How to Create a Digital Marketing Plan For Your Business

Learning how to create a digital marketing plan for your business is a vital skill in today’s world.

More business than ever before is being conducted online.

Without a digital marketing plan, you’re harming your business’ chances of success.

Whether you’re doubling down on content creation, spending your marketing budget on paid advertising, or trying to acquire features on other websites, having a digital plan is critical.

Without it, you’ll flounder around, trying little bits of “this and that” whenever you feel like. You’ll dip your toes into multiple digital marketing strategies, but never dive in.

And sometimes, you have to do just that.

Set Your Goals

How many times have you heard this one?

Failing to plan, is planning to fail.

Never a truer phrase has been spoken, especially when it comes to creating your business’ digital marketing plan.

You need to know exactly what you’re trying to accomplish so that you can set about succeeding.

For example:

At Canny, we’re now creating a minimum of two blog posts a week.

Why?

We’re looking to generate more leads through our blog. By looking back through our customer acquisitions, we identified that our strongest client relationships and projects have been a result of our blog.

Your goal may be something completely different ours. Common goals include;

  • Generating more leads
  • Selling more products
  • Increasing brand awareness

There’s a range of things you could be looking to achieve. So have that at the forefront of your mind when it comes to goal setting.

Your Goals Must Be SMART

I hate to say it, because we’ve all heard it a million times before, your goals must be SMART.

Specific

The goals you set need to be specific, and outline exactly what you’re trying to achieve.

Rather than saying “we want to increase leads through our blog,” we said “we want to achieve one lead per day on our website, and to do that, we’re going to up our post frequency to twice per week.”

Measurable

You need to be able to measure the goals, or just like anything else you can’t measure, you can’t deem it a success or failure.

We can measure our lead generation goal at Canny, by counting the leads that come in. And also by the frequence of the posts we put out. It’s that simple.

Attainable

This is the “how” of the goal. How will you do what you want to do, or in other words, how will you attain your goal.

We’re accomplishing our new blogging schedule by setting aside a full day a week of our calendars to dedicate to blogging. Any more than that, and we wouldn’t be able to attain our goal.

Realistic

Sense checking your goal is important. It’s easy to dream up “pie in the sky” goals, but what you set out to do must be realistic.

Currently, we are generating around one lead per week at Canny. With our new strategy, we want to achieve one lead per day. It’s not out of the realms of possibility. In fact, by more than doubling our content output, it’s quite more unlikely that we don’t achieve it.

Time Bound

And finally, your goals have to have a time restriction in place. At the end of the period, you review your goals and reset to move forward.

At Canny, we’ve planned our first quarters worth of blog posts. After that, we’ll see where we are in terms of making progress towards our goal, and if need be, reset and adjust.

The Balance SMB have you covered If you’re looking for examples of SMART business goals.

But if SMART goals bore you to tears, why not try Andrew and Pete’s method of setting FREE goals?

Here’s a quick overview;

Fun

You’re not going to enjoy it if you don’t set out to do something fun.

Hate blogging? Well that’s not the route for you, so don’t set it as your goal. Love it? On with the show!

Ridiculous

Think big. Think the biggest you possibly can. Then, if you do miss, at least you’ve still hit something! Aim for the moon, hit the stars.

“We can think big things if we put our minds to it.”

Exciting

Just like being fun, if every time you look at your goals, they tire you out, or deflate you, then you’re never going to do them.

Your goal needs to be exciting enough to keep you interested and drive you forward.

Emotionally Charged

A lot of goals are business led, which normally means money led. And that’s not always the best way to do things.

Whatever you’re doing, make sure you know why you’re doing it, and you feel good about it. If you don’t, stop right now, and rethink your goal.

FREE can be hard to achieve in the context of digital marketing, but it sure can help put a new spin on goal setting!

Start With the End In Mind

Ask yourself this;

“When I launch my new digital marketing plan, and everything has worked, what benefit has it brought to my business?”

By the time you’ve created your plan, you should have a clear picture of what success looks like to you and your business.

If you don’t, go back and start over.

Remember, you’re not planning for the sake of planning! You’re planning to succeed.

And to succeed, you need to have a goal and a vision.

Who Makes Up Your Business’ Audience?

Customer personas. Target audience. Client profiles.

We all know what they are, but have you actually sat down and worked through what your ideal customer looks like, and who makes up the audience for your business?

There’s a high chance that you’ll have a different audience for each goal you set.

And you should definitely have a difference target audience for each campaign you run!

If this is new to you, check out our post about defining your target audience.

One of the key questions to ask when creating customer personas, with one eye on your digital marketing plan, is this;

“Where do my customers go when they’re online?”

