For many digital marketing managers, the strategy behind the work can be fuzzy.
According to a 2017 report on the state of digital marketing
, the majority of marketing managers surveyed said content was one of the most effective aspects of digital marketing. Yet, only 53% reported that they had a documented content strategy in place.
Digital marketing managers should be the ones coming up with big ideas to power the growth of the business. But instead, most days are spent mired in tactical, reactive work. There is no time for strategic thinking. As a result, those big ideas end up as a lot of flash and no substance.
For example, this might mean a lot of content with no strategy to guide the investment (like the situation described in the marketing report linked above). The problem in these cases is that no one stopped to ask, “What is the goal — the reason we are doing this in the first place?”
Marketing teams need to combine strategy and creativity in order to be successful. This is especially true today when the demands of the job are higher than ever. However, marketing managers need to do more than just document strategy — that strategy should map to both big ideas and everyday work.
So, how do you do it? It starts with really understanding your marketing objectives and key themes and then finding a way to connect them to your marketing plans. Before you launch a new offering (whether that be a new product or program, or even just a new ad or piece of content), take a step back to consider your marketing strategy and how the new campaign connects back to it.
Below is a guide to help you do this, with key questions to ask before you start on any marketing work:
Your marketing strategy defines how success will be measured. Start with the company’s overall objectives, and work backward from there, tying the business goals to the marketing goals. For example, if the company has a goal of increasing customers, you might have a marketing goal related to increasing lead conversions.
Ask yourself: How will this new work help us accomplish our goals?
Your strategy also defines the areas of investment needed to accomplish your goals. Another way to think of it is your goals are what you want to achieve, and your initiatives are how you will achieve them. Your initiatives are the high-level programs you will pursue, such as launching advertising on a new social media channel or enhancing your analytics reporting.
Ask yourself: Which initiative does this work support? If none, why?
Who will get the most value from your product or service and is, therefore, most likely to buy? In your strategy, this is determined through research so you can deeply understand your customers’ geographic, demographic and behavioral characteristics. There may be more specific segments within your audience. You need to recognize these segments so you can refine your marketing approach for each group.
Ask yourself: Which audience/customer segment is this new offering for? How have I validated whether it is something they want or need?
You need to understand what problems your products or services really solve. It is not enough to understand how the product works because you need to present the benefits that come from using it. This part of your strategy will define the problem your customers have and how you can help them solve it. Knowing this will allow you to deliver better online marketing that truly speaks to buyers, as you are showing the value they will receive.
Ask yourself: Will our customer benefit from this? How?
What you say externally about your product or service matters. It needs to be consistent and considered within your strategy. Messaging captures the key points that you want to convey to customers, including the value and major selling points you are offering.
Ask yourself: Are we clearly articulating the value of our new offering? Are we communicating the most pertinent information we want customers to remember?
Document how you will reach and communicate with your ideal customer. You need to know where your customers spend their time and who they trust information from, whether it is social media, display ads on a trusted news site or thought leadership pieces on your blog. Define those channels upfront when you are setting a strategy.
Ask yourself: Are we communicating with customers via the channels they use and trust? Are we using the right messages for these channels?
The impetus for marketing is to establish a sustainable competitive advantage and acquire customers. So, you need to capture key information about who you are up against, including their revenue, customers, products and growth rate. You do not want to obsess over competitors, but be aware of the differentiation points so you can help your work stand out.
Ask yourself: Are we offering something different from our competition? If there is a similar offering, how does it compare?
Putting strategy at the center of your digital marketing plans comes down to one simple step: You need to make it a priority. This goes beyond the initial time and effort of creating a strategy. Yes, that part is important. But just as important is how you bring strategy into your marketing roadmap and everyday work.