Often business owners look to digital marketing as a silver bullet to accelerate growth. However, transforming your marketing from a traditional to digital-first approach isn't all it takes. You need to have a clear vision of where your business is going, well-defined goals, and a leadership team capable of executing a digital marketing strategy.
The purpose of this guide is to simplify things. It's the result of over a decade spent helping business owners create and execute online marketing strategies. And it is intended to help you build a solid digital marketing foundation upon which you can grow your business.
What is Digital Marketing?
Digital marketing is an umbrella term for all of your online marketing efforts. Leveraging content to rank on search engines such as Google, social media to promote your message, email to keep engaged with your audience, and your websites to connect with current and prospective customers.
1. Define Your Ideal Customer
Let’s start by defining your ideal customer. When you properly define your ideal customer, you attract customers and prospects who value your product or service. Customers who don’t respect the value you bring, who don’t pay on time and who don’t do their part, will drag you down.
In a healthy relationship, both parties help each other meet their goals.
In this step, you’re going to use your existing customer base to help create a profile of your ideal customer. Then use that profile to attract your ideal prospects.
Ready? Okay, follow these four steps:
Identify your best clients - create a spreadsheet of all your clients from the past three years. Now focus on the clients you’ve done the most business with during that period. Which are your most profitable clients? Make a list.
Identify Referrals - from your most profitable clients, identify those clients who you know are referral sources. Usually only happy clients refer, and usually clients are happy because you add value to their business.
Identify Patterns – Use your list of happy, profitable customers, to find patterns. What does this list of customers have in common? By now your ideal client will be starting to emerge.
Create an Ideal Client Profile - Once you have identified your ideal client, create an profile that looks something like this: Ideal Client Profile.
Congratulations, you’ve created your ideal customer profile. At one time your customers were prospects, so in doing this exercise, you are in fact identifying your ideal prospect. Now, share it with your team, so they understand who to target – and, share it with your prospective customers so that they know what you are looking for in a client.
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2. Start Listening
One of the first things I do with a new client is to set up a listening station. These social media and Google alerts help us actively monitor communication about the company, the industry, and competitors.
Using a combination of free and paid tools, such as Google Alerts, HootSuite, Feedly and HubSpot you can filter, aggregate, and monitor your online presence and establish a routine for processing this information on a daily basis.
Here are the 5 things you need to do to create your listening station:
Set up Google Alerts for your brand, your products, industry keywords, customers, and key competitors.
Create Twitter Lists to monitor your customers, key competitors, leading journalists, and industry influencers.
Set up Feedly to aggregate blog content from customer blogs, industry blogs, and competitor blogs.
Remember how we used to struggle to find intel on competitors? Well, in today’s connected world it’s easy to keep keep up with what is going on. Take advantage of the myriad of tools available to keep a finger on the pulse of your industry.
3. Define Your Buyer Persona
Buyer personas are semi-fictitious characters, based on your ideal customer profiles. You can use them to help develop content that prospects and customers will find helpful. You will invest a lot of time creating blog posts and articles, so it is essential your content speaks to your audiences challenges and problems, and how best they can solve them.
Start by gathering information about your existing customer:
Conduct in person or telephonic interviews with your ideal customers, abandon the scripted approach and start with one simple statement: Take me back to the day your company first decided they needed a [insert: your product or service]. Then listen, ask open-ended questions, and probe deeper throughout the interview.
Use a spreadsheet or Google Forms to collect responses.
Talk to your sales team, customer care team, and receptionists – people who interact with customers daily – to uncover deeper insights.
Ask your customers what they are reading and where they source information – this helps you understand where prospects go to find information.
Listen to conversations on social media channels like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook – take notice of the topics of conversation and questions being asked.
Don’t underestimate the importance of Buyer Personas. They form the foundation of your content strategy and often help sharpen your core message.
If you need help, you can download a copy of our guide to developing buyer personas.
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4. The Buyer's Journey
Okay, all done with your personas? If not, stop and go back. We’re going to need them in this next step.
The buyer’s journey is the process a prospect follows leading up to a purchase. We use the buyer’s journey in conjunction with buyer personas to make sure we put the right content in front of a prospect at the right time.
Awareness - The person realises they have an issue that needs resolving, so they start looking for solutions.
