Combining the right people, processes, data, and technology can make the difference between a decent digital marketing strategy and one that gives a powerful competitive advantage. Whether you have an existing plan in place or are defining your digital marketing strategy for the first time, crafting an effective digital marketing strategy will help your organization meet year-end marketing goals and achieve long-term success.
In this article, we outline recommendations to improve your digital marketing plan based on industry best practices and client experiences from Credera’s Modern Marketing Transformation Practice.
What Is Digital Marketing?
Digital marketing is the promotion and sale of products and services through online channels such as email, web, and social media. The number of purchases completed online grows every year, and the pandemic only accelerated that growth with global online sales increasing by 25% in 2020. According to Adobe, consumers spent a record total of $204.5 billion online shopping during the 2021 holiday season (November 1 to December 31). As customers continue the shift to online shopping, only the organizations that adopt a winning digital marketing strategy will gain and retain a share in the digital marketplace.
Before we dive into our recommendations, let’s examine the ideal modern marketing ecosystem. As exhibited in the accompanying visual, modern digital marketing requires several components to work together across a continuous cycle, fueled by data and refined through feedback loops. Delivering personalized experiences at-scale requires a closed-loop digital marketing ecosystem enabled by data, content, marketing technology (MarTech), and an agile operating model.
Modern Marketing Ecosystem
Four Enablers of Powerful Digital Marketing Strategy
The four enablers—data, content, technology, and operating model—underpin the end-to-end marketing operation.
Customer data lies at the core of an effective marketing strategy. A successful digital marketing strategy must be data-driven and purpose-built from both existing data stores and new data collected throughout the customer journey. Furthermore, feedback loops collect data to provide teams with actionable insights about content performance and customer behavior to continuously refine their digital marketing strategy.
Intelligent content rules the digital age. While mass media marketing is still required, its role has diminished significantly in today’s fragmented marketing ecosystem that includes email, mobile apps, social media, and more. Today, rather than a one-size-fits-most approach, successful content must use the data about customer preferences to serve tailored content to a customer at the right time on the right channel.
MarTech is a catch-all term for the tools and systems used to plan, execute, measure, and optimize digital marketing plans. MarTech includes tools such as content management systems (CMS), customer relationship management (CRM) systems, social media marketing platforms, marketing automation, analytics, customer-centric decisioning, personalization, and more. With so many moving parts and marketing activities, it’s important to invest your marketing dollars in the right tech to maximize return and achieve your strategic objectives.
We offer a free MarTech Health Check so you can self-assess your program’s maturity and learn more about key digital marketing capabilities.
4. Operating Model
Agile marketing is a working model that emphasizes delivering value to customers early and often. Agile marketing teams collaborate closely and focus on a “test and learn” approach to continuously improve and rapidly respond to changes. Teams that work in an agile marketing operating model are often better enabled to deliver quality, consistent content across marketing channels than those utilizing a more traditional marketing model.
A successful digital marketing strategy harnesses these four key enablers and continuously improves upon them to create a compelling customer experience.
Three Questions to Drive Your Digital Marketing Strategy
Where do we start? With the customer. You cannot create experiences your customers love without first developing a deep understanding of your customer’s demographics, needs, and preferences.
Consider these three questions to develop a customer-centric strategy:
What does your customer value?
What drives a one-time customer to become a loyal, repeat customer?
What would inspire your customer to tell their friends about your brand?
If you have data today to answer these questions, you’re off to a great start. Next, ensure your technology, operating model, and content align with that view of the customer and design experiences to support the customer at every stage of their journey.
If you cannot answer those questions today, never fear. Collecting and analyzing customer data will help you formulate that view of the customer so you can craft a winning strategy to address your customer’s needs and desires.
Answering these questions can help set your north star, your marketing goals, and vision. Next, we’ll discuss how to get there.
