Step-by-step Guide To Creating An Effective Digital Marketing Plan

A digital marketing plan identifies your target market and the value proposition of your brand. It is the framework from which you initiate your various campaigns. An effective plan is measurable and should be flexible to the extent that you can make adjustments as you go along.

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Creating an effective digital marketing strategy provides a practical framework to take your business into the online world. A world that over 5 billion people visit daily.

Below, we’ll explore what a digital marketing plan entails and how to create one.

What Is A Digital Marketing Plan?

A digital marketing plan is a blueprint for your digital marketing strategy. It lays out how you are going to market your business online and what you want to achieve by doing so.

On a more detailed level, it is a roadmap to how specific digital marketing strategies and actions will help a business achieve its strategic objectives.

There are many templates and how-to guides on the Internet that will steer you in one direction or another. Or you can get lucky with a viral social media post that attracts millions to your business for a week or so. Either way, it’s still important to have a solid plan in place that suits your business and its needs.

Now, regardless of whether you do it alone or employ a digital marketing agency, there are tried and tested steps that everyone should follow when creating a digital marketing plan.

Firstly, any effective digital marketing plan starts with the customer. How are you going to reach them? How are you going to make them want your product or service? And how are you going to make loyal customers who don’t abandon you to the competition?

Then comes the carefully planned out customer journey. This starts with knowing your target customer, attracting them to your business and engaging with them. You need to make sure you fulfil their needs and provide value so that they come back time and time again.

Components of a Digital Marketing Plan

More and more businesses are including digital marketing plans in their overall marketing objectives. This helps them to create an omnichannel marketing presence where they can distribute the same messages across various channels.

A traditional marketing plan finds ways to use print, TV, radio, outdoor advertising and even guerilla marketing to reach potential customers.

A digital plan, on the other hand, has an entirely different set of tools - each of them being executed in the digital realm:

  1. Advertising. Placing display ads such as images, text, pop-ups and banners on other websites.
  2. Content marketing. Blogs, videos, podcasts, infographics, ebooks, LinkedIn articles and lead magnets that attract customers and establish thought leadership.
  3. Email marketing. A direct marketing method of sending targeted messages to subscribers.
  4. Social media marketing. Paid opportunities to reach and interact with potential customers on social media.
  5. Mobile marketing. Targeting customers on mobile devices through text messages or advertising in apps.
  6. Reputation marketing. Promoting and gathering positive online reviews.
  7. Video marketing. Engaging with customers through videos to promote products, events, or provide educational content.
  8. Paid search. Using Google Adwords or Bing to bid for certain keywords and buy advertising space in the SERPs (search engine results pages). Ads are only shown to users who search for the keywords you selected.
  9. Search engine optimisation. Using keywords that will generate qualified traffic to your website. This makes your site friendly to search engines, which boosts your visibility.
  10. Web analytics. Tracking, capturing and analysing user data to monitor online customer behaviour and preferences.

8-Step Guide To Create A Winning Digital Marketing Plan

1. Define your digital marketing goals

Your plan will be based on your overall business goals and objectives. These need to be measurable over a time period - six months or a year, for example.

We suggest you follow the SMART goal guidelines. This helps to show whether a goal is achievable, identifies the metrics that define success, and creates a roadmap to reach those metrics.

SMART is an acronym for "specific," "measurable," "attainable," "relevant," and "time-bound”. Start by defining SMART goals for a number of digital marketing activities.

These can include things like:

  • blog traffic
  • Instagram or other social media posts or story views
  • email subscribers and their engagement
  • your link-building strategy
  • the performance of your landing pages

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2. Define your audience

Using qualitative and quantitative user research and web analytics, you can create reliable and realistic representations of your key audience segments. Known as personas, these represent a fictional person that embodies an ideal customer.

They describe real people with goals and values, as well as their personal, professional and technical information, interests and abilities.

Digital marketers focus on the personas of their target customers to guide them in all components of digital marketing. This includes helping them plan their website architecture, design, content and functionality.

3. Decide on a budget

Marketers without a budget for digital are going to lose out. Zenith Advertising Expenditure Forecasts for Australia showed digital was the only channel not to decline in 2020 and is continuing to surge in 2021. It expects digital advertising to grow by 19% this year alone.

With so much competition, marketers need to allocate a larger percentage of their overall marketing budget to digital marketing activities. Skilled talent - from technical to content and social media - does not come cheap.

Other costs that will eat into your budget include SEO, social media and email marketing, website design, paid advertising, and content creation.

4. Analyse your competitors

Competitor analysis is more than taking a quick look at a competitor's website and social media presence. It requires in-depth research to identify opportunities where you can out-perform competitors. It also enables you to stay atop of industry trends.

When analysing your competitors, find out:

  • Who are they and where are they located?
  • What products or services do they offer?
  • What sales tactics do they employ?
  • How do they market their products or services?
  • What do they charge for a similar service or product?
  • What is their content strategy?
  • How is their engagement?

5. Conduct a SWOT analysis

An analysis of your business's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) is equally relevant to a digital marketing plan.

  1. Strengths. These are aspects that you have control over and relate to what you’re doing well. It could be sufficient finances, great customer service, a unique product, or winning awards.
  2. Weaknesses. Factors that make your business vulnerable and that you need to gain control over. For example, not having a digital marketing plan or having limited resources to execute your strategy.
  3. Opportunities. These could come from your competitor analysis that shows what they’re doing wrong, or not doing at all. It could be quicker response time, serving a wider geographic location, or investing in mobile.
  4. Threats. These are factors you have no control over. They could include new competitors in your marketplace or a change in government regulations in your industry.

6. Create a content calendar

Depending on your budget and business goals, a content calendar will keep your digital marketing efforts focused and strategic.

At the bare minimum, it is a worksheet that contains information including:

  • Title, headline or content topic
  • Who is responsible for the piece of content
  • The type of content being produced (eg. social media posts, blog articles, videos, etc)
  • Publication platform/s
  • Date of publication (and time)
  • Status of content completion
  • Deadline

A content calendar establishes the foundation for your content and is a repository for your library of assets.

7. Choose your digital channels

The channels you use will depend on who and where your audience is, what fits into your budget, how it will connect to other channels and whether the values and style of the platform fit those of your brand.

Two approaches that are, however, guaranteed to help build a strong online presence when done well are content marketing and SEO. In addition, email marketing, although sometimes challenging, has a high ROI of 4 200% and should be nurtured at all costs.

8. Analyse your digital marketing outcomes

Almost all of the steps outlined above are directly measurable and Google Analytics is your friend when it comes to standard website metrics.

Social media and PPC campaigns have proprietary analytics built-in. You can almost instantly see when something is resonating with your audience or not.

The most difficult outcome to measure is how many sales your digital marketing efforts generated. In other words, your ROI. However, keep in mind that if you measure each activity in terms of revenue, you may miss the effectiveness of your overall digital marketing plan.

Digital marketing is often a long game and you may need to wait (persist) for a couple of years before you start seeing real results across the board.

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The Bottom Line

In a world of uncertainty and change - especially in the digital sphere - the only way to stay ahead of the game is through creating an effective digital marketing plan.

It’s no longer a matter of adding a website or social media account to your business. It’s about creating a plan that will transform your business in ways you never thought possible.