In this article, I decided to introduce the Digital Marketing Strategy and give a precise definition of the Strategy, Business strategy, Marketing and Digital Marketing Strategy. In the following, I will review the key points about the Digital Marketing Strategy and explain the issues related to the implementation of the Digital Marketing Strategy in the Digital business, also will explain the challenges related to it.
Introduction of Digital Marketing Strategy
A strategy indicates the most advantageous direction for an organisation to take over a defined period of time. It also outlines which tactics and means should be used to execute this direction. Originating as a military term, strategy is about using your strengths, as well as the context in which you are operating, to your advantage.
In marketing, strategy starts with understanding what the business wants to achieve, or what problem it wants to solve. It then considers the context in which the business and its competitors operates and outlines key ways in which the business and brand can gain advantage and add value. In the early days of TV, when the medium was new and not yet entirely understood, there were separate ‘TV planners’ who created a ‘TV strategy’ for the brand Over time, this was incorporated into the overall marketing strategy (as it should be).
The same has happened with digital. Digital thinking should be incorporated into marketing strategy from day one. This article considers digital strategy separately in order to highlight some ways in which digital has affected our strategic approach to reaching customers and solving marketing problems.
What is marketing?
A simple definition for marketing is that it is the creation and satisfaction of demand for your product, service or ideas. If all goes well, this demand should translate into sales and, ultimately, revenue. In 2012, Dr Philip Kotler defined marketing as
“The science and art of exploring, creating and delivering value to satisfy the needs of a target market at a profit. Marketing identifies unfulfilled needs and desires. It defines, measures and quantifies the size of the identified market and the profit potential” (Kotler, 2012).
The American Marketing Association (AMA), defines marketing as
“The activity, set of institutions and processes for creating, communicating, delivering and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners and society at large” (AMA, 2017).
In order to motivate people to pay for your product or service, or to consider your organisation superior to your competitors, you need to create meaningful benefits and value for the consumer. The design of the product or service itself can arguably be a function of marketing. The value that a marketer should seek to create should be equal to or even greater than the cost of the product to the consumer. Doing this often and consistently will grow trust in and loyalty towards, the brand and create strong brand equity.
What is digital marketing?
How does digital marketing fit into this definition? There is, in fact, no difference between traditional marketing and digital marketing. They are one and the same, apart from digital being specific to a medium. Ultimately, the aim of any type of marketing is to keep and grow a customer base and stimulate sales in the future. Digital communication tools contribute towards connecting and building long-term relationships with customers.
What is digital?
Bud Caddell defines digital ‘as “A participatory layer of all media that allows users to self-select their own experiences and affords marketers the ability to bridge media, gain feedback, iterate their message and collect relationships” (Caddell, 2013).
In other words, digital is a way of exploring content and ideas (for users) and connecting with and understanding customers (for marketers). Digital marketing is powerful in two fundamental ways. First, the audience can be segmented very precisely, even down to factors like current location and recent brand interactions, which means that messages can (and must) be personalized and tailored specially for them. Second, the digital sphere is almost completely measurable. Every minute and every click by a customer can be accounted for.
In digital you can see exactly how various campaigns are performing, which channels bring the most benefit and where your efforts are best focused. Cumulatively, access to data that measures the whole customer experience should lead to data-driven decision making. The complete scope of marketing is practiced on the Internet. Products and services are positioned and promoted, purchased, distributed and serviced. The web provides consumers with more choice, more influence and more power. Brands constantly have new ways of selling, new products and services to sell and new markets to which they can sell.
Digital marketing helps to create consumer demand by using the power of the interconnected, interactive web. It enables the exchange of currency but more than that, it enables the exchange of attention for value.
An exchange of value.
If marketing creates and satisfies demand, digital marketing drives the creation of demand using the power of the Internet and satisfies this demand in new and innovative ways. A brand on the Internet can gain value in the form of time, attention and advocacy from the consumer. For the user value can be added in the form of entertainment, education and utility. Brands build loyalty among users who love their products or services and must align with users values and aspirations. Users fall in love with products and services when their experience is tailored to their needs and not the needs of the brand.
Understanding Digital marketing strategy
Business and brand strategy
Before you can delve into marketing strategy, take a step back and consider the business and brand with which you are working. The end goal of any business is to make money in one way or another. Business strategy asks the questions, “What is the business challenge we are facing that prevents us from making more revenue?” and, “What business objective should we strive for in order to increase the money in the bank?” The brand is the vessel of value in this equation.
The brand justifies why the business matters, what the business’ purpose is and what value the business adds to people’s lives. The AMA defines a brand as, “A name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers. The usual expression of a brand is its trademark. A brand may identify one item, a family of items or all items of that seller” (N.A., 2011). To quote Cheryl Burgess, a brand presents, “a reason to choose” one product or service over another.
The value of the brand is measured in terms of its brand equity. How aware are people of the brand? Does it hold positive associations and perceived value? How loyal are people to the brand? When you have the answers to these questions, you can formulate a marketing strategy to address the challenge or objective you’ve discovered.
What is Digital Marketing Strategy?
The purpose of a marketing strategy is to determine what the business is about and to then address the business or brand challenge, or objective that has been revealed. An effective strategy involves making a series of well-informed decisions about how the brand, product or service should be promoted. The brand that attempts to be all things to all people risks becoming unfocused or losing the clarity of its value proposition.
For example, a new airline would need to think about how it is going to add value to the market and differentiate itself from competitors. It will need to consider whether their product is a domestic or international service; whether its target market is budget travellers or international and business travellers; and whether the channel is through primary airports or smaller, more cost-effective airports. Each of these choices will result in a vastly different strategic direction.
