Strategy is a word that is commonly misused within the marketing industry. We hear it time and time again when it’s thrown around to describe the process of building a campaign or a project, but without any real forethought that ties to bigger business and marketing goals.
That is not a strategy.
Digital marketing strategies are the approaches to achieve goals by using channels such as email, SMS, social media, paid media, websites, and other digital platforms. This also requires identifying the target audience, ideal outcomes, tasks necessary to accomplish said outcomes, and appropriate digital properties and channels that will be implemented within the strategy. It can be as simple as driving awareness around a new brand partnership or as complex as creating an omnichannel campaign to get consumers to register to the brand’s customer online portal and complete the member profile survey.
Identifying what the success of these strategies look like varies based on the goals set. However, there are commonalities within all positive outcomes. I recently had a conversation with our VP of Client Strategy Jennifer Streck about digital strategies and why some are more successful than others. The elements below are what we uncovered:
Brands Must Know Their Audience
This may seem a bit obvious to state, but it is true. Understanding your target audience is an important key to developing a successful marketing strategy.
To truly know your audience is to realize that they are not necessarily monolithic. Streck mentioned how she’s noticed how some strategies failed due to overgeneralizing their base. “It shows that you are not paying attention to your consumers. Assuming that all of their behaviors around purchasing or researching are identical can isolate a portion of the audience. That can ultimately lead to a loss of potential revenue and wasting resources.”
Implementing a personalized and relevant approach to a brand’s campaigns or efforts should produce favorable results instantly. Eighty percent of consumers said that they are more likely to purchase when brands offer them a personalized experience.¹ Creating a unique and bespoke relationship with your audience requires tapping into the most important marketing tool of all: your data.
Data is King
How would you know if a campaign worked if you never looked at the data? To be honest, a lot of marketers are not properly utilizing the statistics and results they have available to them. A recent study showed that 87% of marketers aren’t fully using data to guide their strategies despite its importance.²
“When I’m preparing a strategy, I start with the data. I’m not just talking about the number of email addresses or site visitors or anything like that. I’m looking at demographics, psychographics, offline data, and research studies on their consumers. I want to know what motivates the audience. What are their barriers? That’s how I can identify the best approach to take,” Streck responded.
“I want to know what motivates the audience. What are their barriers? That’s how I can identify the best approach to take”
– VP of Client Strategy Jennifer Streck
Data encompasses such a robust amount of information. Marketers that are leveraging first-party data, third-party data, and behavioral analytics are set up better to create those personalized strategies that we were referring to. They’re also going to be ahead of the curve once Google removes the ability to tap into the third-party identifiers come 2023.³
Using data is key when setting up a strategy and when the campaigns are over to see what worked and what didn’t. But more than anything, it is a necessary way of checking up on how the overall strategy is performing amidst the campaign. If you’re noticing that the audiences aren’t responding how you assumed or if the tools and channels you’ve implemented are acting awry or just not to expectations, that is when you need to go in and adjust.
Adjusting When Needed
Sometimes, the marketing strategies you implemented don’t perform the way you think they should. Or perhaps, a new social network or trend is captivating your audience in a way like no other. It is the moments like that that require changing your strategy. Being cognizant of your strategy’s performance in real-time can also save your brand a lot of time and money, too.
One recent world-altering moment caused many brands to reconfigure their marketing efforts — the COVID-19 pandemic. Retail brand Uncommon Goods recognized that shopping behaviors of consumers were shifting, rightfully so, which meant spending more with Facebook and experimenting with TikTok.⁴ As of last fall, while some products had organic success through the video-based social network, conversion rates via paid ads were low. That didn’t discourage the brand as they remain “optimistic” about the platform.
But, some strategies don’t require a lot of adjustments, if any. According to Streck, “it depends on the business strategy and what you’re trying to accomplish. Maybe it doesn’t require major pivoting but just adjusting the messaging or the channels. That’s where testing and segmentation can come into play.”
Testing is another method of adjusting while in the middle of a live strategy, but isn’t always needed. “If you are able to A/B test, then that is an efficient way of learning and seeing what works versus what doesn’t. But, I wouldn’t say that testing is 100% required but it is definitely going to make success more likely.”
Changing the Narrative Around Benchmarks
Digital marketing strategies can require a lot of moving pieces — audience analysis, digital channels, reporting and insights, and a supportive budget. But there is one component that gets more praise than what is necessary: benchmarks.
As mentioned earlier, data is crucial to the success of a digital strategy. Did your consumers buy the product teased in the email? Or did they complete the registration to become eligible for the brand’s sweepstakes campaign? Diving into the results is one path of identifying success, but acknowledging the benchmarks for similar campaigns or industry standards can also provide that pat on the back.
However, benchmarks are quite relative and ambiguous. “Often, you don’t know what you’re comparing yourself to,” Streck said when opining about the importance of benchmarks. “I mean, you don’t know what went into the benchmarks for an engagement rate or an open rate. As a startup, you may be comparing yourself to more established bands that are only emailing their active databases.” So just like in real, regular life, comparing yourself or your brand to the next is not the best thing to do.
Instead of going off the assumed performance of competitors and other like-minded brands, Streck suggests that brands refer to the results of their older or more comparable campaigns as the benchmark of success. “And I really try to encourage our clients to benchmark their own performance and then compare it to that and always try to improve your own performance.”
Finding success within your digital marketing strategy is a loaded exploration. It requires a level of proactivity which means being intentional with the marketing efforts of your brand. To truly see success means to correctly identify who you are targeting. It means knowing and using the information you have readily available or creating paths to gaining more insights than what your brand had previously. It requires being aware of campaign performance from start to finish and refining when you see opportunities to do so. It means looking in the mirror and recognizing the wins and losses within your own brand instead of solely what is happening in the industry. So, to truly define success is not simply a checklist you can mark off but a dive into the culture and space in which your brand thrives and filling the gaps effectively to satisfy the market and demand.
¹ Epsilon | ² Invoca | ³ Digiday | ⁴ eMarketer
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