Digital marketing offers endless potential to reach and engage with your ideal customer online. But with many overlapping aspects to consider it can quickly become overwhelming.
As a small business, how do you navigate the digital world? And how do you figure out the best methods you need to achieve your goals online?
Meet your key to success - a digital marketing strategy!
An effective digital marketing strategy will clearly outline your objectives, your target audience, and how you can best utilise the various digital marketing channels to reach your ideal customer. Let’s take a look at how to create a strategy using the following three steps: plan, create, evaluate.
STEP ONE: Plan your objectives, target audience, and distribution channels
Time spent in the planning phase is time well spent (and something your future self will thank you for). So make sure you don’t race ahead! Without a clear plan, your digital efforts can become emotionally and financially draining without achieving the desired results.
Whatever it is you want to achieve online, it must start with a strategy. Whether you want to promote a new product, sell a course, redesign your website or increase your social following, you need a time-specific plan which clearly outlines the steps of how to get there.
Consider these three questions during the planning phase:
1. What are your business goals?
To start, it is helpful to identify what your overall goals are in business terms. Then translate these goals into digital marketing objectives. Be realistic, set timelines, and relate each objective to a specific marketing campaign. For example, your campaign objectives may be to:
Raise brand awareness
Increase traffic to your website
Gain more followers to your online business pages
Promote a service
Increase sales of a product
2. Who is your target audience?
Create a Buyer Persona (a.k.a. Customer Avatar) to gain a thorough understanding of who your ideal customer is and where they spend their time online. The clearer your persona, the more effective you will be at communicating your key brand messages to your target audience.
Get specific on what problem you are solving with your product or service:
What challenges is your customer facing?
What results are they after?
What are their personal and professional demographics?
How do they prefer to digest information? Ie. video, podcast, PDFs
Once you have clearly identified your target audience think about their ‘search intent’. What is your audience searching for? What keywords, topics, questions, and phrases are they typing into Google?
Having this information on-hand will help you understand what your customer needs during the different phases of the ‘buyer's journey’; from awareness about your brand to making a conversion.
Tip: Look at real customer data to help create your Buyer Persona.
Online tools such as Make My Persona by Hubspot can help you get started.
3. Which online marketing channels should you use?
There are a number of ways to reach your ideal customer online. Once you are clear about your goals and target audience, you will have a much better understanding of what marketing channels are best suited to your specific campaigns.
Each marketing campaign will likely utilise a combination of channels in order to achieve a specific goal. For example, if your campaign is to increase brand awareness you could share your message organically across social media networks, use Facebook’s advertising platform, and collaborate with influencers in your industry as part of an affiliate marketing program.
Explore the channels below:
Website Marketing: Process of optimising your website for search engines
Content Marketing: The creation and distribution of valuable online material to raise awareness about your brand
Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising: Using paid advertising platforms to drive targeted traffic to your website
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO): Optimising the structure and content of your website to increase performance in organic search
Email Marketing: Communicating with your email subscribers to engage, educate and drive valuable conversions
Social Media Marketing: Utilising social media networks to connect with your audience and drive brand awareness
Affiliate Marketing Programs: Collaborating with influential people within your industry to increase reach and build brand trust
STEP TWO: Create valuable content that communicates your key messages
Once you have a solid plan in place it’s time to get creative!
You may have heard the saying that ‘we earn the right to sell once we have first given’. In other words, our ideal customer is far more likely to convert (or buy from us) if they have first received a range of complementary content which they find valuable.
Providing valuable content is essential to move your ideal customer down the path of the buyer's journey from awareness to conversion. This is the journey they take from being aware of a problem, discovering how your product or service can help solve their problem, to eventually becoming a customer.
Consider the four points below:
1. The value of content marketing
Content marketing is the creation and distribution of various forms of online material to help promote your products or services and increase awareness about your brand. Content comes in many forms such as blogs, webinars and podcasts:
Each type of content can be shared and repurposed across your various social media and marketing channels as part of your content marketing plan. This plan should include specifics on what will be published and when.
Think about the following:
What are the challenges your ideal customer is facing?
What do you do differently and why is your way better?
What do they need to know and believe about your business in order to buy your product/service?
Tip: Put yourself in your customers shoes and think about what kind of content you would find valuable at the different stages of the buyer's journey. Then create a library of content based on what your target audience needs and would find useful. Keep your buyer persona and campaign goals top of mind when creating your content. Each piece of content should serve a purpose and match a specific stage of the customer journey.
There are numerous tools and techniques marketers use for creating content. (We don’t have time to go into detail here but keep an eye out for an upcoming post on the process of creating valuable digital content and a content marketing plan).
