An effective digital marketing strategy helps you drive business growth by expanding and reinforcing your customer engagement in the most competitive online arenas. But every strategy has its own unique advantages, limitations, and ROI. In this article, we’ll look at some specific examples and explain how to build a comprehensive digital marketing strategy that delivers measurable results.
In this digital marketing strategy guide, you’ll discover:
- Understanding digital marketing strategy
- 11 types of digital marketing strategy
- How to build a digital marketing strategy
- Digital marketing strategy guidance
- Frequently asked questions
Marketing strategy vs. marketing tactics.
The term digital marketing strategy often is confused with other related concepts — a true marketing strategy is a comprehensive gameplan that outlines how you’ll reach your target audience and convert them into paying customers. It serves as a blueprint that guides you toward your organization’s unique marketing goals.
Marketing tactics are the specific actions you’ll take to implement your marketing strategy. These may include:
- Writing blog posts
- Responding to customers on social media
- Sending emails
- Designing advertisements.
Marketing strategy vs. marketing campaign.
While a marketing campaign goes together with your marketing strategy, it’s important to understand the distinction between the two. A marketing strategy looks at the big picture.
It determines your overall business goals, your customers’ goals, and how you plan to achieve both. A marketing campaign is a promotion that’s designed to achieve one specific objective under your strategy, rather than your overall business goals.
A marketing campaign usually comes with a specific start and end date. You may launch a campaign to promote a new product, generate more traffic, or attract a new customer demographic.
There are many digital marketing strategies out there. Some deliver better results than others, so we’ll examine the 11 most effective digital marketing strategies used in our current industry.
1. Inbound marketing.
Inbound marketing refers to the whole ecosystem of strategies, tools, and tactics that a marketer uses to convert a website visitor into a paying customer. It includes:
- Content marketing
- Email marketing
- Lead nurturing
- Marketing automation
- Website optimization
- Website analytics.
Inbound marketing is an overall approach to attracting, qualifying, nurturing, and delighting customers and prospects. It is not a one-off or something that is deployed quickly or temporarily; rather, it is focused on a long-term relationship with customers.
Why use inbound marketing?
- It's affordable. Inbound marketing can save you money while leaving you with a higher ROI. You’ll target a specific group of people rather than anyone and everyone with the hope that you’ll be successful.
- Trust and credibility. When prospects and customers do their own research and discover that your content answers their questions, your business is positioned as a trustworthy industry expert rather than just a sales-hungry entity.
- Relationship focus. Through inbound marketing, you can build trusted relationships that not only turn into sales but create repeat customers. Inbound marketing content drives quality traffic to your website and provides visitors with valuable content that encourages them to convert in every phase of the marketing funnel.
2. Content marketing.
Content marketing is focused on answering people’s questions and truly helping them through content rather than interrupting them with unsolicited promotions. It includes content such as blog posts, landing pages, videos, podcasts, infographics, white papers, eBooks, case studies, and more.
In most cases, content marketing has several goals. You may use it to:
- Increase brand awareness
- Improve brand loyalty
- Educate your target audience
- Convert and nurture leads.
Savvy marketers create content that’s ideal for multiple user personas in all stages of the sales funnel. For example, a user who is unaware of your brand and found your website through organic search needs different content than a prospect who is almost ready to buy. You’ll need to understand your buyers' journeys and come up with unique content that addresses their needs every step of the way.
Why use content marketing?
- Strong relationships with customers. Content marketing gives you the chance to build a relationship with prospects and customers over time. It also nudges them toward the finish line, making it more likely that they'll choose you over your competitors when they're ready to purchase.
- Better SEO. Quality content will significantly improve your website SEO, so you can enjoy more organic website traffic that turns visitors into buyers.
- Increased brand authority. When you produce interesting, educational content, you’ll be able to position yourself as an authoritative source in your industry. Your target audience will then turn to you for solutions to any problems they may have.
Account based marketing (ABM) is a powerful B2B marketing strategy that targets specific accounts you select. It’s intended to help sales and marketing teams move prospects through the sales funnel quickly. With ABM, you target the accounts that are most important to you.
Why use account-based marketing?
- Personalization. ABM does not take a generic approach to marketing. Instead, it creates personalized messaging for target accounts. You use what you know about your customer and tailor your campaign to meet their particular needs.
- Collaboration. With ABM, sales and marketing teams work together to identify key accounts and design personalized campaigns for them. ABM encourages teamwork as teams focus on moving accounts through the sales pipeline.