If they’re on Facebook, then it’s quite clear you’ll want to experiment with Facebook advertising.

If they’re avid blog readers, then maybe you need to spend more time on writing blog posts on your website, and guest post on others.

If they read the news headlines, and are heavily involved in the business world, then LinkedIn is your best bet.

Where your customers spend their time online gives you a great indication as to where you need to focus your digital marketing efforts.

It’s no good targeting them on Pinterest, if they’re all on Instagram.

If you need help creating your target customer personas, check out a website called Xtensio, who have some great templates you can follow!

A Quick Tidy Up

I’m not one for delaying, or dragging things out.

But there is something you need to do before launching into your digital marketing plan!

You need to go through your website and social media channels and give everything a quick tidy up.

If you struggle, bring in an agency that offer web design services to help you out.

Make sure your logo and branding is consistent across each of the platforms.

If you have a blog or news feed pulling into your website homepage, hide the dates (unless you update it regularly!)

Make sure the links on your social channels point to relevant pages on your website.

And if you have an opportunity to pin a post, make it something engaging and relevant.

By performing a quick audit on your website and social channels, you’re giving yourself the best chance of success.

Owned Media vs Earned Media vs Paid Media

So what elements make up a good digital marketing plan?

There are 3 core elements that form the backbone of any good marketing strategy.

They are;

  1. Owned Media
  2. Earned Media
  3. Paid Media

Hubspot have an article that explores several digital marketing case studies that have utilised each of these strategies.

Let’s take a look at what each of these mean, and how you can utilise them in your own digital marketing efforts;

Owned Media

Owned media is the stuff that your company own and can build upon, or edit, directly.

This includes;

  • Your website
  • Your blog
  • Your social channels

But how does Owned Media factor into your business’ digital marketing plan?

Working with Owned Media is the easiest way to make an impact online. And it’s by far, the way I prefer to work Canny’s digital marketing plan.

I’m a firm believer in, “build it, and they will come.”

Well, more specifically “Build it, get it right, and they will come.”

So how do you do it? What can you do with your Owned Media to make the biggest impact?

Two words:

Content creation.

If you’re a fan of Gary Vee, you’ll have heard him say “think like a media company. You’re a media company, comma, tree surgeon. A media company, comma, financial consulting company.”

Original content plays the biggest role in your digital market plan. And you need to make sure you’re making the most of it.

There are three ways that people consume content;

  • Blogs
  • Podcasts
  • Videos

You need to be creating content for each of these platforms.

Let’s take a deeper dive;

Blog Content

Your blog should form the spine of your digital marketing plan, because it adds words and content to your website.

This is great for search engine performance, and makes it easier for people to find your website.

The importance of blogging can’t be overstated.

But how do you plan your blog effectively?

Post Frequency

Post frequency is the first thing you should consider.

If you’re starting from nothing, just getting started is the first thing you should be aiming for.

Consistency is the second thing you need to go after. We find most clients opt to blog once a month to get started. However, I’d argue that’s not enough.

Try to write a blog post either once a week, or once every two weeks while you’re getting started.

Post Length

Studies show that Google prefers decent length posts that cover a topic in detail.

It depends on your goals and target audience, but Google tends to rank. Posts in the top three search engine positions tend to be over 2300 words.

And the top three is where you want to be. Ideally, you want to be in the first position. So you need to strive to create well written, in-depth posts, that cover a topic in depth.

Post Content

Most important of all, is the content of your post. It’s no good writing 2500 words and above every week, or every other week, if it’s all nonsense.

We’re going to create a separate post detailing how we come up with our blog post ideas.

Essentially, you need to sit down and brainstorm ideas that will help generate your post content.

Ask questions like;

  • How do customers find us?
  • What are the pain points we can solve?
  • Who else can we help in related fields?
  • Where can our product or service benefit our customers?
  • Why should people care about us?
  • When in a customers life are they coming to us?

By asking as many questions as you possibly can about your customers, their journey, and how your company fits into that, you can generate a whole load of great content ideas.

Post Schedule

The next thing to consider is the post schedule. What posts are you going to post, and when?

At Canny, we publish new posts on a Tuesday and Thursday morning at 9am. We used to post on a Monday but found our posts getting lost in the shuffle of “boring Monday stuff.”

One thing you have to do, is be consistent.

If you’re going to post on a Tuesday, post every Tuesday, at the same time.

People get used to the rhythm and consistency of your content, and just like a regularly scheduled TV programme, they tune in to consume.

Think of your business like it’s own TV station, with a range of programming, and treat your scheduling as such.

