Setting up a digital marketing plan can be simple, or it can get very complex. Figuring out where your plan should fit on that scale is where you can set yourself up for success or failure. You need to be self-aware, knowing where your company is and what is most needed to move it forward. You also need to be customer-aware as well, knowing what they need and what can move their experience forward.
The Best Way to Plan a Digital Marketing Campaign
In reality, there is no one way to make a marketing plan. The best marketing plan is the one that is tailor-made to fit your company and your customers' needs. But after creating marketing campaigns for many businesses, big and small, I have found a uniform strategy that gives me a foundation to build on.
I tweak this strategy to fit each client, and with some clients it gets vastly more complex. So this is not an all-encompassing answer to your question. But after reading this article, you should have a good grasp on how to lay a strategical foundation for your marketing campaigns on which you can build whatever kind of campaign makes the most sense.
Always Start With a Single, Measurable Goal
What will make the most impact on your business over the next 30-90 days? Whatever that is, it's a good bet this should be your marketing focus.
Is it closing more deals? Diagnose why you don't have more deals already.
Do you need more website traffic to close more deals? Or do you need to find a way to convert more of your website visitors into customers?
Get to the very root of the most important thing for your company, and set that as your goal.
For a majority of our clients, they need more website traffic. There just isn't enough traffic to generate a substantial amount of leads. We focus the first few months on building organic traffic to their website; a plan that is very straightforward.
For other clients, they have a lot of organic traffic already, so our focus is on conversion and lead nurturing. Those plans have many more moving parts and require more complexities to the plan.
For the sake of keeping this article simple, we're going to use examples from the more popular need - more website traffic.
What is a Good Website Traffic Goal?
Again, this depends on where your company is and how your organic traffic is doing.
We've had clients with little-to-none organic traffic. In these instances, we set our goal on percentage increase every month, like 10% or 15% month over month growth.
Starting Organic Traffic: 250/mo
90 Day Goal: Increase organic traffic 15% month-over-month
Successful Results: 380/mo Organic Traffic
- 3 Months / 380/mo Organic Traffic
- 6 Months / Organic Traffic Doubles
- 12 Months / Organic Traffic More Than Quadruples! (1,163 monthly organic visits)
The reason we set reasonable goals, like 15% growth, is it sets reasonable expectations for the short term while setting us up for long-term success. Forget about instant gratification results. Few ever accomplish massive growth quickly, and it's usually a matter of luck.
Instead, set yourself up for long-term success just in case luck isn't on your side. If you do digital marketing correctly, your results should always be compounding.
The reality is, for a company with small organic traffic like this, we can usually grow much faster than 15% the first few months. But growing at 40-50% is not sustainable. Setting a realistic goal of 15%, even when it seems so low a goal for the first 90 days, is a smart thing to do.
Under-promise and over-deliver. If you are expecting 15% and get 35% you over-deliver. But in month 6, when you drop back down to 18-20% growth, you are not under-delivering. You are still exceeding goals because you set them based on long-term reality, not just short-term wins.
A farmer can't base his harvest projections on only the low-hanging fruit.
Grab a SODA
After you have solidified your goal for your digital marketing campaign, you need to put an actionable strategy together.
I call this the SODA - Strategy, Objectives, Deliverables, and After Action Review.
Strategy - Overview of the Marketing Plan
There are four W's you need to tackle in the strategy phase: Who, What, Why, and When.
Who: Which persona will you target for your digital marketing campaign. This will have an impact on everything and should be decided first.
What: What will affect the target persona to accomplish your goal? Do they enjoy blog posts, or do they prefer videos? Do they respond to remarketing ads or do you need to attract new visitors in this persona bracket?
For some of our clients, this is as simple as X number of SEO blog posts in a three month period. For others, it can include remarketing ads, lead nurturing campaigns, etc. So figure out what will drive the results you need, and those will become your deliverables in the next couple phases of SODA.
Why: Why will they care about your marketing message for this campaign? Knowing this will give you a head start on building on-ramps to the buyers journey where dead ends otherwise would appear. Why would your target persona respond to marketing from your company?
Answer this question, and then give them exactly that.
When: How long will this digital marketing strategy remain in place? Are you working on a yearly, quarterly or monthly strategy?
