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A beginner’s guide to creating your first digital marketing plan

By Alexandra Gavril - January 14, 2020

Whether you’re just starting a business online or already running a small business and want to start promoting it online, you need a digital marketing plan.

Why? Because without a plan you won’t know what your site’s goals are, the best ways to achieve them or how to measure the results.

You might think that all there is to digital marketing is creating in-depth content or blog posts, adding a few keywords here and there, and then sharing them on all those social networks you’ve set up accounts on.

Maybe you’ll even create a paid ads campaign to get more traffic to your site. Then all you need to do is wait for visitors to come to your site and start buying, right?

Wrong.

To succeed online, you need a digital marketing plan, otherwise you’ll have a difficult time figuring out how and where to promote your business online. You’ll waste time and money trying everything, with little to no results. It’ll be like throwing spaghetti against the wall and waiting to see what sticks.

In this guide, you’ll learn how to put together your first digital marketing plan to ensure you’re using the right tactics, channels and tools to reach and engage your target audience, and get the results you’re hoping for.

What is a digital marketing plan?

According to Philip Kotler, the “father of modern marketing”, a marketing plan serves “to document how the organization’s strategic objectives will be achieved through specific marketing strategies and tactics, with the customer as the starting point.”

So, your digital marketing plan should outline all the strategies, tactics, channels and tools you’d need to use to reach your target audience and achieve the objectives you’ve set for your business.

In simple words, you’ll need to make sure that your digital marketing plan answers these questions at a minimum:

  • Why should people care about my business, and how is it any different from my competitors?
  • Who are the people I want to reach?
  • What results do I want to achieve?
  • How will I achieve these results?
  • How will I measure the results?
  • What tools do I need?

Now that you have an idea of what a digital marketing plan is, let’s walk you through the steps to develop yours.

Step 1: Conduct a SWOT analysis

The first thing you need to do when developing your digital marketing plan is to carry out an analysis of your business and brand. A popular framework that you can use is called the SWOT analysis, and it stands for:

  • Strengths: What unique advantages does your business have? What is your unique selling point and what can you do better than the competition?
  • Weaknesses: What are the weaknesses you can work to improve?
  • Opportunities: Which market trends and opportunities can you take advantage of?
  • Threats: What are your competitors doing and which obstacles will you face?

Source

Why is this step important?

Because having all this knowledge and information about your business and niche industry can help you to better plan your marketing activities where you know they’ll pay off.

Step 2: Set goals

Once you have your place in the market and understand your strong and weak points, you can start working on setting your goals. These will give you a clear idea of where you want your online marketing efforts to take you.

Do you want to increase brand awareness or visibility in the search engine results pages (SERPs)? Are you looking to add followers and boost engagement on social media? Or do you want to grow your email list?

In this step you’ll need to determine what your main goals. To make sure they’re clear and actionable, we’d recommend using the SMART framework to define your goals. This refers to setting goals that are: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely.

For example, if your goal is to increase brand awareness and attract more traffic and visitors to your site, you might set up your goal tracking like this:

Goal: Boost brand awareness and website traffic.

Metric: 500 new organic site visitors by the end of April 2020.

Tactics:

  • Create high-quality, informative and entertaining blog content with my audience’s interests and needs in mind.
  • Publish a blog post every two days.
  • Ensure every blog post is properly optimised for search engines.
  • Promote all new content on social media and engage with my fans and followers to entice them to visit the blog and site.
  • Use analytics tools (we’ll cover a few of them later in the post) to measure the results and see what works and what needs to be improved.

The more specific you are with the goals you set, the better your chances to achieve them.

Step 3: Define your target audience

The next step is to decide who are the specific people you’re trying to reach with your digital marketing plan and efforts.

It might be tempting to think that lots of people (maybe everyone?) would be interested in what you have to say and sell. But the truth is that what you do won’t appeal to a substantial number of people. This is not to say that your product or business isn’t fantastic. But that doesn’t mean everyone will be interested it in or will want to buy it.

That’s why it’s important to define your target audience in your digital marketing plan. This is also known as buyer persona, customer avatar or ideal customer profile. All these terms refer to the same thing: the ideal customer or person who is most likely to purchase from your business.

So, who is your ideal customer that you’re looking to sell to? What’s their age, location, occupation? What are they interested in? Where do they shop, get their information and hang out online? What are they needs, wants, ambitions and motivations, and what are they struggling with?

For example, if you’re selling vintage clothes for both men and women, you’ll need a different buyer persona profile for each category. That’s because the way to market to women is different from how you market to men.

This will influence everything from the words and visuals you use to the channels dedicated to that group.

Here’s an example of a customer avatar from Tide.co:

Source

Once you understand who your target audience is and what they’re interested in, you’ll have an easier time creating your buyer persona profile, which you can then use to guide your online marketing efforts.

Check out this guide to learn more about buyer personas and how to create yours.

Step 4: Decide on owned media, earned media and paid media

Now that you have your target audience sorted out, let’s talk about your digital assets. These include: owned media, earned media and paid media.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these digital assets so you understand what they mean and how you can use them to reach and attract your audience to your site.

Owned media: This refers to any digital property that you can control and is unique to your brand. Owned media includes:

  • Your website
  • Your blog
  • Social media profiles
  • Any content that you create, from blog content, infographics, images, videos, podcasts, webinars and more.

It’s important to create high-quality, properly optimised content that’s relevant and interesting for your audience.

Earned media: This refers to all the attention that your business earns but doesn’t pay for. It includes things like:

  • Testimonials and reviews from customers
  • Press mentions
  • Word-of-mouth
  • Guest posts
  • User-generated content

How can you earn it?

There are lots of things you can do to encourage people to talk about your business online, and recommend you to others. Providing a fantastic customer experience, simplifying your website so it’s easy to use, rewarding customers for being loyal to your business are just a few ways to earn their trust and recommendation.

Read these posts for more tips and advice on how to get more people to talk about your business online and recommend you to others:

Paid media: This refers to paying to get your target audience to the relevant pages on your website, almost instantly. It includes:

  • Google AdWords
  • Pay-per-click advertising
  • Social media ads on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn
  • Online video ads on YouTube

Here are a few guides and resources to get your started with paid media:

Step 5: Choose your digital marketing tools

Your digital marketing plan can’t be without a selection of great tools that can help with promoting your business website, attracting the right audience, measuring the results and constantly improving customers’ experience with you.

Some tools we’d recommend to assist with your digital marketing efforts include:

  • Google Analytics
  • Google Search Console
  • Yoast SEO
  • Search Engine Optimiser
  • 123 Reg email marketing
  • Buffer
  • Office 365

These posts explain how these tools (and many others) work and how to use them to achieve your online marketing goals, no matter what they are:

Wrapping up

Want to grow a successful business online? You can’t do that without first having a clear picture of what success looks like to you and your business.

That’s why creating a digital marketing plan is key as it’s where you define your goals and the actionable steps you’d need to take to achieve them and get your business to the next level.

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