Years ago, I was in conversation with someone from a well-known sales and marketing software provider. We were talking about sales enablement – naturally – and he pointed out that, sometimes, sales and marketing teams can be highly tactical and not very strategic. This, he said, was a key contributor to many lost opportunities and failed digital marketing strategies.
I nodded my head, sagely. ‘Absolutely,’ I said. ‘That is such a problem.’ But do you know what, dear reader? When that conversation was over, I had to Google ‘what is the difference between tactics and strategy?’ And so, this blog is dedicated to all of you out there who might be wondering the same thing. Because confusing tactics with strategy is a big part of why so many digital marketing plans fail.
Digital Marketing Strategy vs. Digital Marketing Tactics
So, what is a strategy? Well, you can think of your strategy as your business goals. They could be long-term – Franchising! IPO listing! Nobel prize! – but they don’t have to be. In fact, it makes sense to break down your ‘master plan’ into several micro strategies.
For example, if you have a small business selling, let’s say, vegan boots, and your long-term goal is to become a market leader, with sales overtaking real leather boots, you might begin by setting yourself the goal of increasing traffic to your website. The tools you use to accomplish this goal are your tactics: aka, the specific actions you take to get the job done.
So, your strategy sets out your destination and your tactics determine how you’re going to get there. The two things should be intertwined, but sometimes the tactics turn into an all-consuming to-do list and you lose sight of the overall vision.
Tactics without strategy – a common pitfall for digital marketing
This is particularly true for your digital marketing strategy. There is just so much going on that it is very easy to get bogged down by the minutiae of managing your day-to-day online presence. Here are a few examples of common pitfalls that our vegan bootmaker might fall into:
- Bombarding Twitter with links to their website – all very ‘me, me, me!’. Splashing that same ‘content’ across all social media platforms. I am increasing my social media presence!
- Carefully going through all their online content to make sure ‘vegan boots’ is mentioned as the keyword on every page, twenty times a page. SEO is so important!
- Investing in Google Ads because everyone else is. Google Ads are essential!
- Giving away free boots to influencers with a large following, without checking whether the account is on brand for the business. Influencers are the future!
- Sending out daily email marketing campaigns (that feel like spam). I am nurturing those leads!
Boy, that’s a lot of effort – and a lot of exclamation marks. But sadly, because there is no strategy, the results of all that work are likely to be minimal. However, by defining their strategic goal – to increase traffic to their website – the bootmaker could use those same tools in a more purposeful way. For example:
- Using Twitter and Facebook to create a community among their customers, engaging them with fun, inspiring content that they want to share with their friends, thus generating increased brand awareness. Using Instagram to demonstrate just how hot these vegan boots really are.
- Creating SEO-optimized content that demonstrates an understanding of what their customers are looking for – i.e. using the search terms their customers might use. They are not just vegan boots, they are ethical boots, sustainable boots, eco-friendly boots, winter boots, cute ankle boots, work boots, etc.
- Using Google Ads to send customers to specific campaign landing pages, such as seasonal discounts, Plastic Free July, Veganuary, etc.
- Only approaching influencers whose brand values match those of the bootmaker, and carefully agreeing on the terms of the deal before proceeding.
- Using email marketing to deliver the recipient some value – whether that be information about how vegan boots are made, the occasional discount code, pretty pictures to look at, or just a fun way to procrastinate for a few minutes. (I love a newsletter that gives me an excuse to take a break from work!)
What should your digital marketing strategy include?
Now that we know what difference a strategy can make, let’s dive into what it should include.
In the past, a lot of businesses have considered their online presence – the website, social media, etc. – separate from the resources they give their sellers. I don’t think that is so often the case anymore, but if it is I’m making an urgent plea to please stop doing that. You want your buyers to experience a seamless journey throughout this process – that can’t happen if you are decoupling ‘marketing content’ and ‘sales content’. It’s all customer content, ok?
With that being said, your digital marketing strategy should encompass:
- Social media
- Influencers, if applicable
- Email marketing/lead nurturing
- All your website content – product pages, blogs, case studies, downloads: the whole kit and caboodle.
