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Digital marketing strategy is a complex activity to take on.  There are a lot of moving pieces for you to consider.

Here, I want to outline 30 steps you need to take to develop a digital marketing strategy.

Much of this information is pulled from and distilled from Getting Digital Marketing Right.  It’s 23 of the most important elements when considering digital strategy.

1. Understand Why You Need a Strategy

A strategy will take a serious investment.  It only makes sense then that you would need to know the precise reason for developing that strategy.

Of course, logically it makes sense.  A strategy investment upfront means you will have more powerful marketing and you won’t waste dollars on the wrong activities and incomplete digital sales funnels.  But what else drives you?

What do you want to accomplish?  Do you have a certain major business goal in mind over the next year?  Why is that important to you?  When you figure out the reason, ask yourself again, why is that reason important?  Dig deep to figure out your purpose and then move forward.

2. Build a Powerful, Lean Team

You want to surround yourself with smart and helpful people.  But, be wary of involving too many people in the core project team.

You want to stay lean with the bare minimum involved in the entire project.  Instead, be open to bringing on people from various departments throughout the strategy creation.  Consider members from your leadership team, marketing, sales, IT, customer service, and any other key departments.

When you figure out your top candidates, narrow it down to the most vital individuals.  Also, consider who should be removed based on their personalities.  Avoid any office politics between members getting in the way of the planning and execution of this strategy.

3. Focus on High Impact Initiatives

Talk about effectiveness and efficiency is popular, but it does have an applicable role in business.

With your strategy, you want to take on initiatives that are effective based on your goals.  This is a discipline to embrace to avoid being distracted by the hundreds of potential directions you can take with digital marketing.

If an activity doesn’t lend itself to achieving a milestone or goal, it is worth considering alternatives.

4. Avoid Depleting Your Three Resources

Time, energy, and money.  That fuels us in our personal and professional lives.  For our strategy, balancing these resources is key.

Financials seem like the obvious concern, but it goes beyond that.  If you consider doing everything in-house, your time and energy reserves are even more vital to track.

Resource use isn’t always black-and-white, so be mindful of it throughout the strategy development.

5. Understand the Risks

You will face risks with this project.  That’s a fact.  There are going to be conflicting priorities, employees that fear change, and technological considerations to face.

To deal with risks, consider a few things:

  • How much do you know about company-wide operations today?
  • How might you incorporate ease of adoption when making changes?
  • What can your team contribute in the decision-making process?
  • What do you need to learn about regarding new technology in this process?

6. Analyze Your Current Digital Sales Funnel

There are six stages to a digital sales funnel.  What are you doing and not doing for each stage?

  • Stage 1: Generate Demand
  • Stage 2: Capture Quality Leads
  • Stage 3: Nurture Leads
  • Stage 4: Convert Leads into Customers
  • Stage 5: Close, Deliver, & Satisfy
  • Stage 6: Referrals and Follow Up

Write out each activity for each stage and make note of any anecdotes to remind yourself of as you revise the sales funnel later in the strategy session.

7. How Are You Advertising Today?

The top of the funnel, generating demand, fuels your business.  It isn’t complete without the rest of the funnel, but it’s important to note.

Consider how you advertise your business today.  What mediums do you use?  How much of your budget goes to each channel?

How about the results?  Do you see ROI, and how much of a return for each channel?  Do other resources get included (time and energy)?  What advertising is untraceable, leaving you only with assumed ROI?

8. What’s Your Current Marketing Message?

How we position ourselves and communicate to prospects is a cornerstone aspect of powerful marketing (or lack thereof).

Think about the brand you place in the marketplace.  What message do you put out there now?  Who does it speak to?

You should have an ideal customer defined and align your marketing to that individual.  The question is whether you are doing that.

9. What Does Your Analytics Tell You?

Analytics are powerful.  Numbers can drive business to success, so make note of everything you do and constantly measure.

Assuming you have started tracking analytics already, use the data!  Figure out what seems to work well for you and what doesn’t.  Where does your website traffic come from?  Can you give an outline of your most common visitors?

Look for web pages and content that resonates with visitors.  The more engaging content gives you clues on what you ideal customers enjoy most.  Unfortuantely, you may not have the data or ideal customers to define this yet, but by the end of the strategy, you will.

10. Identifying Your Ideal Customer Profile

This is the most important step of marketing.  If you don’t know who your ideal customer is, all your efforts are minimalized.

Don’t limit your potential.  Take the time to outline all the demographics, motivations, and characteristics of your ideal customer.  It not only results in more profitable marketing, but it makes your job easier.

11. Your Vision Guides You

Vision is a popular topic in business.  In the right context, it is extremely important.  Here, we will position it in the context of goals and milestones that help you achieve what you wish for in your business.

So, take time to develop a vision for where you want to be in about three years.  You want a concise but precise one or two sentence vision statement.  Think about the impact you want to make on all stakeholders – employees, investors, competitors, your community, the world.

The result should be a framework to guide you forward.

