Digital ad budgets are now a majority of total ad spend. Spend on marketing technologies keeps rising. More than half of marketers have a transformative initiative underway to make marketing more digital.
We all know and see the digital shift. But I still get asked what exactly is a digital marketing strategy, especially versus a broader marketing strategy. What goes into it? What matters?
There is no single answer, but I’ve found the following framework to be a helpful starting point, both explaining to others and to do the actual work – creating digital marketing strategies for clients. It works across categories, from consumer electronics and quick serve restaurants to financial services and healthcare.
Use cases are your secret starting point
A good starting point is identifying the priority use cases, what you want your digital marketing to be good at. “Aligning on use cases,” suggests strategist and colleague St.John Dunne, “ensures your digital marketing is delivering against your actual business goals, versus basic marketing metrics such as click-through rates or likes.”
Your broader marketing strategy will give you the right clues, points Dunne. For example, you might be launching a new product (acquisition, trial), building or shifting a perception (awareness), speeding a sale (conversion), growing share with existing customers (cross-sell), fixing a leaky bucket (renewal, loyalty), shifting channel behavior (efficiencies) and so on. Have multiple objectives? You will likely have nuanced strategies based on each one.
A framework for your digital marketing strategy
Now you’re ready to build an approach. Here’s a framework we’ve had some success with that combines front-end vision with back-end operating model:
Be clear about your intent. You’ve already got a head start with your goals and use case(s), add in the business impact you seek and what good will look like — your KPIs.
- Insights: What you know about your customers, their behaviors, including path to purchase, and moments that matter
- Best Moves: Identifying what you can do at various stages, scoring audiences, the inbound and outbound triggers. This is where to be smart and bold, with if-then-that logic.
- Content: Determining the topics, the cadence, the messages, the level of personalization, the formats and types, the contextually relevant concepts, incentives as needed.
- Channels: Figuring out the right mix of owned, earned and paid media and designing an omni-channel experience (not just optimizing individual channels), adaptation of the creative, and sales force engagement. Remember to account for emerging channels such as influencers, conversational interfaces (bots, Alexa) and more.
- Skills & Culture: What’s needed from your team’s mind, body and soul to succeed. More transformative strategies may require skills from outside the traditional marketing department.
- Organization & Empowerment: How will you operate as a team, and which groups are stakeholders, such as product, business analytics, customer care, communications and sales.
- Data Strategy & Governance: What customer data do you need, and what will you do with what you acquire. What intelligence might it serve up back to product, care and other teams as well.
- Technology Platforms: How will you power this – the asset management and deployment tools, what can you automate, what will be the connective tissue between customer data, performance and insights.
Examples in action
Digital marketing strategies are intentional and nuanced. Here are few summary examples to illustrate the differences:
For an insurance product: the digital marketing goal was to widen the top of the funnel, the channel approach was to use content, search and the web to intercept discovery earlier, thereby generating a great volume of prospects. Even at the same conversion benchmark, it would mean more qualified leads for the sales force.
For a healthcare manufacturer: the goal was increasing velocity of conversions among small businesses. The content and channel activities across email, direct mail, social and web were redesigned to be more integrated and now we’d measure programs not simply the performance of individual channels.
For a quick serve restaurant: the goal was to increase transactions with a new flat-priced menu. Understanding the nuance of a particular pain point, we emphasized the benefit for a favorite dish, designed a campaign across paid and owned, and amplified the message with a highly visible brand act for earned.
For a consumer electronics brand: the goal was to drive e-commerce transactions using targeted emails, contextually relevant ads, and paid search focused on driving a purchase.
Go forth and design your digital strategy
Great digital marketing can’t be done in isolation; it’s best integrated into the marketing strategy and best delivered in conjunction with experience and product strategies — and the customer at the center. Dunne, a proponent of testing, adds this: “Digital provides a unique opportunity to learn while driving impact, so prepare for this shift with your teams and enable it to be business as usual with the right operating model.”
Availability of A.I. and new interfaces such as bots and augmented reality certainly give us new tools to try out. What doesn’t change are the basics of digital marketing strategy we all still have to get right.
Sources: Gartner 2018, Altimeter@Prophet, 2019