Consideration - They have a clear idea of the challenge/opportunity they are facing, and they’ve researched a number of possible solutions.
Decision –They have defined their solution or strategy and it’s time to choose a vendor to help them solve their problem.
For this step, download a copy the Content Inventory Worksheet. Make an inventory of your existing content, matching it to the relevant stage of the buyer’s journey. Once complete, you’ll have a clear picture of the content you are missing, and that brings us to creating a content calendar.
5. Create A Content Calendar
When a person is looking for a solution to a problem, one of the first things they do is open the all-knowing Google. They're looking for answers to questions, solutions to problems. By creating helpful content, that answers their questions and helps solve their problems, you drive up your search ranking.
To achieve a first-page ranking in a search result, you almost need to think of your company as a publishing house; capable of consistently creating high-quality content that resonates with your prospective customers.
You have already taken one step in the right direction: creating your buyer personas. A content calendar will set you and your team up to regularly produce high-quality content. Start by planning to create content for the gaps in your buyer’s journey – you want to have good content for each stage.
Research key content themes by brainstorming with your team and using tools such as Google Trends.
Think about your content in terms of themes or pillars. This article is a good example of a content pillar, a long form article on a specific topic, with links to sub-articles.
Use a content aggregation site such as AllTop to find blog posts related to each theme.
Using Feedly subscribe to as many blogs as seems appropriate for your business.
Visit Quora and subscribe to theme topic RSS feeds
Explore ways to expand content distribution using video, podcast, webinars.
Create Scoop.it account and set up topic pages.
A handy WordPress tool for content marketing is the CoSchedule plugin.
6. Create A Content Offer
This step comes with one and only one task: create a high-quality piece of content. Something your target audience will find helpful in solving a challenge.
This could be something like an eBook or a white paper that demonstrates how your business is different by either presenting highly valuable content or outlining your unique methodology.
Your content could be an eBook, a white paper, a checklist, or a case study. So long as your target audience find it helpful. This content offer will form the backbone of your first lead generation campaign, helping you to start converting website visits into leads.
Creating a helpful eBook or white paper is easier than you think; a lot of the content already exists in your business. You simply need to pull it together. Here are some pointers:
Talk to sales staff about frequently asked questions; there are likely email responses they have sent customers that can form the basis of 6 to 8 blog posts;
Write up the individual blog posts, or use the material to write an eBook. Either way, you should end up with an eBook and 6 - 8 blog posts (blog posts might be a summary of each chapter in the eBook);
Looking ahead, pick 2 - 3 themes closely related to your product or service and start collecting articles, emails and research.
Need some help creating your first content offer...
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7. Social Media
While I can make a case for building profiles across multiple platforms, social media management is time-consuming. Start by selecting a couple of channels that your customers most often frequent.
Ensure your branding and messaging is consistent across all channels: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, etc. Choose a primary social network, the place where most of your ideal prospects are active, and start engaging on that platform.
The goal is to engage, not shout: 'Hey check out this new thing I have!'. A great social media resource is Gary Vaynerchuk's book Crushing It!
To begin, keep it simple, here are some tips:
Update your company LinkedIn presence, making sure your company description is clear.
Join 5-6 LinkedIn Groups that have active conversations and engagement.
Signup for a Canva account, an excellent tool if you don’t have in-house design capabilities.
Add branded header and complete the “About” page on Facebook.
Add branded header and complete the description on your Twitter profile.
Adapt your tone & style on each social channel. Check out this great guide from MailChimp.
Focus on one or two prime objectives in your social media participation.
Share your ideas instead of your sales pitches.
Social media, when used correctly has significant potential for generating new prospects, however, when used incorrectly can simply be a waste of time.
8. Landing Pages
Now that you’re producing high quality, helpful content, it’s time to start putting together some landing pages. A landing page is a web page that allows you to capture visitor information through a form.
A good landing page has a single purpose: to present a valuable offer for which visitors are willing to exchange their details. The idea is to include calls-to-action in a blog post, on website pages, in pay-per-click adverts, encouraging them to take the next step. When a person clicks a call-to-action, they navigate to a landing page. Here you reinforce the value of your offer and encourage visitors to part with their information.
Let’s get started by creating a landing page for the piece of content you created earlier. Using HubSpot or a tool such as Unbounce, you can quickly create a landing page.