The longer the timespan, the deeper the first 3 W's should go. For a 12-month strategy, you need a comprehensive who and what review, as you will be focusing on all customers.
For Lean Labs, we stick to quarterly strategies and goals, with an eye on long-term results. We create our quarterly strategies and goals based on what we think we can accomplish, keeping in mind how that will affect our yearly projections.
Objectives - The Metrics for Success
Think of objectives as the how you are going to accomplish your goal. What steps do you have to take to see that goal accomplished?
These are your objectives.
You know who you want to reach, what will impact them the most, and why they will care. You have also set a time period whereby you will use this information to reach the ultimate goal. Now you need to figure out what your metrics for success are.
For our example, it was 15% growth in organic traffic, month over month. To do this we decide in the strategy phase, what will impact our target audience most, and why. If that is Google search results, the main deliverable will be blog posts. So our metrics for success would be, not only the traffic we generate, but the amount of articles we can publish as well.
Example Quarterly Objectives:
- 15% mo/mo growth
- 45 blog posts published (15 each month)
- 3% Click Through Rate on Blog CTA's
- 3 CTA Offers (1 each month)
Deliverables - Putting the Marketing Plan in Action
In this phase, you will be focusing on what you are actually doing to accomplish the objectives. This may be content, ads, emails, social media posts, events, etc.
For our example, we want to grow organic traffic, so we will focus on content. We need a lot of blog posts focused on the questions our target personas are asking.
So this is what we would create for this phase in a simple organic traffic campaign:
- A list of 45 blog topics/titles, targeted to popular SEO search terms.
- 3 eBook titles focused on the Top of the Funnel (TOFU) for lead generating CTA offers.
Making a Crafting Plan
Once you know what you want to create, you have to put a "when" and "who" to it. Assign writers, or let them choose the ones they want, and attach a due date.
So many times I have failed to put dates on a topic plan, and arrived at the end with none of them created. Assigning a due date, and holding every stakeholder accountable for that date, is the only way to assure yourself that your marketing plan stays on track.
If you have a video in your digital marketing content strategy:
- Who will write the script?
- When will they complete the first draft?
- Who is responsible for reviewing the draft?
- How quickly do they need to submit their feedback?
- When will the writer complete the final draft?
- Where will the video be shot?
- Who will shoot the video?
- Who is the talent for the video?
- Who is going to edit and produce the final video?
- When will that publishable video be completed?
- Who is going to upload the video?
- When will they publish the video to the public?
The same goes for every piece of content you create.
Getting the Digital Strategy Rolling
Put the process in place with dates assigned. Then, the job of herding cats to get each deliverable completed and published on-schedule will be much easier.
At this point, you are in the action phase. You've done a strategy, you've marked your objectives, and you have assigned the job of creating the deliverables. Now, all you have to do is drive that strategy to completion.
Don't start second-guessing yourself mid-plan. Unless things are going horrendous, stay on course and be patient. Too many people abandon well-laid plans because they struggle with fear and confidence.
You spent a lot of time in making this plan, drive it home!
But your job doesn't end there!
After Action Review
Once your digital marketing campaign is finished, it's time to grade it. Look at your objectives and goals - did you fall short?
- Why did you fall short?
- What could have you done to make up the difference?
- What did you learn that you will implement into the next digital marketing strategy?
Doing a comprehensive review of what you created, the impact it had, and how it met with expectations is the best way to improve. If you hit your goal of 10% growth month over month, you can learn to improve so that your next goal might be higher.
The only way to be sure you improve is to measure what you did and learn from it.
What Makes a Successful Digital Marketing Strategy?
A successful strategy is one that allows you to meet your goals. You must keep your goals challenging, yet reachable.
Remember, if a goal is unreasonable, it's not a goal; it's a dream. Dream goals set you up for one thing: failure.
If your goal is unrealistic, you won't achieve it. If you don't achieve it, you will always be marketing from panic-mode.
When you learn to find that balance between doable and challenging, you can then start to effectively grade your marketing performance. 10% month-over-month growth is attainable for the vast majority of businesses. If you're getting 7% before doing your marketing, 10% isn't that much of an improvement.
If you try to impress your superiors by proposing 40% growth, your boss might be impressed with your plan, but he's not going to be happy with your results. Once you and your superiors can operate in the world of reality, push yourself and set challenging goals. When you fall short, you can learn from it and improve.