A list of disparate “tactics”, that rarely overlap, and are changed at the drop of a pin…
That’s how most businesses approach digital marketing.
Because a holistic digital marketing strategy has a lot of moving parts. You have to pick the most appropriate channels, and then develop goals, processes, and measures for each of them. That’s assuming you already know what the most “appropriate” channels even are.
This means that a lot of businesses don’t take the time to plan out their efforts. And without clear direction, too often we see very little progress being made.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, strategy development is one of the biggest contributing factors to success:
If you’re not sure where to start, read on to learn how to create a yearly digital marketing plan for your business.
Step 1 – Set priorities and goals
Most businesses at least have a general idea of what they want their digital marketing strategy to achieve. You may want to generate qualified leads, move them down the sales funnel, increase sales and revenue, etc.
These are all great priorities to set, but you need to dig deeper if you want to succeed. You need to identify specific goals associated with your priorities. Without these, you won’t be able to calculate the ROI of your marketing strategy.
According to Hubspot’s latest State of Inbound report, businesses are more likely to think their marketing strategy is effective if they calculate ROI:
So put together some clear goals for your various marketing channels. Make sure you quantify each of them so you can easily measure success.
Here are some different key performance indicators (KPIs) that you can use to set up goals for your digital marketing plan:
- Increase open rate by X percent
- Increase click through rate by X percent
- Decrease unsubscribe rate by X percent
- Grow followers/page likes by X percent
- Increase content engagement, shares, and likes by X number
- Grow overall reach through impressions
- Increase search traffic
- Increase click through rate to other content
- Improve conversion of on-page calls-to-action
- Improve click through rate by X percent
- Lower cost-per-click by X amount
- Reduce landing page bounce rate by X percent
- Get X number of webinar attendees
- Increase downloads of gated content
These are just a few examples of the many KPIs you can identify to reach your marketing goals. Create a comprehensive list that will help you measure performance:
Once you have some goals, determine the time frame you want to complete them. Are these yearly, quarterly, or monthly benchmarks?
Some marketing channels will lead directly to sales (e.g. advertising), while others indirectly (e.g. your blog). When measuring ROI, try to determine how each contributes to improving your bottom line.
Step 2 – Assign a budget
Once you know what you want to achieve in the year ahead, it’s time to put together a budget to make it happen. Unless you’re the business owner/operator, you’ll probably need to get buy-in from the higher-ups for your marketing strategy.
Just remind them (and yourself) that there’s a strong relationship between budget and marketing effectiveness:
The more you invest in your marketing strategy, the more potential it has to succeed. I suggest breaking your proposed budget down by marketing channel and going from there.
- Social Media
Do you plan on using paid social platforms to promote your content? Do you need to invest in high-quality stock images or other social-specific content? What about the cost of managing your profiles?
How much content do you want to create, and how much money can you budget for writers? Will there be visual assets you need to invest in?
- Email Marketing
Do you need to purchase CRM software, special graphics, or other tools to succeed?
What kind of cost-per-click (CPC) or cost-per-thousand-impressions (CPM) do you need to be competitive in advertising? How much money do you need to scale this strategy?
There are a lot of factors that affect how much you should invest versus how much you can invest. If you’re stuck, refer to a great infographic Wordstream created on the topic:
Step 3 – Choose your platforms and strategy
Figuring out what marketing channels you plan to use is one thing. The harder point is choosing the right platforms for success.
You need to decide which platforms and strategies are worth the effort for your business:
- Social media
The “main” social media platforms are quickly becoming a long list. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, etc. Taking them all on can be a lot to handle, so it’s better to select the ones your audience frequents and stick to them.
There are plenty of resources out there that can help you research social media demographics:
Will you focus on newsworthy content, long form pieces, or both? Will you guest post, syndicate, or stick with attracting traffic to your site? Or will you decide not to blog at all, and instead host a podcast or simply rely on paid traffic for a period of time?
- Other content
If you think webinars will help reach your target audience, where and how will you host them? If you create an ebook or report, will you make it available exclusively on your site or distribute it elsewhere for profit?
What conferences and trade shows do you plan to attend? How can you turn these into lead-generating opportunities?
- Ad campaigns
The advertising platforms you choose will depend on the ad targeting strategy you decide on. The Google Display Network and Facebook Advertising are great for remarketing campaigns, for example.
If you want to focus on promoting your content, then platforms like Outbrain or Taboola will be helpful.
Which email marketing platform do you plan to use? How will you segment your audience, and what campaign strategies will you try?
Take the time to map out your platforms and strategies for each marketing channel so you can easily make weekly and monthly plans for success.
Step 4 – Pinpoint key events throughout the year
Next, you’ll want to identify important seasonal events that could have an impact on your marketing strategy, and occasions you should take advantage of.
For example, you may want to tailor your content to coincide with holidays and other seasonal events, like the SuperBowl or an election.
Seasonal content is a great way to connect with your audience and attract new traffic when you cover trending events.
You’ll also want to take note of your in-person marketing opportunities, such as conferences or trade shows. Have these on your calendar well in advance so you can tailor your ads, content, emails and the like to make the most of these key events.
Step 5 – Map it all out on a calendar
Once you have a good idea of what you need to get done, then it’s time to map it all out in a calendar. A lot of digital marketers make use of content scheduling plugins for their blog, but you’ll need something more comprehensive if you want to map out your whole digital marketing strategy.
Instead of mapping out your strategy on a simple computer calendar, find a tool that will help you stay organized and get the marketing job done in the process.
Hint: FlypChart is one option that lets you schedule emails, social media posts, webinars, blog posts, and ad campaigns from one easy-to-use interface. (Coming soon in 2017!)
Step 6 – Assign roles and responsibilities
Finding top talent to work on marketing campaigns is one of the biggest challenges for marketers today:
And who you choose to execute your marketing campaign can have a huge impact on your overall success.
So make sure you build a team with all the skills you need to succeed. You might try a combination of in-house staff and outsourced freelancers.
You’ll need to assign team members to cover:
- Updating your social profiles
- Creating content (blog posts, emails, webinars, white papers, etc).
- Promoting content
- Executing your email strategy
- Executing your advertising strategy
- And more
Most importantly, who is in charge of your effectiveness measurement? The more you check in with your email campaigns, advertising, and content marketing metrics, the more opportunities you will have to adjust your strategy and succeed.
Step 7 – Identify obstacles and remove them
No matter how much strategizing and planning you do, there are bound to be some obstacles that come up and keep you from following your plan. A complete marketing strategy has a lot going on at one time, and you can’t expect all of it to work perfectly every time.
But you can help your marketing strategy run more smoothly by identifying these potential obstacles before hand and making efforts to remove them.
Creating consistent content is one example of a potential obstacle you can try to tackle before it confronts you in the midst of the battle.
The digital world is fast-paced, and businesses must quickly adjust their marketing strategies to stay competitive.
Creating an annual digital marketing plan for your business can help:
- Give yourself and your team clear direction from the start
- Easily adjust your approach when systems and processes are in place to do so
So don’t pass up this major opportunity to succeed by developing a yearly digital marketing plan, and more importantly – sticking to it!