As 2015 draws to a close, time to develop your digital marketing plan is quickly running out. Whether you are suffering from writer’s block or you simply cannot focus on drinking a bit too much eggnog, the following 4-step guide should help give you a kick start. However, before we look at the points, it is important to clear up a common misconception many people have about marketing by answering one question:
Is your marketing plan trying to answer the wrong question?
I can bet that you and your marketing team are smart – probably even much smarter than I am. However, it makes no sense to be smart but uses your skills and knowledge to answer the wrong question! Let me illustrate this point with an example: a couple of years ago, our company carried out a survey of more than 100 business owners, asking them one question:
“What is the #1 thing you would like to know about digital marketing?”
As is to be expected, the responses were varied, but most of them followed a common theme. Many of the business owners polled wanted to know, “Is there one marketing tactic that I can use to give me the best Return on Investment (ROI)?”
I am pretty confident that if we polled business owners again today, we would get the same question coming up because it is one that our clients keep asking us. Chances are you are also looking for the answer to this issue too!
If you have asked yourself this question, then this article should make it clear that no single tactic or strategy gives the best ROI. When developing your marketing plan, you should not look to find a single ‘holy grail’ trick. What your strategy should do instead is to combine multiple channels to come up with a unified way to improve your ROI.
Now that we have got that out of the way, we can now move to the four steps to creating a successful digital marketing plan.
Step 1: Define Your Goals For 2016
The most crucial step of planning your marketing strategy is determining your goals. However, you should not just have any goals; they should be SMART goals. This is a mnemonic which means Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Each of your strategy’s goals must meet each of those criteria.
It is common to hear business owners set vague goals like ‘we need more leads’ or ‘we should increase our sales.’ However, these are not real goals. How many more leads does the business need? How much growth is the company aiming for in 2016? If your goals are already set, be prepared to review them and make them as accurate as possible.
You must have measurable goals so that you know what progress you are making toward achieving them. When carrying out your digital marketing efforts, Google Analytics can help you to measure how close or far you are from achieving your goals.
Although it is a lot of fun to dream big and set your sights high, it is important that you give yourself targets that can be achieved within the next 12 months. The goals you set should not demoralize, but be a source of excitement and motivation.
Does your goal matter in the bigger picture of your business’ success? Achieving your goals should have a direct impact on your bottom line. A #1 Google ranking for ‘New York pediatric surgeon’ is a goal that is specific, measurable and could be achievable, but does no good for the business of a doctor who does not deal with children.
Because you are preparing your goals for 2016, the deadline for the achievement of your goals is December 31, 2016. Because some of your goals can (and should) be possible to achieve by then, set an appropriate completion date. Having deadlines for your goals is a great motivator to reaching them.
Step 2: Work Backwards When Defining Your Monthly Goals and KPIs
By this point, you should have set your goals. For example, your goal could be to generate sales of $1,000,000 in the next 12 months. This would be a reasonable SMART goal if your business generated less than a million dollars in 2013.
Your next step is to figure out the future date you expect to hit this target and then work backwards. This is a major step as it allows you to identify the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) you must track to achieve your goal eventually.
Although it may sound strange, a simple way to do this is to start by assuming it is December 31, 2016. Write down what the performance of your business looked like that month. Picturing what your future would look like is a simple mind game that is, however, a critical part of planning for 2016.
This exercise will help you answer questions like how many sales were necessary for December to hit your 2016 goal? To generate the $1 million mentioned above, is necneeded to generate $83,333 every month over 12 months. Of course, this is an oversimplified figure as you should plan to have growth month over month from January to December.
So, how many sales are necessary to generate $83,333 every month? If you have an average customer value of $500, you will need 167 sales every month. The next question is: To make 167 sales, how many leads do you require? If your lead conversion rate is 10%, you need to attract 1,670 leads. Looking at your website’s historical analytics figures, you may find that your visitor to lead conversion also stands at 10%. This means you need to have 16,700 visitors to your website every month to hit your sales target.
This example shows how working backwards makes it simple to identify KPIs for your business.
Step 3: Get Real
The third step in developing an effective marketing plan for 2016 is to check your goals against the KPIs in step 2. Given your traffic statistics, is it possible for you to achieve visitor numbers of over 16,000 every month? Are the conversion rates you used attainable when measured against similar businesses or your historical data?
Getting the answers to these questions requires a fair bit of research and probably some expert third-party advice. The key issue is whether you generate enough traffic to help you achieve your goals. For instance, Google’s Keyword Planner may indicate that there are 100,000 searches every month for the product or service you offer; is it possible for your SEO and Google Adwords to deliver 16,000 visitors to your website?
Although 16% of all the searches for your keyword may not look like much, it is important to remember that – for most businesses – a 2% AdWords click through rate can be termed a successful campaign. It is recommended that you seek the advice of a Search Engine Marketing (SEM) expert to ensure that the goals you have set are achievable and realistic. If you discover that you have set unattainable goals, do not be ashamed to revise them. It is better to do this at the beginning than to spend 12 months chasing shadows.
Step 4: Assign Responsibilities
The last step of developing your strategy should be relatively straightforward. This move involves assigning a member of your team the responsibility for the implementation and measurement of monthly progress. If your plans for growth are big, you may need to hire someone specifically for this task, or outsource it to a different company.