If you’re feeling stuck on where to start, use Google Search for ideas on what content your audience may find useful. Start typing in a ‘how-to’ or ‘why’ question related to customer problems within your niche and see what Google suggests. Also, check out the ‘Related Searches’ and ‘People Also Ask’ sections. Start brainstorming all of your ideas and you’ll quickly find that you have plenty to share.
2. How to integrate SEO when creating content
SEO (search engine optimisation) is no doubt a term you have come across but what does it really mean? In simple terms, SEO is the process of optimising your website for search engines. The main goal being to help your website rank higher in search engine results and ultimately receive more organic traffic.
There are three key elements of SEO:
Technical SEO is the process of optimising the infrastructure of a website (nothing to do with content) and is best left to an SEO expert or website developer.
On-Page SEO is the process of optimising the content which makes up a website for search engines. Or in other words, helping search engines understand the meaning and context of content on your website. The keywords that you use for page titles, URLs, descriptions, images and internal links will all impact how search-friendly your website is.
Off-Page SEO is where your content marketing efforts really come into play. One of the most common forms of off-page SEO is the medium of blogging. If done well, creating and publishing valuable and regular blog posts on your website, will positively impact your organic search ranking and generate more traffic to your site.
If internet users consider your content valuable, informative and engaging they are more likely to reference or ‘link back’ to your website which search engines reward. This also goes a long way towards building trust and establishing your brand as an authority.
Tip: By adding keywords (a word or phrase that users type into a search engine) into your content, you increase your chance of appearing in the search results for those terms. So by knowing the search terms or keywords your ideal customer is typing into Google, you can provide them with relevant content that matches their intent.
But be mindful that off-page SEO is not a quick win marketing method. It should be part of a long term strategy within your wider marketing plan. Think about it like growing a plant from seed. It's a process which takes time, commitment and care but eventually, the outcome is well worth the effort.
3. Email marketing and automation
Email marketing is still one of the most effective digital marketing methods to communicate with your audience and turn leads into customers. The subscribers on your mailing list have already shown a form of commitment to your brand. These people are warm leads and need to be treated like VIPs!
Nurture your subscribers by sharing valuable information and educating them about the ways you can solve their problem. The more trust and community you build with your email list, the more valuable conversions you will be able to make. Remember the saying from earlier in this post ‘we earn the right to sell once we have first given’.
One of the major benefits of email marketing is that it can be automated. By creating a predefined email sequence, you can send targeted messages to select people within your mailing list who match certain criteria. Set up takes time but is extremely efficient in the long run.
Tip: Growing your email list is an important part of this strategy. Think about what incentives you can offer to get people to subscribe.
4. The benefits of paid advertising
While organic marketing is invaluable and plays an essential role in your marketing efforts, PPC (Pay-Per-Click) advertising has benefits of its own. Paid ads can be used in conjunction with organic marketing to reach a much larger target audience across a variety of online platforms within a shorter period of time.
Paid ads can be useful to build brand awareness, generate leads, and drive valuable conversions through retargeting methods. Retargeting is a tool used to display your ads to people who have visited your website, and shown interest in your product or services, on other networks on the web.
As with all elements within your digital marketing plan, PPC needs a strategy which includes ongoing testing in order to work effectively. Consider where your audience spends their time online to determine what paid advertising channels to utilise:
STEP THREE: Evaluate your progress
In order to improve, you must understand your results.
Every digital marketing plan must go hand-in-hand with a system to monitor and evaluate results. Without knowing what is or isn’t working, you cannot revise or improve your strategy.
A reporting system doesn't have to be complicated but must set targets, monitor progress, review results, and have a plan in place if the initial targets are not met. What metrics to track and report on will depend on your campaign objectives and marketing channels used.
A marketing strategy is your key to success online. With a detailed plan and a solid understanding of how it all fits together, you can limit that sense of overwhelm by actioning one item at a time in an efficient and constructive way.
With a clear target audience and set of objectives, you will have a good understanding of what marketing channels are best suited to your campaigns. This knowledge will empower you to create valuable content which is relevant to your ideal customer and will help nurture your leads and move them down the path of the Buyer's Journey from awareness to conversion.
There is a lot of information to absorb here but with a structured approach, it is manageable. And as with any area of business, and life, never forget the importance of your personal wellbeing. If it becomes overwhelming, remember to take a step back, a few deep breaths and to be kind to yourself!
In my next blog post, I will be sharing my personal journey about how a life-threatening illness changed my perspective and approach on how to do business. Mindfulness is a vital aspect of all parts of life and an approach which should be integrated into all business culture.
If you’d like to learn more about how to create a digital marketing strategy for your own business feel free to get in touch for a free 30-minute consultation.