How To Create The Best Digital Marketing Strategy


This week we’re thrilled to host Phillip Twyford to offer some of his fantastic insights. Phillip is the Head of Web and Digital for Mespil Group and writes his own personal blog as The Curly Marketer.

You can connect with Phillip on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Youtube and Instagram.

This is one of the most comprehensive and informative pieces we’ve seen online for digital strategy. Anyone involved with an SME who’s exploring digital simply needs to read this.

How To Create The Best Digital Marketing Strategy

When beginning any activity, whether it is a full brand plan for a client, or preparing the match tactics for your local Sunday football team, you need a plan of action that is going to allow you to achieve the objectives and goals you have set.

The use of Digital Media by business, is constantly increasing. Hence many companies, especially in the SME sector, are now looking to choose from the vast array of social media channels. They want to promote and engage with their customers while introducing themselves to new communities.

However, like any traditional marketing strategy that may have utilised channels such as press, radio and TV, the use of digital marketing also needs a well thought out, and detailed plan, to ensure everyone working on the business knows what route to take.

When it comes to deciding whether you need a plan, I will always advise that the following saying is almost guaranteed. “Fail to plan, then plan to fail”

So, let’s get started as to how to create the best digital marketing strategy.

There are 8 key steps you to need take which I have listed below which are as follows:

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Situation Analysis
  3. Audience
  4. Objectives
  5. Channels
  6. Action Plan
  7. Budget
  8. Measurement

1 Executive Summary

This section of the document lays out for the reader a history about the product, brand, company etc, and why the decision to look at embarking on the use of digital marketing. It also gives the reader an initial insight into what each of the remaining 7 sections will detail for further review.

I always see the Executive Summary as the background, an introduction, in which it whets the appetite of the reader as to what is to be expected as the reader progresses through the document content.  It should ultimately detail why the decision to create the strategy was taken in the first place, and what is the rationale and justification for using digital marketing.

2 Situational Analysis

As the name suggests this requires a very in-depth review as to the current situation that the business faces at present. I would always advise clients to review and capture the following key information under this section.

Current clients and prospects
Current product offering
What marketing channels and strategy is currently in place
A detailed competitor analysis
SWOT Analysis

Current Clients And Prospects

I believe it is very important to review who exactly the business is working with, as well as the prospects that have been or are going to be targeted.

By doing this it will allow you to begin to segment down different clients into different groups, review what channels of communication worked with each of these groups, and what potential digital channels could be used.

Current Product Offering

Detailing all the products and services currently been offered by the business, is a very valuable exercise as it allows you to start to formulate your thoughts and ideas as to what products and services would be best suited to digital media.

It is also a good exercise, to re-acquaint yourself again with all your product offerings as some businesses can fall into a trap of purely focussing on just market leaders, when, with the right strategy in place and some time and focus given, other lesser performing products could become star performers in their own right in a digital capacity.

What Marketing Channels and Strategy Is Currently In Place

Conducting a full review and audit of what channels the business uses to market with currently is very important. By doing this it allows you to really see if there are some channels that should be completely dropped in favour of digital, or could they be better utilised as part of an integrated approach.

If the company has a website how does it perform, does it even have Google Analytics running in the background, or is it purely acting as an online brochure with no focus on page ranking and SEO.

For example if your business decided to set up a blog but had not posted to it in months, by reviewing its performance it will become clear that this medium is not being utilised properly and is providing no value to your clients and potential visitors to your website.

A Detailed Competitor Analysis

Reviewing and understanding what your competition is doing in the market place is vital. Do they use digital media, what channels are they using, what is their content about and does it perform. Are they appearing more professionally and can you identify opportunities and potential threats?

Where does their website rank when you conduct web searches using industry relevant key words that your customer base would use to look for your service, and even more important where does your website rank.

Setting up a Google Alert for your competitors names, products and your own business is very worthwhile as you can essentially be emailed search results based on these choices.

SWOT Analysis

In a SWOT analysis you are detailing what are the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to the business specifically from a digital perspective.

By understanding your business and the market under each of these headings, you can begin to specifically see where and how digital could be implemented and what the risks to the business are, if you don’t begin to use digital channels to engage in the market place.

3 Audience

Who really are your customers and your target audience? Under this section it is important to really define the personalities and make up of the people who do business with you, as well as those you want to attract.

An excellent tool to utilise to help you really generate a profile is to create buyer personas.

Hubspot define a buyer persona as a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers. They rightly recommend that when creating your buyer persona(s), consider including customer demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, and goals. The more detailed you are, the better.

I personally like to create characters, gives them names, detail where they live, their hobbies, their job, personality traits and ultimately define what messaging approach would capture their interest about a product or service.

Some customers may want creative solutions to their problems, whereas other customer types may be more focussed on cost, security of purchase etc, so this quite obviously requires a different messaging approach.

