You already know that digital media usage has been on a steady incline. One 2018 report found that the average adult user spends about 5.9 hours with digital media — whether that’s computers, phones, or other connected devices — each and every day.
In some ways, that screen addiction is scary. But, for businesses, it presents a real opportunity to proactively get their brand in front of these constantly connected customers.
That’s exactly where a digital marketing strategy comes into play. “Your digital marketing strategy is the series of actions that help you achieve your company goals through carefully selected online marketing channels,” explains Elissa Hudson, HubSpot’s Senior Marketing Manager for Australia and New Zealand.
Let’s face it — pulling together your own digital marketing strategy is a lot to wrap your arms around. So we’re breaking it all down here, including what digital marketing is, why it matters, and some solid examples you can use for inspiration.
Why you need a digital marketing strategy
Here’s the short answer: Like with any other business activity, you need an overarching strategy to serve as your roadmap and maximize your efforts. That way you can make choices with an end goal in mind, rather than wasting energy with random, ad hoc ideas.
This is especially important for digital marketing, where there are numerous types of marketing efforts at play. What are the types of digital marketing? Well, they can include:
- Content marketing
- Email marketing
- Search engine marketing (SEM)
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Pay-per-click advertising (PPC)
- Social media marketing
- Affiliate marketing
So what is the main objective of a digital marketing strategy? It pulls all of those together into a cohesive plan that builds on itself, which can save you time, effort, and money.
How to create a digital marketing strategy
That sounds great, right? But now you need to tackle the task of creating your own digital marketing strategy. This can feel overwhelming and complex, but it doesn’t have to be.
Let’s start small and break down five simple steps to get you started on the right track with your own digital marketing efforts. Treat this as your basic digital marketing strategy framework, and you’ll get the ball rolling.
1. Understand your audience
Before you can market effectively, you need to understand exactly who you’re marketing to. That’s why your first step is getting to know your existing audience.
There are plenty of ways that you can do this, but some of the most popular and effective include:
- Analytics (from your existing website, email marketing platform, and social accounts)
- Surveys and feedback forms
- Conversations with your sales and customer support departments
These efforts alone will give you some great insight into who your customers are, what goals they have, what challenges they’re facing, and how your business fits in.
Armed with that information, you can build out different buyer personas to make it easy to remember who you’re speaking to through your marketing efforts — and target your messaging accordingly.
2. Set your goals
Your overall digital marketing strategy needs a larger goal attached to it — something that’s more specific and motivating than “market your business” or “grow your audience.”
One of the best ways to set your marketing goals is to use the SMART goal framework. This acronym stands for:
Working through each letter of that acronym will help you set goals that provide enough context to actually keep you heading in the right direction. For example, a SMART digital marketing goal could look like this:
Grow our existing email list by 2,000 subscribers during Q1 so that we have a captive audience to promote our webinars to.
If you want to try something different, you can also set objectives and key results (OKRs) for your marketing efforts to ensure you’re having as much impact as possible.
3. Evaluate your past efforts
Hashing out a strategy is a daunting task, and it’s easy to feel like you’re starting totally from scratch, but that’s usually not the case. You’ve been doing some marketing up to this point (even if it’s fairly barebones), which means the wheels are already in motion.
Conduct an audit of your past efforts to get a feel for what’s worked well and what hasn’t. That will give you a better handle on what you need to be doing more of.
This is also a good opportunity to gather content and other assets — from social media graphics to nuggets of information — that can be repurposed so you aren’t constantly reinventing the wheel. For example, that quote from a previous blog post might make a great quote graphic for your Instagram account.
4. Figure out your nuts and bolts
Your creative juices are flowing, but there are still plenty of real-world logistics you need to concern yourself with. The process of strategizing isn’t just about dreaming — it’s about figuring out what you can accomplish within those constraints.
Here’s where those come into play. The Digital Marketing Institute refers to this as “identifying your means,” which requires that you sort out:
- Your budget: How much can you spend on digital marketing?
- Your people: Who will be responsible? Will you need to outsource any tasks or responsibilities?
- Your channels: Which marketing channels will you use, and what goal will be attached to each channel?
These nuts and bolts elements are important to know up front so you can piece together a strategy that’s successful within any limitations you might have.
5. Map it all out
Once you have all of those core elements — your audience, your goals, and your means — worked out, it’s time to piece it all together into a digital marketing strategy template you can use.
Start with just a simple calendar (whether it’s in a spreadsheet or directly in Wrike) that pulls all of your different elements together. For example, plot a single email campaign on the calendar and then start adding other pieces from there.
Rest assured that whatever you come up with at the start likely won’t be what you stick with long term, but sometimes just getting started is all you need to begin to figure out the best way to do things. As with any process, you need to be committed to some trial and error!
5 digital marketing strategy examples to inspire you
You know what initial steps you need to take to get started. But are you still feeling stumped? Sometimes all you need is a little inspiration.
Below are some examples from well-known brands that nailed their marketing efforts in three different categories: content marketing, social media marketing, and email marketing.
Which digital marketing effort is best? These brands prove that there’s no real answer to that question. It’s all about how you execute it.
1. Content marketing example: Buffer
It’s hard to think of content marketing without thinking of the super popular social media scheduling tool Buffer. They’re frequently cited as a prime example of content marketing done right.
Here’s how they made that happen: In their early days, they relied heavily on guest posting. They authored content that was posted on a variety of different sites to gain more recognition. In fact, the co-founder of Buffer claims that strategy is how they acquired their first 100,000 customers.
