Digital. Not necessarily a thing, but a way of doing things. Digital has reshaped the business world, opening up more ways for your brand to reach and engage with your target audience.
Digital is a fast-moving space and in order to succeed, your business needs to have an adaptable digital marketing strategy. One that is frequently measured and revised and responsive to the latest channel updates and user trends.
If you’re looking to strengthen your digital approach this year, this blog is for you. I will provide you with expert strategic advice and explore the digital channels that may deserve more of your budget allocation this year.
Why you need a digital marketing strategy in 2018
Consumers now expect your business to not only have a highly functioning website but to have a digital presence, one that they can instantly interact and engage with. A presence that allows them to understand or purchase your product/services conveniently in a number of different ways.
The truth is that without a strategic digital approach this year, your business is likely to be left behind.
There are many digital channels available for you to utilise such as email, social media and landing pages. However, to use these channels efficiently and effectively, and generate a worthwhile ROI, you need a strategy. A strategy will allow you to set an informed plan that utilises the right channels and sets specific tactics unique to the role that the channel plays in your sales funnel.
Image: The sales funnel
A vital step in setting your digital strategy: understanding your customer journey lifecycle.
Every business that sells a product or a service, has a customer journey lifecycle.
What is a customer journey lifecycle?
A customer journey lifecycle is a marketing framework that maps a series of decision-making milestones which occur when you move your customer or client through your sales and marketing funnel, essentially taking them from researching your company and making an enquiry, all the way through to loyal advocacy for your brand. It is a model that progresses through the following stages:
- Generating interest: This is where marketing is used to attract prospects and generate interest in your business, product and services.
- Capturing leads: At this stage, your aim is to capture contact information from prospects and encourage them to opt-in to receiving more of your content.
- Nurturing prospects: This is where a nurturing strategy comes into play to educate leads, develop a relationship and try to move them towards a conversion.
- Converting prospects into customers/clients: This is where you create enticing offers and follow up leads, ultimately resulting in a conversion.
- Delivering promises: This is where your brand delivers on what was promised. Ideally, you would want to deliver above and beyond what you promised to wow the customer or client and increase the chance of repeat business or positive referrals.
- Upselling and creating loyalty: Once you have customers or clients in your database, you can continue to provide value by upselling or developing a relationship that focuses on loyalty.
- Creating advocates: Word-of-mouth can generate exponential business growth. This stage is about how you turn your customers or clients into a tribe of brand advocates, who generate positive referrals.
Image: The customer journey lifecycle
Naturally, prospects will drop off at every stage of the lifecycle. By mapping out your customer journey lifecycle you can uncover crucial touchpoints and set a strategy for each stage to increase your chance of turning a prospect into a paying, loyal customer.
Why your customer journey lifecycle important for your digital strategy?
There are many ways this map will help to inform your digital strategy.
- It encourages you to use your analytics: Data is a powerful tool and can help you map out your initial customer journey. Diving deep into your analytics can identify where your audience is dropping off and where opportunities to optimise lie. This can help inform your overall strategy and set benchmarks to measure results.
- It helps you to uncover important consumer micro-moments: Micro-moments are the movements your audience take when they act on a need. Due to the boost in smartphones, the online and offline worlds are merging. In fact, according to Google, 82% of smartphone users turn to their device to help make decisions in-store. Mapping out your customer journey allows you to identify crucial points where digital can be used to help influence decisions.
- You can identify weak areas in your competition: You can measure and benchmark yourself against the competition at each stage. You can see where their weaknesses may lie and outperform them in those areas. When you understand the key decision-making milestones in your customer lifecycle journey, you can formulate ways to exceed your consumer’s expectations above that of your competition.
The top tips for setting a digital marketing strategy
Are you ready to set your digital strategy? Here are some valuable tips:
1/ Set digital goals
Setting digital goals and Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) can help you manage your marketing resources and focus on the most effective tactics.
Ask yourself, “What is it I want to achieve with my digital strategy?”
These goals will typically tie back to your overarching marketing strategy.
- If your overarching marketing objective is to increase your brand awareness, your digital goal may be to build a larger following on social media by running brand awareness based ads that are targeted at an audience who follow your competition or a related interest page.
- If your overarching marketing goal is to increase revenue by a certain amount you will, of course, need website traffic. But don’t be fooled. Traffic alone doesn’t guarantee more revenue. You will need to increase conversion rates to reach your goals. You may need a plan to nurture people through the sales cycle by A/B testing landing pages.
