, they are a waste of time, 90% of the time.
So, I am not going to arrange this post as a list but will try and weave it logically so that it makes sensible sense and adds value to my fellow marketers and readers.
Before I dive in, I think we need to understand that a digital marketing strategy is bespoke for every business and depends on many factors despite being in the same domain. For example, the Coca-Cola company may have an objective of introducing 3 other flavoured drinks in the market this year, while Pepsi-Cola could be looking at launching in 5 other countries. So, the marketing strategy would definitely be different for both businesses, although the objective of enhancing sales and making more money lies at the heart of any business, always.
Sadly, most marketers have the same blueprint of digital marketing strategy for all businesses across domains. Create content, distribute, create more links, create AdWords campaigns and do scheduled social media posts, all with good intention, and with hardly any results to show. Businesses, today have become wary of outsourcing their digital marketing needs for the very same reason.
As a marketer, I will first try and understand the client’s business, the vision, mission, and short and long term objectives before thinking of marketing it. I would like to understand their mission and vision, more about their products and services and how they differ from their competitors and what their USPs are. Only then, yes only then will I analyse the competition and then get into the history of what has been done and achieved in the past in the name of marketing until now, either by their own team or through external agencies.
Getting into the groove, I will first create a realistic marketing framework:
Before I do anything, I will check which of the competitors are doing the best and why so! They must be doing something good to get better results. There are many tools to achieve that, and most of them are reliable. Call it spying or intruding, but then the best best way to succeed is to follow success and better it.
Once I close this analysis, I would map my client KPI’s and objectives and compare to the competition. The next step is to tweak them to achieve what needs to be achieved. Remember, once these are frozen and set in stone [which can’t be, but for now, yes], there is a lot more thought I would give to understand:
- How a frozen KPI is related to the goals to be achieved?
- What are the metrics that need to be measured?
- UX is of paramount importance – are the measurements catering to UX in any manner? If yes, how and how much?
- What and how many metrics needs monitoring and how those variances contribute to the goals included in my marketing plan?
Now is the time when I would delve into the details – timelines, content mapping, editorial calendars, AdWords creative and social media tones. There are too many tools out there to help us marketers do that… choosing the right ones is a different story.
Once I have the metrics nailed down to a “T” and link them to my KPI’s [so that I am on track with my goals], it is time for execution testing for a 4 weeks.
Ask a few KPI based question during testing
Have I set the right metrics for goal measurement? What are the metrics I need to focus more and which ones can I ignore for some time…? I will try and analyse results weekly, probably daily too during this time and figure out which goals I have achieved and which I haven’t. For those that I achieved, which metrics got them across the line and for those that I didn’t, which metrics did I ignore? This tells me what I should improve upon and which should I ignore.
The digital marketing strategy can get tricky. It is not only about results and data but also about the human element and experience, the gut feeling as I call it. For me, traffic is not only about numbers but also about visitors/humans and each of them is different. The data I glean from here tells me more about the UX and visitor behaviour which will be a great help to improve upon at a later stage. End of the day, UX, user intent and user behaviour are the ones that will define the ROI, domain agnostically, every time.
Build an effective digital marketing strategy
The step-wise customer journey right from being a first-time visitor to a customer is what a marketing funnel is about.. Though it sounds simple, it is complicated due to data analysis and deep learning structures that AI is honing presently. The break-down, simply put can be:
- The outreach: Website, landing pages, social media outreach, advertising, video marketing, content marketing, social media posts, and infographics – mostly attractive and useful content focussed on search intent, like this one.
- The conversion: Visitors taking action, what the intent could be – to just leave their emails, read eBooks or even take part in contests or make a purchase.
- The closure: Feedback, support systems, reviews and so on.
- Customer retention: revisits, offers, email marketing, surveys, and many other outreach tools.
We call them marketing funnels because the widest part of the entire exercise is right at the outreach point where brand awareness is maxed out along with customer engagement. Of course, the numbers dwindle and the funnel begins to narrow down, irrespective of how artistic it looks, it is, after all, a numbers game. The funnel begins with relationship building and ends with a sale and then when we get to retention, it holds its shape.
The better a marketer is or the better the digital marketing strategy, the funnel will lose its shape slowly and of course, it comes with great tools, expertise, and experience. I don’t panic, I just give it some time and the funnel elongates slowly while I keep tweaking the marketing strategy through measurement, analysis, and experience.
