How to craft a high-impact digital marketing strategy

In a world where potential customers are online at all times, “digital marketing” has become practically synonymous with “marketing.” Even if your brand or industry is predominately offline, you may still need a digital marketing strategy to find and convert customers at scale. 

Research shows that digital channels account for almost 80% of marketing budgets; compared to traditional forms of marketing—like trade shows and direct mail—digital marketing is often far less expensive, and significantly easier to track.

In this piece, we’ll share a step-by-step guide for creating a digital marketing strategy. 

What is digital marketing strategy?

A digital marketing strategy is a documented plan to boost brand awareness and customer engagement through activities like search, social media, email, and more.  

Designed well, your digital marketing strategy will help you reach customers in a frenetic ecosystem of products, services, and brands. 

You might already be engaging in digital marketing techniques, like posting on social media, publishing to your blog, or sending promotional emails. But these are tactics, not strategies. A digital marketing strategy is a plan of action that outlines what activities you’ll pursue, when you’ll do it, how you’ll approach it, how much you’ll invest, and the goals you’ll aim to hit as a result.

A digital marketing strategy isn’t just a thought exercise. It’s the best way to ensure your plans drive the impact you need. Your strategy should serve a few critical functions for your organization:

Provide a clear roadmap 

Your marketing goals could be anything from getting new customers, to creating brand recognition, to reaching a new audience, or even carving out a new category.

Your digital marketing strategy should outline the plan to get there, in a way that’s tightly connected to your overall goals.This will keep your team (and yourself) focused on the course you’ve charted to growth and success. 

Refine your target audience

When you create a digital marketing strategy, you’ll need define your audience—who exactly are you hoping to reach? This creates a necessary forcing-function, as you’ll need to describe and understand your audience in a more targeted way. For example, you might focus on segments of your audience based on...

  • Demographics (like age) or firmographics (like company size)

  • Buying habits and behaviors

  • Challenges and problems to solve

A digital marketing strategy both relies on your audience knowledge and helps to inform it. 

Understand performance

Digital campaigns are significantly easier to track than other types of marketing—but that doesn’t mean it’s simple. Let’s say you’re running ads on two different social media platforms. Those platforms will provide basic analytics, allowing you to compare performance between the two. But what are you optimizing for? Engagement, or clicks? 

Your digital marketing strategy should explicitly define what “good” performance looks like, and answer that all-important question: “How do we know we met our goals?”

The 6 essential elements of a digital marketing strategy

Ready to build your digital marketing strategy? Each of these elements should be included in your plans.

1. Your brand positioning

Defining your brand can be an enormous undertaking—it’s not uncommon to spend many years (and a large chunk of our budget) doing this work. Regardless of where your organization stands in its brand journey, you’ll be most successful with your strategy if you have, at minimum, a mission statement, brand values, and a unique value proposition.

A clearly defined brand will help you answer strategic questions like “What differentiates us from our competitors?” and “What does our audience really care about?” They may seem basic, but it’s all too easy to lose sight of fundamentals when you’re deep in the weeds. 

2. Your target audience

Who are you trying to reach, and where will you find them? You may be creating a broad strategy designed to reach a large general audience, a highly tailored strategy to reach only your most valuable customers, or a combination of the two. Your marketing strategy should explicitly call out the audience you need to reach.

When it comes to incorporating your target audience into your strategy, customer personas are a tried and true reference point. Personas describe your ideal customer to the best of your knowledge, including things like:

  • Age

  • Location

  • Occupation

  • Work industry

  • Interests

  • Challenges

  • Favorite sites and publications 

This last bullet is key—you want to describe the digital habits of each persona to the best of your ability. What social media platforms do they use most, and how do they use the web to find information? 

3. Your goals

A famous marketing maxim goes like this: If it can’t be measured, it doesn’t exist. 

The same is true for your digital marketing strategy. Your strategy must call out exactly what you’re hoping to achieve. There are several effective frameworks for creating strategic goals, but the “SMART” framework (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely) is one of the most commonly used (and easy to remember).