- Shorter sales cycles. The B2B sales process is often slow because there are multiple stakeholders involved in making a final purchase decision. With ABM, the sales cycle is expedited because the primary decision maker, and all other relevant prospects, can be nurtured simultaneously with content created specifically for them.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing your website and your content in order to achieve higher rankings in search engines and increase the amount of organic traffic to your site. It involves a variety of tactics, like:
- Creating high-quality content
- Optimizing content around keywords and user needs
- Incorporating meta information
- Ensuring your website is optimized for search engines.
Ultimately, SEO strives to bring in the right visitors organically to drive more leads and sales.
Why use search engine optimization?
- Higher conversion rates. An optimized website is fast, easy-to-use, and compatible with all devices. Which means it’s more likely to convert users and leave you with loyal customers.
- Increased brand awareness. If your content ranks highly in search results, you’ll be able to build brand awareness and trust with visitors. They’ll be more inclined to purchase your products and services than they would if you didn’t have a good web presence.
- Long-term cost savings. Once a piece of content is created, it should attract and build increasing traffic over time. You'll still need to produce quality content on an ongoing basis, but you’ll be able to target users who are actively looking for your products and services without an ongoing monetary investment.
5. Social media marketing.
Social media marketing uses social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram to:
- Promote your content, products or services
- Build brand awareness and visibility
- Gain fans or followers
- Engage current and prospective customers
- Drive traffic to your website.
It requires an ongoing advertising spend and, most of the time, a website landing page designed specifically for users from that ad spend. As soon as your advertising spend ends, the website traffic, likes, and followers end as well.
Why use social media marketing?
- Cost-effective marketing. With a relatively low budget, you can use social media marketing to expose your audience to your brand even when they’re not thinking about it. You will, however, need to incorporate A/B testing, or some other form of optimization, in order to get the most out of your ad spend and achieve high conversion rates.
- Audience interaction. About 45% of the world's population uses social media, and most of them use it about three hours per day. Choose the right channel(s), do some research on how the advertising platform works, and take advantage of the opportunity to interact directly with your audience.
- Improved brand loyalty. Research indicates that 71% of people who have a positive experience with a brand on social media are likely to recommend that brand to friends and family.
6. Email marketing.
Email marketing is the practice of sending promotional and informational emails to build relationships with your audience, convert prospects into buyers, and turn one-time buyers into loyal fans of your brand.
These emails may discuss exclusive deals, promote website content, upcoming sales, or general messages on the behalf of your business.
Why use email marketing?
- Traffic to your website. Your emails should contain links to pages on your website. Key performance indicators include the open rate (how many recipients opened your email) and the click-through rate (the ratio of users who click on a link in the email to the number of users who opened the email).
- Cost effective. Compared to other marketing strategies like direct mail, SEM or SMM, email marketing usually is cost-effective. Your investment will include a subscription to email marketing software that sends thousands of emails simultaneously, and the cost of someone to administer the program.
- Delivers targeted messages. Everyone on an email list has opted-in to receive information. Which means: They want to hear from you! By further segmenting your list, you can deliver super-targeted information that is likely to be well-received.
7. PPC advertising.
Pay-per-click advertising or PPC is a strategy in which you (the advertiser) pay every time a user clicks on one of your online ads. It’s often done through Google Ads, Bing Ads, or other search engines, and it can be an effective way to reach people who are searching for terms related to your business.
However, costs can range from relatively inexpensive, to thousands of dollars per month, depending on the size and scope of your campaign. And, when a campaign is discontinued, the traffic generated by that campaign is also discontinued.
When users click on pay-per-click ads, they are directed to dedicated landing pages that encourage them to take a certain action:
- Make a purchase
- Complete a form
- Download a report, or similar.
If you implement a PPC campaign, your primary goal will likely be to increase sales or leads.
Why use PPC?
- Easy tracking. With a PPC platform like Google Ads, you’ll be able to track how many people view your ads as well as how many click on them and what percentage of them convert. You'll know instantly how your campaigns perform.
- Controlled spend. PPC advertising is pay as you go. You’ll be able to change or pause ad campaigns that are underperforming, and you don’t have to commit to a certain advertising spend.
- Instant results. Other marketing strategies like SEO and content marketing take time to work. PPC advertising, however, offers a fast way to set up a campaign and get results right away.
8. Video marketing.
Video used to promote your products, services, and brand may include product demos, interviews with thought leaders in your industry, customer testimonials, or how-to videos.
You can add videos to your website, PPC landing pages, or social media outlets to encourage more conversions and sales.
KPIs may include:
- Engagement. Time spent watching the video.
- View count. How many times it was watched.
- Click-through rate. How many users clicked through to the website.
- Conversion rate. Number of leads, prospects, or customers content generates.
Why use video marketing?
- Improved SEO. Marketers are 53 times more likely to end up on the first page of Google results if they utilize a video on their website, because including a video in a website improves SEO, which improves the page's rank.
