The words “plan” and “planning” are heard frequently in marketing teams this time of year. As we marketers prepare to close out the current year and focus on a new one, we look to build on successes in some areas, start anew in others and experiment in still others. The foundation for all these actions and activities is a digital marketing strategy, particularly during a time when it isn’t possible to connect with audiences in-person and everything is digital.

However, while marketing teams have relied on digital marketing tactics and techniques for many years now, those efforts are not always driven by a strategy. In fact, in a recent survey, 45 percent of marketers reported not having a clearly defined digital marketing strategy despite using digital marketing tactics. Today, it isn’t enough to have a digital marketing strategy, you need to document it too. While a surprising number of marketers today have not documented their strategy, it’s worth the time and effort to do so. A well-documented strategy keeps everyone aligned and accountable, and it makes it easier to bring new team members or outsourced service providers up to speed.

As you build out and document your digital marketing strategy, keep in mind the three essential elements outlined below.

Define Your Goals

If you don’t know where you’re going, it’s impossible to know how to get there. As you create your digital marketing strategy, be sure to identify your organization’s business goals to ensure that your digital marketing goals are aligned with these broader ones.

Common goals for a digital marketing strategy include:

  • Generating leads and revenue
  • Driving brand awareness
  • Shortening the sales cycle
  • Lowering the cost of customer acquisition
  • Growing customer loyalty and purchases

However, don’t just stop there with your goals. Add some details and specifics so they are more attainable while also driving measurable results. Some examples are:

  • Generating X new leads in the next quarter
  • Increasing customer upsell revenue to X percent by the end of the year
  • Growing social media followers by X percent in the next month

Analyze Yourself and Others

Even if you have never had a formal or documented marketing strategy, there are still lessons to be learned from your past digital marketing efforts. If you have had only ineffective strategies in the past, there are lessons to be learned there too. What worked for you and what didn’t? What did customers respond well to? What channels and tactics were most successful?

In this process, be sure to rely on analytics and data rather than anecdotes or hunches. Otherwise you run the risk of incorporating flawed or unsuccessful tactics into your new strategy, greatly diminishing its chance of effectiveness from the beginning.

You don’t want to be a copycat of your competitors, but it’s also important to explore what your digital marketing competitive landscape looks like. While you might not be privy to their exact strategy, a bit of internet research can often uncover a wealth of information about the digital marketing channels and tactics your competitors are utilizing. This might not speak to the success of their efforts, but it can provide ideas and inspiration for your own planning and actions.

Determine Your Means

When we think about “means,” budget might be the first thing to come to mind, but it goes beyond that when building a digital marketing strategy. Your means include not only your budget, but also your resources in terms of people, skillsets, time and technology. Many organizations are lacking in at least one of those areas, so it’s important to take stock so you can fill any gaps. For example, you may have the technology and budget to engage in social media marketing, but not the necessary people, skillsets and time.

To evaluate your means, you should:

  • Determine your overall budget for digital marketing, and how you will allocate it among the tactics you want to pursue.
  • Assess the workload of your current team and whether they have the capacity to take on new projects or responsibilities.
  • Identify your existing technology resources and where your marketing technology might be lacking.
  • Compare the skills needed for the digital marketing tactics you want to utilize with the skillsets you have in-house and determine whether you need to acquire new skills through hiring or outsourcing – including any you may need to use your technology to the fullest.

Once you are up and running with your documented digital marketing strategy, remember that the best and most effective strategies evolve over time based on regular evaluation and revision. Marketing is ever-changing, which means your digital marketing strategy must be fluid in response.

Happy Marketing!