Digital Marketing Strategy: A Simple Guide

| November 26, 2012 | 4 Comments

It’s difficult to find a business today that isn’t somehow engaged in some type of digital marketing.  Unfortunately, many businesses deploy digital marketing tactics without ever feeling a positive return on investment.  Many of these business decision makers are left feeling uneasy about increasing their digital marketing budgets.

What’s the problem?  Far to often, businesses and marketers deploy digital marketing tactics without carefully defining, developing and deploying an appropriate digital marketing strategy.

Whether you are a business looking to get more value out of your marketing dollars or a marketing professional looking for a tool to help with the conversation regarding the development of a digital marketing strategy, I put this guide together to simplify the process.

I hope you find this guide useful and look forward to reading your comments.

Step One: Forget about everything you want, or feel you need, to do.

Seriously.  Get it all out of your head.  Breathe.  It’s going to be okay!

Step Two: Understand Your Business

Define clearly and concisely what your business does.  Do you sell widgets?  Do you provide a particular service?  Whatever it is, break it down to a definition that is as simple and as specific as possible – three or four sentences should be adequate.

Step Three: Define your Mission and Vision

Yes, I know.  How many workshops have you been to discussing creating your mission and vision?  Here is the deal: with this exercise you need to define it.  It doesn’t have to be perfect or sound fantastic.  We aren’t going to use it in our marketing.  We are using these definitions to help guide our decisions going forward.  Where do you want to be?  How would you like others to define your business?

Step Four: What are your Business Objectives?

This is an absolute critical step. Any digital strategy will have to measure up to your business objectives.  What is the primary goal of the business?  Is it to make a profit by selling widgets?  Is it to educate? Are there important secondary objectives?  Depending on the business, you should keep you objectives to three or less. Define your objectives as simply and as specific as possible.

NOTE: If possible, use real numbers or information and create goals to measure the success of these objectives.  In marketing, we call these key performance indicators (or KPI).

Step Five: What is your customer value proposition?

What is your point of difference or competitive advantage?  How do you set your company apart from similar companies in your industry? Do you build a better widget? Are you uniquely able to solve a particular problem? Are you cheaper?

NOTE: I’ve had companies define their competitive advantage as having better customer service.  Unless you are the Ritz Carlton, chances are customer service is not a point of difference (everyone is doing customer service).

Step Six: Who is your Customer?

Describe your customers.  Separate them into several key segments.  Do you have internal and external customers?  Are there demographic delineations?  Are there social or economic differences?  List these out and define them to the best of your ability.

Step Seven: Customer Based Research

Next, understand more about your customers: who are they, what do they want, how do they define your brand, what do they want from you, what do they expect from you, what do they see as opportunities or advantages, and what do they think you do well?

How do you find out this information?  There are many ways.  You can conduct an online survey, do an email blast, call and interview several customers, or host a customer gathering.

NOTE: The most important thing is that you have an equal cross section across all of your client types and you gather and log the same information per customer.  Think of 4-6 key questions about your company/industry you want to know.

Do what you can.  Something is better than nothing.  Please try and not allow yourself to ask questions or do research with any agenda in mind.  The more truthful and accurate the information, the better we can rock your digital marketing!

Step Eight: Who is your Competition?

Make a list of your biggest competitors.  They may not all be in your same industry.  Who is going after your customers for similar types of products/ information/ services?

Next, evaluate your competitors’ digital marketing.  Put together a little spreadsheet.  Start with their website.  Describe it.  Pros? Cons? How is the content?  Take a screenshot.  Then, look at what types of assets each competitor has?  What do you like? What don’t you like?  Can you determine their marketing effectiveness or client engagement?  You get the idea.

Step Nine: Take Inventory of your Current Digital Assets & Explore Opportunities

Follow the same steps you did to evaluate your competition.  Add this to your existing spreadsheet.

Spend some time looking over this information.  Do you see any holes with your digital assets or digital marketing when compared with your competition?  Do you find any strengths?  Make a list.

Step Ten: Explore Trends

Okay, now we begin the fun stuff.  Get all the information you have tabulated.  Spend some time going over the information from start to finish.  Look for trends.  Is there a common theme?  What does the information tell you?

Make a bulleted list of themes and trends.  Define them.  Then, sort them by priority.

NOTE: Remember, Step One.

Step Eleven: Strategize!

Down and dirty time!  Ready to cook up some strategy?

