Did you know that a 2015 Smart Insights study showed that approximately 50% of organizations who used digital marketing had absolutely no strategy or plan? Sounds crazy doesn’t it? But, in all honesty, there are a large number of businesses both large and small who are flying around blindly in this respect. Still, it is with the smaller local businesses that you find the worst offenders. While it’s understandable that companies with small budgets need a solid return on their investment, cutting corners will only cause harm especially when it comes to search marketing.
Preparation is Key
No one can deny that the digital landscape is in a constant state of flux. The marketing opportunities and digital channels are changing at breakneck speeds and businesses are being left out of the loop. Those who’ve attempted to stay on top of things have taken an ad hoc approach and simply dove in with no holds barred, throwing money at PPC, SEO, content and social marketing.
As you can imagine, this haphazard approach was unsuccessful for a large number of companies. Also, as a consequence of this massive failure, digital began to seem like a questionable marketing strategy. This negative image caused more businesses to become disillusioned with the medium and to cling ever more fiercely to the antiquated (and unsuccessful) marketing methods of yesteryear.
There’s Nothing New Under the Sun
In the iconic military strategy book, “The Art of War,” author Sun Tzu was able to succinctly state the importance of strategy with one sentence:
“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy are the noise before defeat.”
Simply put, a great strategy is useless if you don’t have the tools and/or a detailed plan with which to implement it. Thus, if you use marketing tactics like PPC and SEO without an overall strategy (except to focus on hyper-competitive elements like commercial keywords), excessive costs and poor results are to be expected.
Confused? Consider this example:
One of our clients is responsible for operating one of the largest (and most popular) nightlife venues in the United States. Historically, this business has been able to keep a huge chunk of the market, up to a 25-mile radius, to themselves. But, over the past 2-3 years or so, several large venues have opened in the same area — now there are 10-15 similar venues within the same radius. What hasn’t changed is the search strategy – targeting people who reside in the 25-mile radius using PPC on a macro level and local SEO on a micro level.
Although the company has spent a lot of money to get their site ranked on the first page in the local and organic listings (along with PPC and other online marketing strategies) it is losing business. In the past, the solution to this problem has been to spend more money on PPC advertising that targets the customers within their demographic. But, if look at this problem objectively, you will see that it is fundamentally flawed.
All nightlife (EDM fans) are aware that our client’s venue is the best in the entire country. They know this and are willing to go out of their way for a truly thrilling experience — they are not the issue. We want to attract those who are just looking for a fun way to blow off steam. And with them, the priority becomes price and location. Keep in mind that while our client is truly the best choice, all companies will say the same on the internet and ticket prices and table prices are pretty competitive across the board. To solve this problem, we must think outside of the box. We cannot simply search within a wider radius and try to persuade potential customers to ignore several conveniently located venues.
How can these issues be solved? How do we change our approach? Since our research clearly shows that location is a key factor, why not go down instead of up? That is, instead of concentrating on the potential customers within a 25-mile radius, we pare our target down to those who stay a mere five miles away. Making this shift in perspective will open up new doors – in this case, we learned that there are well over 100k people that live within 15 miles of the venue. Imagine what we could do if we were able to build awareness of the great venue that lay right at the doorstep.
When you look at this strategy from a basic point of view, it doesn’t seem much different from the first tactics. And in fact, it is a little similar i.e. we’ll probably use the same channels. But, the difference is we will be making a conceptual change from consumers who lived far away (who we had to convince to bypass other choices to visit our location) to a more local audience with less competition. In this way, we can use digital marketing tactics to generate brand awareness in the bigger kill zone while still being highly visible to local consumers as well.
If it weren’t for digital marketing and reexamining our goals and objectives, this tactical change would never have been made. We would have kept on plodding forth with Google AdWords (and losing more revenue) with no rewards for our efforts.
Digital Marketing Planning Models and Methodologies
There are several effective digital learning techniques that can help your company gain a foothold in the online landscape. To get you better acquainted with these concepts, check out a brief, but comprehensive outline, of the tactics that we have used with our clients, both large and small, to improve their strategy and increase the effectiveness of their digital campaigns:
The marketing tactic was created by PR Smith and is useful for those who are interested in developing an all-encompassing digital marketing plan. It can be applied at a tactical level or used to create an overarching strategy.
The acronym stands for:
Situation Analysis: Where are you now?
Objectives: What goal do you want to reach there?
Strategy: In general terms, how do you get there?
Tactics: In exact terms, how are you going to get there? What channels are you going to use?
Actions: Processes, systems, checklists, and guidelines
Control: Metrics and measure to make sure that you are making progress
Even if you don’t choose to follow this methodology, asking yourself these questions is a worthwhile endeavor. The process and the insight gained from a comprehensive situation analysis is worth every second that you put into it.
Like the SOSTAC methodology, this model can be used to determine the steps that you must take on a tactical level as well as to develop your entire plan.
Before we delve deeper into this methodology, it is important to note that there is another step “Plan” that should be placed before the “Reach” stage, but PRACE doesn’t make for a good mnemonic device.
RACE pertains to the buyer life-cycle and the acronym stands for:
- Plan: The planning stage – This is the stage where you should be looking at strategy, opportunities, and actions. You must also take the time to create an online value proposition, define customer personas, review both your competition and the marketplace. This information will be fed into your channel to distribute your digital marketing communications
- Reach: The exploration stage- This covers owned, earned, and paid media and will help you make sure that your site is visible across content hubs, relevant blogs, social media and search engines.
- Act: The decision-making stage- The is the part of the process where we convince site visitors to take their relationship with your brand to the next level and get in contact i.e. sign up for a newsletter or downloading a white paper.
- Convert: The purchasing stage: This is the qualified sales lead or the sale and it is where you begin your journey with the customer
- Engage: The advocacy stage- In this stage, we build on the initial conversion to create a long-term relationship with the client.
When it comes to choosing between the two methodologies, RACE is better used as a starting point rather than a strategic approach since it can be easily applied to a single channel like local SEO. On the other hand, SOSTAC will take time and resources to achieve optimal results and can be overkill for small businesses who are only looking to improve their local visibility. Starting small gives you the chance to see tangible results that will allow you to develop comprehensive measurement and planning practices.