- Increased conversion rates. When marketers include video on a landing page, it can increase conversion rates by up to 34%.
- Improved brand association. In addition to better conversion rates, brand association increases 139% after watching a video. When consumers watch a video, 92% share that video with others.
9. Online (and in-person) events.
There’s nothing like an event to create buzz around a product. Of course, trade shows have always been a thing, most notably the International CES tech show. But Apple redefined such events for an online audience with its series of high-profile iPhone and Mac launches throughout the 2010s and into the 2020s, often watched by up to 1.8 million people.
It’s unlikely you’ll reach such engagement levels, but there are nevertheless lessons to learn, whether you’re using an event to launch a product, service, or new business.
Why use online events?
- Build anticipation. Use social posts ahead of the live event to create buzz about what you might be launching. Consider the way Apple teases small details of its new iPhone, such as a photo of small section of the device, in the days before.
- Showcase your product. If you’ve dedicated your live event to one product, then that product will be the focus of people’s attention. Use that attention to tell stories about its features in the same way Steve Jobs once did for Apple products.
- Stimulate conversation. Run a live stream of the launch, push out a press release and create a hashtag of the event to get people talking about your product. Consider how Apple uses hashtags like #AppleEvent to trend on Twitter.
10. Chatbot and live chat marketing.
Chatbots and messaging apps have become more common in the past decade and are now seen as a valuable marketing, as well as customer service, tool. Some 1.4 billion people who use messaging apps are happy to speak with chatbots. Brands use chatbots to:
- Deal with customer complaints
- Answer questions about products
- Promote live events
But despite these different uses it’s worth considering research from chatbot platform Drift. It says the number one predicted use for a chatbot is ‘getting a quick answer in an emergency so perhaps keep your chatbots simple.
Why use chatbots?
- Provide quick answers. People go online with a task in mind. They want an answer fast. Chatbots can help people to get quick answers and resolve complaints, which can have a positive impact on brand sentiment.
- Enhance customer experience. People told Drift they would use a chatbot to ‘get detailed explanations’ and to ‘find a human customer services assistant. Both help to improve a customer’s experience with your brand.
- Sell your products. A chatbot might seem an odd place to convert sales. But 18% of people said they would buy a basic item through a chatbot, while 22% would use one to explore ideas for purchases.
11. Earned media.
Put simply, earned media is coverage of your business, products or events written by a third party and which you have not paid for. In digital marketing, it’s best described as PR which you outreach to the media. When the content is picked-up by a publication and written up for their own site, that’s earned media.
Examples of earned media include:
- Tactical PR, such as newsjacking topical events
- Traditional press releases on company news
- Infographics based on survey data
- Creative asset such as an interactive site.
Why use earned media?
- It’s free. Once you’ve paid your staff or an agency to outreach your content, any coverage you secure from websites is free. This makes it a cost-effective digital strategy and frees up budget for future campaigns.
- It’s scalable. Earned media can be delivered for any budget. From a simple tactical piece, such as issuing quotes to a newswire on a topical issue, to a bigger creative campaign, such as a site build or conducting a survey.
- It’s good SEO. Getting backlinks to your site from trusted publishers and institutions can be worth its weight in gold. Google ranks sites by their DA (Domain Authority) and sites with higher DAs, such as colleges and news sites, can help to improve your own authority.
Now it’s time to build a digital marketing strategy, you need to pull everything together. Regardless which of our 11 digital marketing strategies you have chosen, establishing goals, defining audiences and establishing what you need to create is vital.
1. Set goals and objectives.
Before you decide on a digital marketing strategy, establish and document your short- and long-term goals. After you decide on your strategy, outline and document specific objectives so you'll know if your strategy is working. Make sure your goals and objectives are SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely).
- Goal. Increase awareness of our widgets among our target audience.
- Strategy (how you'll achieve the goal). Use content marketing to persuade buyers that our widgets are the best in the market by creating content for at least two user personas in every step of the sales funnel.
- Objective (how you'll know if the strategy is working). Achieve a 25% increase of downloads of our widget whitepapers and eBooks each quarter and boost email subscribers by 50% in 6 months.
Document all your goals, strategies, and objectives so that you can refer to them when it’s time to measure success.
2. Consider buyer personas.
It’s impossible to create an effective digital marketing strategy unless you understand the people you’re trying to target. That’s where buyer personas come in. Buyer personas are fictional people who represent the traits of those you’d like to buy your products or services.
Personas should be rooted in data and research. Using your own intuition to create personas with no data behind it can lead to the wrong focus. So that means you need to speak with your customers through in-person, app, or telephone interviews and surveys.
Things to feed into your personas:
- Location. You can use web analytics tools to see where your customers are shopping from.