12. Goals Make Your Vision Possible

A single, big picture vision three years out is important but difficult to grasp.  Keeping on track is a difficult task.  How do we manage to attain that vision then?

Specific, measurable, and attainable yet challenging goals.  We want about three goals that should be accomplished in about 12-18 months.  Each goal should lend itself to achieving that vision, bringing it to a more realistic and tangible place.

13. Milestones Are Your First Steps Forward

Still, we can find goals that are 12+ months out to be overwhelming.  That’s why milestones are so important.

Milestones are like the first steps towards achieving a goal.  You should create about three milestones per goal, meaning nine milestones total.

Keep these milestones to 3-12 months out.  This timeframe makes it easier to get started and see progress.  To make it easier to start creating milestones, think literally of the first step you would take to move towards a goal.  Then, think of the second step… Then the third… And so on, as needed.

14. Beware Of Vanity Metrics

As you think about what you need to accomplish to maximize your potential in this plan, be wary of vanity metrics.

Vanity metrics are those tantalizing things that grab the attention of our ego.  Popular examples would be website traffic and Facebook Likes.

At the end of the day, these things may make us feel better, but unless they are directly related to revenue generation or helping us achieve our goals, they are distractions.  Focus on the metrics that generate results instead.

15. Make Smart Record Keeping A Habit

I find it helpful to focus on just a few key performance indicators and leaving the details to others.  Details are important for testing – for example, how much website traffic comes from mobile users.  But, what I care more about are the leads generated, leads converted, and leads lost among the various marketing initatives.

Keep a simple speadsheet that will help you track progress on these most vital metrics over time so you can track the strategic progress.  Review it monthly to keep it up to date and track changes.

16. See What Your Competition Is Doing

While you may not want to copy competition, you do want to see what they are doing.  Beyond that, try to see what’s working and what isn’t working for them.

If you’re in a small or medium sized business with billion-dollar industry leaders, there’s an opportunity here.  You know these industry leaders have invested millions into researching their customers and perfecting their campaigns.  Look for trends here.

This shortcut means you can get started with more education about how to speak to your customers rather than having to invest your own dollars in initial “test campaigns”.

17. What Works For You Today? What doesn’t?

Being aware of what moves the needle in your business today is key.  It might be helpful to note that and double down on it going forward.  If it works, why not explot its full potential?

Just as important, however, is making note of what doesn’t work.  You can relieve resource and reallocate it to testing new intiatives and investing in the initiatives that do give you a return.  While this may seem obvious, many companies end up with some of their marketing budget lost throughout the year until an annual review.

18. Execution Is King

Taking action is obviously necessary, but it’s a hurdle for most.

To make it easier, follow these steps to get started:

  1. Outline all your marketing initiatives selected in your plan
  2. Decide on a prioritization order
  3. Assign responsibilities for each area
  4. Set deadlines for each area
  5. Get to work and start implementing – first steps!
  6. Test, test, test!

Be sure to think about testing somethign new every four weeks.  You shouldn’t have a campaign in “set-it-and-forget-it” mode.

19. Regular Monitoring and Measuring

I’ve said it before and I will again – data is crucial.  Make your decisions by the numbers if you want to find success.

That means we need to be tracking.  Not just when the campaign “ends”, but every day and week as it is executed.

Look for the key metrics that indicate successes or failures.  Try to identify sticking points.  Keep an ongoing, detailed log and develop reports at least every month and no more than weekly.

Cross-reference most visited pages with pages viewed for highest durations.  Set goals for certain pages being visited.  Set UTM Parameters.  Most importantly, find an expert who can help you set this up so you can have smart data.

20. Generate Demand For Your Business

Getting initial attention from your target audience is the fuel to move your business forward.   You need to decide how you can most effectively and efficiently reach your target audience among the many methods.  Here are a few popular channels:

  • Online Advertising (PPC, AdWords, Facebook)
  • Search Engine Optimizatino (SEO)
  • Content marketing
  • Social Media
  • Digital Communities

Bonus: One of the lesser used but highly effective channels is digital/online communities, like Facebook Groups, Reddit, and message boards.

21. Capture High-Quality Leads

Quality is the keyword here.  We should have high quality traffic if we chose the right demand generation technique.  But still, we are going to have a variety of visitors.  We want the potential customers to connect with us.

That’s why we develop a lead magnet offer and position it attractively.  A lead magnet offer can be anything that our target audience would find valuable.  Think of infographics, eBooks, video courses, case studies, and so on.

The key is to give something that’s high-value, free, and timely.  If your prospects are early in the buying cycle, give them something to help them with their initial research.  If they’re late in the cycle and need to make a decision, a pricing sheet may be more appropriate.

The second aspect to consider here is positioning the offer.  What headline will catch their attention?  What minimal information should you ask for in exchange of the offer (like name and email)?  Positioning is key.

22. Nurture Warm Leads Into Hot Prospects

If you converted the visitor in the last step into a lead, you need to do something to nurture that lead.  You should know your sales cycle, and it most likely isn’t an instant first-connect-to-new-customer process.

