Depending on which survey you choose to believe you will find that approximately two-thirds of companies that engage in online marketing fail to produce a marketing plan or strategy. And yet they spend significant amounts of time and money trying to generate leads and conversions online.
This is a huge mistake.
If your organisation is one of the many that does not have an online marketing strategy in place, or has lost it’s way, then it is time to get things in order.
What is your offline marketing strategy?
The businesses and companies that are most successful with digital marketing are those that already have their goals and objectives defined well before approaching online marketing. These goals and objectives underpin their offline marketing strategy and the direction of the company overall.
In my role as an internet marketing consultant I always seek access to my client’s offline marketing plans. I do this to develop an understanding of what my client hopes to achieve and to set a starting point for the creation of a digital marketing plan.
Some businesses actually make a real effort to embrace digital marketing however they view it as something to be simply bolted-on to their traditional marketing, existing in its own bubble. It isn’t. Internet marketing needs to be integrated with your offline strategy.
So, when your internet marketing consultant asks for access to the offline marketing plans that you already have in place, you’ll know why.
Planning online marketing
Your online marketing plan should help fulfil your overall business goals by taking advantage of the particular strengths offered by each digital channel.
If you have no experience with this sort of planning or aren’t exactly sure how to implement an online marketing plan then it may be time to consult an expert. Hiring outside help may seem like a cost that you would rather avoid however it is easy to blow an online marketing budget if you don’t know what you are doing.
Successful campaigns require more than simply spending money on advertising and interacting on social media. You also need to consider how you will monitor, adjust, report and optimise your campaigns as they progress.
Think about who exactly will perform each task. Who will they report to? How often will you meet to discuss progress? What are your contingency plans? How will you know if you are on track or in need of a course correction?
Know what success, and failure, looks like!
The planning process can be significantly accelerated and streamlined if you have an experienced online marketing professional to call upon. Whether that person is in-house or an external resource, seek their advice often.
You will also need a clear understanding of the resources that your organisation has made available – budget, human and physical resources, data, etc..
Choosing digital tools
Once you have your digital marketing goals laid out you can then assess the ever growing range of tools and determine which will help you implement your plan.
Fortunately, many of the tools that assist digital marketers have a very short learning curve. This makes the trial periods offered by many of the service providers very useful.
If we look at social media management for example, many of the tools that allow us to schedule updates provide a publishing calendar that gives digital marketing managers an overview of planned posts. There are also editorial features for those who manage teams of online marketing professionals. These sorts of features making planning and implementation management a lot easier.
It is important that the tools you decide to use allow you to be highly responsive to unforeseen changes, opportunities and threats.
Plans aren’t guarantees – things change. Your tools need to be as flexible as you are.
Don’t get distracted
One of the reasons that even experienced marketers can lose their way with internet advertising is that the tools and channels available are a lot of fun to use. The swathe of pretty reports can also lead us away from the task at hand.
Don’t get distracted. Put a plan in place first and from there, everything you do should work towards that plan. Your digital marketing plan in turn supports the overall marketing plan for your business unit or company as a whole.
Planning your digital marketing strategy isn’t difficult and the effect on the success rate of your campaigns will justify the effort.
Even a campaign that failed will give you valuable insight since you can consult your plan and see what went wrong or what needs improving next time. If your plan included a monitoring element (which it should) then chances are you dealt with any problems as they arose.
The sense of direction that a plan provides, even for a solo marketing practitioner, gives clarity and purpose to everything you do.
Take planning seriously and you will be rewarded.