Improve your Digital marketing strategy – How should I structure my digital marketing plan for 2024? with our hub page

Use our hub pages as a reference to get up-to-speed on all the main digital marketing techniques. They will help you quickly understand how to make the most of the technique through definitions and recommendations on our member resources and blog articles covering strategy, best practices and the latest statistics.

How to structure a digital marketing strategy?

We believe that an omnichannel marketing strategy is essential for marketers to take advantage of the growing digital marketing opportunities for acquiring and retaining customers - so you can win more sales. See our article on 10 reasons you need a digital marketing strategy for the compelling reasons why you need a dedicated strategy to prioritize your investments in digital communications.

What is a digital marketing strategy?

Most definitions of digital marketing strategy, dive straight into the digital marketing tactics like organic and paid search and social media (it's still vital to invest sufficiently in these and follow best practices). For us, what is most important is how the strategy supports the business goals and is integrated with other offline marketing activities. So in his book Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice, our co-founder Dr. Dave Chaffey defines Digital Marketing  simply as:

"Achieving marketing objectives through applying digital media, data and technology".

In our view, a Digital Marketing Strategy is essential to provide a consistent direction for online marketing activities and channel integration. The aim of the strategy should be to ensure the integration of digital and other marketing activities and to support overall business objectives.  Digital marketing strategy needs to align with marketing strategies to grow a business through customer acquisition and retention or to achieve the communications goals of not-for-profit organizations.

A digital strategy should also aim to impact business and marketing strategy by identifying opportunities to create value for customers and the business by reviewing new digital business and revenue models such as subscription commerce. We believe an online marketing strategy is essential since without it, businesses fail to invest sufficiently in always-on lifecycle marketing activities and improving best practices for all the digital marketing channels shown in the visual.

Our visual is defined to simplify the many digital media channel options available on different platform such as Meta, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and publisher sites into six areas of improvement both for your marketing campaigns and continuous, always-on promotion.

The six digital marketing communications tactics that the digital marketing strategy must specify investment in and improvements to best practices are:

1 Search Engine Marketing. Increases search engine visibility for target keywords through paid Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ads and organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO), balancing paid and earned media strategies.

2. Social Media Marketing. Combines paid ads and organic content on platforms like Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn to enhance visibility and engage customers, leveraging both owned and earned media.

3. Display Advertising. Involves online banners and video ads on social media platforms and publishers to increase brand awareness, including programmatic display and native advertising, similar to digital sponsorship.

4. Digital PR.  Aims to secure positive external mentions, using tactics like guest blogging and influencer outreach to boost awareness, drive traffic, and support SEO.

5. Digital Partnerships. Entails collaborative promotions on third-party sites, including affiliate marketing, co-branding, and co-marketing, effective in retail, travel, and finance sectors.

6. Digital Messaging. Primarily includes email marketing that remains effective, but also using mobile messaging including mobile push and SMS notifications, focusing on subscribed opt-in audiences with an emphasis on compliance with privacy regulations.

Bringing all this together, our definition of digital marketing strategy that is relevant to all businesses from small to large is:

"A plan defining the future direction and investment needed to improve the contribution of digital marketing for a business.  It should set SMART objectives for digital channels and prioritize strategic initiatives to harness digital media, data and marketing technology to increase  engagement of audiences using digital devices and platforms. Its scope should include opportunities from both new business and revenue models and always-on and campaign communications integrated with offline media and interactions.

How is a digital marketing strategy structured?

As with other types of marketing strategies, an effective digital strategy needs a clear process to define the steps of creating and implementing the plan. It also needs a clear framework of digital marketing activities to 'cover all the bases' of the many digital marketing techniques needed to maintain continuous visibility through always-on marketing activities using channels like web, search, social media and email marketing.

Do you have a defined digital marketing strategy?

Did you know many companies don't have a digital marketing strategy?

Our recent Managing Digital marketing research report showed that almost half (47%) of companies don't yet have a planned strategy:


Our RACE Growth System for improving marketing effectiveness has two parts to structure your plan that covers both the framework and process that we will introduce in this article using two different visuals:

1. The RACE Planning Framework: defines the essential activities and measures businesses need to master to survive and thrive in today’s marketing world.

2. The RACE OSA improvement process: defines the three steps needed to build and implement your growth plan - either for your overall marketing plan or for an individual channel, such as organic search, social media or email marketing.

Learn how to use the RACE Growth system to improve your digital marketing

If you sign up as a Free member of Smart Insights, you can download our popular 90-day RACE planning template which explains how to use the RACE Growth system.