One of the best ways to do this is with an autoresponder.  That means you will have an email nurture sequence automatically educating and connecting with your customer.  You do nothing but improve the email sequence over time.

Think of the autoresponder as a mini-salesman, working for you around the clock, 24/7/365.

23. Convert Leads Into Customers

Making the “ask” is one of those things that separate low-performing and high-performing salespeople.  It’s simple but important – like much of powerful marketing.

The ask may be to become a customer, or another initial step forward.  An alternative may be a product demo or scheduling a consultation.  You need it to match your ideal sales cycle.

But make sure to implement, and test, your “ask”.  Without it, you may wait forever for prospects offering to be sold to…

24. Close, Deliver, and Satisfy for Lifelong Champions

While it may seem like an obvious stage of your sales cycle, it would be negligent of me to not mention the importance of this.

This is a crucial time with your new customer.  They’re receiving the product or service and have high expectations.  The expectations must  be high if they decided to buy from you.

Now, I don’t recommend the strategy of “underpromise and over-deliver”.  What I recommend is ensuring that delivery is value-packed.  Guide your new customer through the onboarding process.  Make them part of your team.  Help them succeed.

If you help them succeed, the favor will be returned.

25. Referral Systems Fuel Growth

When you’re looking to make a serious decision, where do you go?

Google sometimes has the answers, but you know the results will likely be company’s that self-promote.  That’s just how it works.

So, instead we ask around.  We might jump on Facebook and ask our network for opinions or call (well, text) a friend who has experience in this respect.

Based on the feedback of our network and friends, we are more comforted making a decision.  We had others do the due diligence to figure out what a good decision would be, saving ourselves time and energy.  The referral they give us is heavily weighted.

Why not use that in your business?  How can you generate referrals?  What system could be in place to make referrals common and easy for your customers?

26. Automated Follow-Up For Customer Success

We mentioned during onboarding, you want to make your customers successful.  Even more vital is likely post-onboarding.

Excitement for your new product or service wears off and your customer is back in the trenches of life.  Don’t let them forget the value you provide and don’t let them miss out on any opportunities.

But whether you’re a five-man team or 5,000 person army, follow-up can be time-consuming and exhausting.  While there’s value in reaching out by phone, we want to automate this.

Autoresponders are back!  But this time, instead of nurturing a lead into a sale, we’re nurturing customers into champions.  We’re checking in to make sure they’re happy and successful.

We might even request a referral, testimonial, or case study.  Get creative and keep the customer’s success top of mind.

27. Measure Social Media ROI

Return on Investment is a simple equation: [(Benefits – Investment) / Investment] * 100.

Unfortunately, social media doesn’t lend itself to clear benefits or investments, making this more difficult to use.  But, since some form of social media is likely used and this is a common question, let’s address it.

Benefits don’t have to be financial.  It’s easier to think of them in that sense and make calculations from it, but what else is there?  Strategic benefits.

How do you benefit from social media by better positioning yourself in the marketplace?  Does it help you with customer support?  Has it helped you generate more leads or rank higher in search engines?

You’ll have to make some assumptions and set approximate financials to the different benefits you experience.

Investment can be the same way, but a bit more direct.  Here, it’s easy to understand the investment of advertising and social media management tools.  Also, consider the time investment and what that means financially for employees engaging on social media.

28. Create a Forced End Date

You need some type of deadline to make sure you have an end to your campaign.  In reality, you’re going to be constantly monitoring and improving what you do… but a static deadline helps you review the campaign as a whole.

I’d recommend at least a few months before ending the campaign.  An absolute minimum would be two months, but more reasonably is about six months.

At this point, you want to step back and look at the entire plan.  What’s working out well?  What isn’t?  What surprises came up and what didn’t even get executed?

This is your chance to think strategically and get out of the day-to-day hustle of marketing.

29. Revisit the 80/20 Rule

Pareto’s Principle is an easy way to make sure you’re focused on the most important things.  Again, it’s about the 20% of what you did that gave you 80% of your results.

Think broadly here on your results since starting the new digital strategy.  What seems to be working exceedingly well for you?

You will likely want to double down on whatever that is.  It’s proven to work, the numbers are clear, so take advantage of that opportunity.

This should also free you to focus other resources on new initiatives.  If you know what delivers results and can maximize that channel, you may be able to experiment in other areas as well while having the other reliable source of leads and revenue.

30. Start Over Again

The final step is the first step also.  Strange…

But it’s what you need to do.  You went through an entire strategy, from preparing, to formulation, to execution, to review and refinement.

Unfortunately, we can’t say the job is over.  It never really is.  We had to set a “false” deadline just so that we can sit back and take it all in.

Now that we did that, we need to start fresh.  Fortunately, it will be much easier this time around – and hopefully fun.

But it really is beneficial to revisit each step.  Reconsider who your ideal customers are, revise your digital sales funnel (now that you have a great one, make it amazing), and align it all to your updated vision and goals.