Let’s say that you want to bring some new product to market. You know the products you want to sell, and you know the business model under which you’re going to make money. And what things will help tell your story?
What kinds of materials will you use? Will it be a brochure or flyer? Will it be an email-based newsletter or a webinar? Are there social media channels involved? What kind of analytics are we going to use?
What kind of technology do we need to back this up? Is it our own internal tooling or is it third-party software? Will we have our own servers or will we be able to rent capacity from the market leader in this space, or is it going to be a no-brainer using something like Amazon Web Services (AWS)?
All these things have their upsides and their downsides. But all of them can be taken care of during the planning phase and before setting the groundwork for building your brand so that marketing becomes part of day-to-day life while you build your business.
A well-rounded digital marketing plan is a tool that helps us identify our goals (what gets measured), measure them against other goals (what doesn’t get measured), articulate them in terms that people can understand, track progress towards reaching those goals and then go about implementing actions that help us reach those goals.
2. What is a Digital Marketing Strategy?
This is a very important topic for many startups and is one that I think a lot of people don’t fully understand. This post by Casey Neistat (aka The New Yorker’s Fashion Editor) explains the basics of digital marketing:
Americans spend more on advertising than any other country, but despite billions of dollars being spent in the U.S., our marketing campaigns are still fairly primitive.
In the blog post, Casey explains that while the internet has opened up new avenues for advertisers to reach consumers, it has done little to change the fact that we still have lots of boring ads in our daily lives. The internet gives you infinite options for finding out about everything you need to know about something. It allows you to find almost every product you could ever want without even leaving your home. But none of this is news to anyone who has ever tried to buy something online or used an app on their phone.
Casey is one half of the famous internet duo, but he’s not just another famous internet duo; he’s also a successful fashion designer. He doesn’t just make clothes, he makes advertising for them as well — which means that his work touches on more than just clothes and technology (though those are certainly part of it).
This isn’t an unusual thing: every time someone writes a great blog post or an amazing book someone wants to share it with everyone else as soon as possible because they can see how it will affect their business (and they can be there first). You might have seen this kind of sharing around with your own company: when you write something great and someone shares it with everyone else before their public launch seems like the right thing to do because your company aligned with theirs and helped them go viral too! So what does all this mean?
Well, one thing is clear: marketing needs a strategy — preferably one which involves both technology and aesthetics (as well as economics & design). There are two reasons why this should be so: 1) if your product fails because it doesn’t attract people who want what you’re selling, then you probably need an R&D budget/opportunity to look at how people use your product & how different features might get people interested in them (see “Testing Your Product”); 2) if your competitors’ products fail because they fail at some key element (like design or price), then trying something different from what’s already out there.
Developing an Online Marketing Strategy
There are two main things to consider when creating your online marketing strategy. One is the goal of that strategy and the other is how you will achieve it.
The goal of any digital marketing plan is to help you reach your target market. For example, if you are a software company and you want to get more users for your software, you need to focus the bulk of your efforts on getting them onto the internet (so then they can be followed into the sales cycle). But what happens after that? Getting users is only part of it; your next step is to get them to come back and buy again. What do they need in order for this second phase?
It’s hard enough to develop a successful marketing strategy from scratch; let alone one that’s tailored specifically for your industry or business (or even one that targets a specific demographic). But there is one thing you can do: at least try everything! So, my best advice: try it all!
I’ve done this myself and I have discovered some things that worked really well for me and some others didn’t work so well. I think these are some of the most important factors in creating an effective digital marketing plan:
- Decide where you want to be
- Choose your audience
- Choose your goals
- Choose your goals and objectives, as well as what it will take to achieve them
- Decide exactly how you will measure whether or not those goals have been achieved (as well as what actions will be taken in order to achieve each goal)
As mentioned above, developing an effective strategy can be a real challenge if you are just starting out. And if like me, you have been doing things sort-of-right for years now but have yet to find success because of a lack of clarity around these factors, then perhaps this list could help point you in the right direction! Also, note that everything on this list has already worked for me or something along those lines at some point — so don’t feel bad if something doesn’t work out the first time around; it happens with anyone who attempts anything new! We may not succeed every time we try… but we should at least give it a shot!