When you create your first page, ask yourself these four questions:
What exactly is being offered? - You should answer the question “What’s in it for me if I give you my information?”
What are the benefits of the offer? - You should explain why the viewer just can’t live without it.
Why does the viewer need the offer NOW? - You should create a sense of urgency around your offer.
How does the user get the offer? - The page should make it easy for the lead to convert.
Once you’ve created your first landing page, move onto the next step where we look at revamping your email communication.
9. Revamp Your Email Communication
In this step you’re going to get serious about creating or updating your basic email newsletter as well as employing auto responders to help follow up with prospects and customers. A newsletter is a great starting point and by combining your monthly content with other people’s content you’ll produce a valuable newsletter that people want to receive. In addition, if you’re using HubSpot, you’re going to start using your landing page tools to segment and personalize content for different audiences.
Using the tools you setup earlier, like Feedly, add high value curated content to your newsletter.
Try repurposing some of your own content into video, audio, eBooks and articles.
Setup or clean up your email list(s) – segment lists on geographic regions, products, and stages in your buyer journey.
Run an internal test – never fire off an email campaign until you tested it internally.
Hit send, and now deliver your newsletter consistently.
You may want to consider creating email-based training for your clients or prospects. Create a course made up of a series of emails, adding an email followup sequence for related products and services.
10. Connect Your Sales And Marketing
Now that you have set a solid foundation for your digital marketing initiatives, it’s time to make the connection with sales – to close the sales and marketing loop.
This will give you a comprehensive view of your customer’s journey from the first touch to deal close, identifying marketing initiatives and channels that contribute the most to closing deals.
Analysing your customer’s journey from the first touch to closing a deal, will help you identify the most influential content on your website. And you will also discover which pages aren’t performing. You can use these insights to improve poorly your overall site performance.
HubSpot's free CRM tool and Starter Marketing platform (£42/month), make for a great combination when you're just getting started - you can upgrade from there.
Once you have the two systems connected, you’ll be able to:
Identify the sources and offers that attract new customers to your site.
Identify the nurturing techniques that quickly qualify leads and push them down the sales funnel.
Compare efficiency of offers with respect to customer acquisition.
Test which content works best for your lead nurturing communication.
Look for patterns in the trajectory of actions that turn a lead into a customer.
Use the information you collect to better decide how to promote at a trade show event.
Once you know which marketing initiatives are working best for generating new leads and customers, you can focus on what’s working, and cut out what’s not. After all, at the end of the day, marketing is about generating revenue.
Pay-per-Click is something a lot of business owners want to jump into early on. However, I believe that this form of advertising is more powerful if you can use it to create awareness of strong content. By focusing on building an organic presence, through a combination of quality content (yes, including your keywords), an established foothold in some social networks, and well-crafted landing pages, you will be better positioned to take advantage of PPC advertising
Use Pay-per-Click (PPC) as a means for testing ad headlines and conversion.
Create one piece of foundational content for an AdWords campaign.
Start slowly and grow your campaigns over time.
Create one Facebook offer for free content, perhaps a basic training course.
Setup a targeted LinkedIn campaign, LinkedIn allows you to target specific roles, companies, company sizes, and geographic regions.
If you’re using HubSpot, there are plugins for LinkedIn and Adwords campaigns that will help you help you connect your PPC marketing with all you’re other initiatives.
You’ve covered a lot in the past 11 steps; now it’s time to bring it all together. Digital marketing is about patience and consistency. You’re only likely to see results after the first 4 to 6 months of consistent, hard work - investing 6 - 8 hours a week. So keep at it, the hard work will pay off!
Here are some closing tips:
Invest in a powerful inbound marketing platform, something that ensures you are productive. Sure you can cobble together a few of inexpensive and free tools, but you aren’t going to realise the same value. Think about it this way; you’re going to save 60% of the time spent on digital and inbound marketing using a tool like HubSpot, that time can be used to create quality content. And if you don’t have time to write outstanding content, hire a graduate journalist.
Remember, you need to think about your content marketing efforts as you would a publishing house – constantly creating helpful, interesting content.
Finally, if you're looking for a Marketing Director skillset or help coaching your team to get started, book a call with me. I'll share some insights into dealing with your challenges, and if you think I am a good fit for your business, we can take things to the next level. If not, you have no obligation beyond our initial call.