- Income/occupation. Ask customers if they’re happy to disclose details of their income and occupation.
- Hobbies/interests. Online forms or focus group-style sessions could help to show what people are interested in. While you could also use search trends to explore popular hobbies for certain demographics.
- Goals/aspirations. What do your customers want? What drives them? Focus groups and surveys can help you to establish this. Existing consumer reports/data are another good source.
- Challenges/pain points. What is it that gets in the way of them achieving their goals? Speaking to customers as well as your own sales teams can help you to understand this.
Once you’ve created several personas, you’ll find it easier to market to different types of buyers and cater to their needs.
3. Audit your assets.
Gain a thorough understanding of what your business already has by documenting your current digital assets. Then, dive deep into each one and rank it from most-effective to least-effective. Once you do, you’ll know which assets need to be improved, and which ones need to be rebuilt from scratch.
Let’s look at the example of an SEO focused content audit. Key elements include:
- Crawl the site. Gather all the URLs across your blogs, category pages, and other relevant pages.
- Identify gaps. From the list of URLs, try to establish any clear content gaps based on your personas and campaign objectives.
- SEO insights. Work with an SEO to gauge performance of the existing URLs and also new opportunities from keyword research.
- Compile the data. Pull all this data into a spreadsheet so you can see all the key information presented side by side.
- Create tasks. Compile recommendations for improving existing pages and also a plan for the new pages you need to create.
4. Plan your content creation resource.
To stay with the example of a content marketing campaign, once you have established what needs to be created, you’ll need to establish how that work will be executed and delivered. This generally means considerations around:
- Budget. How much money do you have to spend on this campaign? Is it enough to create all the assets in your audit or do you need to compromise?
- Resource. Do you have the right skillsets to create this in house? Or do you need to appoint an agency?
- Tech. Does the campaign require any specialist software? For example, a content management system or personalization tool?
- Deadlines. How soon does this content need to be created? Even if you have in-house resource will they have time?
Once you’ve considered the above alongside your objectives, personas, and audit you can finalize your plan for exactly what content you will create and any additional resource you’ll need.
5. Decide how to distribute your content.
With personas confirmed, content creation under way, and resource in place, the next thing to decide is how you will distribute your content. The main consideration is whether you consider the content to be:
- Owned. Channels owned by you, include website, blog, email, social.
- Earned. Content others share, like, comment on or write about.
- Paid. Content you have paid to promote, such as PPC and influencers.
Most digital marketing strategies will use a blend of each of these approaches. For example, using SEO-focused blog content on owned channels such as their website, earned social shares and coverage with PR-focused content and putting budget behind paid influencer content.
6. Pinpoint your KPIs.
Any digital marketing strategy should be measured continuously. Identify key performance indicators or KPIs, which are measurable values that gauge the effectiveness of your strategy and tactics. Some examples of KPIs include:
- Digital conversion rates
- Cost per lead
- Returning website visitors
- Click through rates
- Customer lifetime values.
Once your digital marketing campaign concludes you can hold a wash-up meeting with all relevant parties to share data around its successes and failures, which can feed into future digital marketing strategy planning.
Digital marketing is constantly evolving, and it can be difficult to keep up with the latest trends. It can also be tough to create engaging content and break through the clutter. After all, there may be dozens or hundreds of brands promoting their offerings to your target audience.
To ensure your digital marketing strategy drives results:
- Create content that provides answers to your audience's questions or needs
- Leverage your network and expertise
- Keep an eye on what your competitors are doing
- Subscribe to Google Alerts and industry blogs on digital marketing.
Also, don't be afraid to try something new, or ditch something that's not working. One of the best things about a digital marketing strategy is that it is immediately measurable. Double down on what's working, and end what is not working.
What is the most effective digital marketing strategy?
The most effective digital marketing strategy is the one which aligns best with your brand, audience, and campaign objectives. This could be a content marketing strategy which uses content such as blogs and whitepapers to engage audiences, or an event-based strategy which creates buzz around product launches and trade shows to earn media and grow engagement. There are many other options too, and brands will often combine several approaches into their overall digital marketing strategy.
What is digital marketing?
Digital marketing is an umbrella term for marketing that is conducted in the online and digital space. Its aim is to convert browsers into buyers and eventually loyal long-term customers. But whereas traditional marketing uses print media, in-person events, and TV advertising to achieve its goals, digital marketing uses content marketing, PPC advertising, social media, and more.
What is a definition of digital marketing strategy?
A good definition of digital marketing strategy is that it is a strategy put in place by a brand to align with set objectives and goals to attract a specific type, or types, of customer using a combination of marketing techniques. These techniques include content marketing, social media marketing, earned marketing, and more.
Learn more about effective digital marketing strategies.
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