Post Upgrade

Posting regular blogs is all well and good, but you need to make sure you’re capturing leads from your blog posts.

We do this by creating content upgrades.

Free ebooks and resources that are distributed in return for people’s email addresses.

This helps us create a constant stream of leads.

Once an email address is entered, the lead receives their ebook, and in turn, they enter our marketing funnel.

Blogging is a powerful tool that I’ve used to grow Canny from £0 to a six-figure business.

It should really be considered as the spine of your digital marketing efforts.

Podcast Content

With the huge rise in podcast listeners over the last several years, the desire for more audio content is out there.

To create a winning podcast you need to follow a similar structure as when you planned your blog;

  • Frequency
  • Length
  • Content
  • Schedule

Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income has a great YouTube video about starting a podcast for your business.

He also has a complete step by step guide on his website.

Podcasting is a great way to add a voice and message to your business that you can’t get through blogging.

Top Tip

Once you’ve recorded and launched your podcast through the relevant channels, use a transcription service like Rev to have your audio transcribed.

You can then post each episode of your podcast onto your site, and give Google another way to hook into your content.

Video Content

Becoming a “famous YouTuber” has become all the rage with teenagers and the popularity of the platform is only continuing to grow.

But it’s not just teenagers and gamers making the most of the platform.

Unique, original, storytelling will always have a place. Just look at the popularity of Netflix!

But you don’t need to be Netflix to do it.

Setting up a YouTube channel for your business is easy. There’s a simple multi-step process that you can follow.

Once you’ve created your channel, you’re off to the races.

But what sort of video content are you going to create and how? That’s the bigger question.

Your Channel’s Content

What I’ve seen work well in the past is the multiple “shows” approach.

Going back to Gary Vee, he runs several shows, including;

  • The Daily Vee
  • The Ask Gary Vee Shows
  • Trash Talks
  • Speaking Events

He’s a content creation machine, and you really don’t need to start off creating four unique YouTube shows.

Starting with one is absolutely fine. Just like with your blog, getting started is the key.

At Canny, we’ve already tried one type of show, and we’re in the pre-production stages on another.

They are;

The Tuesday Show

The Tuesday Show was a handheld video show, similar to The Daily Vee. I had my friend with a camera follow me around when he was available, filming everything we got up to.

It was then edited down and released on a Tuesday, hence the name.

It worked a treat, and won us one of our biggest projects in A Beautiful Green.

However, it was difficult to produce, and relied on me being up to interesting things all day every day. Realistically, that wasn’t how my working day looked.

A lot of the time, I was at my desk fulfilling Canny’s service offering.

For now, we’ve hit pause on The Tuesday Show, but I’m 100% sure it’ll make a comeback in the future.

Design Reviewww.

Design Reviewww is our upcoming YouTube show in which we discuss and dissect the latest happenings in the design world.

So while we’re not talking about “top tips” or sharing “how to” content, we’re talking about the space in which Canny operate.

The idea is that it helps to further cement us as thought leaders and authorities in the field.

It also brings back the visibility we had on YouTube when we put The Tuesday Show on hold.

Creating Your Content

There are a range of options for creating your video content.

If you’re willing to strip everything back to the basics, you can go with a handheld, mobile phone “face to face” talk style show.

If you want to create something slightly more polished, a well priced DSLR camera and tripod will serve you well.

If you really want top level quality, you need to bring in either a camera operator, or work with a video production agency to help you.

For starting out creating your own video content, I recommend trying to create something interesting on your own.

Sure, the production adds perception of value to the videos, but the content is the most important thing.

People are more likely to watch a video chock full of good content, with slightly poorer production value, than watch a video that looks great but shares no real insights.

Once you’ve built out the concept of your show(s) and started getting episodes out there, the production values can always be upscaled.

Top Tip

You can strip the audio from your video content, and release that as a standalone podcast episode.

You can also have your videos transcribed in the same way as your podcast, allowing you to post these onto your site too.

Social Media

Now that you’ve gotten your website up to scratch and started creating unique content, it’s time to get it out there.

I talk about Gary Vee a lot, but it’s because he is a true connoisseur of the methods we believe in at Canny.

He has a great content plan slide deck that shows exactly how he breaks down his content to get the most out of it across multiple platforms.

This is the exact model you should be following, even if you only have 10% of the content.

By creating unique long form content, you’re essentially creating things that can be cut up and shared across all of your social networks.

This is called content repurposing and forms a key part of your digital marketing plan.

You don’t want to have to create original content every single time you need to post on each of your social channels.