To make these decisions, a strategist must understand the context in which the brand operates, asking, “What are the factors that affect the business?” This means conducting a situational analysis that looks at the following four pillars:
- he environment
- The business
- The customers
- The competitors
Here are some considerations and tools for conducting your brand’s situational analysis.
Understanding the environment
The environment is the overall context or ‘outside world’ in which the business functions. It can involve anything from global economics (how well is the local currency performing these days?) to developments in your industry. Every brand will have a specific environment that it needs to consider, based on the type of product or service it produces. An analysis of the business and brand environment will typically consider political, economic, social, technological, legal and environmental (PESTLE) influences to identify a clear set of considerations or issues pertinent to the marketing strategy.
Understanding the business
There are several marketing models that can be used to understand the business and brand with which you are working. Since it’s essential for all marketing messages to encapsulate the brand’s identity and objectives, this is a very important step. A crucial consideration is the brand itself. What does it stand for? What does it mean? What associations, ideas, emotions and benefits do people associate with it? What makes it unique? There are several levels of branding to investigate, as shown below.
The goal is to reach customers with the right marketing message at the right stage of their journey. For example, you may want to use aspirational messages for someone in the exploration phase, but focus on more direct features and benefits (such as a lower price) when they’re almost ready to buy.
Out of this, you can determine what the brand or product’s unique selling point (USP) is. A USP is the one characteristic that can make your product or service better than the competition’s. Ask yourself, “What unique value does it have? Does it solve a problem that no other product does?”
To understand your customers, you need to conduct market research. Try not to make assumptions about why people like and transact with your brand. You may find their values and motives are quite different from what you thought. Ongoing research and a data-driven business will help you to build a picture of what particular benefit or feature your business provides to your customers, allowing you to capitalize on this in your marketing content. One important area on which to focus here is the consumer journey, which is the series of steps and decisions a customer takes before buying from your business (or not). Luckily, online data analytics allow you to get a good picture of how people behave on your website before converting to customers; other forms of market research will also help you establish this for your offline channels.
Finally, it’s important to know who else is marketing to your potential customers, what they offer and how you can challenge or learn from them. Many competitors target the same needs in a given customer, sometimes through very similar products. Positioning places your brand in a unique place in people’s minds. It is impossible to create a strong value proposition or USP without knowing your competitors’ positioning strategy.
On the Internet, your competitors are not just those who are aiming to earn your customers’ money; they are also those who are capturing your customers’ attention. With more digital content being created in a day than most people could consume in a year – for example, over 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute (YouTube, 2017) – the scarcest resources these days are time, focus and attention.
When considering competition, it’s also worthwhile looking at potential replacements for your product. The Internet is disrupting and accelerating the pace of disintermediation in a number of industries, meaning that people can now go directly to the business instead of transacting through a middleman (look at the travel industry as an example). To stay ahead, you should be looking at potential disruptors of your industry as well as the existing players.
On the Internet, a consumer journey is not linear. Instead, consumers may engage with your brand in a variety of ways, (i.e. across devices or marketing channels) before making a purchase.
How to Choose the Right Digital Marketing Strategy
Once you have a clear sense of what the business challenge or objective is, you can define how your marketing strategy will leverage digital channels to fulfil it. As discussed in the introduction, digital should not be considered as separate from your core strategy. Digital marketing builds on and adapts the principles of traditional marketing using the opportunities and challenges offered by the digital medium.
A marketing strategy should be constantly iterating and evolving. Since the Internet allows for near-instantaneous feedback and data gathering, marketers should constantly be optimising and improving their online marketing efforts.
User-centric thinking, which involves placing the user at the core of all decisions, is vital when looking at building a successful marketing strategy. The marketing strategist of today is offered not only a plethora of tactical possibilities, but also unprecedented ways of measuring the effectiveness of chosen strategies and tactics. Digital allows greater opportunities for interaction and consumer engagement than were possible in the past, so it is important to consider the ways in which the brand can create interactive experiences for consumers, not just broadcast messages.
The fact that digital marketing is highly empirical is one of its key strengths. Almost everything can be measured: from behaviours, to actions and action paths, to results. Insight tools can even be used to track the sentiment of users towards certain elements online. This means that the digital marketing strategist should be constantly measuring and adapting to ensure the highest ROI. Built into any strategy should be a testing framework and the ability to remain flexible and dynamic in a medium that shifts and changes as user behaviours do.
If we defined strategy as ‘a plan of action’ designed to achieve a particular outcome’, the desired outcome of a digital marketing strategy would be aligned with your organisation’s overall business and brand-building objectives or challenges. For example, if one of the overall objectives was acquisition of new clients, a possible digital marketing objective might be building brand awareness online.
Key terms and concepts of Digital Marketing Strategy
Cluetrain Manifesto: A set of 95 theses organised as a call to action (CTA) for businesses operating within a newly connected marketplace, published in 1999. While some of the book’s claims have failed to materialise, it was an early source of guidelines for social media and obtained a cult like following
Market share: In strategic management and marketing, market share is the percentage or proportion of the total available market or market segment that is being serviced by a company.
Metric: A unit of measurement.
Pay per click (PPC): Pay per click is advertising where the advertiser pays only for each click on their advert, not for the opportunity for it to be seen or displayed.
Return on investment (ROI): The ratio of cost to profit.
Search engine optimisation (SEO): SEO is the practice that aims to improve a website’s ranking for specific keywords in the search engines.
Short Message Service (SMS): Electronic messages sent on a cellular network.
Strategy: A set of ideas that outline how a product or brand will be positioned and achieve its objectives. This guides decisions on how to create, distribute, promote and price the product or service. A specific action or method that contributes to achieving a goal.
Tactic: A specific action or method that contributes to achieving a goal.
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