How to Create a Digital Marketing Strategy and Find Success through the Power of Focus

By Eric Olsen,  Fasturtle

Two great quotes come to mind when thinking about business strategy. One is funny, and one is much as you would expect:

“I don’t know the secret to success. But I do know the secret to failure is trying to please everybody.” —Bill Cosby

“A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all.” — Michael LeBoeuf

I think these two quotes are a great guiding light for the small business owner. In their simplest form they both are really speaking about clarity, focus and the customer.

So let’s look at some of the best practices in putting together a digital marketing plan that allows you to strategically outperform your competition and create results in the marketplace. In the coming paragraphs you can easily remove the word “digital” and use this info as a guide to create a defined business strategy as well.

There are many companies that believe they don’t need to have a strong digital marketing strategy to be successful. But while they may be able to maintain or even grow their revenue, their customers are gradually moving to the Internet to make buying decisions. That’s why companies without a great digital strategy are leaving huge amounts of money on the table and losing customers to competitors who do have a plan.

Let’s Begin

In digital marketing, like all forms of business, it is best to have your strategy defined before you begin with implementation. So before you create your first YouTube video or Facebook group, think through these points:

1. Your target customer and the problems you are solving

2. Differentiation and branding plan

3. Customer assessment (where they are and where they will be)

4. Your tactical plan

5. Results and feedback

Once you have this figured out, you can think about which marketing channels will be best for your business.

Targeting Your Customers

The first step in most marketing strategies is to identify your target customers. It allows you to focus your message, differentiate your product and figure out how to reach people who might buy your service or product. Unfortunately, many companies approach this step incorrectly. In an attempt not to exclude any potential revenue, a common mistake is to describe targets by a range of values and characteristics. An example of a generic description is “any company earning more than $1 million in revenue by selling red widgets.” This doesn’t allow you to focus at all.

The right way to do targeting is to narrow down the universe of prospects to one hypothetical target individual or one perfect company; or, if you need to, to one ideal individual or company in every market segment you care about. And then tell the story of this individual.

As you can see, these are two completely different ways to see the same customer.

Why Targeting Is Important

A high-end Scottsdale hotel would want to pick a single character profile: e.g. Jane, a 42-year-old physician living in Chicago. She is a Republican, went to college, loves the outdoors and will be taking her family on a hiking trip this year. The idea is to focus on a single person and maximize the width of your value curve by catering to others, not marketing to them.

Other factors you could look at in your hypothetical target customer include the following:

•    Buying habits – How do they find and learn about products they buy?

•    If part of a business, consider company size, type, revenue, business model, cash available, etc.

•    Do they use the Internet? Then a digital marketing strategy is probably right for you.

•    Psychograph (e.g., social characteristics, political views).

•    All the problems they have including the problems you can help solve.

•    Other services and products they use.

•    Why they will buy your product.

•    Why they might not buy your product.

This will help you focus and prioritize your strategic thinking in all other areas.

Digital Branding & Differentiation

Contrary to what many believe, branding isn’t about your logo. Branding is about how your company makes your target customers feel. It can be extremely difficult but very powerful once mastered. Here are the steps.

Step 1 – Differentiation

Consistency breeds differentiation, or so I say. It turns out that our brains are hardwired to only notice what is different. This means that everything that you do should be as unique yet consistent as possible to ensure you are noticed. This process starts with your company name and logo, but covers everything from your advertising to the service you deliver. Consider the differentiation Apple has created with its website, advertisements, retail stores and actual products.

The fundamental rule to remember is be different yet consistent.

Step 2 – Focused

To maintain your differentiation, you need to provide a consistent message. You don’t want your customers to see a fuzzy picture of you or your company. To make sure you are focused, take the focus test below and see if you can answer the questions in one sentence or less, and do it in a way your competitors can’t.

The Focus Test

Who are you?

What do you do?

Why does it matter?

Step 3 – Communication

Here is the last major question in your digital marketing strategy. Do you have a good communication plan? If you want to do this online, it means getting digitally integrated, which is what Fasturtle is all about. It means always being consistent, no matter how many people are working with your brand. One way of testing your communication consistency is to consider every point of contact your company has to the customer—and then look at whether your customers can tell if something is from you without you telling them. Does your website match your Facebook? Match your Google Plus? Match your Twitter? Match your advertising?

Digital Marketing Tactical Plan

After you have considered your customer and your brand, it is time to determine which marketing channels you will use. Every tactical plan is different. The reason why marketing on the Internet is so powerful is the huge amount of channels to use. Almost every potential customer is online for one reason or another. So there is a lot of room for creativity.

Here is a partial list of potential online channels you could use to reach your customers: Search engine marketing (organic and paid), email campaigns, affiliate marketing, social media, rich media, feed services (e.g., Twitter), blogs, news-release engines and online stores.

There are two additional steps I recommend for determining which channels to use. 1) You must determine which ones your customers are using, and 2) Determine which ones your competitors aren’t. To illustrate this point, it may not be a good idea to start a new blog if a competitor has already created a successful one, or you might not want to use Twitter if less than 1 percent of your customers have even heard of it. Fish where your fish are.

Feedback, Feedback, Feedback

With any good marketing program there is a way to attain customer feedback and adjust your strategy accordingly. One of the best ways to report or gather pertinent customer data is with Google Analytics.

Today it is very easy to determine whether marketing campaigns are successful by tracking the number of visitors to your site. You can test your site design with A/B tests and see where potential customers are exiting your sites. This is how you will judge how well your digital marketing is performing, so become familiar with it.

On another note, a great tool to gather customer feedback is using Constant Contact’s small-business tools including the online survey platform. It is very easy to implement and connect with all of your social media and email marketing campaigns.

Like anything in life, proper planning will allow you to visualize and clarify success and give you the tools to make it happen. I hope this article has given you some basic planning tips to get you and your business on the way to digital marketing success.

Where do you see online marketing going in 2014? Do you have an Internet-marketing question? Please send it to eric@fasturtle.com and I will try to answer it in the coming months.

Eric Olsen founded the Airpark’s Fasturtle, a website design and SEO firm, in 2000, providing business owners strategic digital marketing solutions. He has successfully started, acquired or partnered with multiple marketing firms in the digital marketing space in Scottsdale and across the country. As a Constant Contact endorsed presenter on SEO, email marketing and website usability standards, Olsen continues to empower business owners and their staff with the tools and techniques to expand their brand. Contact: 480-348-0467, ext. 110; eric@fasturtle.com.