Planning a digital marketing strategy

“If you build it, they will come”

Once upon a time when you built a website, this may have been true. However, with over 250 million websites in the world today, simply building a site is not enough.

Any site, whether it is an eCommerce site or a shop window for a company, needs to not only think about a digital marketing strategy but also how the website and other online activities can support the overall marketing strategy.

Rome wasn’t built in a day

And neither are websites, traffic or conversions. Building an attractive and user-friendly site is important but it will need to be supported by an informed digital marketing strategy. This normally covers:

The website itself – how often the site will be updated and the type of content it will hold

  1. Social media – what sites will be used, how often they will be updated and how it will integrate with the website and campaigns
  2. Email marketing – what types of emails will be used (e.g. newsletters, promotions) and how frequently they will be produced
  3. Search engine optimisation (SEO) – chosen keywords and tactics to drive traffic to the site, e.g. pay-per-click. This part may require a separate strategy.

Where do I start?

Begin with your audience:

  1. Website statistics – what are the most popular pages? How deep do visitors go? How long do visitors spend on the site? Analysing these stats will give you an insight into what visitors look for on the site but also how they get there.
  2. Do a survey – ask visitors to the site to take a short survey or ask your existing clients about their online habits, e.g. how often do they go online, do they use social networking sites
  3. Research – third-party reports may be expensive but they often contain key information about the people you are trying to reach. Investing in them may also save you time and legwork.

Use this information to understand your audience better, but also to anticipate and meet their online needs more effectively. This will help you make better strategic decisions. There is no point chasing a keyword that will not deliver the right traffic to your site.

Measurement

One of the advantages of online marketing is that it is easier to measure than many offline marketing activities. Website stats, email marketing reports and website enquiries help to measure the impact your online activities are having. In particular, email marketing reports can drill down to an individual level and allow you to become even more targeted.

It is important to measure what you are doing and what the return has been on the efforts you have made. There is little point in allowing an activity to drain resources if it is not performing well.

The big picture

As mentioned earlier, your digital marketing strategy should be part of a larger, overall marketing strategy. Offline activities such as advertising can drive traffic to the site and promote social media connections. Over the last year, there has been a resurgence in more traditional marketing methods such as TV advertising, and these methods are now being measured by an audience’s online behaviour.  For example, the success of adverts is being measured by keyword activity such as how often the brand name or slogan is searched for when a campaign is running. Offline marketing can drive traffic to online marketing efforts and vice versa.1

It is likely that any strategy will mean changes – to the site, what methods you use, perhaps even cultural change in a company. The latter is often the hardest. However, digital is here to stay and a well-thought out strategy and plan will reap rewards for companies that undertake it.

1 See Econsultancy’s recent report on Marketing Budgets 2011.

Some more articles published recently