Take your long form blog posts, podcasts, and videos, strip bits out of them, and distribute them across each of your channels.

We’ve spent a lot of time talking about Owned Media. I hope this gives you a feeling for how important this section of your digital marketing plan is.

Earned Media

Up next, is Earned Media. This is the stuff that you earn, by doing great things in your business.

What does Earned Media consist of?

Press Coverage

Any time you’re mentioned positively in the press, it’s because of something you’ve done

You’ve done something noteworthy, and it’s been covered in the news.

Sometimes, this happens naturally, especially if you’re part of a larger organisation. Other times, you have to make your own opportunities.

You can work with a reputable PR agency to go after press coverage. Or if you have time, you can write and distribute your own press releases.

SEO Success

The success of your website in search engines is also technically Earned Media.

Because of the strength of your content (which is created as part of your Owned Media strategy, detailed above), you’ve been successful in the search engines.

For the most part, just following our guide above will help you earn this coverage.

Sometimes though, you might want to take a deeper dive and work with an agency that provides digital marketing services to ensure you’re making the most of your opportunities.

Word of Mouth / Referrals

There’s only one or two ways to generate word of mouth buzz or referrals.

  1. By doing good work
  2. By asking for them.

This really takes no explaining.

If you run an ecommerce store, then you can generate referrals by offering a discount to returning customers, as well as to those who share your store with their friends.

If you’re in the service space, you can offer referral fees to people who recommend your services to others. If you’re going to do this, you need to make it known!

As a general rule, do good work for your clients or customers, and you’ll generate goodwill, leading to positive word of mouth and referrals.

Customer Reviews and Testimonials

The last type of Earned Media I want to touch on quickly is customer reviews.

In the ecommerce world, you should have reviews enabled on your website. When customers buy, invite them to leave reviews.

This instills trust, and encourages others to buy from you. It also helps answer questions other potential buyers might have.

In the service space, Google and Facebook reviews are key.

When you search a business in Google, you’ll see their star rating, which is indicative of how others have found working with them.

At Canny, we’re proud to have practically all five star reviews.

This is key, because when looking to choose a service provider, potential leads will see these reviews, and just like product reviews, they’ll instil trust and help power a buying decision.

Again, just like referrals, you have to ask for them! Don’t be shy.

Paid Media

The third and final piece of your digital marketing plan, is Paid Media.

Paid Media is simple to understand.

This time, you’re not creating content, or relying on referral channels to get you business. This time it’s easy.

You’re paying for it. And that’s great, because it’s getting people to the relevant pages of your website, almost instantly.

So, what Paid Media options do you have?

Facebook Advertising

The first, and currently, the cheapest option, is paid advertising through Facebook.

This isn’t “boosting your posts” or “paying for likes on your page.”

This is paying for traffic through Facebook, directly to your website.

The great thing about Facebook is that almost everyone is on Facebook. And you can target them all so specifically!

AdEspresso have a great article about Facebook advertising for beginners.

The most successful strategy I’ve seen with Facebook advertising, is to target specific demographics with certain pieces of content.

At Canny, we run adverts against Marketing Executives with our Ultimate Small Business Branding Guide.

People see our offer of a free ebook, click directly into our site, signup, enter our funnel, and bang, we’ve got a hot new lead.

Facebook advertising is too big of a topic to cover within this post, but it’s a great way to reach a lot of people without paying over the odds!

Google Pay Per Click

Don’t be under any illusions, Google pay per click advertising still works.

The problem with Google advertising, is that you have no visual space to work with. You have a blue linked title, and a tiny description.

And that’s it.

However, people still find success in converting people from Google adverts. So, try it.

Compare the price against Facebook advertising, and see what’s getting you a better return on your investment.

Other Social Network Advertising

Instagram and LinkedIn both also have paid advertising capabilities. As does Twitter, but Twitter’s isn’t as flexible.

Instagram is owned by Facebook, and they share the same advert platform.

If you’re in a lifestyle business, or sell a visual product, Instagram advertising is a great way to drive business.

If you’re in the B2B space, or targeting specific job roles with your product or service, then LinkedIn adverts might be the way to go.

LinkedIn adverts tend to be more on the expensive side, but they too can be very specific, leading to high conversion rates.

The trick with paid advertising, is to track, monitor, and improve as you go.

Try a range of things, then double down on what works!

The Fast, Cheap, Good Trifecta

I’m sure you’ve seen the diagram above before. It applies to your digital marketing strategy too.

Just as quick explainer. You can only have two things from the diagram above. Nothing can be all three.

  • If it’s fast and cheap, it’s not good.
  • If it’s cheap and good, it’s not fast.
  • If it’s fast and good, it’s not cheap.

