blog post | marketing

How to create a winning digital marketing strategy

Alex Swope Team Photo
Alex SwopeDirector of Strategy

When your CMO or CEO asks you about your strategy, do you feel an overwhelming sense of dread?

The thing that’s both great and terrible about digital marketing is: it’s all measurable, and there are SO many levers to pull. That’s the challenge: how do you know what digital marketing strategy will work for your business or goals? And how can you integrate it into your overall go-to-market plan?

But I’m here to tell you that crafting a digital marketing strategy isn’t rocket science. There’s a predictable process to generating a solid plan一every time.

So in this post, I’ll explain why you need a digital marketing strategy, how to choose your go-to-market tactics, and how to leverage quantitative and qualitative data to create a winning digital marketing program.

Why do you need a digital marketing strategy?

Many companies pursue digital marketing because everyone else is doing it. As a result, they don’t put the rigor or dollars behind digital marketing like they might for a traditional marketing program. And their success suffers.

That’s because there are so many digital marketing activities you can do一Facebook ads, SEO, social media, you name it. Without a plan, you’re merely testing different tactics and seeing what sticks.

But folks at small companies (even large companies) can’t afford to funnel $10,000 into the wrong channel or tactic. They need to be laser-focused, directing their efforts toward initiatives that will help them reach their goals.

4 things to do before crafting a digital marketing strategy

Your strategy must be based on data and existing business goals. To get in the proper prework, you need to:

  1. Confirm business goals – Most companies go through a strategic planning process every year. Take a moment to reexamine those goals and highlight the ones that marketing plays a role in. Your goals should directly align with overall business KPIs to ensure you’re all swimming in the same direction.
  1. Establish your constraints – Say your company has a revenue goal for the year. How much of that will be marketing-driven? How much of that will be digital marketing-driven? Once you know you need to generate $X in pipe, you can determine what tactics can get you there.
  1. Look at your CRM data – There’s often finger pointing between sales and marketing. But really, people can’t argue with solid data. Doing a quantitative MQL analysis will provide a realistic picture of how you can tee sales up to hit their revenue numbers.
  1. Create a forecast – From your CRM data, it should be relatively easy to calculate your click-to-lead rate, lead-to-MQL rate, and MQL-to-meeting rate. From there, you can figure out exactly how many clicks will likely end up as real revenue at the end of the sales cycle, and that’s a great foundation for your strategy.

When you’ve completed these steps, you’ll know exactly what performance analysis you need to determine the effort, resources, and tactics required to hit your milestones. Tying your actions back to this data-driven plan comes in handy during quarterly business reviews.

How to choose the right digital marketing tactics

Digital marketing tactics should come straight from your strategy and give you the most bang for your buck.

For example, say a company has a bullet point in their strategy about capturing very high volume, very broad keywords. 

This company could decide to use paid search to hit that goal. However, it would cost them thousands of dollars and may not generate any leads or conversions.

Instead, I’d argue they should take an SEO approach. By building pieces of valuable content, they can draw in the people searching for those keywords. Not only will this tactic be more successful in the long run, it will also save the company money.

To get into the right mindset, ask yourself:

  • What are our goals?
  • What challenges have we had meeting those goals?
  • How can we solve those problems?
  • Which goals are the highest priority?
  • How can we achieve them while generating the most value? (i.e., where are there marketing opportunities)

How qualitative data plays a role in your digital marketing strategy

Quantitative metrics don’t tell you everything about your audience and your messaging. But that level of detail is crucial when improving conversion rates. To weave some qualitative metrics into your strategy, look at prospects that convert, and ask yourself:

  • Do they exist in a certain industry?
  • Do most of them share a job role or title?
  • What are their pain points?
  • Are they all requesting the same product?
  • Are they all coming in through the same channel?
  • What content do they prefer?
  • What landing pages do they prefer?

Your goal should be to identify the messages and offers that resonate most with this segment of your audience. To get a little more data, I ask sales or other boots-on-the-ground teams questions like:

  • What are prospects saying when your eyes light up, and you know it’s going to be a great conversation?
  • What are prospects saying when they’re a poor fit for our product/service?
  • What do prospects get the most excited about when you talk to them?

Adjusting your messaging to align with how your best customers describe their wants and needs catches prospects’ attention and ultimately drives them to convert.

How to find and close gaps in your digital marketing strategy

Examining your data and collaborating with other teams is key to refining your digital marketing strategy. These next four examples can serve as inspiration for polishing your strategy over time.