As you establish your strategic goals, you can use the SMART framework to validate them. Here are some examples of smart (and less smart) goals:

Not specific

Specific

Uplevel presence on social mediaIncrease followers by 10%, increase publishing cadence by 5%, and perform audit on effectiveness across Facebook and LinkedIn
<b>Not measurable</b><b>Measurable</b>
Increase open rate on emailsIncrease open rate on emails by 25%
<b>Not achievable</b><b>Achievable</b>
Convert 100% of new homepage visitors to sign-upsConvert 25% of new homepage visitors to sign-ups (10% increase over last year)
<b>Not realistic</b><b>Realistic</b>
Post 6 times a day on 10 different social media platforms Post daily on 3 platforms that have the highest conversions
<b>Not timely</b><b>Timely</b>
Do all of the aboveDo all of the above within one year

4. Your marketing channels

When it comes to digital marketing, you have a ton of different digital channels to choose from. You can’t be omnipresent on all channels—so you have to make decisions about the proportion of your strategy each channel will occupy. 

Just a few other channels you might consider are: 

  • Email

  • Your blog 

  • Your website

  • Podcasts 

  • Press 

  • Influencers

  • Sponsorships

The channels you choose don’t have to be carved in stone. Based on the information you’ve gathered thus far, you can start with a best guess, and revisit your progress down the line. Like anything else, digital marketing is trial and error.

5. Your budget and ROI

How much do you have to spend, and what will you be expected to drive in return? Your marketing strategy should call out everything you need to be successful, from ad spend and copywriting salaries to software licenses and collaboration tools. 

If you’re planning to spend, you’ll inevitably be asked to demonstrate the return on investment—which, if you’ve defined your goals, should be relatively straightforward. Your strategy should also explicitly name what you expect to see in return for your spend: more customers, a lift in brand recognition, more site visitors, etc.

6. Your initiatives

It’s always tempting to jump right into your initiatives—you may already have specific ideas for campaigns you’d like to run. But it’s only now, that you’ve done the strategic groundwork, that you’re truly ready to dive in.

There’s nothing wrong with a free-form brainstorm (in fact, we highly encourage them). But at the end of the day, every initiative should tie directly to one of your goals, and have a reasonable chance of generating the results you’re looking to drive.

For example...

If your goal is to…

If your goal is to…

Increase audience engagement by 5% on your top-converting social channel by the end of the year- Use social media to post polls and ask questions that prompt audience commentary - Launch contests that motivate people to engage with your brand - Email customers to ask for reviews
Increase customers in a new audience sector by 10% by the end of the quarter- Launch an advertising campaign on - Google and social media platforms - Offer “share with friends” promo deals - Invest in keyword research to rank higher in search results with your content marketing
Increase revenue from email conversions by 3% by the end of the quarter - Offer promo codes for best-selling products - Focus on upselling existing customers to a higher-priced tier of products

Are you writing everything down?

Once you’ve defined your digital marketing strategy, you also need to choose the right tools to track your progress. A database is a great way to document your strategy, track tasks, and outline deliverables you need to achieve your goals.

More resources to help you craft an impactful digital marketing strategy

Let’s recap. You now have a grasp on what a digital marketing strategy is, and why you need one. You’ve workshopped those goals and formulated a digital marketing plan to decide how to proceed. 

Now, all you need to do is record your  digital marketing strategy to keep stakeholders, contributors, and leadership in sync.

With Airtable, you need to share your strategy with your team. With your digital marketing strategy in an Airtable base, stakeholders can see information as a spreadsheet-like grid, a visual gallery, a calendar view, or a kanban view. They even connect the strategy to the rest of their workflow through Airtable integrations

Airtable templates for creating a digital marketing strategy:

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About the author

Airtable's Marketing Teamseeks to inspire, guide, and support builders at every stage of their journey.

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