7 Steps to Digital Marketing Success

Ben Bradley
Ben Bradley

Director of Strategic Accounts - Client Consulting

7 steps digital marketing success
7 steps image via Shutterstock

As digital marketing has unfolded it has been full of promises to simplify our lives, but the reality is that digital marketing has complicated them more than ever. As a result, 947 marketing technology companies have been created attempting to make digital marketing easier!

According to  Adobe’s recent Digital Distress Study:

  • 76% of marketers feel marketing has changed more in past 2 years than the past 50
  • 79% biggest concern is whether their programs are working
  • Only 48% of the digital marketers surveyed feel highly proficient in digital marketing..
  • Only 40% think their company’s marketing is effective

What’s worse than this self-doubt of most marketers? Our Bosses (The C-Level) are also riddled with their own digital self-doubt and worry about their team’s skills sets, as found in this IBM Study:

  • 79% of CMOs expect a high or very high level of complexity (in their marketing responsibilities) over the next five years but only 48% feel prepared for it
  • 56% of CMOs are unprepared for ROI accountability
  • 61% of CXOs said lack of ROI certainty was preventing them from using/trying new tools

Clearly, digital marketing is not easy. That is why I have put together a list of 7 steps that technology marketers can take to build a better digital strategy:

Step 1 – Identify your goals

Step one in developing your digital strategy is to define your business goals.  Every tactic and measurement in your marketing effort is based on this. It is the foundation of the strategy but also identifying clear goals will give you the ability to accurately report the ROI or other impacts of your efforts.

Examples of common business goals would be to build reputability, enter new market(s), launch products, drive market share, identify acquisition candidates, develop the channel, international growth, vertical penetration, rebrand etc.

Step 2 – Know your KPIs

After you have identified your business goals, the next step is to identify how you will measure success against these goals.  Identify the most important KPIs that will show actionable impact against your goals. To help keep focused look for just 1 KPI at a time. Also it’s critical to establish benchmarks at this point.

As you get more sophisticated you can look to drill in on tactics and channels used as well as the relationship between the KPIs against segments and user cohorts (segments being demographics, cohorts being users that shared the same experience).

For example if the core KPIs are Leads, MQLs, and pipelined revenue, look at both the impact on these by distribution channel (content syndication channels, vs. paid search vs. website traffic) and by marketing tactic (think webcast vs. white paper vs. social media vs. mobile content). Go further and understand the relationship between the core KPIs (pipeline for example) and lifetime value of customers.

Common examples of various KPIs might be, Leads, pipeline, qualified opportunities, closed revenue, website visits, friends/followers/likes, clicks, conversions, downloads, etc.

For more examples of KPIs see this great post.

Step 3 – Adjust marketing strategy for maturity levels

Maturity should be viewed from two viewpoints:

1: Understand where your brand stands in the market. Are you an up and coming player? Are you a legacy brand? Does your brand have a positive sentiment?

These are important questions as they can influence the placement and tactics needed to move the needle. For example in the Networking market, Cisco is the dominate brand. In surveys, when asked which vendor IT Buyers associate with various networking technologies, Cisco is on the top of most lists.  The tactics they need to use to influence buyers are different than those of a less established, or start-up brand.

2: Understand what stage of market maturity your technology is.

This is taking a step back from the brand level and looking at the technology level. Is the technology well established? Do buyers know the pain points associated with it and the product players? For example, look the difference of marketing mainframe management software vs. SDN. IT buyers know the mainframe players and already have short list created before doing research. SDN being newer is a environment where IT buyers need to do research and self-education before creating a short list.

Step 4 – Audit your content

digital marketing contentContent is another highly dynamic element. You should view your content library mapped by types/ formats/ personas/ Authorship/ Personas/ CTAs/ buy stage, and in some cases, industry verticals (but that’s a whole separate blog post in itself). The action items based on the content library from these segments will also hinge on the first 3 elements (Goals, KPIs, Maturity) from your digital strategy.

The best starting point here is to run a content audit and identify what types of content you have, the formats they cover, the personas addressed, etc. For more on how to do this view this article or ask a TechTarget Client Consultant.

The content audit will result in a map that will illustrate where you have the content to address the needs of buyers, and expose where you have gaps.

For example – if your goal is international growth, and your KPI is lead generation and MQL conversion rates, identify if you need local language (translated) content or whether merely localized content (English content but content that has call outs for the region its used in) will suffice and then fill gaps.

When you map out your content, you will identify if you have the content needed to reach each buyer persona and help them navigate the buy cycle.  In your audit you might discover you have lots of content targeting a c-level persona, but nothing for an IT staff level. Furthermore,  you might discover you have lots of white papers, but no 3rd party coverage, or no streaming media. This process helps identify gaps to focus on for future content development.

Step 5 – Strategically distribute your content

There are many different distribution channels to consider using in your digital strategy.  Every channel will have different audience profiles and those audiences will have different engagement expectations. Even in social channels this is true, as a LinkedIn post looks very different than a tweet.

It’s your job to identify where your most relevant audience is, and find ways to engage with them.  Different channels will need to be adjusted with reasonable goals and expectations. For example the goals and KPIs of a social channel like twitter would be different than those of microsite you build out, or of a syndication campaign.

It’s best to identify where your audience is, map out paid, owned, and earned channels, and the Goals/KPIs each channel can drive toward.

Paid Media Paid – Best Fit Goal(s)
Syndication Channels Reach, Engagement, Influence, Conversion
Twitter Ads Reach
Owned Media Owned – Best Fit Goal(s)
Your Company Site Engagement, Conversion
A community site (i.e. Thwack for Solarwinds) Engagement
Earned Media Earned – Best Fit Goal(s)
Your Twitter followers Reach, Engagement, Influence
Your Facebook followers Reach, Engagement, Influence

Step 6 – Nurture, nurture, nurture

Perhaps the most critical understanding of digital marketing strategy is that all buy cycles (especially B2B) are going to require multiple touches or influences from your brand. You can’t just put out content and assume people will consume it and be inspired to make a purchase. You need to guide your prospects through the cycle.

In other words, develop tactics (like nurture streams) to continue to influence, engage, and educate the potential buyers.  This isn’t limited just to their inbox. In our quest to influence, engage, and educate, we can use any of the channels covered in the distribution section.

For example a user might enter our nurturing stream via a syndicated white paper; however their second touch might happen via social listening on twitter.

While automation tools are great to consider here, they are not the silver bullet many marketers hoped for. If you haven’t run through at least the first 4 steps here, automation won’t be backed by a strategy aligned to your goals.

Step 7 – Measure and optimize

The most dangerous phrase a marketer can utter is: “we’ve always done it that way.” This is a sharp contrast to modern digital amrketing where things can and will change on a daily basis. Modern marketers must adapt to changing environments and moving targets by Testing, Testing, and more Testing.

Use the data available in today’s digital marketing world and use it to not just be data driven, but to be intelligence driven. What intelligence can you synthesize from data?   According to VentureBeat, intelligence-driven marketers see 3x the conversion rates.

For more detailed best practices on testing I would recommend this article by Renee Thompson and this one from Kissmetrics.

Put it all together

These 7 Steps, followed in order, will give you the foundation you need to build out a dynamic digital marketing strategy. If you want to discuss this more, please feel free to leave a comment or connect with me on TwitterLinkedIn, or Google+.

digital marketing, global technology marketing, KPIs, marketing goals, marketing intelligence, Marketing ROI, marketing strategies

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