What is an Online Marketing Strategy?
Put simply, an online marketing strategy is the series of actions and processes, digital and otherwise, designed to ensure your business meets its goals using appropriately chosen online marketing channels.
This might sound a little daunting at first – but it’s not – honestly.
Your online marketing strategy simply defines what your goals are and what steps you need to take in order to achieve them. By its very nature an online marketing strategy will likely include multiple individual digital strategies, each with their own set of processes and goals.
Your online marketing strategy will neatly tie all of these elements together.
What are the elements of an Online Marketing Strategy?
When creating an effective online marketing strategy, you will need to evaluate and consider various elements of your digital “toolkit”. These will include:
- The “Who”
- Your goals and success criteria
- The digital marketing tools you’ll need
- Your existing digital channels and assets
With these established you will then need to consider the evaluation, planning and execution of:
- Your owned media campaigns
- Your earned media campaigns
- Your paid media campaigns
1: The “Who”
To be truly effective and actionable, and regardless of whether your overall marketing strategy is online, offline or omnichannel, you really need to know who you are talking to.
The danger here comes in making assumptions or skating too lightly over the surface. Doing so can render all your subsequent effort as meaningless – and potentially expensively so – therefore it really is worth taking the time to dive into the details, and to create your buyer personas.
Ideally, these persona(s) should be created from research gleaned from your target audience and could include direct or facilitated interviews and surveys. This process acts not only to give you some hard data on which to build your personas, it also has the halo effect of making you already present – and engaged – in the mind of your audience.
Who you ask and what information you ask of them will depend very much on your line of business – things such as whether you are B2B, B2C or a hybrid, and/or the cost and complexity of your product or services will influence who it is you need to contact.
As we discuss in our article Creative segmentation – going beyond the basics, creatively combining elements from the four pillars of segmentation will help you fine-tune and tweak what information you want to gather from your audience in order to create an effective persona or personas.
Of course, not all of the above elements will need to be used in your research – cherry pick the most relevant, and think creatively about what your goals are, and who it is that you will be talking to in order to achieve them. You can then tailor your research accordingly. Some information can be gleaned from web analytics tools, whilst others will require surveys or interviews to gather.
Always be mindful of how you ask for and collect sensitive information such as income and personal concerns, attitudes and motivation. People may be reluctant to offer this up online, so direct interviews might be the best approach for gathering this.
2: Your goals and success criteria
With this done we move onto goals and success criteria. It is vital that an online marketing strategy sits within, reflects, and compliments any and all the other strategies within a company. Your business will have overall goals and your online marketing strategy should always support those.
Equally, depending upon the size and complexity of your company, it may be that your online marketing strategy will necessarily need to compliment and be sensitive to the goals and processes of other departmental strategies within the group.
It is impossible that that your online marketing strategy will exist in a vacuum, therefore, whatever goals you set must compliment the overall goal(s) of the business.
What these goals and success criteria are will be entirely dependent upon your line of business.
3: The Digital Marketing Tools you require
For a goal to be meaningful, it needs to be measurable. This will require you to use the right kind of digital marketing tools to define what success actually looks like for your business, and what criteria will need to be met to ensure it.
MarketingPlatform offers a suite of tools to help you measure the success of your digital campaigns, and integrates with a raft of other solutions to deepen and enrich the data that is available to you that will help you measure and optimise your strategy
4: Your existing digital channels and assets
Start by building an overview of what you have at your disposal by thinking in terms of the owned, earned and paid media that exists within your business. Broadly, these break down as follows:
|Your website||Word-of-mouth exposure||Google Ads|
|Your social media||Guest posts on other sites||Paid social media posts|
|Blogs||PR campaigns||Sponsored posts on other site|
|Your imagery||Press mentions||PPC advertising|
|Your video content||Positive review||Display ads|
|Webinars||Social media shares||YouTube ads|
|Podcasts||Customer experience||Social media ads|
|Other owned content||Other earned content||Other paid content|
Once you have created this overview you will be able to see at a glance what is already at work for your business, and therefore what you immediately have at your disposal for your online marketing strategy.
Importantly this overview will also help inform you of what other material you may need to create in order to fulfil your goals and success criteria.
The online marketing strategy that you develop might include elements from one, two or all three channels. Once again, your goal(s) will inform what combination is the most appropriate for your strategy.
5: Evaluate and refine your owned media plan
As we mention above this is the content that you have created, owned and over which you have complete control. It is the beating heart of your digital marketing, and it is this that will drive the conversions needed for you to meet your goal(s).
Work out what of this existing content will help you meet these goals. Be focused here – really pay attention to what this content offers and how it can be used to meet your goals. Not every piece of content will be relevant, whilst other content might be easily repurposed for other use.
The most effective way to do this is by taking a simple three-step approach:
- Rate and rank the usefulness of the available content in relation to your goals. This way you can establish what works, and what misses the mark.
- Using your personas to identify the gaps in the available content, work out what is missing.
- Make a prioritised content plan to fill these gaps (including why you are creating the content).
For the strategy to be meaningful and measurable you should include budgetary information in this plan.
6: Evaluate and refined your earned media plan
Use tools such as Google Analytics and the reporting tools within MarketingPlatform to examine where your traffic is coming from and as above, rate and rank them according to effectiveness.
This will help you establish what kinds of earned media will the most efficient for you to use in meeting the goals of your online marketing strategy, and because this information is measurable (and based on historical data) it is particularly useful.
Once again use a three-step approach to formulate your plan:
- Rate and rank the usefulness of the earned media in relation to your goals. This way you can establish what works, and what misses the mark.
- Using your personas to identify what if anything is missing. Give consideration to things you have not tried.
- Make a prioritised plan for deployment.
For the strategy to be meaningful and measurable you should again always include budgetary information in this plan.
7: Evaluate and refine your paid media plan
If you are not already doing this as a matter of course, you will need to seriously consider making this a default process. Anything that involves spend must be constantly evaluated to ascertain its effectiveness. Broadly the same processes as we have outlined above come into play again here.
- Rate and rank the usefulness of the paid media across all platforms (Facebook, AdWords, Twitter, YouTube etc) in relation to your goals.
- Consider scrapping platforms that are not returning on investment.
- Prioritise the platforms according to their continuing usefulness.
Again, for the strategy to be meaningful and measurable you should include budgetary information in this plan.
8: Tie it all up neatly in a bow
If you’ve followed all of the steps above, you should be looking at what elements you will include in your online marketing strategy in order to achieve your goals.
You should now have before you:
- The “Who”
- Your goals and success criteria
- Your inventory of all your existing media (owned, earned & paid)
- Your effectiveness evaluation of all your existing media
- Your owned content plan (including material that needs to be created)
You now need to use these to refine your strategy into a single clear process document that covers what actions you are going to use to meet your goals.
There are plenty of online project management tools available that can help with this, but they all follow the same basic principles offered in a spreadsheet.
Whatever solution you decide to use we recommend using the above owned/earned/paid framework we use above. This will help you keep your strategy clearly focused.
The timeline for your strategy will depend on your business, but a 12-month focus is typical. Use the information that you have gathered about your inventory and content plan to create a step by step creation and implementation plan – this can be as simple as a broad month by month approach, or should you need it, a much more detailed week-by-week plan.
Whilst the very disparate nature of the needs and types of business make it impossible to create a one-sized-fits-all Online Marketing Strategy template, whatever final format your strategy takes, if you follow the steps above you will end up with a clear overview that is easily communicable and most importantly, easily and efficiently implemented.
That’s the point of a good strategy after all.
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