The importance of creating and using a digital marketing plan to support digital transformation and company growth
Where do you start if you want to develop a digital marketing strategy? It’s a common challenge since many businesses know how vital digital and mobile channels are today for acquiring and retaining customers. Yet they don’t have an integrated plan to grow and engage their audiences effectively. They suffer from the 10 problems I highlight later in this article and are losing out to competitors.
The challenges of creating a digital marketing strategy?
In my experience, a common challenge is where to start drawing up your digital marketing plan. I think there is a fear that a massive report is required, but we believe that lean planning works best. Your plan doesn’t need to be a huge report, a strategy can best be summarized in two or three sides of A4 in a table linking digital marketing strategies to SMART objectives within our RACE planning framework. We recommend creating a lean digital plan based on our 90-day planning templates to implement your digital plan rapidly to gain traction.
Another challenge is the sheer scope and scale of digital marketing. There are so many great digital marketing techniques ranging from search, social and email marketing to improve the digital experience of your website. Our article, What is digital marketing? shows how by using our RACE planning framework you can define a more manageable number of digital marketing activities which cover the full customer journey. Within each digital marketing technique, there are lots of detailed tactics that are important to success, so they need to be evaluated and prioritized, for example from dynamic content for email automation, website personalization to programmatic, retargeting and skyscraper content for organic search.
A recommended approach for developing a digital strategy
Whether you have a strategy or not, at the heart of the Smart Insights ‘Opportunity, Strategy, Action‘ approach to improving digital marketing, is benchmarking to compare where you are now to assess the potential against where you need to be in the future.
Click on the image below to see a larger version of one of our free marketing benchmarking templates, which you can download for free to help you create your digital marketing plan.
- Start with a separate digital marketing plan defining transformation needed and making the case for investment and changes to your digital marketing
- Then, following approval, create an integrated digital plan which is part of the overall marketing plan – digital is fully aligned and becomes part of business as usual.
So, what are the takeaways to act on here? It seems to me that:
- Using digital marketing without a strategic approach is still commonplace. I’m sure many of the companies in this category are using digital media effectively and they could certainly be getting great results from their search, email or social media marketing. But I’m equally sure that many are missing opportunities for better targeting or optimization, or are suffering from the other challenges I’ve listed below. Perhaps the problems below are greatest for larger organizations who most urgently need governance.
- The majority of companies in our research do take a strategic approach to digital. From talking to companies, I find the creation of digital plans often occurs in two stages. First, a separate digital marketing plan is created. This is useful to get agreement and buy-in by showing the opportunities and problems and map out a path through setting goals and specific strategies for digital including how you integrated digital marketing into other business activities. Second, digital becomes integrated into marketing strategy, it’s a core activity, “business-as-usual”, but doesn’t warrant separate planning, except for the tactics.
If you don’t have a strategy, or maybe you want to review which business issues are important to include within a strategic review, we’ve set out the 10 most common problems, that in our experience arise if you don’t have a strategy.
Do you have a digital marketing strategy?
Since 2012 we have run an informal poll to see how widely used digital marketing strategies are. The results have shown some big improvements over the years. A few years ago we found around two-thirds to three-quarters did not have a digital marketing plan. Now that number has shrunk to 45% in latest survey, although that is still quite high, and means almost half are still doing digital with no strategy in place.