Digital Marketing Strategy and Starting Guide – Marketing is strategic. To succeed, you need highly focused goals. You need a framework for a scalable, replicable framework. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a beginner or an advanced marketer — this fact will always hold true. If you run without direction, you’ll end up wasting two of your company’s most valuable assets: time and money.
Step #1 of successful online marketing is an understanding of your company’s exact needs and goals. You need relentless self-discipline. And laser focus.
This chapter is going to take a drastically different approach from most marketing guides that you’ll read. We’re going to start backwards, with the lessons that most experienced marketers take years to learn. We believe that this approach is the best way to (1) move your organization forward while (2) saving time and (3) saving money.
Here’s what you need to know,before you even think about running your first online marketing campaign. This chapter will put you light-years ahead of the crowd.
Average marketers think in campaigns. They work all week, push out a campaign, then start again from scratch next week. That will only take you so far. To get to the next level, you need to start thinking in systems and build a marketing machine. This is the only way to 10x your growth and then 10x it again.
MARKETING STARTS WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS
Every marketing strategy should start with your customer base. Who are the people using your product? What do these individuals value, what do they feel, what products are they currently using, and what will it take to sign them on as paying customers?
Before jumping into your online marketing strategy, have a conversation with your existing customers.
How did they find out about your product or service? What was the process that transformed them from interested prospects into paying customers? What do your customers value or care about?
Chances are that the answers to these questions have little to do with whether your customers found your company online or in-person. What you’ll likely hear and find most compelling are stories about how your business solved some of your customers’ most pressing problems.
Marketing is about human-to-human relationships and can happen through any online or offline medium. At the end of the day, your customers probably won’t remember whether they found your company through a click on a Facebook ad or through a referral from a friend.
How have you found some of your favorite companies, products, and services?
DEVELOP YOUR CUSTOMER PERSONAS
There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all customer. Your buyers are highly diverse and will demonstrate their own unique preferences, personality traits, and needs. Your online marketing initiatives need to reach each and every one of these customer segments.
The first step to any marketing strategy is to establish your customer personas.
These are the behavioral, demographic, and psychological characteristics of your buyers. A quick way to get started is to complete the following worksheet.
START WITH THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS:
What are your typical customers’ roles? If you’re selling a B2B product or service, what are their job titles?
Examples for consumer brands include husband, wife, father, mother, aunt, uncle, grandmother.
Examples for B2B brands include IT manager, marketing manager CEO, business development manager, vice president, etc.
Do these individuals have decision-making authority? If yes, do they still consult others? If not, who has the final say?
Understand your customer personas on a personal level by pinpointing their key personality traits:
- Job title
- Where they’re located (city, suburb, rural)
Key professional attributes:
- Responsibilities associated with this buyer persona’s job
- Highest job priorities/responsibilities in this buyer persona’s direct area of influence
- The top problems/pain points they’re facing that your company can help solve
- Several perceived barriers to the above problems
- What actions the buyer may have already taken to solve their key problems
- Who do they report to
- Years in this role
Marketing is very much like public speaking or performing. Even though you are speaking to a big group, you need to figure out the best way to connect with your viewers on an individual level. That means understanding who is in your audience as well as what brought them there.
When completing your buyer personas, imagine them as individuals rather than groups. Step away from traditional market research frameworks that compartmentalize people into standardized, pre-existing categories. In other words, lose the cookie cutter — your core customer segments should be unique to your organization.
Start with real conversations about your customers and prospects. Move forward with an open mind, and don’t make any assumptions. The results you find may surprise you and dramatically alter the course of your marketing strategy.
KNOW YOUR BUYERS’ PATHS TO SALES
Knowing your customers is not enough. You also need a thorough understanding of how their values, behavioral characteristics, traits, and personality traits translate into sales with your company. A key place to start is with your organization’s sales team. Even if you do not yet have a marketing strategy in place, you can start to identify areas where connection-building efforts are already strong. Here are some key questions to address:
What are the most common ways that prospects find out about your company?
Word of mouth? Referrals?
Choose marketing initiatives that amplify what’s already working. If you’re noticing significant growth due to personal or professional references, you may decide to implement a formalized referral program to incentivize more opportunities for connections.
What are some of the initial questions they’re asking?
Incorporate answers to these questions into your company’s marketing messages, sales pitches, and value propositions up-front. Anticipate what your prospects want to know. This strategy will help you build a strong, mutual connection.
What is the typical decision-making process for buying? What kinds of follow-up questions are they asking, and what types of stakeholders are involved with conversations about your brand?
