How To Build A Digital Marketing Plan


Every good digital marketing plan starts the same way. With a goal. No matter if you’re in house or an agency, every stakeholder needs to buy in to what’s going on. The second big factor is to consider the resources available. We all might want to dominate SEO for that killer head term, or get coverage on the front page of the New York Times, but that’s not happening with a couple hours a month of work and a shoestring budget.

Once you’ve got the goals and resources, it’s time to think about what’s the problem you’re trying to address. Digital Marketing is so dominated by search and social, but each has a place. Search is great if you’re solving a known problem, and you’ll be able to tell this if there’s search volume for terms that make sense. Social is great for helping with awareness, especially if your offering is novel or remarkable. Remarkable products translate into word of mouth beautifully. Don’t forget about Digital PR as well. The potential outlets are both large and small and can reach the right audience who might not even think they have a problem yet.

Building the Plan

First, set deadlines. It’s shitty, but it’s effective. Don’t wait until the last damn minute to being working on the key pieces of content or graphics or whatever. Just don’t. A solid approach would include some research and data that can help identify how long the marketing may need to be developed. Some efforts can take longer to build or require more people and resources. Either way, let the research and data guide your decisions. Establish timelines. No matter the channel or method the marketing materials are being distributed, a timeline can help keep things moving in the right direction.

The flipside of the timeline is setting expectations for how long things can take. Most companies don’t get amazing PR coverage on their first day of the plan. Ranking in SEO usually takes months. Even PPC efforts can take time to become efficient.

Be realistic about what a channel can deliver. If you’re targeting business decision makers, it’s going to cost a fair bit to reach them. Why? Everyone else wants to do the same. It’s why LinkedIn can be super expensive on a per click basis, but can also deliver some of the highest quality leads as well.

Never forget to know your target audience. Some use personas to develop the right tone and channels for the target. Most display channels allow you to segment and target extraordinarily well. The more you’ve built about the true interests of your audience, the better this targeting will perform.

Tracking Progress

Next, track everything. It’s 2019. Actually, you should always want to track everything. The advancements in technology have made this more accessible and easier to understand so use what you can find to track and measure performance. If possible, find ways to measure smaller goals that would ladder up to your main business goal, which again were made crystal clear.

Some of the best advice I’ve ever heard is that the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. Even if the goal is to grow business by 100%, try breaking that down into monthly or even weekly growth goals. It will keep you from spending resources in the wrong places. If a channel isn’t performing, you’ll have a quick chance to assess exactly why.

Marketing Execution

So, the materials are ready, deadlines were met, and the tracking is in place. The fun begins – and you set the marketing free.

Here’s the catch, this rough sketch of a plan has to be recycled. After each effort has started, tracking will allow the optimization of certain areas in order to improve efficiency, help us learn and improve. Tweaks can be made if the desired outcomes aren’t being met. But wait, how would we know that?

Oh yeah, those goals we’ve been talking about! This is a crazy loose example, I know, but seriously a digital marketing plan HAS to have some goals! It’s not that hard!

What can be hard is the conversation when marketing doesn’t go according to plan. The bad news is that it never does. As Mike Tyson used to say, everyone has a plan until they get hit in the mouth. The good news is that it’s easy to be responsive and adapt with digital marketing. Find what’s hitting the goals, and move efforts there. Not having a plan can lead to failure, but sticking with parts of a plan that’s not working just makes you a stubborn jerk out to waste money.

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