Digital marketing today is extremely competitive. Businesses big and small are well-aware of the power that an effective digital marketing strategy can have in reaching, engaging and converting potential customers. For this reason digital marketing is no longer a differentiation technique. It’s a cost of doing business.
Simultaneously, prominent digital players like Google, Facebook, Amazon and many others are accelerating efforts to monetize traffic. What this means is that they are putting more emphasis on increasing advertising dollars on their sites and as more and more businesses move marketing dollars to these outlets, the cost to be competitive goes up as well.
While this might sound discouraging, the truth is many businesses are approaching these digital challenges piecemeal offering opportunities for those that develop sophisticated, coherent, creative and thoughtful strategies. With a little time, testing, optimization and data, effective digital marketing is within reach for any business.
Effective, growing businesses are spending a considerable time on their digital efforts and rightfully so. The issue is not all tactics, techniques and technical capabilities are equal among businesses and even digital marketing agencies. It is critical that your marketing “team” has three primary skillsets: creative capabilities, technical know-how and an audience-centric strategic approach.
The reality today is that reaching people online is increasingly a pay-to-play proposition. Whether you’re spending dollars on ads or a marketing partner, or your dedicating your own time to learning about the ecosystem, it is complex and requires investment of some kind.
But just because you spent time or money on something doesn’t mean it is going to work. In order to cut through the noise to reach your target audience and drive the key actions you’re looking for, here are eight steps that will get you there
1. Identify & Track Key Online Actions
In many cases I see that companies think they have checked this box, but once we begin working together I often find that the website tracking setup was either incorrect, the actions aren’t being tracked in the appropriate analytics tools, or the wrong actions are being tracked. It is critical to understand how your customers engage with you online. If they mostly call, then you should be focusing primarily on driving phone calls and tracking how many are driven from your website. That is a mixture of design and technical integration. If it is form fills or online chats or emails, you need to make that key call to action prominent on your website and then make sure it is being tracked on the back-end.
2. Assess Your Existing Digital Marketing
What are you currently doing? Any sense of what is and is not working? You need to take a hard look at your efforts and honestly assess what you’re doing. For instance, just because you’re posting on Facebook doesn’t mean you’re posting anything anyone cares about. Additionally, there is often tons of data related to each of your channels that can help you understand where you’re efforts stand. Make a list of what you think might be working, what isn’t working and what you’re not even doing.
3. Prioritize Your Digital Marketing Efforts
After a thorough assessment of your digital marketing efforts, nows the time to prioritize. This consideration is a mixture of understanding which channels are really important to your business, looking at your budget and coming up with a list of priorities that fit within that budget. Part of this will be identifying the quick-fixes, the necessities and the down-the-line tactics. Priorities are critical so you and your team doesn’t get distracted.
4. Create a 1-Year Execution Road Map
With a strong list of priorities, you can now develop your digital marketing roadmap. This should be a 1-year or 6-month plan that starts with getting a strong cadence with the fundamentals of your strategy but seeks to expand to new opportunities over time. This plan for execution will be critical to your digital marketing success. You may get some quick wins out the gate, but this is a long-term strategic play that requires a lot of patience, testing, on-going optimization and more.
5. Focus & Get to Work
With such an expansive digital ecosystem it is extremely easy to get distracted by some new tool or some new tactic that people are writing about. Beware of the buzzwords! The digital marketing space is notorious for getting distracted by some new tech or tool and loses sight of the basics of any digital strategy. Stick to your execution roadmap. You will certainly be sold these new technologies and ideas, but don’t bite. You’ve created a plan, so keep focused.
6. Spend a Little (At First)
It is absolutely necessary to have some advertising dollars to supplement your marketing strategy. If you’re working with a marketing agency on the services you need, make sure to budget a monthly spend for digital ad testing. This is extremely important. But don’t spend huge at first. Come with a conservative spend with the idea that through testing, you’ll learn where the wins are and can increase accordingly. The great thing about the digital ad space, you get to set your daily/monthly budget to whatever is palatable to you. At a minimum, $100/month with the right targeting and strategy can help you learn a lot.
7. Analyze Performance
Remember step 1? Since you already started tracking all the key actions and performance metrics that you care about and now that you’ve started executing your strategy, keep an eye on these metrics. Maybe on a monthly basis you should check in to see how things are progressing. I also say that, yes, we might see quick wins right away, but typically any marketing strategy needs time in the market with ongoing optimization before the results start coming in. Give it 3-6 months before you start sounding the alarms. Remember, you’re cracking a code, not turning on a faucet.
8. Identify Repeatable Successes & Think Bigger
Wherever you are in your execution road map, always be looking for the victories you see. If it happens once, there is a chance it could happen again. Make it a point to not only celebrate this, but to see how you can repeat it over and over. This is the most exciting part of the process – seeing your hard work drive the results you need to grow. Now that you’re optimizing for these victories, start to think bigger. Go back to those new technologies and tools and see if there is a way to incorporate them into your business.
As discussed above, digital marketing is about cracking a very complex code. First, you need the right people in place to most effectively and efficiently crack this code and two you need the runway (budget, time) to do a lot of testing. With those two pieces in place, and by following the steps above, you can start to really compete in the increasingly competitive digital marketing space. If you want to discuss this in more detail, contact us today.
Joe is the owner and chief digital marketer at Rithm Marketing. He has been building websites and executing digital marketing strategies for about 10 years. Previously Joe was an analyst and director of marketing for a prominent digital marketing trade association.