How To Own Your 2021 Digital Marketing Strategy

Google Ads, SEO, Email Marketing — All are essential for Digital Marketing in 2021

Is anyone else behind? I am always ahead, but the pandemic seems to push everything later and later. I am noticing many brands just now getting to 2021 strategies because they have been buried in crisis response around the pandemic.

My first job was as a strategist at a research firm in NYC, and strategy has latched onto me ever since. I advise my clients not to make one move online unless they can attach it to their overall strategic goals. Strategies are even more important now that teams are under-resourced and employees are under a huge amount of pandemic stress and burnout. The lovely part of a strategy is that it wipes out any unnecessary work while working towards reaching all of your KPIs.

Over the next few weeks, I will be writing in-depth posts on each of the steps below. For now, please find a quick description of each step that is necessary for creating a digital marketing strategy.

Research

Lack of research is why snafus happen like Digiorno’s #WhyIStayed upset. A lack of research is why brands are humiliated as they fail in front of millions of Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. You will look like a bozo online if you do not constantly do your research and build effective strategies around your findings.

I recently worked with a finance client who told me exactly who their target audience was. I asked what research supported this, and they answered that it was just a “gut feeling.” Unfortunately, this is not abnormal in the world of brands doing their own marketing.

After testing over a six month period, we found that the target audience was much younger and skewed even more female than their “gut feeling” told them. This finding changed our entire strategy because age groups matter A LOT in digital marketing strategies, and so does gender and interests.

Target Audience

Who is your target audience? There are many great ways to find this out, and I recommend taking advantage of ALL of them. One of the best ways to think of your target audience is to create a personality that reflects the average person who purchases your product. It is important to give them as many details as possible such as age, name, interests.

Another way is to use SurveyMonkey to survey a broad audience. You can also place Google Ads, use a broad audience, and then look at metrics to see who actually clicked through and purchase your item/service. You have to be open-minded during this process to discover your true target audience.

Brand Manifesto

Try imagining what your battle cry would be when fighting against your competitors. Have fun with this part of the strategy development. It feels awkward but what comes out of it is a strong recognition of what it means to be your brand.

SMART Goals

I have seen even Fortune500 brands go out with a digital marketing campaign before attaching SMART goals to the campaign. These goals are fundamental and should be revised every quarter. The most successful brands I have worked with have goal planning sessions once per quarter, and they identify what has worked to move towards their goal and what didn’t work at all. With this knowledge, they can create even smarter goals moving forward.

One of the most important parts of SMART goals is that they are measurable. Measurable goals erase any “gut feelings” when analyzing how hard digital marketing is working.

Let’s also stay away from the “XX followers by XX date” trend. I will say something that will make you cringe– but followers, fans, whatever you want to call them, do not matter.

Engagement matters. Leads matter. Sales matter. Think more broadly like, “Increase engagement rate by 7% and have a response rate of 100% by September 12.” Look at the metrics that really matter.

Brand Content Pillars

Implementing a digital marketing strategy requires a ton of content. You need 100x the content you currently think you need. To help define tactics and narrow in on the digital marketing strategy, you need to decide what 3-5 broad topics your brand will be discussing online. A life insurance brand might have their content pillars reflect Trust (testimonials, reviews), Service (customer service, slightly sales), Education (sharing articles that educates your target audience on the brand), and Sell (hard sell pieces that generate leads.)

Content pillars could look a lot different for a nonprofit supporting the homeless. Their content pillars might reflect Trust (share stories of how they have helped others), Support (sharing supportive articles, asking for support for the nonprofit), Events + Volunteering (sharing when people can volunteer time), and Community (sharing articles from other businesses in the community, sharing their own stories, answering all questions online, etc.) You want to think about what kind of content buckets support your goals.

Channel Strategy (Part I)

Yes, you have a strategy within a strategy for digital and social media marketing. There are millions of ways to go about it, and you want to make sure that you are investing your time wisely on networks where your target audience is interacting and engaging in conversations.

Pew Research is a huge time saver for me when I think about the actions people take on different channels and the age-range I am targeting. Make sure to find out what channels your target audience is engaging on and then focus on those. If you are one very single channel out there, my guess is you did not do your research on channels and how to use them.

SMART Tactics

The tactics that will help you achieve your goals should be just as smart as your goals. You need to pay attention to every detail as you write tactics. I recommend at least one full-day work session for clients to create actionable and effective tactics that will get them to their goals. This is where the content pillars have made it easier (or harder) to create tactics.

When writing each tactic, ask yourself if it lines up to one of the brand content pillars. Every tactic must line up to a content pillar in order to be included in the digital marketing strategy.

Choose the channel(s) your target audience is on, one of your main goals, one of your content pillars, and write a smart tactic to help you get to your goal. Let’s say a goal is to increase lead generation by 10% in Q1. Let’s also say that your target audience is 18-24, primarily female, and one of your content pillars is Trust. A tactic would be to start using Trustpilot and use their fancy tools to share testimonials on your website and social media.

Channel Strategy (Part II)

As a digital marketing agency, I work with my clients to create a strategy for each channel that makes sense for the brand (from Channel Strategy Part I.) SMART tactics are placed under the channel they relate to and then should be fleshed out so they encompass how many times the client should post on each site, what time of day, and what theme.

Channel strategies also include strategies for Google Ads, SEO, and email marketing– this is a distinct feature for a digital marketing agency vs. social media agency, FYI. When thinking about channel strategies, also think about 3-4 week campaigns vs. an annual strategy. I usually build strategies by having an overall umbrella channel strategy with 3-4 week campaigns that ladder up throughout the year.

Channel Ecosystem

This is one of my favorite parts of writing a digital marketing strategy. Being a Type-A energetic creative, I love designing fun ecosystems that show where the channels align with priority and time.

The larger the hexagon, the bigger and more intense that channel is. You can expect to spend a lot of time on the biggest hexagons’’ channels. The closest the hexagon is to the middle, the more important and valuable it is to get to the sales funnel’s bottom. This is an example of a client’s ecosystem I created:


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Editorial Calendar

An editorial calendar on Google Drive, or any other tool that you can share across your team members, is going to save your life. This gets into the nitty-gritty of how your strategy will be mapped out each month. There are a thousand different ways to do this, but always make sure to include content pillars and KPIs attached to each post/ad. This makes sure that you can find what is/isn’t working for your brand and make sure you are aligning with the overall brand strategy.

Branding Guide

A branding guide is a critical tool for creating a cohesive brand across all online channels. This will include a brand manifesto, brand colors, brand fonts, brand logo placement, the optimal length for different posts, image treatments, voice, tone, brand personality, etc. Now that you have all of the nuts and bolts, it’s important to get down to what they will come to life as online.

Metrics and Analytics

How are you going to prove that your strategy is working and you are meeting your goals? By using the most in-depth metrics and analytics, you can use. I am a huge fan of Google Analytics and the analytics provided in Google Ads. It’s great to use third-party metrics software, but I highly recommend checking their data against the native data in each channel (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) One tip is to create tags for your content pillars to see if you are equally aligning with each one.

This is pretty much the authentic process I go through with clients as we write a cohesive digital strategy. Over the next few weeks, I will be writing in-depth blogs for each section of this blog post so you can learn how to dive into creating editorial calendars and knowing what is a SMART goal versus an inefficient goal.

Questions? Thoughts? Suggestions?

Please start a discussion in the comments. I personally reply to all comments.

-Marji J. Sherman