Why Do You Need an Online Marketing Strategy?

You’ve created a great product and invested time and resources in an eCommerce website to sell your goods to as many people as possible. You regularly post photos on your Instagram page to grab people’s attention. Maybe you’ve even started an email list to blast out sales and promotions occasionally. But for some reason, your efforts aren’t producing the return on investment you hoped. Why is that? Digital marketing tools are often free and easy to use. It’s tempting to jump in and use them because everyone else is. However, posting on social media, emailing customers, or even launching a website before having a plan that tells you what you should do, where you should do it, and why it’s important for your business, isn’t effective marketing. It is akin to randomly throwing darts at the board without having a clear bullseye. Creating an online marketing strategy will set that bullseye. It will help you be more purposeful and strategic. It will concentrate your efforts and resources on the best possible opportunities to increase sales and improve your business position.

 What is an Online Marketing Strategy?

 A marketing strategy, generally speaking:

  • Align your business objectives with marketing goals
  • Describes your target customer
  • Profiles your competition, your company’s current position, and any particular market conditions
  • Outlines your creative assets, messaging, the best ways to accomplish your goals, and a budget.

Armed with this crucial information, your online marketing strategy outlines the best way to support your business goals with marketing and promotion activities. It focuses specifically on your online marketing purpose, ensuring each corresponds to your business’s goals. Rather than doing and being on every social media platform, an online marketing plan also helps you choose which digital tools and channels will work for your business. 

Steps to Create an Online Marketing Strategy 

Regardless of your business or industry, a few essential elements make up most marketing strategies. To help you get started, I’ve outlined the key points you should include when creating an online marketing strategy of your own. Depending on your business or industry, you may include other aspects. Still, every marketing plan, online or not, should consist of the following steps.

Step 1 – Align your business and marketing goals.

Your online marketing goals should always tie into the fundamental objectives of your business. By starting with your business goals, you can create marketing goals that support the outcomes you want. For example, suppose you’ve set a goal to increase revenue from your eCommerce. In that case, your marketing goals might be to improve the traffic to your website or generate a certain percentage of new customers.  If this is your first attempt at an online marketing strategy, it might be wise to start with fewer goals and build from there. Ideas for goals might be to:

  • Increase awareness of your products or services
  • Generate X number of new customers for your new product or service
  • Reach a new customer segment
  • Increase the number of times your product is mentioned favorably online
  • Grow traffic to your online store by a certain percentage.

Regardless of the specific goals you set, it’s critical to make sure you can measure the outcomes against what you set out to achieve. A simple acronym for goal-setting is the SMART method

  • Specific – State what you want to achieve.
  • Measurable – Set tangible goals that can be measured for effectiveness.
  • Achievable – Set targets you are able to achieve.
  • Relevant – Set objectives that will help you improve particular aspects of your business.
  • Timely – Set goals you can complete within the time frame you need them.

Remember! Your online marketing strategy will only be as good as the goals you set. Make sure your overall strategies are also practical and measurable.

Step 2 – Define your target customer.

You know what you want for your business, but how well do you know your customers? Your current and prospective customers should be at the heart of everything you do, including your online marketing strategy, A critical part of your online marketing strategy is defining who your customers are as precisely and realistically as possible. Think about your best customers and meditate on what it is about them that makes them ideal for your business. More than likely, you will have more than one type of target customer (or customer group or segment). Still, no matter the number, create detailed personas for every kind of customer you want to reach.  Whenever possible, try not to make assumptions about your customers. Look for data about people who have purchased your product from your website analytics. Consider interviewing or surveying customers (or potential customers) about their attitudes regarding your products and services. Demographics such as location, gender, age, income, or marital status might be important factors to consider depending on the nature of your products or business. Similarly, you may also need to understand more qualitative aspects of your ideal customer, including hobbies, interests, and challenges. Look at your target audience regarding the issues, problems, desires, needs, and how your products or services fulfill them. Look at this not specifically in the frame of selling or marketing to them, but more in terms of how you can provide value. Creating customer personas should help you understand your customers’ needs and motivations for buying your product and identify any buying patterns (including how they buy, where they buy, when they buy). This way, you can choose the best online channels, communication tools, and messages to reach them. By knowing the more granular details of whom you’re trying to appeal to, you can also start to think about how you will do it. Defining your target audience ultimately helps make your online marketing strategy more targeted and relevant, increasing your chances of having a profitable business.  success.

