Digital or online marketing is any form of marketing that involves using online channels for goals of acquisition and retention. It also includes digital technology and the use of data to target audiences more precisely with personalized messages. Since creating awareness and achieving conversion still commonly involve offline channels such as a call-centre or in-store, digital marketing plans need to define integration between channels using techniques like customer journey mapping.
The purpose of a digital marketing plan is to define how to compete more effectively with digital marketing. Its scope of a digital marketing plan is typically annual, but a digital transformation plan will typically be longer since this involves creating long-term roadmaps for implementing new technologies and ways of working. Digital media and technology offer new channels to market, so a digital transformation strategy is a channel strategy. This means that a digital strategy needs to:
Selecting the best mix of digital media to meet your goals of customer acquisition and retention is a large part of a digital marketing strategy. There are a variety of paid, owned and earned media assets that fall within digital marketing, including, for example, your:
A digital marketing plan provides a clear picture of how the combination of different media supports an organization’s goals and objectives. The purpose of a digital marketing plan is to ensure that digital marketing activities are relevant and timely in the achievement of your organization’s objectives, that they can be implemented with available resources and that they are capable of creating and sustaining a competitive position online.
In a large organization, a digital marketing plan may be part of a number of integrated marketing plans, specific to individual parts of the business.
Digital marketing planning is an effective way of strategically organizing your digital marketing tactics and effectively measuring their success. A digital marketing plan provides clear strategic targets for what you want to achieve from your online marketing activities. Implementation can provide numerous benefits:
An effective digital marketing plan will enable you to distinguish behaviour patterns and trends throughout your customer’s journey, providing you with the ability to make informed decisions and improvements at every stage of this journey.
A digital marketing plan typically includes:
A useful tool for reviewing and defining your digital marketing capabilities and resources is the SOSTAC® structure which we explain in our 7 steps strategy guide.
To make sure your digital marketing plan has all the essential features, I recommend the SOSTAC® structure developed by PR Smith—Dave Chaffey’s co-author of the printed book Digital Marketing Excellence.
SOSTAC® is a great framework for structuring business, marketing or digital marketing plans since it’s relatively simple and logical, so it’s easy to remember and to explain to colleagues or agencies. SOSTAC® is a strategic planning process framework that gives you a clear structure to work through to create and manage your plan.
This chart from Digital Marketing Excellence summarises what should be included in each part of a SOSTAC® plan.
Situation analysis means ‘Where are we now?’ For digital marketing planners, questions include:
Objectives mean ‘Where do we want to be?’
Strategy means ‘How do we get there?’ Strategy summarizes how to fulfill the objectives. It is the shortest part of the plan, but arguably, the most important, as it gives direction to all the subsequent tactics. It answers questions including:
Tactics are the details of strategy. They highlight on a digital marketing plan exactly which tactics occur when. Your chosen tactics should support and adhere to your customer’s journey. Examples of digital marketing tactics could include, for example:
I recommend you consider these 6 options defined in this diagram. In reality, you will specify more detail for each channel as listed in our digital media cheatsheet, which gives a succinct summary of the main organic and paid media options on Google and in the social network.
Action is the detailed planning of tactics. Who does what, when and how? What processes and activities are required to make things happen?
Control identifies what you need to measure when and what happens. The Control section of the plan ensures you know if you are succeeding or failing – and you can make adjustments– before it is too late. How you measure the success of your digital marketing activities will be based upon the overall marketing objectives detailed in your marketing plan.
To help you plan your digital marketing tactics effectively, the RACE Planning system will provide you with a simple framework.
RACE is a practical framework to help manage and improve results from your digital marketing. Ultimately it’s about using best practice across digital marketing techniques to get more commercial value from investments in digital marketing. It will help simplify your approach to reviewing the performance of your online marketing and taking actions to improve its effectiveness.
Although SOSTAC® provides a superb framework for structuring a plan, I recommend that a digital marketing plan combines it with the Smart Insights RACE planning framework since:
RACE covers the full customer lifecycle or marketing funnel from:
(Plan) > Reach > Act > Convert > Engage
There is also an initial phase of Plan involving creating the overall digital strategy, objective setting and plan.
RACE consists of four steps or online marketing activities designed to help brands engage their customers throughout the customer lifecycle. This infographic shows the goals for each part of RACE and how you can measure them.
The Smart Insights Multichannel Marketing Growth Wheel infographic gives a visual view of key planning activities that are needed as part of the process of producing an integrated digital marketing plan.
A solid digital marketing plan has:
A digital marketing plan can be a valuable asset to any organization. Regardless of what you sell, a digital marketing plan will enable you to:
How your digital marketing plan is implemented will differ, depending on whether you are a Business to Business (B2B) or Business to Consumer (B2C) organization, for example:
Online lead generation tends to be the goal of B2B organizations, so the focus of your marketing plan will be attracting and converting quality leads via your website and digital channels for your sales teams.
Providing an enhanced customer journey tends to be the focus of B2C organizations, so the focus of your marketing plan will be attracting prospective online customers and converting them, without the input of a sales team.
Digital marketing activities work best when integrated with traditional marketing and response channels. Organizations should, therefore, have a separate digital marketing plan, which is integrated into an overall marketing plan. As recognized in 10 reasons you need a digital marketing strategy in 2017, this ensures that digital marketing is fully aligned and becomes part of business as usual.
Dave Chaffey, co-founder Content Director of Smart Insights, notes that the creation of digital plans often occurs in two stages:
“First, a separate digital marketing plan is created. This is useful to get agreement and buy-in by showing the opportunities and problems and map out a path through setting goals and specific strategies for digital including how you integrated digital marketing into other business activities.
Second, digital becomes integrated into marketing strategy, it’s a core activity, “business-as-usual”, but doesn’t warrant separate planning, except for the tactics.”
By Sarah Cowman
Thanks to Sarah Cowman for sharing their advice and opinion in this post. Sarah, Managing Director at The Yorkshire Marketing Agency, is an award-winning Chartered Marketer. Sarah holds over 10 years’ experience in implementing results-driven marketing and communications strategies, plans and campaigns. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.
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