The Importance of a Well-Rounded Digital Marketing Plan
I want to talk about how a well-rounded digital marketing plan works and not only for product launches. The focus is on a marketing plan that does not only cover the launching of your product. While you need a certain amount of technical competence in order to create and execute a complete strategy, it is important that you also have the time to sit down and plan out your digital initiatives.
This seems like an obvious thing, but it is surprising how many startups don’t even bother planning their digital marketing efforts. The problem with no marketing plan is that you usually don’t know where to start. Nobody knows what they want till they experience it themselves or learn about it from other people’s experiences.
The best way to solve this problem is to have an overall marketing strategy in place and then break them down into smaller parts, each having its own distinct goals and objectives. Mini-strategies can be an excellent way of serving different goals at once, so long as none of them overdo things by being too broad or too narrow (e.g., too focused on finding new users for your app or too focused on getting press coverage).
Once you have such a strategy in place, you can then go through the process of testing different aspects of it against different objectives until you find something that works well enough for each one of them (it helps if you are already doing something similar with some form of micro-marketing).
How to Create the Perfect Digital Marketing Plan
There are a lot of great marketing plans out there. So where do you start?
You can decide to go the whole marketing plan route and start from scratch, or you can make one up based on what you already know. We’ve been doing the latter. We started off with a market research study of our target audience (a rather broad approach), then jotted down some key questions for ourselves and dove into designing the perfect digital marketing plan:
- What is your company’s target audience?
- What are your goals?
- How will you reach them?
- How will you measure progress?
- What is the best way to communicate your product(s)?
Measuring Your Strategy’s Success
The idea is to identify the overall goals for your digital marketing strategy and then figure out how to measure how close you are to meeting those goals. In theory, if you have given all your attention to product marketing as a startup and you had tested your value proposition on an audience of one (say an individual who owns a domain name), then you would be able to measure success by tracking down someone who is willing to buy your product and can actually use it. This might not be very interesting — especially if there are so many other products that will offer more of what you have just described (perhaps with better features).
But in reality, that kind of one-on-one experiment isn’t possible because:
- There’s always someone who doesn’t want to buy your product — even if they have never heard of it before (i.e., they might not know what email addresses are/are not); and
- The price of your product differs from person to person — or at least from target group to target group; and
- It would be impossible for you to market directly (because you aren’t paying for users) or indirectly (because there are so many great competitors).
That’s why most companies end up running randomized experiments where they charge each user a set amount and give them their own money back. That way, it is less expensive than paying upfront for targeted users who already know exactly what features they want but don’t yet know they want them. It also means that the company has already decided what features will work best and which ones won’t work at all.
Unfortunately, I think most startups fail at this kind of testing because:
- They simply haven’t identified all the things that matter in a digital marketing plan;
- They assume that everything should be built using Excel spreadsheets or some other spreadsheet tool (and now we know how wrong this assumption is); and
- They don’t understand how data really works: different versions may look exactly the same on paper, but in practice, all data points may look different depending upon how it was gathered and analyzed.
I think we can all agree that digital marketing is a crucial part of our business. We have seen that it is here to stay, and for good reason. It is growing at a rapid pace, and it has been a huge success for companies like Amazon and Facebook. But there are many aspects of digital marketing that we don’t know enough about, especially when it comes to how people engage with our products or services.
A well-rounded marketing plan should cover all the bases: product design; brand development; sales & distribution; PR & social media; SEO & PPC; sales engineering; UX & user experience; video production; analytics & reporting/management/reporting (e.g., Google Analytics); content creation (websites, videos, podcasts); analytics (Google Analytics, Facebook Analytics, etc) and much more. And what makes this even harder is that you never really know what kind of answer you’re going to get from different people or different companies until you sit down and talk about it together.