A digital marketing strategy is a marketing plan that draws on insights from almost every department within a company to design and implement seamless brand communications across every digital channel. Popular digital marketing channels include the company website, organic search, paid search, social media, and email.
But digital technology is evolving at a rapid pace, and taking everything else with it. An effective digital marketing strategy for 2017 looks almost nothing like a strategy from 2015.
So how do you create a scalable digital marketing strategy?
We talked to six leading digital marketing experts to get their unique insights on strategy teams, tips, tools, metrics, and more.
Digital marketing is constantly evolving, meaning you always need to have a fresh strategy, which can only come from a fresh team.
The strategy can’t expand unless the team expands, which is why a modern digital marketing team needs to include decision-makers, visionaries, and voices from across the company.
Michael Brenner—globally-recognized keynote speaker, author of The Content Formula, and CEO of Marketing Insider Group—agrees:
Everything is digital! So in order to create a digital strategy, you need to include all teams across the marketing organization, your agencies, and sales as well. I even like to include HR to make sure employer branding activities are represented.—Michael Brenner
Andy Crestodina, co-founder and the Strategic Director of the award-winning web design company Orbit Media, includes everyone in his strategy team as well, but outlines clear roles to keep things running smoothly:
A strategy is just a plan to reach a specific goal. For a marketing plan, the goals have a major business impact. So involvement should go all the way to the top. The “RASCI” model is a good tool for assigning responsibilities. It helps specify five levels of involvement, showing who is responsible, accountable, support, consulted, and informed. — Andy Crestodina
The need for integration, cross-communication, and company-wide involvement in the strategy process is crucial. Drew Neisser, CEO of Renegade LLC, points out just how important integration really is:
I’m not a fan of having a separate digital marketing strategy. Consumers don’t differentiate between offline and online brand interactions, so why should brands?—Drew Neisser
For that matter, customers don’t differentiate between marketing, sales, or customer service—online or offline, or from one channel to the next. Integration and seamless communication are key, and that means your strategy needs to include insights from every touchpoint.
Digital marketing is coming into its own, but it’s by no means a new concept. Some of the standard best practices are well established in most marketing departments, but what’s next? John Boitnott, a journalist, and digital consultant encourages marketers to then push into forecasting:
Digital marketing strategies require forecasting so you can see what’s coming, whether it’s a new technology, product, or demographic that might be complementary to your company in the future. Actually mining the data/big data you have is critical for forecasting. A willingness to experiment, work outside established best practices, and test out ideas is one of the best attitudes a digital marketing team can have.—John Boitnott
The idea of forecasting can sound futuristic and “too big” for some small and medium-sized companies, but the technology exists to put predictive strategies in reach for any brand. A good engagement platform should be able to use predictive analytics for content, social marketing, lead scoring, and more.
And that’s what all the advanced strategies point to engagement. Consumers and buyers respond to personalized content that connects a brand story to their personal stories.
John Jantsch—marketing consultant, speaker, and author of Duct Tape Marketing—agrees that storytelling needs to remain central.
The entire strategy should be based on your core customer story. In addition to personas and core messages, you should include the customer’s (hero’s) journey story and how your organization is uniquely suited to act as the guide for this journey. Further, there should be a section of channels – where you can reach your prospect, how you can move them, and where you might experiment.—John Jantsch
Digital marketing strategies are changing as fast as technology is advancing and audience expectations are evolving. Digital marketing is about keeping your ear to the ground for what’s coming, but also staying focused on the story you are telling.
There is no shortage of digital marketing tools and apps that promise to make our jobs easier. In the past, the savvy marketer had the latest software, but in 2017 the savvy marketer is the one who knows how to strategically choose which tools their organization needs.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all list of digital marketing tools. The systems and platforms a company invests in will have to do with that company’s specific needs, goals, audience, and more. Not least of all, it has to do with a brand’s internal resources.
Brands need to make sure they have the tools that match not just their ambitions but also their willingness to invest in every added tool. No tools, even those with the most sophisticated artificial intelligence engines, work without human oversight. We’ve seen a lot of brands invest in tools and then underuse them because they forgot to add staff.—Drew Neisser
Build your MarTech stack one tool at a time, and make sure each one is fully integrated before you move on. Don’t invest in something that hasn’t been tested by every stakeholder involved.
As you add and optimize tools, be careful not to get trapped by them. Chris Weaver, Director of Marketing and Digital Strategy at MWI, uses some conventional … and some less conventional tools.