NOTE: Now, we must make clear what a strategy is.  A strategy is a generalized big picture action statement or idea that directly relates to the business objective and KPI goals. A Strategy is not defining the specific action you are going to execute, that is a tactic.

Use all the information you have been given, look closely at Step Ten, and define 2-3 specific marketing strategies that will have the greatest impact on your business.  Take your time!  You may have to develop many before coming up with the strategies that make the most sense.

Strategies need to take into account a few things.  Be sure to include KPI’s and goals.  Align your strategies with the business objectives in Step 4 (I told you we’d be going back there).  Don’t let yourself drift into tactics.  This is a difficult challenge when developing a strategy.  Think ‘big picture.’  Tactics can, and will, derail your ability to develop the most appropriate strategy.

Step Twelve: Tactics

Sweetness!  Post those strategies somewhere, maybe on the wall or a whiteboard.  Read them out loud.  Think about them.

Brainstorm – GO!  How are you going to deliver on these strategies via digital marketing?  Pick one strategy at a time and open your mind to the possibilities.  Anything is on the table.  Give yourself a time limit per strategy – say an hour.  Write down as many ideas as you can.

Sort and priorities the ideas based on impact, viability and how well aligned they are to the business objectives from Step 4.

Step Thirteen: Plan and Go

You rock by the way!  Great job on creating a business oriented strategy with specific tactics.  You’ve got the game plan all covered.  Now it’s time to deploy!

Where you go from here is dependent on a ton of factors.  The main thing is to detail a timeline and gamelan.  Set up milestones, allocate responsibilities, etc.

Hopefully, this guide has been helpful.  If nothing else, you have insight into what it takes to develop a business-oriented strategy.  If done correctly, you will see greater returns from your digital marketing tactics.  Success is sweet!

Good luck!

About Joe Snell


Joe Snell is a front-end developer and digital strategist living in Portland, Oregon. He absolutely LOVES building things for the web! He currently works with the team at Staffing Robot and 11-Bridges.

Category: Mobile Marketing, Modern Marketing Buzz, TMMPDX

  • http://www.pathosnow.com/ Andrew Grossman

    Short, sweet, and high-level. Great job, Joe!

  • lisapeyton

    Thanks so much for commenting Andrew!

  • http://www.pathosnow.com/ Andrew Grossman

    You’re very welcome, Lisa!

  • Joe

    Thank you Andrew! I appreciate it!! I hope it is a tool that folks provide useful!

Joe Snell Mobile MarketingModern Marketing BuzzTMMPDX

It’s difficult to find a business today that isn’t somehow engaged in some type of digital marketing.  Unfortunately, many businesses deploy digital marketing tactics without ever feeling a positive return on investment.  Many of these business decision makers are left feeling uneasy about increasing their digital marketing budgets.

What’s the problem?  Far to often, businesses and marketers deploy digital marketing tactics without carefully defining, developing and deploying an appropriate digital marketing strategy.

Whether you are a business looking to get more value out of your marketing dollars or a marketing professional looking for a tool to help with the conversation regarding the development of a digital marketing strategy, I put this guide together to simplify the process.

I hope you find this guide useful and look forward to reading your comments.

Step One: Forget about everything you want, or feel you need, to do.

Seriously.  Get it all out of your head.  Breathe.  It’s going to be okay!

Step Two: Understand Your Business

Define clearly and concisely what your business does.  Do you sell widgets?  Do you provide a particular service?  Whatever it is, break it down to a definition that is as simple and as specific as possible – three or four sentences should be adequate.

Step Three: Define your Mission and Vision

Yes, I know.  How many workshops have you been to discussing creating your mission and vision?  Here is the deal: with this exercise you need to define it.  It doesn’t have to be perfect or sound fantastic.  We aren’t going to use it in our marketing.  We are using these definitions to help guide our decisions going forward.  Where do you want to be?  How would you like others to define your business?

Step Four: What are your Business Objectives?

This is an absolute critical step. Any digital strategy will have to measure up to your business objectives.  What is the primary goal of the business?  Is it to make a profit by selling widgets?  Is it to educate? Are there important secondary objectives?  Depending on the business, you should keep you objectives to three or less. Define your objectives as simply and as specific as possible.

NOTE: If possible, use real numbers or information and create goals to measure the success of these objectives.  In marketing, we call these key performance indicators (or KPI).

Step Five: What is your customer value proposition?

