If you manage a business I don’t have to sell you on the value of having a plan. Planning is critical for success – and marketing your business is no exception. Our Digital Marketing Channel Strategy template combines the strategic principles employed at major advertising agencies and large corporation in-house marketing teams with the nuances of guerrilla business marketing. Make sure to download the template here, and follow along below with guidance to filling it out effectively.
Determine your marketing goals
Please, please don’t over think this one. Just ask yourself why you’re marketing your business in the first place. Do you want to attract new customers? Do you need to convert the customers you currently have? Do you want to create repeat customers? All of the above? Good, write it down.
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already created a business plan. Remember that your marketing goals can be different than your business goals. Ultimately, your business goals are probably something along the lines of: clients or customers pay me in return for the product or service I offer. When outlining your marketing goals, consider the how behind your business goals. Do you need to get in front of a lot of people? Do you need to get the attention of a very niche audience? Do you need to convince a specific group of people that you are the best solution to their pain point?
Write your business promise
Your marketing goals are what you want your business to do for you. Your business promise is what you, uniquely, can offer your customer base. Brevity is key here – try to keep your business promise to just a couple of short sentences, as this will serve as a focused touchpoint for you to return to as you fill out the rest of the template, as well as future strategic endeavors.
Think about this like you’d think about an elevator pitch. Say you’re at a cocktail party and someone asks you about your business. You want to sell them on it – but you know you only have a few seconds to do so before they flutter off to talk to someone else. What do you say?
Consider your barriers
You know what you want, and you know what you can offer. What is standing in the way of you getting it? Perhaps it’s differentiating yourself from competition in your space. Or maybe it’s just getting seen, if your target audience doesn’t know you’re there. Or perhaps it’s further down the funnel – maybe you’ve attracted the right audience, but you’re struggling to find the right messaging to convince them that your business can solve their problems.
What makes you different?
Now that your barriers are freshly in your mind, it’s time to start pivoting your thinking as to how you’ll overcome them. In these spaces, write down three things that make your business stand out from everyone else in the space.
There’s a reason you’re doing what you’re doing – you knew you’d have competition when you started out, but you believed that your idea could uniquely benefit your customer base. Now it’s time to articulate why.
Maybe your model allows you to offer the best prices. Or perhaps you’re more expensive than the competition, but that’s because your product is better quality. What makes your product or service the best quality, and why are you uniquely positioned to offer it?
Perhaps your competition is big box stores with better prices – but you have expertise in the local market. Consider all of your strengths as a business, and try to consolidate them into three differentiators.
Decide on your key messages
This is the part of the exercise where you take into account everything that came before it. Where is the intersection of what your audience needs, and what you can offer? Where do your marketing goals and brand promise converge?
While everyone works differently, what has worked well for me once I get to this point in my strategy is to take some time away to let all of the work I’ve put in digest. I’ll take my dog for a walk, others may turn on a favorite TV show or spend some time baking – anything to keep your hands and mind busy while stepping away from the computer. This allows me to really absorb all of the thinking I’ve put into my strategy thus far, and what I typically find is that when I’m ready to return to it, it feels more cohesive and holistic.
Armed with a strong grasp of what your business can offer, what your market needs and the challenges that stand in your way, try to put yourself in the mindset of your target audience and think about the messaging that would strongly and succinctly convince them that your brand is the standalone solution to whatever pain point they may be facing. The key messages aren’t necessarily meant to be copied and pasted into brand assets, but rather to position the way your brand communicates with the people it helps.
Determine both your monthly dollar and time allocations
We’ve all heard that saying that in business, time is money. Of course this rings even more true when you’re just starting out. That’s why there’s a space on the template to determine not just how much money you can spend on marketing – but how much time as well. If you’re hiring outside help with marketing, your time allocation may decrease while your dollar allocation increases – it’s all about the right balance for your business.
Choose your channels
Which channels will you invest either your time, money or both in for marketing? Your channel mix will depend on a number of factors such as whether you’re B2B or B2C and whether you’re focusing on customer/client acquisition or retention/conversion.
You’ll also want to consider your organic presence vs. your paid presence – meaning which channels you’ll be using for free, and are therefore mostly responsible for attracting audiences to them, and which ones you’ll be paying for visibility. Some channels even offer both – such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – where you can build out your organic presence, but also have the option of paying for ads to get in front of new audiences.
Determine your KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators)
While your messaging is the heart of your strategy, your analytics is the brain – and they need to work together to keep your business alive. It’s important to remember that, while the most attractive metrics are obviously conversions (whatever action you want your audience to take that results in money for your business, like making a purchase), marketing works as a funnel. That means you need to establish credibility with your clientele before they’re going to be ready to pull out their credit cards.
Tracking what we call “upper funnel” metrics (metrics that promote brand awareness rather than a hard sale), such as impressions, is just as important as tracking conversions – because an impression today may lead to a purchase a week, a month, even six months from now.
Decide on your per-channel allocations
Divvy up your monthly marketing time and budget allocations by your priority channels. While this isn’t necessarily dividing your time and money equally by the number of channels you’ve chosen, you should make sure to spend resources testing your channels, then redistributing based on the tactics that have been successful.
There are some basic rules of thumb to follow. The primary channels that have proven most successful in attracting new customers and clients tend to be Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram paid search ads and, of course, keeping an up-to-date and search-optimized website.
If you’re focusing on B2B clients, you may want to lean in heavier on LinkedIn, whereas if you’re selling a visually appealing product, Instagram may be where you find the most success. Yelp and GMB (Google My Business) have high success rates for local businesses, especially with brick and mortar locations (though many small businesses express frustrations with Yelp’s business practices).
However, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to channel marketing. Every business performs slightly differently, which is what makes strategizing both challenging and fun.
Designate the role of each channel
While every channel should play a part in helping you reach your marketing goals, each channel has different strengths to contribute to help you get there – like pieces of a puzzle.
For example, on Facebook it’s more difficult to reach new customers organically (without paying for ads), but when it comes to paid advertising, it’s one of the most widely accepted platforms where consumers are willing to connect with new product and business opportunities. On Instagram, consumers tend to be more wary of ads that, well, make them feel like they’re being advertised to, but there’s a stronger potential to reach new people organically, or via contextually relevant ads (ads that are more focused on good content than on sales).
Write up a sentence or two about how each channel will play into your bottom-line goals, and how you will make use of them.
How will you measure success?
While you’ve already selected your primary KPI’s, now is the time to consider which metrics you’ll track on each channel. Some you may track across multiple channels (i.e. impressions) whereas others are unique to the channel – like email open rate is unique to email marketing. Basically you’re just repeating your earlier exercise on a more granular scale, taking into account the nuances of each channel as you determine your measurement plan.
There’s also a space in the template for your metrics goals. Rather than exact numbers (xx impressions, $xx in purchases), I recommend setting goals based on time and improvement – something more like increase impressions by 25% in the next month.
You should always consider your strategy, especially the channel breakdown, a living, breathing entity. Not only should your strategy evolve as you experiment more on each channel and continue gathering data, but the landscape is constantly evolving as well. Your strategy is your North Star – you’ll approach it from all different angles and locations on your business’s journey. You may see it from different perspectives at different times, but it will always be a constant to guide you forward.