Once you have defined and laid out your customer personas, you need to map or align the persona, based on their core goals/objectives, against the correct value proposition and digital channel.

For example if your client base is very corporate driven, and their main goal is to ensure they get solutions specific to their problems with quality production,

you would need to ensure that the value proposition, in essence the key feature in your message to attract this audience, is driven down a route of promoting traits of your business, such as structured planning process and technological expertise etc.

For such an audience you would potentially then utilise email, inbound web marketing, Linkedin and Twitter as the best channels to map against this type of persona.

4 Objectives

The next part of the strategy is extremely important and it is focussed on setting your objectives and selecting the channels best suited.

An excellent tool to use when setting objectives and mapping to the appropriate channels is the RACE model developed by +Dave Chaffey and the team at +Smart Insights.

In essence RACE stands for the following: Reach, act, convert and engage.

Essentially using this tool, you define under the 4 headings above, the objectives, goals, channels to be used and the key performance indicators

(KPI’s) based on the customer life cycle stage your target audience is at.

For example, at the reach stage your objectives are very much trying to build awareness, drive people to your website and ultimately begin to create an online presence.

The goals you then set yourself could be along the lines of increase web traffic on a daily basis to your site, and grow online requests for quotes via your contact page.

The channels you may decide to use could be pay per click, inbound and content marketing, Twitter, Facebook etc, depending on whether you are targeting business to business or business to consumer.

The subsequent KPI’s that you would then set to see if what you are doing is working could be a 20% increase in web traffic to your site each month, 50 new business quotes per week and ranking on page 1 of organic search within 6 months.

However, when you are at the convert step your customers are at a different stage in the customer journey with you, and hence your objectives, goals, channels and KPI’s will change.

You now want to be at a point in the relationship where you are building a loyal customer base and community that is actively returning for repeat business and becoming advocates.

Your goals could be that social sharing and linking to your site is increasing, along with more repeat business becoming automatic as orders are placed bypassing a quote mechanism.

Your channel mix will now focus on the development of a highly personalised, engaging and relevant customer experience in which content is very targeted and KPI’s are set around open rates and clear calls to action metric objectives.

As you can see how you set objectives and redefine them as your audience grows with you is paramount to ensure that your strategic efforts will reap the best rewards possible.

5 Channels

Within digital marketing there is a vast array of channels that can be used and there are new ones popping up every day. Here are some of the main ones that are at the marketers disposal:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Linkedin
  • Google+
  • Instagram
  • Snapchat
  • Pinterest
  • Blogging
  • Email
  • Content Marketing
  • You Tube
  • Podcasts
  • Display
  • SEO
  • Pay Per Click

I won’t go into each of them in this post but they are all very different in their own right, and first and foremost your selection will need to be based on your target audience, the type of business and products you offer, your budget, your objectives, and the resources at your disposal.

For example if you are a business to business company I would argue that Facebook may not be the best place for you, but Linkedin could be a gold mine where your audience hangs out.

Blogging, creatiing ebooks and focussing on content marketing to attract people to your site is essential these days, but if you are a one person operation, trying to blog 5 times a week and being on multiple channels may not be feasable in the short term.

My advice to you is that when selecting channels always be mindful of your target audience and where they reside. Put them at the heart of your strategy not where you want to be. Ernest Barbaric does a very good job in this post to give you more insights in how best to choose the right mix.

6 Action Plan and Channels

In the RACE model I said that this stood for Reach, Act, Convert and Engage, and that as a prospect goes through each of these stages of interaction with you and your business, the objectives, goals and channels to be used would alter somewhat.

To best explain this let’s look at how a strategy would change from when you are at a customer awareness stage right through to acquisition and then retention.

Customer Awareness

At this stage just as the name suggests you are trying to bring your business to the attention of your target audience and begin to whet their appetite for you products and services so to speak.

Therefore, at this stage you will more than likely begin to look at your website, does it provide an excellent user experience whether viewed on a mobile, tablet or laptop.

Is it designed and written for your potential customers, not for you or what your directors like, and have you done proper key word analysis using the Google Key Word planner to find the most relevant words that your target audience would use to find your website.

Taking the time to utilise Google Webmaster tools on a regular basis will also allow you to ensure your website is optimised and that core SEO practices of accurate title tags, descriptive meta tags, alt tags and key words for pages are all included to ensure that visitors to your site will enjoy the best experience possible and hence will want to return again and again.

To support the awareness building consider Twitter and Linkedin for business to business, and Facebook for business to consumer, where you can begin to share interesting information that the target audience would deem relevant and engaging, and ultimately begins to establish you and your business as the thought leaders and your website as the place to go for answers and solutions.

Customer Acquisition

At this stage you now want to start converting visitors to customers, and an excellent way to do this is by way of content marketing through downloads and give-aways.