However, they weren’t content to ignore their own site. Since that time, they’ve established authority in the marketing space by producing high-quality content for their own blogs.
You’ll notice that the previous sentence said blogs and not blog. That’s right — they have two different blogs, targeted to different interests:
- Buffer blog: All about social media, marketing, and Buffer features and updates.
- Open blog: All about remote work, their culture, and their evolution as a company.
And while content marketing typically inspires visions of blog posts and ebooks, Buffer proves that this marketing strategy goes well beyond the written word. They also launched a podcast called “The Science of Social Media” where they share social media insights and ideas.
2. Content marketing example: Airbnb
Again, content marketing isn’t just synonymous with tried and true blog posts — and Airbnb proves that’s the case.
The best example is their neighborhood guides, which provide high value for customers who are looking to stay in a particular type of area.
Using these guides, users can find landmarks, experiences, restaurants, and other local favorites in a specific neighborhood. Airbnb also makes great use of user-generated content, with reviews, recommendations, and insider tips that paint an authentic picture of what an area is really like.
Of course, Airbnb wants people to actually book a vacation and stay in one of their properties. So, through those neighborhood guides, users are also led to top-rated Airbnbs where they can stay within that neighborhood. It’s the perfect example of promotional content that’s also extremely helpful.
Beyond just the content they produce on their own, Airbnb also equips users with the information and resources they’ll need to create quality content for the property listings, which make up the bulk of the site.
“For instance, when a host lists their space on Airbnb, we’re there every step of the way with helpful tips about writing a description of their home, prices for similar listings in their neighborhood, ideas around the kind of hospitality our guests look for, and so much more,” explains Marissa Phillips, Head of Content Strategy at Airbnb.
3. Social media marketing example: Glossier
There’s a myriad of factors that contribute to the undeniable success of millennial makeup brand Glossier. But social media has undoubtedly been a big piece of the puzzle.
The brand made social media (specifically, Instagram) a priority from the outset, and they even managed to attract an impressive 13,000 Instagram followers before a single product even launched.
But how? Well, part of what makes their social presence so impressive is that they truly understand their audience — meaning they’re able to craft social posts that resonate with their followers.
“Today’s woman has five minutes to do her face before she’s flying out the door. That’s her reality, but she still wants to look good and needs to do it with minimal effort,” Glossier founder Emily Weiss said in an interview with Entrepreneur.
That’s a personality they capture in all of their posts. Images are never overly styled or untouchable and instead show real people in real settings (babies, dogs, airplane windows, and all).
And while other brands are forking over thousands to have huge influencers post and promote their products, Glossier relies on a different approach by engaging with devoted customers and fans.
For one successful product launch, the brand chose to gift the product to 500 superfans (those who had previously bought products or were highly engaged with the brand on social media) who touted the product on their own accounts. The result? A highly authentic (and successful) social media campaign.
4. Email marketing example: BuzzFeed
BuzzFeed does so much right in terms of digital marketing, sometimes it feels like they’ve taken over the entire internet. But of their varied marketing efforts, there’s one thing they do exceptionally well: email marketing.
When we’re all drowning in our inboxes today, email marketing presents a real challenge. How can you get people to open and interact with your emails rather than immediately deleting them (or worse, unsubscribing from your list)?
BuzzFeed proves that the secret lies in extreme personalization. They know that they need to deliver content that users actually want so they’re driven to engage with the emails they receive. However, delivering targeted content is a challenge if you’re speaking to your whole audience at once.
That’s exactly why BuzzFeed has segmented their email marketing efforts, all the way down to very specific interests (yep, you can even subscribe to receive one adorable dog photo per day).
They have dozens of different newsletters that users can subscribe to, and also are explicit about what subscribers can expect from that content, as well as how often they’ll receive updates. They also offer a variety of different challenges that users can subscribe to in order to take small steps toward bettering themselves.
The result? High-quality, highly-targeted content that users can’t wait to receive.
5. Email marketing example: Adobe
Segmentation can be powerful. But if you don’t quite have the same massive audience as BuzzFeed, having numerous different newsletters available can seem like overkill.
The good news is that’s not the only option to deliver personalized content via email or learn more about your subscribers. Adobe is a great example of this strategy. Despite the fact that they also have a large audience, they take a slightly different approach to personalization.
Check out the below example of one of their email newsletters, where they included two calls to action right next to each other. This gave subscribers the option to choose their own adventure, so to speak, while also enabling Adobe to learn more about what that specific customer was interested in or looking for.
Adobe also offers its Adobe & You newsletter, which delivers even more personalized content to subscribers, including digital marketing news, Adobe tips, and information about local events and training.
Create your digital marketing strategy and engage your audience
Today, digital marketing is non-negotiable for businesses that want to build brand recognition and engage their audiences. But that doesn’t change the fact that piecing together your own strategy can feel overwhelming.
Fortunately, you can tackle this task in five simple steps:
- Understand your audience.
- Set your goals.
- Evaluate your past efforts.
- Figure out the nuts and bolts of your digital marketing strategy.
- Map it all out into a marketing plan template.
Do that — while looking to the above examples as inspiration — and you’ll be that much closer to acing your digital marketing efforts.
With a solid digital marketing strategy in place, it’s time to get to work. Wrike helps thousands of marketing teams bring their visions to life and accomplish their goals. Ready to see what Wrike can do for your marketing? Start your free trial today!