Step 3 – Complete a SWOT analysis.  

As part of an online marketing strategy, you need to understand the market and your position in it. Critical evaluation of your business’s internal processes, products, pricing, and delivery should be assessed in this step. By conducting a SWOT analysis, which stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats, you can perform that sort of honest evaluation you need to inform your marketing strategy and prioritize the marketing you need to do to grow your business. As part of your SWOT analysis, be sure to do a competitive analysis. Take a close look at what your competitors are doing online and offline. Assess what they are doing well and what they aren’t. Take note of what seems to be working and what isn’t for your competitors. Be sure to check out the positive and negative reviews they may have received. As you evaluate your competition, figure out how you can differentiate yourself in your marketing efforts by documenting what sets your business apart from your competitors. This aspect of your marketing strategy is essential to understanding where you are to determine where you need to be.

Step 4 – Start thinking about your assets and resources.

Effective marketing requires content, including photos, graphics, blog posts, videos, eBooks, product descriptions, testimonials, product demos, user-generated content, and any website content. When it comes to online marketing, you should specifically look at what digital assets your company owns completely. As you take an inventory of what assets you have, try and create an asset library. Start to think about what content could be repurposed or expanded. Could you turn a blog post into a video or visual social media post? As you list your assets, keep your target customer in mind, too. Don’t think about assets solely from a marketing and sales perspective, but also from one of providing value. What will your ideal customer like and appreciate? If your asset inventory seems lacking, don’t panic. Many resources are available to help you obtain and generate content. We’ll discuss these in a subsequent blog.

Step 5 – Research online channels and tools you need to create a multi-channel promotion strategy.

You’ve outlined what you want to achieve, your target audience, what your competitors are doing, and what assets you currently have. After you’ve looked at all the information you’ve gathered, research specific digital and online marketing platforms and tools on the market. After all your research is complete, the platforms you need to capitalize on should start to become more evident to you. Specific channels do things better or appeal to certain demographics over other ones. YouTube is known for its videos. Instagram maximizes visual marketing. Consider your target demographic, your assets, and the content you want to create when choosing channels. For example, suppose you are a B2C business that sells beautiful, handcrafted women’s handbags, and you’ve determined most of your customers are women under 65. In that case, you may want to consider Instagram or Tik Tok as a vehicle to boost your brand. But what if your target audience is over 65? In that case, you may reach more women on Facebook because older demographics tend to favor Facebook more than Instagram. Likewise, if you are a B2B business selling a productivity app that benefits project managers, perhaps you should look at LinkedIn as a primary channel instead. Unlike a specific marketing plan, which outlines campaign specifics, this process is less about excluding channels and more about determining where you will have the greatest impact and be seen by your ideal audience. If you are a small business without a budget or many resources, you don’t have to feel pressured to do everything. It is better to do a few channels well than do them all half-heartedly. When we speak of channels, do not limit yourself to social media only. Think about email marketing, blogging, podcasting, Google Ads, affiliate marketing, press releases, influence marketing SEO, and other digital marketing tactics.

Step 6 – Consider your budget.

After looking at the platforms you need to promote your business, you’ll want to make sure you have an estimated budget to execute your strategy. While many tools on the market are free or have complementary features, some of the most effective marketing will require you to spend some cash. Also, if you don’t have many assets, you may need to budget for resources that help generate the content needed to market effectively. The goal of a budget is to make sure that you have earmarked enough money to achieve your goals without being wasteful.

Final Thoughts

With six basic steps, you can create an online marketing strategy that maps out where you want to take your business to succeed.  However, strategizing and doing aren’t the same things. In my next post, we’re going to take your strategy and put it into action. We’ll discuss how you begin to implement, measure, and revise using a marketing plan.  In the meantime, tell me about the online marketing strategy for your business

  • Have you created one? If not, why not? If so, were there any steps you took that weren’t included here. 
  • How did you find the experience of creating a marketing strategy? 
  • What research was the most enlightening to your business?

Reach out and let me know what you think. I look forward to hearing from you!