Our team has a lot of virtual members so we are big components of performance tools. We use JIRA to manage our AGILE approach and Asana for task management outside of the JIRA platform. But my personal must-have tool is running at the gym. It is amazing how stepping away from your machine, if only for 30 minutes, and resetting your brain improves your thought. — Chris Weaver
Oli Gardner, Co-Founder and Conversion Marketing Optimization Expert at Unbounce, agrees that tools are great, but only if the processes are placed:
Tools are an essential part of how we work, but often it’s more important that we focus our time on optimizing the process as opposed to finding the next tool to add to our stack. Part of this is to optimize the working relationship between marketers, designers, and copywriters.—Oli Gardner
There is a lot of cool MarTech out there, and even sophisticated, professional marketers have been known to get a little star-struck by a shiny new marketing tool. If you’re easily enraptured by technology, make sure there’s someone on your team who hates change (well, maybe not hates, but resists) to help keep you balanced and to keep the whole strategy on the ground.
An advanced digital marketing strategy starts with advanced marketing metrics and analytics. Modern marketers have access to a long list of metrics.
The granularity has put off some marketers in the past, but digital marketing metrics have become more focused. Marketers can—and should—choose and isolate the metrics that relate directly to revenue and stated goals.
Metrics should be dictated by your industry and goals. However, you should be measuring the impact of any undertaking whether it’s social media campaigns or email blasts. Knowing if your efforts had an impact, how much, where, when and how is key to improving your marketing efforts.—John Boitnott
[Focus on] as few [metrics] as possible and only those that can be tied specifically to stated objectives. Metrics are different for everyone, but the one thing I do see a lot of firms doing is measuring because they can. Measure things that help you make decisions based on your priorities.—John Jantsch
While marketers build their lists of relevant metrics, there are a few, of course, that remain universal. Crestodina urges marketers to look beyond traffic numbers to metrics that actually reflect revenue-impact:
Look beyond the traffic. What happens after the visitor arrives? What is their experience on the site? Did they bounce? Did they convert? Great digital marketing plans focus on conversion rates just as much as traffic … so plan the visit. Think about the landing pages and the mindset of the visitor. Think about their questions or concerns.—Andy Crestodina
Additionally, Neisser and Gardner emphasize lifetime value:
LTV, or lifetime value, is the ideal metric in that it takes into account the true value of acquiring the right customers.—Drew Neisser
Lifetime value is the ultimate measurements of success. If you’re relentlessly focused on LTV you’ll be more likely to create the right long-term strategy.—Oli Gardner
An effective metrics and analytics system starts with a list of stated goals. Work backward to identify which metrics related directly to those goals, and tie digital marketing efforts directly to revenue. Those are the insights that will help develop an effective strategy, and those are the numbers the C-suite wants to see.
As digital marketing continues to march forward, there are some strategies that have slipped through the cracks and others that are just coming over the horizon.
Perhaps the easiest strategy to overlook in a digital marketplace is authenticity, which is why marketers in the Engagement Economy are driving such a turn-around.
Be human. Share your sense of humor and your idiosyncrasies. People do business with people and mainly with people they like. This is as true for business-to-business brands as it is for consumer brands. Without this humanity, your strategy will yield inhuman if not inhumane results!—Drew Neisser
Your brand voice should be authentic and human, but it still needs to drip with expertise and authority. The simplest way to do that, and another often overlooked strategy, is to tap all of your internal resources. Your company is full of subject matter experts and experienced professionals. Give them a voice or give them opportunities to build the brand’s voice. Brenner calls it is “marketing superpower:”
One strategy I’m really focused on right now is the hidden power of your activating employees to both create content and amplify your reach. This is currently the marketing superpower secret that I’m working on with a number of clients.—Michael Brenner
Go inside. Marketing is not just for the marketing department. The more people you can get involved in social media and content production, the more successful your strategy will be.—John Jantsch
Chris Weaver helps his clients develop and implement holistic digital marketing strategies, and has noticed a unique trend lately:
We are seeing more and more clients choosing to go to a multiple boutique agency model vs. the full-service agency model. And if that is the case, being able to tie your services in with others goes a long way. If your client is using traditional advertising along with digital efforts, being able to create a seamless experience goes a long way in regards to results.—Chris Weaver
It’s okay to specialize and to let your audience know. Advertise your partner brands, and create and optimize content that thoroughly explains how your products and/or services integrate with other industry-leading solutions.
Marketing has always been an exciting field because it never sits still. Technology drives people’s expectations, which push technology to advance again. Marketers have always been on the front lines using new communication methods and tools to reach audiences.
Today’s digital marketing strategies require a balance of new tools and tested best practices; an ear to the ground and a hand on proven processes. Marketers need a customized MarTech stack and a customized set of metrics.
And all of it starts with a fresh, expanded digital marketing team. If it’s time to update your strategy, start inviting new team members into the conversation. One new voice from customer service, order fulfillment, or the social media team could provide the insight you need for the first change or shift. When that’s integrated, invite someone else.
Whatever you do, don’t sit still.