Once you’ve decided that you do need to pursue some form of digital marketing, the next step is actually to sit down and define your strategy to capture the market. Unfortunately there is no ‘one size fits all’ strategic solution here.
We don’t have a magic recipe to ensure your digital marketing success, and neither does anybody else (despite some of the online hyperbole you may read on the subject).
Basically every business needs to craft its own unique strategy based on its own particular set of circumstances. While the available ingredients are the same. The resulting strategies can be radically different depending upon the type of business and positioning.
It’s common sense really. If you sell grocery to local customers, your strategy will bear little resemblance to that of a company selling downloadable e-books and reports on digital marketing, which will in turn be very different to the strategy adopted by a sports equipment website, which wants to cut out the retailer and sell directly to consumers over the web.
Different products, different markets, different needs – different solutions. What it ultimately boils down to is this: the best people to define your digital marketing strategy are the people who best know your business.
Elements of digital marketing strategy
Before even starting to read this article you’ve probably been thinking about digital marketing in the context of your business, about what your competitors are doing online and why, about how your customers and prospects are integrating digital technology into their lives, and about how you can best exploit these new and exciting digital channels to foster longer, more productive relationships with them. These are the elements that will form the foundation of your digital marketing strategy:
Know your business: Is your business ready to embrace digital marketing? Are your products or services suited to online promotion? Do you have the right technology, skills and infrastructure in place? How will digital marketing fit into your existing business processes, do those processes need to change, and are you and your staff ready to accommodate those changes?
Know your customers: Who are your customers and what do they want from you? Are you going to be servicing the same customer base online, or are you looking for business from a completely new demographic? How do the customers you’re targeting use digital technology, and how can you harness that knowledge to engage in a productive and ongoing relationship with them?
Know the competition: Who are your main competitors in the digital marketplace? Are they the same as your offline competitors? What are they doing right (emulate them), what are they doing wrong (learn from them), what aren’t they doing at all (is there an opportunity there for you?) and how can you differentiate your online offering from theirs? Remember, competition in the digital world can come from just around the corner or from right around the globe. The same technologies that allow you to reach out to a broader geographical market also allow others to reach into your local market. When you venture online you’re entering a global game, so don’t limit your analysis to local competition.
Know what you want to achieve: If you don’t know where you’re going, there’s a pretty fair chance you’ll never get there. What do you want to get out of digital marketing? Setting clear, measurable and achievable goals is a key part of your digital marketing strategy. Are you looking to generate online sales, create a source of targeted sales leads, improve your brand awareness among online communities, all of the above or perhaps something completely different? Your goals are the yardsticks against which you can measure the progress of your digital marketing campaigns.
Know how you’re doing: The beauty of digital marketing is that, compared to many forms of advertising, results are so much more measurable. You can track everything that happens online and compare your progress against predefined goals and key performance indicators (KPIs). How is your digital campaign progressing? Are certain digital channels delivering more traffic than others? Why is that? What about conversion rates? How much of that increased traffic results in tangible value to your business? Measure, tweak, refine, re-measure.
Digital marketing as an ongoing process
Digital marketing is an ongoing and iterative process. The process of formally defining your digital marketing strategy forces you to sit down and analyze the market in which you’re operating with a critical eye, and to really think about the different components of your business and how digital marketing can help you to achieve your business goals.
Don’t get too bogged down in the technical details – remember, digital marketing is about people communicating with other people; the technology is just the bit in the middle that helps it to happen. Your strategy should provide you with a high-level framework – a bird’s-eye view of the digital marketing landscape with your business centre stage; the details will fall in place as you make progress.