What is your point of difference or competitive advantage?  How do you set your company apart from similar companies in your industry? Do you build a better widget? Are you uniquely able to solve a particular problem? Are you cheaper?

NOTE: I’ve had companies define their competitive advantage as having better customer service.  Unless you are the Ritz Carlton, chances are customer service is not a point of difference (everyone is doing customer service).

Step Six: Who is your Customer?

Describe your customers.  Separate them into several key segments.  Do you have internal and external customers?  Are there demographic delineations?  Are there social or economic differences?  List these out and define them to the best of your ability.

Step Seven: Customer Based Research

Next, understand more about your customers: who are they, what do they want, how do they define your brand, what do they want from you, what do they expect from you, what do they see as opportunities or advantages, and what do they think you do well?

How do you find out this information?  There are many ways.  You can conduct an online survey, do an email blast, call and interview several customers, or host a customer gathering.

NOTE: The most important thing is that you have an equal cross section across all of your client types and you gather and log the same information per customer.  Think of 4-6 key questions about your company/industry you want to know.

Do what you can.  Something is better than nothing.  Please try and not allow yourself to ask questions or do research with any agenda in mind.  The more truthful and accurate the information, the better we can rock your digital marketing!

Step Eight: Who is your Competition?

Make a list of your biggest competitors.  They may not all be in your same industry.  Who is going after your customers for similar types of products/ information/ services?

Next, evaluate your competitors’ digital marketing.  Put together a little spreadsheet.  Start with their website.  Describe it.  Pros? Cons? How is the content?  Take a screenshot.  Then, look at what types of assets each competitor has?  What do you like? What don’t you like?  Can you determine their marketing effectiveness or client engagement?  You get the idea.

Step Nine: Take Inventory of your Current Digital Assets & Explore Opportunities

Follow the same steps you did to evaluate your competition.  Add this to your existing spreadsheet.

Spend some time looking over this information.  Do you see any holes with your digital assets or digital marketing when compared with your competition?  Do you find any strengths?  Make a list.

Step Ten: Explore Trends

Okay, now we begin the fun stuff.  Get all the information you have tabulated.  Spend some time going over the information from start to finish.  Look for trends.  Is there a common theme?  What does the information tell you?

Make a bulleted list of themes and trends.  Define them.  Then, sort them by priority.

NOTE: Remember, Step One.

Step Eleven: Strategize!

Down and dirty time!  Ready to cook up some strategy?

NOTE: Now, we must make clear what a strategy is.  A strategy is a generalized big picture action statement or idea that directly relates to the business objective and KPI goals. A Strategy is not defining the specific action you are going to execute, that is a tactic.

Use all the information you have been given, look closely at Step Ten, and define 2-3 specific marketing strategies that will have the greatest impact on your business.  Take your time!  You may have to develop many before coming up with the strategies that make the most sense.

Strategies need to take into account a few things.  Be sure to include KPI’s and goals.  Align your strategies with the business objectives in Step 4 (I told you we’d be going back there).  Don’t let yourself drift into tactics.  This is a difficult challenge when developing a strategy.  Think ‘big picture.’  Tactics can, and will, derail your ability to develop the most appropriate strategy.

Step Twelve: Tactics

Sweetness!  Post those strategies somewhere, maybe on the wall or a whiteboard.  Read them out loud.  Think about them.

Brainstorm – GO!  How are you going to deliver on these strategies via digital marketing?  Pick one strategy at a time and open your mind to the possibilities.  Anything is on the table.  Give yourself a time limit per strategy – say an hour.  Write down as many ideas as you can.

Sort and priorities the ideas based on impact, viability and how well aligned they are to the business objectives from Step 4.

Step Thirteen: Plan and Go

You rock by the way!  Great job on creating a business oriented strategy with specific tactics.  You’ve got the game plan all covered.  Now it’s time to deploy!

Where you go from here is dependent on a ton of factors.  The main thing is to detail a timeline and gamelan.  Set up milestones, allocate responsibilities, etc.

Hopefully, this guide has been helpful.  If nothing else, you have insight into what it takes to develop a business-oriented strategy.  If done correctly, you will see greater returns from your digital marketing tactics.  Success is sweet!

Good luck!

About Joe Snell


Joe Snell is a front-end developer and digital strategist living in Portland, Oregon. He absolutely LOVES building things for the web! He currently works with the team at Staffing Robot and 11-Bridges.

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