How does this related to your digital marketing plan?

It all depends what you want.

For example;

If you want good, fast, results, then you’re going to want to utilise paid advertising. Which won’t be cheap. But it will be good.

If you want cheap, good results, you’ll want to create content. And for all there’s a time investment, there’s no outright cost investment. Blog posts take a little bit of time to rank in Google (3-6 months), so this isn’t the fastest option.

If you want fast and cheap, then the chances are, the results won’t be good, and there’s nothing in this area that I would recommend implementing as part of your digital strategy.

It all comes down to what you want in business.

You might start out needing fast results, then once you have them, transition into longer lasting results.

You might be able to start slow and ramp things up.

But remember, fast, cheap, good, you can only have two of the three!

A Note on Testing

Here’s the thing;

Most digital marketing plans fall down at the last hurdle.

It’s all well and good creating and actioning the best digital strategy for your business, but if you don’t test it, you’re pouring money down the drain.

As part of your digital marketing plan, you need to have review milestones.

At Canny, we have our reviews every quarter.

This allows us to review what’s working, what hasn’t, and adjust the plan moving forward.

You want to either tweak or bin the things that aren’t generating the return you want. And double down on what’s working!

Hence, more blog posts.

We knew from our audit that our blog was driving most of our leads and conversions. So, we decided to up our content output.

You need to review your plan in relation to the goals you set out at the start. If it’s not quite on track, don’t be afraid to adjust.

If it’s gone completely off the rails, you need to re-evaluate, and see where you’ve went wrong.

Testing is crucial when it comes to the success of your digital marketing. Without it, you could simply be screaming in the wind.

You also need to ensure you’ve given your strategy enough time to take affect. So don’t go binning things straight away if they’re not working!

Like I said at the start of the post, we’re not doing this for fun. We’re doing it to make a return. And if it’s not, you need to correct that as quickly as possible.

The Best Digital Marketing Tools

This again, could be a blog post in it’s own right, but let’s take a quick look at the tools we use at Canny to assist our digital marketing efforts.

Ahrefs

Ahrefs is a search engine tool that helps us grow our audience. It tells us what we’re ranking for, and helps us identify new keyword opportunities.

However, Ahrefs can be expensive. It costs us north of £100 a month.

SEO mastermind Neil Patel recently took over Ubersuggest and is busy building it up as a free competitor to Ahrefs. So if you’re on a tight marketing budget, start with that.

Google Keyword Planner

The Google Keyword Planner can give you some similar insights to Ahrefs and Ubersuggest. However, it is also rather good at drumming up alternative ideas and suggestions.

You can use Google Keyword Planner for free. If you’re running paid Google Ads, the reporting element of the planner is a lot more helpful than if you’re not.

Asana

Asana isn’t technically a digital marketing tool. It’s more of a project management tool.

However, at Canny, we use Asana for everything.

Here’s a sample of things we use it for;

  • Project scheduling
  • Project management
  • Invoice dates
  • Listing content ideas
  • Listing client partnerships we want to go after
  • Keeping internal notes

The key to Asana, is to install it in your business, and be religious about using it.

Once you have everything related to your digital marketing plan in the cloud, you’ll never look back.

Our “big list of content ideas” as we call it in the office, is one of the key things we use when deciding how to proceed with new content.

If you’re out of office, and an idea for some new content hits you, then you can open up the Asana app and drop it into the list.

Without Asana, we’d have no content! And our projects wouldn’t run as smoothly as they do.

I can’t recommend it enough.

VWO (Visual Website Optimizer)

VWO helps us run A/B and muti-variate testing at Canny.

So rather than guessing about what converts best on our website, we can actually test it out.

And VWO makes it easier. Rather than having two pages with one button changed, you can make the change in less than a minute inside the VWO page editor.

They have a whole range of conversion optimisation options, but again, the basic package will help you get started.

Once you’ve gotten your head around the basics of website testing, then you can take a deeper dive!

If you go in head first, you’re going to be overwhelmed. So get in, start using it, and then scale up.

Conclusion: How to Create a Digital Marketing Plan For Your Business

The digital marketing plan for your business is going to be completely unique.

There’s no set format, template, or formula to follow, because every business is different.

Set your goals, identify your audience, decide how to reach them, then execute. Test it. Iterate on it. Rinse and repeat.

Get this right and you’ll have a digital marketing plan that will serve your business well.

The ideas shared above should help you create a digital marketing plan that gets your online efforts up and running.

If not, we’re always here to help.

How did you go about creating your first digital marketing plan? Let us know in the comments below.

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