– Where to start?
If you are reading this, you probably have an idea about marketing plans but you still are not sure about how marketing in the online world differs from the traditional marketing.
The main difference is at the nature of the internet and how it holds enormous potential to interconnect people globally in a way that is unprecedented. It give us access to information like never before and it allows anyone to be able to offer their product or service to almost anyone, anytime and anywhere.
Nonetheless, the classic marketing plan concepts still carry the true principles and ideas that allow any marketing project to succeed.
I would then summarise what I believe are some of the pillars of a digital marketing plan:
- Start on your client and work backwards – everything else will fall into place accordingly
- Understand the Digital Marketing Funnel
- Determine your Online Value Proposition
- In the online landscape, everything is measurable, so mine the data and turn it into actionable information
- Situations and plans change, especially online, so make sure your plan is realistic but flexible
– Creating your Digital Roadmap
This process has a few important steps to understand:
I. Situation Analysis
Where are we now?
We first need to understand what is the current situation and why do we need a marketing plan. Take a “picture” of your business as it is now and assess who exactly is your client, what kind of products and/or services do you provide and how you set yourself apart from the competition.
Elaborate a SWOT analysis of your business by answering these questions:
– What are the Strengths and Weaknesses of your company: where do you have a competitive advantage? do you have enough qualified people to deliver a high quality service in the market you are in?
– What are the Opportunities that you have for growth and innovation?
– What are the main obstacles and Threats of your market: are you aware of the new technologies that can leverage or hurt your business? how well do you understand your ever evolving consumer habits and behaviour and, if so, can you adapt accordingly?
This first step will help you realise and identify the key areas you should tackle.
II. Target audience
Who is it that you are targeting your product or service? how do they behave? What are the things they value the most?
One way to define your online audience is to create a Persona. A Persona is your archetypal online user. When creating a persona, you are basically summarising an user’s typical online behaviour by identifying its motivations, expectations and goals and translating that information into a fictional character (with a name, personality and a photo). If you want to know more on this concept, read An introduction to personas and how to create them.
There are more variables to take into consideration when working on Customer Segmentation in the Ecommerce world (Demographic elements, consumer behaviour, etc), so if you want a more in-depth look at this process, check out OMETRIA’s complete graph of customer analysis.
What is our goal with this plan? Do you want more market share? Do you need to acquire more clients through different channels? Is increasing brand awareness or engagement crucial in the short-term for your business?
Define a Vision where you state where do you want to be after this plan is set to motion.
Define the Goals that translate that Vision, describing the key results to achieve throughout the whole process, their timing and who will be involved in making that happen.
When determining your Objectives, I suggest you use the SMART approach: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Result-Focused and Time-Bound. If you want to understand more about SMART goals, check Writing S.M.A.R.T. Goals.
IV. Digital Strategy
How are we going to achieve the results? What are the channels we will focus on?
In the digital era, you have an almost endless array of choices to target your consumer: whether it is through Mobile or TV, whether it is by using Social Media platforms to increase brand awareness or Search Engine Advertising to increase your reach of potential customers, you will have to list down the key areas you believe are the way to achieve your goals.
Understand what are the idiosyncrasies of each marketing area and how they could relate and boost your business. Your website is key for your whole plan and, as such, it is at the core of the strategic process that defines and structures the Online Customer Life Cycle:
Reach – Acquire – Convert – Retain
Depending on which point of the purchasing path the potential customer is, different strategies will be more successful than others.
To understand more clearly how this works, let me show you the insightful study done by Google about The Customer Journey to Online Purchase:
How do I monitor the results and deadlines? How do I know if I’m still on the right path?
Marketing planning is a continuous and strategic process, and therefore marketing managers need to have a system for monitoring, controlling, and evaluating implementation outcomes on an ongoing basis so that they are able to adjust and improve whenever necessary.
Depending on the strategies you choose to engage, set a few key Performance Metrics like ROI, % of increase in Sales or % of increase in Visits, to be able to compare your actual performance against the standards you have defined.
It is crucial to know, with a good level of certainty, if you are approaching the objective or deviating from your plan. Within the framework that you have established, you will need a roadmap with milestones, a budget, data reports and other tools to help you align your plan against your objectives and stay on track.
Benchmark, Benchmark, Benchmark…. study exhaustively your competitors and how they have been doing things. If something has worked for them, why wouldn’t you consider it in your strategy?
Obviously, don’t just limit yourself to copying – check as well what other marketing tactics are out there that they are not using and how those tactics could potentially give you leverage over them.
Lastly, bear in mind that the most important part of any endeavour is the Process itself. Whether or not you are actually going to achieve the goals you set out in the beginning, as long as you focus on optimising and learning in each step of the way, it will always prove to be worth the while.