Harness the Enablers to Build Competitive Advantage
The following points outline three essential components of a competitive digital marketing strategy:
1. Compile a Single View of the Customer
If you have not yet compiled your customer data into a single source of truth, that is the first step your organization must take to compete in today’s rapidly evolving marketplace. A robust solution such as a customer data platform (CDP) can help your organization store this data, capture additional data, and utilize it more effectively.
Understanding the customer enables you to tailor your marketing mix to provide a holistic and personalized customer experience. Serve the right content in the right channel to drive engagement.
A prime example of turning customer insights into profitable action, Credera partnered with a leading airline to improve their customer data warehouse (CDW) and create a unified view of the customer. Consolidating data from over 40 stores provided a consistent, enterprise-wide view of the customer and enabled robust analytics they used to tailor customer interactions.
2. Organize Operations Around the Customer
Today’s fragmented ecosystem presents the opportunity for marketing activities to be more targeted and relevant than ever before, but companies must position themselves appropriately to keep up with the rapidly evolving marketplace. Marketing organizations that adopt an agile marketing operating model are better positioned to adapt and respond, getting relevant campaigns out the door much faster than traditional marketing organizations.
Shifting to an agile marketing operating model often requires a full restructure of the marketing department, but an easy way to get started is by establishing one cross-functional team to collaborate on a strategic campaign to test and prove the value of the model within your organization. Make sure any team members shifted into the agile marketing model have been alleviated of their previous backlog so they can fully focus on the problem at hand. Also, agile marketing teams will fail within an incremental funding model. Instead, organizations should arrange batch funding for the agile marketing team’s work and agree on a method of prioritization. Then, let them go forth and conquer. This model empowers marketing teams to optimize their campaigns and achieve greater throughput rates.
Marketing automation tools can further accelerate speed to market by freeing the team’s time from routine, manual tasks to focus on strategic campaigns, as well as improving timeliness and relevance of messaging throughout the customer journey. If marketing automation tools are not currently in place, implementing in parallel with a team restructure can support the new ways of working required of a successful agile marketing operating model.
Santander Bank provides an excellent example of agile marketing in practice. Their marketing organization shifted from siloed operations to collaborative teams focused entirely on serving customer needs and building loyalty. They implemented a series of small experiments and increased acquisition of first-party data to establish continuous learning feedback loops and improve speed to market. As a result, they have seen increased loyalty and satisfaction among customers, exhibited by the highest Net Promoter Score (NPS) achieved in 17 years.
3. Continuously Refine the Customer Journey
Brand campaigns should be personalized and holistic, meeting the customer where they are and guiding them through a tailored brand experience from initial contact to purchase, and, ultimately, to inspire passion for the brand. Everything a marketing team launches must have key performance indicators (KPIs) defined and measured to enable continuous learning, refinement, and ensure you achieve your marketing goals.
Establish feedback loops to continuously learn about your customer as well as your content’s performance using marketing analytics tools. As you uncover new customer needs, tweak your digital marketing strategy accordingly. As you learn what content performs well in certain channels, you will be positioned to adapt quickly with an agile marketing operating model in place. Customers will recognize and reward such attention with brand loyalty. Brands that can’t keep up will inevitably fall to the wayside.
One tool that can be used to identify opportunities to improve the customer experience is a customer journey map. Start by understanding your current state customer journey and identify any points of friction. Then, redesign the experience to address gaps in customer acquisition and retention paths. This is a key activity in defining, and refining, your digital marketing strategy. Creating a seamless customer experience should be the top priority of companies that wish to remain competitive in today’s market.
An example of creating a consistent brand experience can be seen with Tex-Mex restaurant On the Border. Credera worked with On the Border to create an online experience that mirrors the high-quality experience customers receive in the physical restaurant, as well as serve customers personalized and localized content dynamically. Robust analytics on customer behavior and site performance enable the On the Border team to continue making improvements to better serve their customers across channels.
Take the Next Step in Your Digital Marketing Strategy
At Credera, we’ve partnered with companies across industries to enable remarkable customer experiences. Reach out to our digital marketing experts at firstname.lastname@example.org to start a conversation about strengthening your digital marketing strategy.