Expect this process to happen incrementally, over some period time. Your marketing materials should guide your prospects through each stage.
How long does the overall process last? About how much time does each stage take?
Every marketing initiative should be measurable to assess ROI. You need to make this judgment call at just the right time. If you measure too early, you may not have enough data to truly understand the success of your initiative. If you measure too late, your organization may lose money due to a delay in responding quickly enough. The best approach is to be realistic about your timing. That way, you won’t risk making decisions too late or too soon.
What are common reasons why sales don’t happen? Cost? Lack of fit between your product or service and your prospects’ needs?
Customer drop-off can happen at every stage of the buying process. By addressing these problem areas, your company will be well-positioned to keep prospects engaged longer.
EVALUATE YOUR COMPANY’S
The conversion funnel is one of the most important concepts in online marketing. It is, in a nutshell, a diagram that paves your buyers’ paths to sales. This concept is so important that even though we’re introducing it now, we’ll be devoting an entire chapter to it (chapter 5) later on.
Keep in mind that conversion funnels vary between organizations and user segments. Your business will likely have more than one.
This tool will help you visualize and understand user behavior at every stage of your marketing. A portion of your website visitors will continue on to reach your final marketing goal. An even bigger portion won’t.
Drop-off at every stage of the funnel is normal. The key is to understand why drop-off happens and to minimize it.
So get together with your sales team, and go back to the drawing board(literally). Conversion funnel diagrams are invaluable tools for piecing together a comprehensive view of your prospects’ psychology and path to sales.
Whatever you do, don’t copy other companies’ diagrams. Your conversion funnel should be something unique to your company that your marketing leads develop in tandem with your sales team — if you’re a business owner or entrepreneur, you’re going to need to wear both hats.
One word of caution is to be connections-minded. Whatever you do, don’t get bogged down by anatomical details. The conversion funnel describes a process, but more importantly, it’s a lens into the human-to-human relationships that your company is building with your prospects. No matter what you read or what advice you hear, remember that you are always, absolutely, and undoubtedly talking about people.
Conversion funnels are just as much about emotions as they are about logical decisions. Make sure that you evaluate, analyze, and pay close attention to both.
KNOW WHERE ONLINE MARKETING FITS IN
Companies leverage online marketing to accomplish the following types of goals:
- Build brand awareness about products, features, or services
- Engage prospects at both ends of the interest spectrum – when they’re most intrigued and when they’ve gone cold.
- Grow business with existing customers and clients.
All three of these aims funnel into the end goal of customer acquisition and growing revenue.
Every single marketing campaign should have a causal relationship to revenue. Oftentimes, marketers aren’t sure where to start. With so many options, strategies, and tactics to consider, how do you truly know what’s best for your company?
The answer is simple:
Where does that marketing initiative fit in with your pay to user acquisition?
If you can’t find an answer to that question, you probably shouldn’t waste money on that particular initiative. And if it’s free?
Remember the golden rule: time is money. In marketing, nothing is truly free. Every strategy, initiative, or campaign comes at a price, which is usually an opportunity cost.
Each type of marketing goal will have a distinct conversion funnel and success metrics to measure. We’ll explore these topics in chapter 2. Right now, we want you to have a basic understanding of the three ways that online marketing builds connections with your target customers.
The goals that we’ve described apply to all marketing mediums and channels. At this point, you may be inclined to think that pay-per-click is the best option for building brand exposure (#1) and that email marketing campaigns are the best option for re-engaging cold leads (#2).
The reality is that you can’t think of marketing channels in absolute terms. There are some options than will produce better results than others, but not because one strategy is intrinsically better than the other. What matters most is how each strategy complements and translates into results for your unique business model. Your goals are bigger than the marketing mediums and channels that you ultimately choose.
Some options will work better for you than others. Not sure where to start?
Look to your customers and prospects for answers. Are these the types of people who are likely to engage with PPC ads? Do they respond well to blog content or have time to engage with your company over email? When pinpointing the right strategies to achieve your marketing goals, the key is to start with your audience and work backwards.
- Marketing starts with your customers. Before launching any campaign, make sure to do your due diligence to truly understand what your customers want and need. Remember that they are always the top priority. Why else does your business exist?
- Beyond prioritizing your customers’ needs and values, make sure to understand the path they’re taking to sales. That means paying attention to your company’s conversion funnel, a topic that we’ll review in chapter 5.
- Ignore marketing experts who tell you to ‘just start testing.’ This is an over-simplification that will end up costing your company time and money. Instead, you need to start testing with a plan. And that plan should completely revolve around your company’s prospects and customers. No exception.