What is digital marketing strategy?

What is digital marketing strategy (Image from AnswerThePublic.com http://answerthepublic.com/seeds/303973)

When I run executive training in Search and Social Media Marketing sessions among first things that I will be asked is, “what is a digital marketing strategy?”

A simple answer is difficult as my response will always start with the statement, “It depends!” However, when confronted with writing a book on Digital and Social Media Marketing we had to tackle this question head on. After endless discussions (and the occasional argument) with our 20 authors from institutions and organisations across Europe we are confident that we have the simple answer that many of my training delegates want to hear. However, even more importantly, we have also developed a straightforward, relevant and easily applicable digital marketing strategy template that be customised to most organisations – in the private, public and third sectors. We have called this digital marketing template the “Buyer Persona Spring”.

buyer persona spring

So, in two sentences, a digital marketing strategy is:

The long term aims (for the next 3 to 5 years) of an organisation are achieved through the setting of specific, defined business objectives. This is done by engaging the buyer persona through the integrated use of relevant channels, content and data as the focus for all activities.

The Buyer Persona Spring breaks down the key elements of a digital marketing strategy into five key aspects:

1. Your strategic business objectives

As a starting point, all the elements of a digital strategy must support and clearly link to the overall aims of an organisation. These priorities are realised through clear defined objectives that are themselves achieved with specific activities conducted over the period of the strategy. Your aims, objectives and marketing activities must all align and complement each other.

2. Your buyer persona

Once your organisation’s strategic objectives have been set the next step is to develop a buyer persona. Your buyer persona is essentially an abstraction of an idealised customer and the telling of their story. Ideally, a buyer persona has a name, photograph, demographic details and some background narrative including personal resistances and difficulties. These details help to understand the challenges that your organisation will face in engaging this buyer persona. Overcoming the challenge of connecting with your buyer persona is the key to the strategic success of your organisation.

In digital communications, these challenges can be predicted using tools such as answerthepublic.com. With tools of this type, we can see the kinds of questions people are asking in relation to a product or service that you might be offering. The ability to clearly identify favoured keywords and preferred channels all help to narrow down the key components of your digital marketing strategy sections: content, channels and data.

3. Content

Once you understand the needs of your buyer persona and your business objectives your next step is to define the content that will assist you in reaching out to your buyer persona. By researching and identifying existing content you can evaluate its quality and usefulness. This research can be done by reviewing your own web pages as well as social media profiles and recognising what is popular, what themes are persistently well received and what is not. Tools such as Google Analytics or similar can all assist you in performing this research.

Another approach is to review your competitors’ offerings to observe any patterns to their existing success. The “skyscraper” technique is based on the understanding that if certain content works well for your competitor you must produce something better. Once you have “better” content you have essentially built a taller skyscraper that your competitors must improve upon to gain an advantage. Ultimately, you need to learn what works for others without duplicating their offer. Focus on your own unique selling points and how you are differentiating your organisation overall. Be creative – it is a time to surprise as well as help your buyer persona.

Since you are creating a strategy, for the moment identifying the main themes or angles for your content is really all that is needed here.

4. Channels

Now that you have an understanding of the content you need, your buyer persona and your business objectives, the fourth element of your strategy is Channels. Channels for digital marketing most obviously include specific social media networks. To make your channels sub-strategy manageable it is possible to group networks by their type. If you review Customer Journey to Online Purchase data it is clear that channels can be grouped, for example, as “Social”, “Organic” or “Paid” search.

Beyond social media networks, other channels can also be very important to your buyer persona and part of their day-to-day activities. Email is a significant channel for many but it is often ignored in marketing strategies in favour of more exciting high-profile products.

To hone your digital marketing strategy towards success, know the channels – all the channels – that your buyer persona prefers. Focus your attention on these and avoid the temptation of being distracted by every new channel no matter how irrelevant it may be to your buyer persona.

5. Data

A strategy succeeds when there is measurable evidence of performance and there is the opportunity for the organisation to continuously innovate and improve. Data, the final element of your digital marketing strategy enables this to happen. The importance of knowing what is important from a strategic perspective will drive your monitoring activities and the reporting of “success” while also helping to refine the implementation of your strategy in the form of a continuous feedback loop.

As your organisation becomes more sophisticated with the manipulation and analysis of your data what you find will also become the basis for realising new digital business opportunities.

So, what is a digital marketing strategy? It still depends on the needs of your organisation, who you want to engage and how you will do this through specific content, channels and data.

Here is a short overview of the buyer persona spring from the Digital Olympus online conference:

Do you have any thoughts about developing a digital marketing strategy? Please share your views with us on Twitter by tagging them with #passion4digital