Remember to set S.M.A.R.T Goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-based.) When it comes to digital marketing, a common mistake people make is to try and do everything at once. Unless you have a large marketing department this will be almost impossible to do well. The best thing to do is to select a few channels that are relevant to your target audience and focus on what it takes to get results on each channel before you turn to the next.
2/ Use tactics unique to each channel
A tactic that works on one channel, may not necessarily work on another. For example, each social media platform has a different audience who have a different expectation about the content they will consume on that platform. This holds true for the time of day that you post, the length of your message, the tone you use, your images and the offers you promote.
Different channels are also built to allow you to push out different content and set different themes. For example, Instagram contains visual content that generally aims to act as inspiration, whereas Facebook contains both text and visual content, and is mainly used to entertain and inform.
3/ Listen to your audience
A brand that does not listen to their customer will not succeed, no matter how much money they invest in digital advertising. Many brands get caught up in the technical side of digital marketing like how to use Facebook Business Manager to run ads or how to use Google Adwords to rank for terms and they’ll lose focus on what’s really important – their audience.
Understanding your audience personas is a great place to start, however, if you take it one step further and analysing how they use and interact with each digital channel this can help supercharge your approach.
Listen to what your audience has to say by tapping into outside perspectives and monitoring consumer behaviour with analytics. Your ultimate aim when listening to your audience is to gather information that will help you to increase user engagement. Try to anticipate user questions, their needs and emotions. In doing so you can better inform your SEO strategy.
4/ Automate where possible
The great news is, there are a variety of tools that can help you automate almost all of your digital strategy. That’s right! Less elbow grease and more results.
When it comes to scaling efforts and achieving results with digital, marketing automation is king. Marketing automation is a software that can deploy and manage all of your digital channels under one roof. It can uncover individual customer journeys, build user profiles and send the right message, at the right time, to the right person. It can also help you measure the effects of traditional marketing with call tracking and geo-targeting.
5/ Test, measure, evaluate and optimize
This step cannot be stressed enough. One of the biggest benefits of digital is the ability to capture data that can help inform your next move. Most channels allow you to run A/B tests in real-time so you can see which version is working best to achieve your goals.
Here are just a few elements that you can A/B test:
- Copy – the length, the language, tone and words
- Call-to-action (CTA) – the text, the colour and where it sits on landing pages and emails
- Days and time of posts – this will vary depending on your audiences
- Landing page content – priority elements on these pages can be continually tested and optimized. What may work one month, may not the next.
- Headlines – of posts and links, landing pages, fonts, size
- Images – testing the type of images that drive most engagement e.g. does your audience engage more with pictures of people or illustrations?
By continuously improving your approach you will ensure your digital channels are optimised.
The top digital marketing channels worth focusing on in 2018
This year, we are set to see digital become more important for all businesses. Here are some of the channels that you may want to consider in your digital strategy (depending on the nature of your industry).
Your most consistent salesman. Getting prospects/customers to your website to make a conversion is, most likely, the ultimate end goal when it comes to digital.
You want people to come to your site and convert, whether that be to submit an enquiry form, subscribe, buy a product or pick up the phone and call you. In order to achieve this, your website needs to be visible, visually appealing, provide answers and function well.
Websites in 2018:
In 2018, it is vital that your website is optimised for mobile. In the first half of 2018, Google will be implementing it’s new Mobile-First Index. A change that means Google will primarily use the mobile version of your content to rank your website. If your current website is not mobile friendly or optimised for mobile above desktop, it’s time to act as your search engine position may be at risk.
Above all, it is important that your website provides a positive user experience and meets the expectations of your visitor.
Over the past year, chatbots have been used by brands to help increase engagement. They increase the chance your website visitor will have their questions answered and stick around. Depending on your industry and offering, a chatbot may be a great option to install on your website this year.
Traffic is great, but from a revenue standpoint, getting conversions is more important. A/B testing important pages on your website is something to consider to ongoingly improve the results you receive from this channel in 2018.
SEO and content marketing
SEO is generally the top channel that will refer traffic to your website as search is an activity a consumer will likely perform at numerous points in their purchasing journey.
Typically 71% of consumers use search to look for a potential solution. This is not surprising, we all love using Google to find solutions to our problems. However, 74% of customers will use search engines when comparing products and brands and when making a decision to purchase.
For you, this means SEO becomes more important the further a consumer is down the sales funnel. This is why content marketing has boomed. Brands are trying to compete to provide the best answer to consumers questions throughout the entire sales journey.
SEO and content marketing in 2018:
The next generation of SEO and content marketing is content clustering. It is the process of integrating search marketing into your content marketing activities.