Part 1. The RACE Planning framework

Our popular infographic summarizes the 5 steps of the RACE Marketing Planning Framework which is a classic marketing funnel aimed at improving marketing effectiveness.

The benefit of our digital marketing framework is you can start to see results from your marketing activities instantly, and you can use data and insights to adapt your plan to meet your objectives as you can see below.

Race Planning Framework

The Smart Insights approach to improving digital marketing maturity is data-driven, so the infographic recommends some of the key measures that should be used to set targets and improve performance at each stage.

Our free planning template recommends what to review to improve results from marketing in more detail.

Part 2. The RACE OSA improvement process:

To make the RACE planning framework actionable, OSA gives a simple process to create your overall strategy and improve the results of individual channels such as search, social media and email marketing.

OSA stands for Opportunity > Strategy > Action

The RACE OSA growth process is designed to help our members improve their results from marketing, customized to their needs based on the size and type of business, their personal experience and needs.

So you can make an instant impact, we recommend you start by creating a 90-day prioritized plan and then create a longer-term annual plan and roadmap.

OSA has three simple parts that integrate with our planning templates, learning paths and other tools:

In your first 90-days with Smart Insights, our system will quickly help you decide where you need to prioritize to achieve your business and personal needs by using our learning paths, tools and templates to create your learning and action plan.

What are the key activities in each part of OSA?

You can apply OSA to different marketing activities from creating a growth plan for the next 3 months, creating an annual plan or improving your marketing campaign process. It also works well for driving results from individual channels like the website, organic or paid search, social media or email marketing. You can also apply it to your personal learning and skills development.


  • Audit performance
  • Review marketplace
  • Key issues summary
  • Set objectives


  • Review marketing and digital strategy options
  • Assess budget / business case
  • Prioritize and select strategic initiatives


  • Plan 90-day activities
  • Implement plans
  • Review results

You can then continue improvement using our 90-day planning template.

5 stages of planning a digital marketing strategy with examples.

The 5 stages of strategic digital marketing planning are:   Plan > Reach > Act > Convert and Engage.

In this section, we will summarise the key success factors for each stage of your digital marketing strategy, with examples, integrated across the Smart Insights RACE Framework.

1. Plan

Every successful digital marketing strategy starts with a plan! We recommend you use a data-driven approach, review your current digital marketing effectiveness, and plan to improve from there.

Omnichannel planning opportunities include customizing analytics, setting up KPI dashboards, and setting SMART objectives to create a strategy of prioritized improvements to how you deploy digital marketing media, technology, and data to increase leads and sales.

To ensure your digital marketing strategy is working efficiently and effectively, we recommend taking a digitally-focused approach to strategy and planning. Our RACE Framework is designed for marketers and managers to create a fully integrated, data-driven, practical digital marketing funnel to support their business' overall vision.

Our 5-step digital marketing plan guides you through reaching new audiences, to nurturing interaction, converting customers, and encouraging engagement and advocacy. That's why we call it the R-A-C-E Framework.

If you're still looking to introduce or define digital marketing within your business, check out our recommended 18 digital marketing techniques to kick off your digital journey.

2. Reach

Strengthen your marketing funnel by reaching more customers and building awareness. Inform your digital marketing strategy with the latest key online marketing techniques to drive visits to your site.

Smart Insights members can keep up to date with the latest marketing techniques across each stage of the RACE Framework.

3. Act

Encourage interactions on your website or social media to help you generate leads for the future. Having reached your audience, it's crucial you influence their next steps to move down the funnel toward a purchase decision.

Content marketing

Here, strategic content marketing comes into play. Use content marketing to entertain, inspire, educate, and convince potential converters during their customer lifecycle.

Content Marketing Matrix

4. Convert

The pinnacle of your structured digital marketing strategy is, of course, to convert more customers. Use retargeting, nurturing and conversion rate optimization to remind and persuade your audience to buy online or offline if phone and face-to-face channels if these are important to you.

5. Engage

Finally, after you're worked so hard to get them, did you know you can increase sales from existing customers by keeping them engaged after their first purchase? Improve your personalized communications using web, email, and social media marketing using the data you already have about them to create hyper-personalized marketing campaigns.

Customer engagement research and testing options for digital marketers today include:

  • A/B testing
  • Customer personas
  • Customer journey and content mapping
  • Voice of customer surveys
  • Path analysis
  • Website customer intent surveys
  • Usability studies of digital experiences
  • Multivariate testing

Moreover, machine learning enables unprecedented insights into consumer behavior. For example, predictive analytics can be used to identify:

  • Best send times to engage an individual (can be based when they originally bought or subscribed, but this can be refined through time)
  • Best timing and offer for follow-up communications based on analysis of latency (average interval of response)
  • Best product or category combinations from cluster-based segmentation

Download a free digital marketing template to optimize your customers' journeys

Digital marketing channels play a key role in your customers' experiences of your brand. But in today's demanding digital landscape where customers' expectations are outpacing martech developments, failure to plan your omnichannel journeys can lead to a disconnect. Our RACE Framework can help you structure your plan.

