Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat. – Sun Tzu
By now most people have heard of—or at least have a basic understanding of—what digital marketing is all about, at least tactically speaking. While it’s good that most people have a general knowledge of what digital marketing is, the main issue we find is that the tactics used to market oneself are often times considered the entire digital marketing strategy.
Often, we will have organizations approach us with the statement of “we want to do SEO”, or “we want to create landing pages,” or “we want to build links.”
While it’s good that they’re aware that tactics such as SEO, content marketing, infographics, marketing automation, etc. can benefit them, doing any single tactic will usually only help move the needle a bit—if at all—and rarely are those single tactics going to act as change agents for the all digital marketing goals that have been set.
This is why the importance of creating a digital marketing strategy is so high – so that the tactics you use to accomplish your goals actually have a purpose and don’t end up being the noise before defeat (e.g. lots of wasted time and money with little results and return on investment.)
So, now that I’ve harped on the fact that yes, the tactical efforts are part of the equation, but no, they’re not the silver bullet people are making them out to be, let’s proceed to ask and answer the question of how a digital marketing strategy can help a company.
Defining the “What” (and supporting it with the “Why”) – Starting at the end
noun: a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim.
Sure, you may not know all the turns and stops in the road, you won’t know exactly who you’ll meet along the way, and there will most likely be construction that makes you adjust your route or slows you down a bit; but a strategy is not an path you wander down aimlessly.
A digital marketing strategy, just with any type of strategy you set for yourself (such as a budget for your marketing spend), will act as your map which you will follow to reach your goal. The key here is the word “goal.”
Remember before when I said that many organizations come to us saying they want to do “XYZ” tactic? That’s not a goal. “Doing SEO” is not a goal. Writing blogs is not a goal (though writing 2 blogs a week may be considered one, however much I would argue the definition.)
A goal is an endpoint you wish to reach. It should also be, or support, the “why” of your entire strategy. All of the tactics you want to implement are the means to that end, not the end itself. So the goal, that end that you’re looking for, is where we start.
Some examples of goals a
digital marketing strategy can be built on
- Increase web traffic by 20% in 6 months
- Increase web leads by 15% in 12 months
- Increase brand awareness within a regional market
- Obtain a minimum 95% customer satisfaction score
These goals are tangible, measurable “things” that we can create a strategy around. Our strategy may involve one or many of the tactics that can be employed online (and even some that may be employed offline), and will all work towards meeting the end goal(s).
* Sidenote: I’m not going to get into how or why you should define the “Why” behind your “What” for this post, but I think it’s important to stress that asking “Why” is such a critically important part of the process.
If you’re saying you want to increase web traffic by 20% in 6 months, ask yourself “why?”.
Seriously, why do you want to do this? What will it do for you? How? Why? Everything you’re defining for goals and tactics should be fully vetted with this question so that you’re making the best decisions and have a clear, focused plan moving forward.
Defining the “How” –
A tactical decision
Most people & organizations start with “how”, not with “why”. The problem with this is that it’s hard to really define what the end goals should be and how successful you were while executing the “how”. It also can greatly narrow you in perhaps using other tactics within your strategy.
For example, if you start with “we want to do search engine optimization”, then that’s all you’re thinking about and focusing on. But if you really want to increase revenue by generating more leads through your website, then you’re probably going to want to do more than just SEO to help you attain that goal.
Once you have established your what and why, you can start making qualified decisions about how you want to progress. So, once you set the goal to increase your website traffic by 20% over 6 months, you can then start brainstorming ways to actual do this.
Examples of tactics used in a digital marketing strategy
to increase website traffic
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Local SEO
- Inbound marketing
- Social Media
- Social / Search Engine Advertising (PPC – including remarketing)
- Content marketing (e.g. Blogging, videos, etc.)
Measuring the “How” –
Establishing our measurements
Whenever you’re working towards a goal, it’s good to be able to look back and see how well you did.
- Did you run into any obstacles along the way? If so, what were your impediments?
- Did you find inefficiencies in how you approached your tactical execution?
- Were there any parts of your strategy that didn’t work as you thought they should?
This is often done through benchmarking, which is essentially just recording your starting point (like current monthly traffic) as a baseline. So, every month, you have a hard metric you can reference in order to see if what you are doing is actually working.
One of the best examples of benchmarking in the real world is exercise and weight loss. When someone commits to losing weight, experts strongly recommend keeping a journal or using a health tracker to record benchmarks and baselines. If you were to start a diet on January 1st, you’d record your weight that day. Then, every month, you would step on that scale and record your new weight. If it went down, you’d be able to infer that your weight loss strategy is working; if your weight went up, you’d be able to make an informed decision and alter some tactics.
This is exactly how your digital marketing strategy should work – establishing baselines for current performance and routinely checking in on it as to gauge progress.
The metrics you elect to benchmark, the ones that are most important to your organization and goals, are referred to as KPIs, or, Key Performance Indicators. These KPIs will be the primary focus of your marketing efforts, and should be referenced monthly, weekly, or even daily. KPIs are incredibly important for being able to objectively review where you started, where you ended, and what happened along the way.
Examples of KPIs that a
digital marketing strategy will include
- Web sessions for a specific period of time (“sessions” is the Google Analytics term for “web visits”)
- Time on site / page
- Event & Goal conversions (actions taken by users, such as form submissions, video plays, PDF downloads, etc.)
- Likes, Shares, Retweets, Follows (social engagement metrics to determine brand engagement and / or reach)
Putting it all together
There’s a lot more that can go into developing a digital marketing strategy than what’s covered in this post. Things like persona development, focus groups, market research, and more will be paramount for setting the direction you need to head in. But, putting together a detailed strategy will help your company attain your goals in ways you could never imagine.