On your website having Ebooks, helpful guides and whitepapers for download on receipt of a name, email and company name, allows you share valuable information that your target audience will appreciate, while at the same time allowing you build up an email database of potential interested prospects.

Now the use of highly targeted email campaigns based on download analytics or query requests, can now allow you to begin to tailor and send the most relevant and most engaging content to your prospects, further increasing the chance of purchase and beginning to sow the seeds of a relationship.

However, a word of caution when it comes to email and data gathering.  With GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) coming into law for all businesses who deal with European data on the 25 May 2018 make sure you have very clear permissions around your email capture so that new subscribers are fully aware as to what they give you consent to contact about when they give their email.

For about GDPR visit the Irish Data Protection Commissioners site here.

Customer Retention

At this stage you have built up a customer base loyal to you. Now the real hard work begins to ensure they remain with you and become advocates of your business.

On your web site you may decide to create an interactive customer web lounge where customers can log in and gain exclusive information and offers just for them.  You could create a special Facebook groups for your brand advocates to share product offers, give exclusives and get feedback and ideas.

You may also now decide to use Google Plus where proactive customer service sessions can take place on a designated hangout just for that client, and a twitter chat can be utilised to present and discuss ongoing proactive ideas that the client can bring to their business.

Obviously, this is just a very top line look at how your action plan would change and develop as your relationship with your prospect goes from exploration to advocate.

However, a key tool you must employ to ensure your social media efforts happen when you want them to happen is the creation and utilisation of a Content or Editorial Calendar.

In essence this is a detailed plan of what is going to happen each day, each week, each month etc when you are implementing your strategy.

For example if you decide to start a blog on your site you need to plan out by each target persona what posts you are going to post, on what days and at what times.

The same would go for your Twitter feed and you would need to decide how many tweets per day, what times each day for tweets to be posted, and what topics would be focussed on relevant to your target audience.

By using an editorial calendar it will ensure you remain on track with your digital marketing efforts.

7 Budget

The beautiful thing about digital marketing is that measurement allows you to constantly iterate and tweak your communications, messages and delivery to achieve better responses.

However as you will no doubt agree, when your business is in the awareness stage and you are trying to drive traffic to your website and get better page ranking by Google, in the main it will take consistency, focus, time, effort and above all patience.

That is why I would recommend setting a budget for the first 6 months, so that your efforts at varying stages of your plan can be reviewed and changed accordingly.

By doing this it gives you more flexibility to reallocate budget from a channel not performing, to a channel that may end up performing much better than originally thought of, or you may find that your audience is looking for more video type content which you had not planned for, but may now have the flexibility to potentially take advantage of this information.

The key thing is to monitor performance of channel, spend and conversion rates to ensure that what you are doing is helping you achieve your return on investment objectives.

8 Measurement

There is no point utilising all of the digital media at your disposal, if you don’t actually know how your efforts are doing, are customers coming to your site, downloading and sharing your content, requesting quotes and ultimately becoming customers by way of purchase and repeat purchase.

Measuring everything is key and using the excellent Google Analytics on your website will allow you to see what is happening on each page, and allow you to set specific conversion goals especially for ecommerce and checkout pages.

For social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Linkedin check the analytics and insights for each of these platforms to see if patterns form around the type of content that resonates and the posting times.  You may find that video content in the morning is exactly what your audience wants so if you are posting text type content in afternoon now you can re-evaluate your content plan.

To give you more insight as to how important it is to look at the metrics of your digital marketing activities check out this excellent article from Co-Schedule.


At the start of this post I said that “Fail to plan, then plan to fail”

It’s nothing fancy but acutely accurate.  If you don’t have a plan and a roadmap as to what you want your business to achieve and how you are going to get there your objectives will never be realised.

In this excellent piece by Dave Chaffey of Smart Insights he lays out 10 reasons you need a digital marketing strategy in 2017.  Point 1 is critical as it advises you will be directionless without one.

Imagine looking to drive to a destination but you had no map as to how to get there. Chances are you would drive round and round in circles never reaching where it was you wanted to get to.

It also very stark that at the start of this post by Dave he shared results from research that the Smart Insights team had done around the adoption of digital marketing by business.  As you will see in the image below what is very interesting is that 49% of respondents advised that they were doing doing digital marketing but had no plan in place.

I would hazard a guess that those businesses in that 49% group are not getting the best returns they could get from digital all because they have no plan.

So my final advice to you is this.  Don’t assume and say that a certain media does not, or will not work for your business.   Plan out and document your strategy ,and test and measurement until you find the right approach that fully resonates with your target audience.

Thanks for reading,

Phillip Twyford

Our sincere thanks to Phillip for his fantastic piece.

Phillip Twyford is the Head of Web and Digital for Mespil Group and writes his own personal blog as The Curly Marketer.

You can connect with Phillip on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Youtube and Instagram


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