Today, the majority of our content consumption takes place in the digital world. To keep up with our reliance on technology, marketing has also gone digital. This shift requires your brand to have a presence in the digital world. In order to build a successful digital presence for your brand, you need to have a solid digital marketing strategy.

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Newspapers are starting to become a rare sight—content consumption trends are shifting to digital. That’s why you need a good digital marketing strategy. Illustration by Mad pepper

So, what is digital marketing and why do you need a strategy for it? “Digital marketing strategy” is a term that encompasses a whole lot. It can be overwhelming to tackle it on your own. This is why we’ve created this practical guide to help you build a solid digital marketing strategy in 7 clear steps:

  1. Set a goal
  2. Evaluate your existing digital marketing presence
  3. Understand the digital sales funnel
  4. Build buyer personas
  5. Locate your customers on the funnel
  6. Create a content plan
  7. Analyze results

What exactly is a digital marketing strategy?

man on laptop flamingo illustration
A good digital marketing strategy requires a deep understanding of the process. Illustration by spoon lancer.

A digital marketing strategy is a step by step, actionable process that works towards achieving the digital marketing goals of your company.

Digital marketing is accomplished through digital marketing channels. These channels include social media, digital publishing and paid, earned or owned media.

A digital marketing strategy involves a very deliberate decision-making process regarding your digital marketing goals and the most appropriate channels that will help you achieve them.

7 steps to building a digital marketing strategy

Here are the fundamental steps to building a solid digital marketing strategy for your brand:

1. Set a goal

Before you start strategizing, you must ask yourself what it is that you hope to achieve with your marketing strategy.  Sounds simple, but this step requires you to come up with a very detailed and specific set of goals.

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Your goals need to lead you to specific actions to achieve them. Illustration by spoon lancer.

To do this, you can use the SMART criteria.

SMART is a very helpful and commonly used mnemonic tool for setting objectives. SMART offers the following criteria for setting goals:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Timely goals

Acquiring more views on your website is not a SMART goal.

Generating 10% more visits to your website through ads on X social media platform for the next two months is a SMART goal. All the SMARTer when you outline the exact steps you’ll take to get there.

2. Evaluate your existing digital marketing presence

Even if it’s close to nonexistent, it’s good to understand what you have already accomplished. This step will help you understand what to focus on to achieve your current goals.

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Before you start building your digital marketing strategy, you need to know your digital presence. Illustration by LittleFox.

First, you need to understand your main marketing channels:

  • Your website
  • Social media
  • Email marketing
  • Content marketing/SEO
  • Pay per click advertising

Which of these is driving the most leads and traffic to you? Rank each channel and specific media from most effective to least effective (thus far).

3. Understand the digital sales funnel

drop us a line sample page
Calls to action activate a relationship with the customer. Illustration by spoon lancer.

The digital sales funnel is the arc of your buyer’s journey from stranger to a repeat, or long term customer. A brand with a strong digital presence can use the funnel to achieve their digital marketing goals. How? By addressing each step of the funnel with the appropriate digital marketing tools.

Understanding the digital sales funnel means that you need to grasp each stage of the funnel and the appropriate digital tools that complements it.

Here is a simplified breakdown of the stages and the appropriate digital marketing responses.

  • Awareness
    • Make potential clients aware of your existence. For example, through ads on social media or ranking well in search engines.
  • Interest
    • Raise interest about your brand. Who are you and what sets you apart from your competition? Some common digital tools for this stage are features about your brand in digital publications and videos.
  • Engage
    • Solidify your relationships. Sponsored posts on social media that address concerns the client could have or encourages them to ask questions is a great tool for this stage.
  • Action
    • Do business with the client. A tool for this stage is implementing calls-to-action for the client to make a purchase. For example, incentivizing a purchase by offering discounts in ads or emails for the client.

4. Build buyer personas

You need to know who your audience is before you attempt to successfully reach out to them. So how can you understand who your audience is?

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Buyer personas help you understand your audience, before addressing them. Illustration by Cross the Lime.

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Once you can imagine who a person is then you can make some assumptions about what would appeal to them.

  • Create a narrative: Where does this person shop? What does this person read? Which marketing channels can you find them on?
  • Get specific. What do they need? What are their preferences? How can you meet (or surpass) their expectations?
    • Customer example: Trevor, 26, values experiences over things. He doesn’t own a car. He’s “the expressionist” who prefers to buy unique items and doesn’t want to look like everyone else.
  • Do your research using analytics services.

To delve further into this step, take a look at our post: How to create a user persona.

5. Locate your customers on the funnel

You then have to locate your customers at different stages of the funnel. In all likelihood, there will be customers at all stages of the funnel who are open to connecting with you.

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Knowing where to find your customers is essential to your content strategy. Illustration by -grkn-.

For example, let’s say your product is an organic deodorant. Your prospective customer may be:

  • Someone who does a Google search for organic deodorants and ends up reading an article that features you.
  • Someone who’s looking to buy a deodorant that is organic and zero waste and sees your sponsored Facebook post about how your deodorant is made of compostable packaging.
  • Some who has already purchased your deodorant and who you now include in an email campaign featuring an option to buy your deodorant at a discounted price.

Once you have this information, you can begin to target distinct groups of customers through different channels.

6. Create a content plan

woman at desk blue background
At this stage, you should have all the necessary information to start planning Illustration by AEAE

At this stage, you will develop a specific marketing strategy for every channel that attracts your customers. What sort of content do you need to achieve your digital marketing goals for each of these channels?

Your strategy will be made up of a series of actions that respond to specific goals. It will also have a specific timeline so that the actions can have measurable deadlines.

Some of these actions will be:

  • Developing a keyword strategy: identifying important keywords to improve SEO.
  • Creating a content calendar:
    • This will allow you to have long-term and easily traceable goals. Your content calendar will be very specific. Each actionable item will include (at least) author, publication date, keywords, topic and potential tags.
    • There should be a digital marketing goal for each month. For example, starting in January, you will feature bi-weekly posts on your blog on a specific theme.
  • Posting on social media: use research you’ve conducted to ascertain what sort of content you should post on which social media channels and how often you should do so.
  • Using CTA’s and widgets: it is crucial to include CTAs and widgets in your digital marketing content to allow customers to easily engage with you and your products.
  • Marketing automation tools: Once you have your content strategy down, these tools are a great way to save time and be efficient.

7. Analyze results

top of three illustrations people manually working on screen
Investigate how your strategy is working and correct course. Illustration by spoon lancer.

Once you have a strategy in place, practice this step at intervals (add it to your calendar). How are customers interacting with what you’re sharing with them? How are you progressing toward your goals? These analytics will help you correct course and learn from things that didn’t work out as planned.

By using analytics software you can observe your progress at different stages of the funnel. You want to understand:

  • If clicks are turning into conversions. Is there mobility across the funnel? Why or why not?
  • If there is a point where you’re losing engagement with customers. What’s the reason and how can you fix it?
  • What’s working well—and what’s not.

Keep up with the latest digital marketing tools, there might be something new on the market that addresses your analysis needs perfectly.

With the results you gather, you can create graphics using data visualization tools which will help with comparisons, goal tracking and presentations.

Focus on your goals and the specific steps that will get you there

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What you want is traceable progress. Illustration by panigasi.

You may have noticed that to create a solid foundation for a  successful digital marketing campaign there are two key words you must live by: goals and specifics. Create clear goals and then outline the specific steps you need to take to get there—the more specific, the better!

And now that you’re armed with this guide, you can dive deeper and learn more about the different types of digital marketing and what each one can do for your brand.

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