Content is King! What works?
Content marketing is much more than writing wonderful blogs and tweets. Content marketing is meant to brand you as an expert in your field and to that end, learning new technologies and tricks to enhance your content is very important, each piece that you produce should inform the reader about something new and happening, not in a nerdy way but in a way that he/she understands. Personally, I keep it very simple and straight, obvious no one wants to waste time reading 10 pages and finding out that they are no wiser for it. Creativity and information that adds real value are what get you readership, not long content as Google recommends, sorry, that was not intended to be criticism.
Your services could be complicated or your product or technology, but, it is important to tell a story. A story that keeps the reader engrossed, so value and quality are the hallmarks of content marketing and not volumes as many marketers still like to believe, no offence intended towards anyone, everyone to themselves.
Content with information of value to a reader, interspersed with proper CTA’s is what I would like to produce in the form of a story. I always keep a repository of content produced well in advance, so that I never fall short. However, the repository is always at the top of the mark, since I keep revisiting and editing that stuff, forever.
Content marketing depends on a few more factors
Another issue with content is its importance to SEO, keyword usage, density, and yadda-yadda. I believe in it, but that is not as important as user centricity for me. If I can distribute my content to the right areas where my audience hangs out as an interesting read, search engines will waste no time in indexing it. That of course, is entirely my belief and people who cannot produce the right kind of written word would actually focus on the SEO part. Finally, I track the readership and ensure that it is read by most people and possibly go viral, while I keep my fingers crossed. No, I am not talking luck here; I am talking about my doing everything right. And, if that doesn’t work, I go back to my drawing board and learn all over again until I get it right.
Any digital marketing strategy or plan that I create is always open-ended, means, it will have enough scope to better it or tweak it until it works perfectly and gets me the results I expect. I hate giving deadlines to clients, but then it is important to have a plan on a timeline, and to that end, I always keep some extra time on hand. In my experience, I have seen some unexpected events happening, what better example than search engine updates that turn your plans topsy-turvy. I have been there and done that, but gone ahead and forgotten the bitter experiences.
I do have some blank spots on deadlines, just that I may fall back sometimes or to tweak a few things since the competition has gone one up to get better results. New technology, tweaks, ideas as you go into execution need some space to implement and so the blanks are important to me. All through, I never lose sight of my goals and KPI’s though.
Have a clear direction
I normally plan my content marketing direction to be steady for at least a single quarter, unless something unusual comes along in the domain and things change drastically. The direction will be oriented to a particular goal and the goals are measured continuously in order to ensure that I am doing everything right. It should be aligned to your digital marketing strategy.
It is also critically important to understand that all distribution channels are oriented to the same or similar messaging so that a reader or a visitor is aligned to a singular topic or discussion. This will enable a visitor to search for your channels and read through more thus improving his/her chances of conversion or to turn into your brand advocate. This is also called omnichannel marketing.
Have highly informative, shareable and SEO-friendly content ready to achieve expected results and make the best out of your marketing strategy.
To build a workable, effective and efficient marketing strategy, you should have some excellent content to fall back upon, of course, content is the raw material for marketing, be it articles, Facebook posts, tweets or any other form of content.
And, remember, executing a digital marketing strategy is a punctual time-line, having some project management experience under the belt could come in great use. All, digital marketing channels should be speaking the same language. Moreover, each and every detail is important including grammar, misspelled words and any other errors. One reader, coming across a simple overseen mistake could forever be gone, which means you have lost a prospective customer. Be a perfectionist and not a hobby marketer, it will get you nowhere in the long run.
For me, with over 20 years as a digital marketer, marketing is still an art and a science and, no strategy big or small, I have created was cut and dry.
The smallest elements that I give importance to are the brand story, visitor engagement, and the customer journey through the funnel, the rest is taken care of by the digital marketing strategy itself. I strive to engage the largest group of audience, remember, the larger the number of visitors, the larger the conversions and customers. Not that I give too much importance to numbers or analytics, but I strive to convert 5 visitors from 100 instead of 2 from a thousand.
I am confident that you get my point here, the idea is not about numbers but about customers who will turn into brand advocates and will keep coming back for more.