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  • Writer's pictureJohn Bell

The Next-Gen Digital Marketing Strategy Toolbox

Updated: Oct 10, 2022

Distilled and Essential Marketing Tools Only

Strategy will focus your efforts. It can align your limited resources towards a goal. It requires thought and insight. The time to fashion a strong strategy will save you money and heartache in the execution.

The biggest problem for small and midsize businesses is skimping on strategy. Either they don’t see the benefit when execution (done well) is what rings the cash register, they aren’t sure how they should do it, or they cannot or will not expend the energy for the necessary insights and information to inform strategic choices.

Strategy only seems hard. Digital marketing strategy – especially given the current state of digital marketing (see 6 Vexatious Truths for Digital Marketing Today) – is essential.

My biggest peeve after poor strategy (or no strategy) is overwrought strategy. No business owner or marketing leader has time to generate a collection of documents that don’t have a material impact in running a digital marketing program.

Here is the distilled and essential toolbox to allow any business and/or marketing leader to develop strong marketing with measurable impact. This is built on the simple “Next-Gen Digital Marketing Strategy Framework” where a test-and-learn culture and capability serves as the keystone. You can follow the toolbox outline below or download the PDF or PPT versions here:

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Defining Objectives

The Objectives Worksheet features three rows and columns. While you can add rows, it may be best to establish only a few actual objectives. You can revisit these on a quarterly, semi-annual or annual basis. Be as specific as possible. For example, you may want to sell 50 new, mid-size accounts of a particular product or service line, or increase sales by 15% amongst education customers.

Next, you can choose the measures that will tell you if you are making progress on your goal. This is not a trick. It may be as simple as “sales volume” or “number of accounts”. You may also want to think of incremental key performance indicators (KPIs) that will help forecast success. If you knew that client meetings led to converting new accounts 12% of the time, that number of meetings might help you forecast how you will do towards your goals of 50 new accounts. Lastly, pick a time frame. Maybe you want those new accounts by the end of 2nd quarter. This simple rubric is based on the logic of SMART Goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound).

Drafting Customer Profiles

More time and energy has been wasted on complex user personas and profiles than most other marketing exercises. That’s not because customer insight isn’t important. It’s key. That waste has more to do with generating not-so-useful information. We want the information that will help us find, engage and sell to our customers. Insights can come from customer interviews, surveys, secondary research and more. Ideally, it isn’t solely based upon the intuition of the sales force or any other group or individuals., That doesn’t mean sales people don’t understand customers. It simply means that the closer we come to hearing the ‘voice of our customer’ the more customer-centered your approach will be.

Answer questions that fill in their story like:

  • Who are they professionally, personally?

  • Where does their need intersect with the solution, service, products we provide?

What are their relevant attitudes:

  • What do they think about the challenge they face?

  • What attitudes might influence how they buy?

And what are their needs:

  • What do they need to get done?

  • How would we like them to feel?

Keep it short and ask yourself, ‘can this information inform creative, messaging, channels or more.’ If you have covered their emotional drivers as well as their rational drivers, your profile will be even more useful.

Defining KPIs

A strong measurement model can make almost any marketing program 'strategic.' Focus on are keeping it simple and reducing the clutter. We have all been inundated with digital metrics and often paralyzed as a result.

Keeping it simple starts with organizing it around the customer journey (or funnel) that matters to your business. The most common marketing levels are raising awareness, deepening engagement, growing consideration and driving conversion. Select the 2-3 KPIs that will really tell you how you are reaching the impact of the stage of the journey. For raising awareness, your ad reach and frequency might be two KPIs that matter. For conversion, sales would be the most obvious.

Diagnostic metrics are those second-level marketing metrics that tell the marketers what they need to do to affect the KPIs. ‘Email opens’ are not particularly good KPIs but may inform the marketing effort to raise clickthroughs and ultimately conversion.

Drafting the Strategy

The heart of the strategy is a clear and meaningful Strategy Statement and a slight remix of the Objectives Worksheet to feature specific strategy choices to reach each goal. This Strategy Canvas can also feature testable tactics that would make sense within each objectives strategy. Remember, the culture of ‘test-and-learn’ lies at the heart of Next-Gen Digital Marketing.

Here’s an example of a Strategy Statement:

“We will grow regional education accounts by 30% (5+ Accounts) by raising relevant awareness among private/public K-12 school decision-makers and influencers and educating them about our solutions via digital content marketing. We will engage our audiences through targeted digital and social media and nurture sales-qualified leads via account-based marketing. By integrating our digital marketing with sales activity, we can focus our collective energy and resources on winning high-value accounts.”

This statement includes the Goal (30%/5 Accounts); the Where (Regional); The Customer Target (private/public K-12 schools); the Marketing Jobs-To-Be-Done (Raising relevant awareness and educating them about our solutions) and the How (e.g. digital content marketing, nurture sales qualified leads via account based marketing, etc...)

The Strategy Canvas allows you to build on the overall strategy with some specifics to meet the objectives. The Strategy Checklist will help you craft either. Remember, strategy is about choices – what you will do and what you won’t do.

Mapping the Customer Journey

The Journey Worksheet helps you stay customer-centered which leads to greater impact. Organized around a simple customer journey, it hangs on the customer intent – what are they trying to get done at each phase of their journey. This leads you to recognize where they go to meet that intent – what channels and touchpoints. That’s where you will need to be to reach them. You can then identify the tactics and content to meet that customer’s needs. And, of course, how you can measure at that phase of the journey to know you are achieving meaningful impact.

Deciding on Channels

Your Strategy Canvas, Customer Profiles and Journey Worksheet have all pointed you towards specific channels choices. We are all guided to be where our customer need us to be. The Channel Map confirms these choices.

Most well-balanced Channel Maps include those where you have full control over the data like your Website, YouTube or email and those that let you reach and engage new audiences like social media, influencers and affiliates. Nowadays, digital marketing works a bit like the stock market in that a diverse portfolio of channels (informed by test-and-learn operations) may lead to the most efficient marketing mix. Relying on a single channel (like Facebook or Amazon) is just too risky these days.

The Next-Gen Digital Marketing Strategy Toolbox can be a rock-solid foundation for digital-first marketing. Every tool aims to help you make key choices to define a strategy that can be executed, optimized, adjusted, revised and rinse-and-repeat. This toolbox is meant to support your best, SMART thinking while avoiding time-consuming and unnecessary activities. Since so much of marketing plays out in the execution, we need sound strategy that gets us to work as easily and as early as possible.


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