A digital marketing plan is a structured document that contains details about the strategies, campaigns, channels and goals. The critical need for a solid and innovative digital marketing plan in the year 2021 cannot be understated. The COVID-19 pandemic has become the catalyst for major change in the way that business’ conduct their daily operations and made an online presence mandatory for every organization. This has resulted in an oversaturated digital market that aims to attract an overwhelmed and overloaded audience. It is easy to see then how the choices a business makes in its online marketing will have a significant impact on the success of the business.
That being said, being able to use the internet effectively as a marketing tool is essential for the success of any business in the modern era. This is especially true for organizations that form part of the e-commerce industry, e.g a clothing apparel online store. The focus of this blog post is to consider how to plan your digital marketing strategy as an online business. It will include a step by step guide on to optimize your digital marketing for the success of an online business by formulating and implementing a digital marketing plan.
The BENEFITS of a digital marketing plan are:
- It will assist you in sharpening your focus and determining the goals of the organization.
- Enhance your understanding of your customers and their habits.
- Develop your online value disposition which allows you to differentiate your business for your competitors and embolden customers to reach out to you for your goods and services.
- The intricate nature of the plan allows you to put together a correlating financial budget that is realistic and practical.
- Because the goals of the business have been determined in the plan, the organization can set key performance indicators to assess how well a business is meeting its goals.
- It also allows the organization to determine the best channels to use to meet these business object.
1. EVALUATE THE STATE OF AFFAIRS
This step involves an objective inquiry into the internal and external environment that the business operates in. This is also referred to as environmental scanning which is the gathering of research to determine how successful a business is and the perception of that stakeholders have of the organization. A useful framework to use is the SWOT analysis, which stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. This framework is excellent for mapping out the environment that the business operates in as it provides insight into the industry, competitors and customers.
For an online business, there are several tools and websites that an organization can use to gather this research:
Most social media websites have analytics programs built into the applications in order for businesses to be able to keep track of their online impact and interactions. For example: Instagram has Instagram insights & Facebook has Facebook analytics (although Facebook has since announced that this stand-alone tool will cease to operate as of June 30th 2021). However, it is best to consolidate these social media accounts and analytics under one website that tracks the overall impressions and engagement that these social media account generate. There are websites such as heropost & hootsuite that do just that.
Another useful resource is Google Analytics which is a web analytics service offered by Google that tracks and reports website traffic. This is one of the most effective ways to manage paid marketing and the traffic on the website of your business.
Additionally, google my business is an excellent platform through which to reach your customers as people often google a product or service before they actually purchase or choose to purchase from a specific organization. Therefore, making your business accessible is crucial.
For more information on how you can use these sites, visit this blog.
2. DETERMINE THE GOALS OF YOUR BUSINESS
Based on the analysis discussed above, it is important to decide on the goals of the organization going forward as they relate to digital marketing. It is important to make very specific goals for your organization. There are two kinds of goals: short-term goals and long-term goals.
- Short-term goals (these are goals that the organization plans to achieve within the next 6 months).
- To grow Instagram and Twitter social media pages by 100 followers over a 3 month period.
- To increase traffic to your website by 20%.
- Increase sales by 10%.
- Long-term goals (these are goals that the organization plans to achieve in over 6 months).
- Within 12 months – increase sales by 50%.
- Solidify online presence with 1000 followers on social media pages such as Instagram and Twitter.
- The organization’s website should be within the first 3 pages on a search engine such as Google when people search for something specifically relates to my business.
NB: Make sure that your goals are S.M.A.R.T (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely).
Image by: Villacorta, 2019
3. SET A BUDGET ACCORDING TO THE SET BUSINESS OBJECTIVES
This is important because it will determine the scope of the campaign and assist in the decision making process around the best channels to use for your business. Therefore, it is important to determine the maximum amount that your business can spend on digital marketing.
