A digital marketing strategy is an integral part of growing any business. It will assist in reaching your customers, retaining customers and even obtaining new customers. Common digital techniques include search engine optimization, digital advertising, email, social media, websites and mobile apps.
We will be going through the process of creating a digital marketing strategy for a service organisation. It is often more difficult to create a digital marketing plan for service organisation as there are no tangible products that are being sold.
START WITH YOUR BUSINESS GOALS
The first step of going about a digital marketing strategy is by identifying your goals. You will need to ask yourself, “What are we trying to achieve? Are you trying to gain more visibility for your brand? Are we trying to secure more leads? What exactly are we aiming to do?”
After you have asked yourself this question, the next step is trying to segment your clients and trying to reach them through targeted efforts. Once you have narrowed your choices of clients, you’ll need to go into the next step which is reaching your audience.
REACH YOUR TARGETED AUDIENCE
This next step involves identifying and researching your audience. Research is valuable in a service organisation as this will improve the opportunity for the business to become a high-growth professional service as opposed to most service organisations which are slow-growth and don’t conduct research to improve their service offering, their communication, messaging and customer segmentation.
Here are a few examples of target audiences:
- INFLUENCERS: Individual influencers, and sometimes a formal selection committee, often advise the final decision maker and can be valuable targets in a digital campaign.
- POTENTIAL CUSTOMERS: This target audience could be further segmented by industry, role or other persona characteristics, if those distinctions are important.
- REFERRAL SOURCES: In some circumstances, referral sources can be so influential that they become de facto decision makers. Industry analysts and influential thought leaders can also play a crucial role.
Many firms conduct research on multiple potential audiences or market segments to help them choose the most responsive markets. We call this ‘opportunity research’ and it goes well beyond simply looking at the growth rate of different segments. Research questions might explore the competitive environment, potential clients’ buying behavior, your firm’s brand strength within various markets and other factors that might illuminate the likelihood of success within alternative market segments.
HOW TO RESEARCH TARGET AUDIENCES?
There are two broad types of research that can help you develop a winning digital strategy. The first approach is called secondary research. In this approach you search for research studies that have already been conducted by another organisation.
The second approach is primary research. In this type of research, you commission an original study of your target audiences. Primary research is costly, however, the advantage of addressing the critical questions that are most relevant to your specific circumstances.
When you combine primary research with secondary research, you get the best of both worlds: a full, well-informed view of your audiences. This market intelligence dramatically reduces risk and makes marketing more of a science than an expensive guessing game.
DEVELOP YOUR DIGITAL MARKETING STRATEGY
An effective digital marketing strategy framework has four key elements. If you have already done this work for your overall marketing strategy, it will likely be very similar for your digital strategy.
What sets your firm or practice apart from your competitors? Often, the research you performed earlier will help you discover differentiators that you may not have been aware of before. For example, you might learn that the unique way you deliver the findings of your assessment is unusually helpful to clients.
The next element of your framework is the market positioning of your firm. How is your company positioned relative to key competitors? Your positioning is built upon your differentiators. Your positioning gives your audiences the compelling story they need to prefer your firm over your competitors.
What key messages do each of your audiences need to hear? These will likely vary from audience to audience. For instance, potential employees are probably going to be interested in different things than your referral sources. Furthermore, key messages must not contradict each other — and should all be consistent with your firm’s overall market positioning.
Content is at the heart of most professional services firms’ digital strategy framework. Content is the way you communicate your expertise, build trust and demonstrate to potential clients how you can help them. This is the section of the plan where you specify what issues and topics you will focus on. This content becomes the fuel for social media, webinars, blog posts, emails and other digital marketing techniques.
Once you have documented your overall strategy, it’s time to select the digital marketing techniques and tactics you will use to deliver key messages to your target audiences.
SELECT YOUR DIGITAL MARKETING STRATEGY
Which new digital technique should we try this year? This is where a lot of firms begin their digital marketing planning — and it’s almost always the wrong place to start. Unless you make the effort to understand your business situation, audiences and high level strategy first, you will almost certainly make some counterproductive choices.
Your research into your target audience will tell you which digital platforms your different audiences are already using. Why choose Twitter if no one in your target audience is on it? And do you really want to ignore the platform that 60% of your target audience uses?
Also, different techniques tend to have different levels of efficiency and impact. Research on high-growth firms shows that some techniques simply work better than others. When presented with two competing alternative techniques to reach your target audience, you can choose the option that has been shown to deliver more impact.
How often should you publish blogs or offer webinars? What effort will be required from your internal team? What sort of external resources will you need? What about training? How about software or a new website?
Answering these questions often involves wrestling with both your business goals and the resources required to achieve them. Reality has a way of imposing limits, and inevitably you will strike a balance between what you want to achieve and what is possible in your situation.
Once you have selected your marketing techniques and have determined their required frequency and level of effort, you can anticipate if you will need any new marketing infrastructure, training or outside support to make the plan a reality. You are also ready to set specific goals and tracking mechanisms.
SET YOUR GOALS
Your goals must be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Reachable and Time-based). Knowing where to set goals is an art form. On one hand, you must take into account the current level of baseline performance. On the other hand, you must consider what it will take to achieve the business outcome you desire. The level of impact you need from a marketing technique will also influence how much effort it will require. You can’t expect a major impact from a minimal effort.
In conclusion, a digital marketing strategy for service organisations may be difficult, however, with proper time, techniques and resources – it is possible. In addition, it could be the foundation for the growth of your business and its longevity. Lastly, you may increase your knowledge in digital marketing through places like the International Institute of Digital Marketing.
Written by Aphiwe Matyila