- Outreach content (i.e. for other websites)
- Google Ads (I’m not saying you have to use Google Ads, but if you do use it then it has to be part of your strategy)
In order to achieve those long-term goals, you need to have a clear vision for the business as a whole (e.g. to become market leader) as well as how each of these digital tools nourishes that vision. If you’re still looking for answers as to how the heck do I actually do that? Fear not. We’re going to look at that right now.
How to get your digital marketing strategy off the ground
1. Set SMART goals
First off, the strategic goals you define need to be SMART. That means they need to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-limited. It’s nice to say ‘I want to be the best vegan bootmaker in the world!’ but it doesn’t give you a lot to work with. Pinpointing specific goals – a targeted turnover, perhaps – gives you something tangible to aim for. A value-defined goal is also easier to measure, which means you can track your progress.
Likewise, your goal should be achievable. If the technology doesn’t exist to produce the number of vegan boots it takes to realize that turnover, you will fail. (And no one wants you to fail – least of all me!) The time-limited part is also important because it ties you to a deadline, which is what keeps everyone motivated and on track. So, an example of a short-term SMART digital marketing strategy would be ‘Increase organic search traffic by 100% within 6 months’.
2. Define the ‘how’
Once you have set your goals, you need a plan to achieve them. And it doesn’t have to be as energy intensive as you’d imagine. There are all kinds of tools out there to help you out. These two are a good place to start if you value a customer-centric approach. (And if you don’t, you’re probably on the wrong website.)
- Content Hub – a must-have marketing tool, Content Hub enables you to develop a personalized and relevant content engagement experience across the entire buyer journey. Yes, I realize that sounds like jargon. It’s hard to talk about marketing without using jargon. But in practice, what it means is that you have the ability to show customers the content that is most relevant to them. This tool is used on your website, tailoring the content shown based on what your customer is searching for. And then you can continue to use it through all the stages of the customer journey – for example, with your email marketing campaigns – so that you are always adding value, answering questions, and generally providing an exceptional customer experience.
- Tool Builder for Marketers – Fast-track customers through the buying journey by giving them a quick answer to the question ‘What’s in it for me?’ With Tool Builder, you can easily create and launch self-service assessments or calculators on your website. In essence, it makes life easier for your customers, who can see from the earliest stages the impact your offering could have on their business. (Of course, it also makes life a lot easier for you!)
3. Check in with your ‘why’
Once you have put your plan into action, it’s important to keep returning to your strategic objectives. Every time you implement a new tool or tactic, ask yourself ‘How does this serve my strategy?’ I’ll say it again – it’s all too easy to get swept up in the how and forget the why. Your digital marketing strategy should be kept foremost in your mind at every stage and across every tool.
4. Trial and error
I’m sorry to say that not all plans are successful. So, while your strategy will likely stay the same, or evolve as your business develops, your tactics will probably need adjusting. Fortunately, because you chose a SMART digital marketing strategy, you’re measuring every development and it will be apparent when things aren’t progressing as they should be. If you are not sure what’s working and what’s not, try A/B testing to see how changes in your methods, keywords, etc. might affect your results. Don’t be afraid to try new things, or to drop tools that aren’t working. Fortune favors the bold (so long as they have a strategy).
5. Insight-driven evolution
Speaking of measuring, there are tools for that, too. And you need them if you’re going to prove and improve the success of your digital marketing strategy. For example, Mediafly Insights enables you to tie content to revenue – so you can actually see which content is enabling you to achieve your strategic goals. Once you know what works, you can do more of it – and stop spending time and money on the stuff that doesn’t work.
Don’t Rush Your Digital Marketing Strategy
The most important thing you can do as you develop your digital marketing strategy is give yourself the time to do it. And I don’t mean blocking out hours of meetings – though collaborating is important. I mean time where you can actually think. What are my long-term goals? What would I like to achieve this quarter? This year? How can digital marketing support our business goals? What resources do I need to make it all happen? As well as time to get distracted and exercise that creative brain of yours.
The truth of the matter is this: digital marketing is immensely powerful and holds incredible potential, whatever the size of your business and however ambitious your goals. But in order to realize that potential, you need to develop the best digital marketing strategy you can, and support it with the right tools and tactics.
Are you ready? Time to put on your (vegan?) boots and get to work. Check out 5 Must-have Marketing Tools to Maximize Your Budget and Drive Content ROI’ for more advice for your digital marketing strategy.