This marketing tactic has evolved as search engines have changed algorithms to favour websites that contain topic-based content. In fact, quality content and link building are two of the most important factors that determine your ranking.
If you Google a question it is likely a Google Answers Box will appear and it will display other common questions that also relate to your question. Here is an example:
Having multiple types of content around particular topics (known as clusters) will increase your chance of showing up in this box. As you prove to Google that you have authority on a particular topic or long-tail keyword.
It will also increase the chance of your website appearing when a prospect uses voice-activated search. Something that will be a big game changer this year as 72% of people who own a voice-activated speaker use their devices as part of their daily routine.
Having your customer journey lifecycle mapped out will help you understand what questions consumers are searching and will ultimately help you win with SEO and content marketing this year.
Social media is a powerful tool that can be used to generate brand awareness, host two-way brand communications and build a community of brand advocates.
Social media in 2018:
Over the past few years, we have seen a rise in brands engaging Instagram influencers. For most brands, this has proved to be an effective way to reach unique audiences. However, with the rise of video and popularity of Youtube, we are set to see more brands targeting Vlogging influencers (video bloggers).
Video is a powerful content tool. Through storytelling, movement and body language, video can enhance emotional connections with viewers. Expect to see more video this year as it becomes a big part of brand engagement strategies throughout the entire customer journey lifecycle.
On the 12th of January, 2018, Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, released an announcement that Facebook will be decreasing the amount of media and public content generated by businesses in favour of family and friends posts. This move will ultimately improve Facebook’s user experience. These changes are set to transform the way businesses use Facebook as a channel this year. Content that does not add value (e.g. a product on sale) or encourages passive consumption will be less likely appear in news feeds.
As a brand, you will need to rethink your content strategy for this channel and aim to produce less transactional advertising and more valuable and informative content that people will want to share with their family and friends. Brand content will not be absent, but getting the same results using advertising is likely to cost more. While Facebook has previously prioritised video it will no longer prioritise video content that either encourages passive consumption or leads people off Facebook to another website. However, Facebook Live will still be prioritized, as this encourages user engagement.
Email has been around for over 40 years and is one of the oldest digital channels. Despite its age, email continues to prove useful in the marketing space. Email allows you to easily convert prospects as well as retain and monetise your existing customers.
Email marketing in 2018:
Email is a powerful way to send personalised content through-out the entire customer journey lifecycle. In 2018, email will continue to be used for intelligent disruption. This trend is powered by marketing automation and ensures that you are able to communicate the right message, at the right time and place along the customer journey lifecycle.
Did you know that 51% of emails are initially opened on a mobile? If your template is not designed for mobile you could be decreasing your chance of getting a conversion through this channel. This year, aim to develop a mobile-friendly email template and A/B test every email you send.
Engineering as marketing
This is definitely my personal favourite when it comes to digital marketing. Have you ever used Hubspot’s Marketing Grader tool? Or Moz’s open site explorer. These are prime examples of a digital channel that not many businesses utilise. It is what’s known as engineering as marketing and is the practice of utilising resources to build marketing assets/tools that provide value to your customers/clients such as calculators, widgets and rating tools.
These tools can also be hosted on their own domain for SEO purposes. They generally should relate back to your core product or service and can be a great way to generate brand awareness and leads. Hubspot takes this approach with their tool by choosing to not display Hubspot’s branding – only “powered by Hubspot”.
Engineering as marketing in 2018:
As competition in the digital space continues to intensify, it is likely brands will need to be more innovative to increase their market share and remain front of mind.
For many businesses, this channel has been used to expand customer/client databases. Investing in assets such as the aforementioned tools can provide high returns in the long-term.
However, when it comes to developing a tool, it’s important that the tool is relevant to your customer journey lifecycle. The tool’s objective should be to educate and convert prospects into a paying customer. Hubspot, for example, utilises their tool to help generate interest and identify issues a client may have – some they may not even be aware of (education). It also positions Hubspot as the perfect solution.
With the rise of AI, this channel can become even stronger as it can be personalised to a greater extent.
When it comes to developing and designing a tool like this, quality matters. User-experience should be front of mind. This includes the interface design and functionality. These factors will not only influence how a user perceives your brand but also how Google will rank the tool for SEO.
Achieving more in 2018 with digital
Using digital in 2018 can help you scale and grow your business this year. However, it is important to remember that traditional marketing is not dead. In fact, taking a multi-channel approach where digital marketing compliments traditional marketing can produce powerful results.
Every approach to marketing and digital will be unique. If you need further assistance mapping your customer journey lifecycle, creating or fine-tuning your digital strategy, feel free to use the contact form below to get in touch with me.