Knowing this then, you can decide how much you will allocate to each of the costs involved in digital marketing. Although there are free online tools, it is best to invest in the best tools because they directly impact the perception that potential and current customers have of your business.
There are various costs involved in digital marketing, including:
- Website – because your business is based online, it is essential to its success that your website represents your overall brand in a way that is eye-catching, readable and engaging for your intended audience. NB: ensure that it is mobile friendly and user friendly.
- Content and pro content creating websites such as canva.
- Paid marketing in the form of online advertisements run through websites such as GoogleAds.
4. CREATE A STRONG DIGITAL IDENTITY
As previously stated, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, an online presence is mandatory for most businesses. As such, it is important to curate the website and social media accounts in such a way that serves a need for the customer and that is customer friendly, as stated previously. In addition, ensure that your brand image is accurately and vividly presented consistently through one message and voice through your digital platforms.
5. SPECIFY THE DIGITAL MARKETING STRATEGY
It is important to personalize your digital strategy and tailor it in order to make the customer feel like they are having a personalized interaction with the organization. This allows the relationship between the organization and the customer to feel as though the communicate is specifically tailored for them.
You can do this by doing the following:
- Determining your target audience:
This allows the organization to focus on satisfying the needs for a segmented portion of the population which is simpler than attempting to satisfy the needs of the general public.
- Value positioning:
This involves communicating explicitly with the customers and other stakeholders about why they should choose them. It is also known as the unique selling point. It is what’s separates the organization from its competitors. As such it is important to choose the best channels through which to communicate this.
- Content strategy:
This refers to the original content that an organization puts out into the world to attract the target audience. It is imperative that an organization has a content marketing strategy in place as this is what drives customers to your organization and traffic to the social media sites as well as the organization’s website.
There are various mechanisms that an organization can and should use when creating content:
- Create content with SEO’s in mind by a conducting a keyword search. This is the process whereby an organization researches the most appropriate keywords that can be used in the organization’s content in order to organically improve the organization’s SEO position.
- Create a content calendar. It is a dated detailed plan that stipulates what content will be published, when, on what topic and how frequently. It is infinitely valuable because it encourages long-term thinking and consistency in the content that is published according to that calendar.
- Posting on social media. In line with the content calendar, this is the careful scheduling on various social media posts using hashtags and carefully planned captions. This comes together to promote the articles and blogs that have been published on the website. For example: on Mother’s day, your business could offer 20% on all purchases for all Mother’s.
- As an online business, it is a good idea to form relationships with online social media influences and opinion leaders. Paying these public figures who have established audiences that trust their opinions to promote your product will bring awareness of your brand to new audiences.
6. USE DIGITAL TACTICS & TOOLS.
The evolution of technology has allowed organization’s to use Marketing Automation tools that can create multiple marketing campaigns at once. This is an advantage because it enables the business to collect data on their customers habits, behaviours and buying decisions.
Other tactics will be chosen on the basis of the previously identified business objectives. These include but are not limited to SEO strategies; paid marketing; email marketing campaigns and social media campaigns.
7. MEASURE YOUR SUCCESS ACCORDING TO KPIs (key performance indicators).
This step involves a careful analysis of the results of the digital marketing plan in order to determine its success’ and failures. The idea is to measure the analytics data against the KPIs. KPIs (i.e key performance indicators) which are measurables that a business uses to assess its success in meeting its set performance objectives.
This will determine what aspects of the plan need to be adjusted. Most importantly, it will ensure that your business has an efficient real time data visualization system. This is used to make sure that you are always looking at accurate figures in real time because the digital world moves incredibly fast.
This digital marketing plan can be applied to any business but the focus of this blog was to offer a kind of blue print model to assist online business owners. If done correctly and with great attention to detail will boost your performance and improve sales. It’s important to try and plan for everything that is foreseeable and leave nothing up to chance. Remember, technology has developed to make this process easier so take advantage of it.
Written by: Bridgette Khumalo
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