Example 1: Lead routing

One of my clients was struggling with revenue projections. Their marketing metrics looked fantastic on the front-end, but something was happening in the middle.

There were two sales teams servicing leads at the company, so we decided to compare their performance. It turns out that there was a big difference in the teams’ overall performance, and qualified leads were being handed off to lower-performing sales teams.

So we sent the most qualified leads to our A-team. That simple lead routing change boosted revenue projections by 15 – 20%.

Example 2: Qualifying attributes

Another client was having difficulty figuring out which prospects to focus on. Digging into the data, we found that prospects were 82% more likely to enroll in the program when there was a vehicle value on their credit pull.

That one piece of data told us we needed to: (1) ask about car payments on the lead intake form, (2) send those leads straight to the company’s best closer, and (3) find more prospects with car payments.

The first two action items were easy fixes. The third made us focus on retargeting. Because we had already identified the signals of high-value prospects pre- and post-conversion, we could train Google and Facebook to find more of those people.

Example 3: Customer language

Tools like Hotjar and Gong are inexpensive yet powerful ways to glean user insights.

Hotjar tells you where prospects spend time on your website or landing pages, and Gong gives you a sense of prospects’ language. This data is not only highly relevant, it’s immediately accessible. Understanding these insights can help you choose better retargeting, segmentation, and audience management tactics.

Example 4: The Post-Up, Red Dot, and Priority Matrix Exercise

The “Post-Up, Red Dot, and Priority Matrix” exercise is the perfect trifecta for generating alignment and ideas. It’s fun. It’s highly interactive. And it’s extremely valuable.

You can do this in person with sticky notes or use an app like Miro to do the exercise virtually. Here’s how it works:

  1. Pick a digital marketing problem you want to solve
  2. Ask a group of people how they would overcome this challenge (Typically, this is your marketing team plus sales and other GTM teams)
  3. Give participants 7 – 10 minutes to brainstorm their ideas
  4. Have them post ideas on a physical or digital whiteboard
  5. When 10 minutes is up, tell everyone they can cast 3 votes for their favorite ideas (these are represented as red dots)
  6. Identify the most popular ideas, and table the rest for follow-up sessions
  7. Place the most popular ideas on a priority matrix based on value and effort axes, like this:
  1. Prioritize the ideas that end up in the left-hand corner (high value, low effort) as immediate next steps

This exercise only takes 40 minutes, but you end up with a wealth of ideas and a concrete path forward. Plus, everyone gets to contribute, which gets them more onboard with the direction your digital marketing is going.

How do you know if your strategy is working?

Simply put, your strategy is working when you’re hitting your KPIs.

The not-so-simple part is remembering to document and regularly monitor your progress. Six months in, you don’t want to realize that none of the work you’ve been doing has had an impact.

So, your strategy should:

  • Be clearly documented
  • Be communicated to your team and your leadership team
  • Include specific initiatives with measurable KPIs tied to them
  • Indicate when you check in on your progress and performance

Timing here is critical. You can’t wait for a full 6 to 12-month sales cycle to analyze your results. You’ll need to find frontline leading indicators that your strategy is moving forward, like click-to-lead rate. Look at these frontline metrics weekly to see how you’re pacing against your goals.

If you’re not hitting your numbers, do some additional testing to find out if you need more resources or need to revisit your goals. From there, you can get back on track.

Every quarter, take a look at your down funnel data. By then, deals will likely have closed, so you’ll know where to pivot or accelerate various parts of your strategy.

Start drafting your 2023 digital marketing strategy today

Digital marketing can be a highly effective part of your customer acquisition program. But it won’t yield the results you want if you don’t have a data-driven plan.

Your strategy should be the driving force behind your day-to-day activities and interactions with other teams. You should be referring to your strategy and KPIs every week, if not every day. With the right plan in place, you will find even more opportunities to learn about your customers and grow your business.

Don’t feel ready to develop a digital marketing strategy yourself? Book some one-on-one time with one of our WebMechanix experts.

And remember, you can learn about more digital marketing and advertising strategies like these live every Wednesday at 12 PM EST. Sign up here to attend The Growth Clinic.

You may be interested in:

From Selling to Serving: How A Small Perspective Shift Drove $10M in Sales

From Selling to Serving: How A Small Perspective Shift Drove $10M in Sales

I’ve personally sold well over $10 million worth of digital marketing services to 100+ organizations since we opened our doors in 2009. And if there’s ONE thing I’ve learned, it’s this: I can’t “sell” worth a damn. In the early days, I studied a lot of classic sales techniques. I’d write scripts & commit them to memory. I had...
Read this