Here, you can see how paid, owned, and earned media, alongside digital experience, take roles in reaching new audiences, nurturing interaction, converting more customers, and encouraging engagement and advocacy.

Get started today using our tried and tested step-by-step process. Apply the Smart Insights RACE Framework to optimize your marketing and win more customers.

Lifecycle Diagram - Paid earned Owned media

If you're looking to improve your approach to managing digital marketing, as a Business Member, we can support you to get it right the first time by following our example planning templates for different sectors which are available as downloads in Word and Powerpoint.

To step you through the process of creating a plan our premium members use our RACE Practical Digital Marketing Learning Path.

Our Learning Paths are integrated with downloadable templates to help you audit your performance, set forecasts and create action plans. Each Learning Path includes different types of example templates in Excel, Powerpoint and Word from our resource library to help you create your action plans as you work through the Learning Path.

The remainder of this article gives some additional recommendations for resources on Smart Insights and other websites advising on online marketing.

Digital marketing strategy – How should I structure my digital marketing plan for 2024? quick guide

Digital marketing strategy – How should I structure my digital marketing plan for 2024? success factors

An effective digital marketing strategy will help you take the right decisions to make a company successful.  A strategy process model such as RACE provides a framework that gives a logical sequence to follow to ensure the inclusion of all key activities of strategy development and implementation.

We recommend businesses start by auditing their digital marketing maturity to identify how their current approach may be hampering their ability to compete.

In larger businesses, a strategy will only be successful if it is built on reviewing these 7 core capabilities shown on our maturity assessment:

  • Strategic approach
  • Performance improvement process
  • Management buy-in
  • Resourcing and structure
  • Data and infrastructure
  • Integrated customer communications
  • Customer experience

Digital marketing excellence benchmarking

Free members can download this and other digital channel benchmarks to rate their digital maturity and identify improvements.

Our Digital Transformation Learning Path for Business Professional members shows how to manage the change to provide the right platform for success.

Learn more about the premium membership options for different types of business.

Digital marketing strategy – How should I structure my digital marketing plan for 2024? definition

Marketing strategy

First, a marketing strategy is a proactive, data-driven approach to marketing and communication activity across all channels and touchpoints. The marketing strategy informs all marketing activity taking place for the business since all marketing plans stem from this overarching structure and vision. Once the strategy is set and communicated, marketers use tactics to put into place their actions that drive to the result.

Digital marketing strategy

A digital marketing strategy is a channel strategy stemming from a marketing strategy. The digital marketing strategy must...

  • Be informed by research into customer channel behaviour and marketplace activity = intermediaries, publishers and competitors
  • Based on objectives for future online and offline channel contribution %
  • Define and communicate the differentials of the channel to encourage customers to use it,
  • BUT, need to manage channel integration

So put another way, digital marketing strategy defines how companies should:

  • Hit our channel leads & sales targets
  • Budgets for Acquisition, Conversion, Retention & Growth, Service
  • Communicate benefits of using this channel to enhance brand
  • Prioritize audiences targeted through the channel
  • Prioritize products available through the channel

Best websites on Digital marketing strategy – How should I structure my digital marketing plan for 2024?

There are surprisingly few quality digital marketing strategy sites since most focus on the strategy. We like to think we're different in our focus on strategy too. These  are our top sites to learn more about digital marketing strategy:

  • 1. BCG Perspectives - The Boston Consulting Group of "BCG Matrix" fame has recently improved its articles and research on multichannel marketing and customer insight
  • 2. Econsultancy reports - The Econsultancy blog mainly covers tactics, but there are sound research reports on managing digital channels and ecommerce teams.
  • 3. Figaro Digital. Unusual since it's an online magazine, but these editorial articles often cover digital strategy and are accessible by industry.
  • 4. Forrester Marketing Blog. Forrester analysts write about developments in technology and consumer behaviour .
  • 5. Knowledge@Wharton. The Marketing section often covers online marketing issues and cases.
  • 6. Financial Times Connected Business.  Monthly articles based on case studies.
  • 7.  Harvard Business Review blog. Quality commentary on the intersection of marketing and technology strategy, but unfortunately, not a well-tagged blog.
  • 8. McKinseyQuarterly. Articles regularly cover digital marketing strategy.

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