Digital Marketing Strategy Template for Startups, Entrepreneurs and SMB

Creating a digital marketing strategy for your business can be expensive and complicated. Because of this, many entrepreneurs, businesses, and startups try executing self-made digital marketing strategies. More than often, they fail, get frustrated, and end up outsourcing to a digital agency anyway.

In this digital marketing strategy template, I’ll summarize the steps that are important for achieving good results.

Niche (or market) Research

At the base of professional digital marketing is solid niche research. In order to create effective strategies, you need to analyze the market, your target audience, and competitors. Niche research gives insight into your buyer persona (ideal customer), your competitor’s tactics, and gives you ideas on deciding on how to approach your market.

Have a look at my comprehensive niche research tools guide if you’re not familiar with the tools, methods, and techniques for performing niche research.

Set Goals and KPIs

Having a clear picture of what you intend to achieve is important because it will give you direction. Goals are not set in stone and usually are adjusted after research shows they should be.

In order to measure if we are reaching the goals we set, you have to know your KPIs. Key Performance Indicators are relevant metrics that you measure your progress by. They can be measured and tracked by correctly setting up applications such as Google Analytics and Google tag manager.

A good practice is for defining KPIs, is to follow the ‘SMART goals’ template.

  • Specific – try to be as clear as possible what the indicator of success is
  • Measurable – ask yourself if it’s technically possible to measure/track this KPI
  • Achievable – ask yourself if this goal is realistic, in terms of your scenario
  • Relevant – be sure that your business/marketing goals are reflecting this KPI
  • Time framed – be clear on when the desired result should be met

Best Practice – KPIs should be in alignment with ‘SMART’ criteria.  

Define your Market Position

The way your brand, product, or service is perceived by your customers, relative to your competitors is called positioning. Brand, product, or service positioning can be established through several means, including USPs (unique selling propositions), the style of communications, advertising, or social media marketing tactics.

The goal is to create a unique image in the minds of your (potential) customers and align that positive perception with your competitive advantages. These advantages aren’t merely based on your own strengths, but also on your knowledge of your competitor’s positioning. Competitive intelligence is a big part of your niche research.

Best Practice –  reverse engineer and keep monitoring your top 5 competitors. This will allow you to build your own positioning strategy and react accordingly whenever niche dynamics change.

Map Customer Journeys (funnels)

After doing thorough niche research, you’ll have an idea of who your ideal customer is. This ideal customer is your ‘buyer persona’, or ‘avatar’. Ideally, you’ll also have started to understand what it takes in order to get them to buy your product or service. The steps which your research shows your audience take before becoming a customer is the ‘customer journey’.

Customer journeys are also called ‘sales funnels’. Marketing or sales funnels are a group of phases, which you think your customer will pass through before buying your product or service. If this sounds complex, then relax. At the base of most sales funnels is a universal model that you can follow, namely the AIDA model.

AIDA stands for Awareness, Interest, Desire, and Action. These are the ‘phases’ a customer moves through before they take a specific action. Such an action can be for example: buying a product on your e-commerce site, or signing up for a B2B service. 

What to remember:

  • Phases may overlap, there isn’t always a clear beginning or end.
  • Some models add additional phases to the AIDA framework
  • Paid campaign goals usually fall into one of these phases (conversion, awareness, etc.)
  • Use AIDA as a template for landing pages, ad copy, targeting, and retargeting.
  • You should identify and measure different KPIs within specific phases.

Organizing your target groups into specific phases can help you tune your marketing messages. Visitors who’re close to buying (or signing up for something) can then be targeted with a different approach, than those who are merely looking for information. Identifying funnel phases is accomplished by tracking the user behavior on web pages and segmenting them into groups.

Best Practice –  Implementing the AIDA model (or similar, depending on your needs) hooks into all aspects of your strategy and vice versa.

Seting up Tracking and Analytics

Tag management systems such as Google tag manager allow you to add tracking codes into your web pages, without having to insert them manually. These are known as ‘tags’ and can be triggered on certain ‘events’.  An event is a specific interaction the visitor makes on your web pages, such as button click, a form submission, or an add to cart action.

Google tag manager will listen for these events and then send details about the events back to Google Analytics. The information then becomes viewable in the reports. You can also send additional information such as categories, actions, and values with each event. This will allow you to view groups of visitors based on shared characteristics.

Best Practice – implement web analytics and tracking for tracking and measuring your visitor’s most important activities on your web pages. This gives you a clear overview of on-page behavior, allows you to segment your audience into targeted groups, and evaluate results.

Audience Engagement (Building Trust and Authority)

Building awareness, trust, and authority are amongst the most important things you can do for your business. High quality and well-timed touchpoints (for example, articles, video, and other content types) are necessary to achieve these.

Certain traffic sources can be more effective in specific customer journey phases. Facebook advertisement is known as to be ‘interruption marketing’, while Google search ads are shown to people who are actively searching for something. It’s all about the mind-set a visitor is currently and the intent behind their search actions.

Your retargeting strategy is a key part of your online success. Understanding when to retarget your audience, with which messages, through which traffic sources is an essential part of becoming successful online.

By correctly implementing conversion tracking (with Google Tag Manager) and Google Analytics (for Google Ads), you can cross channel retarget your audience. This is effective because different advertising channels can be more effective for different phases of the customer journey.

Some examples of effective follow up strategies are:

  • Cross channel retargeting between FB / Google Ads
  • Email marketing and SMS campaigns (for example using convertkitwith Mautic or Activecampaign)

Best Practice –  personalize marketing messages and make them highly relevant for your segmented audience.  Almost nobody buys, gives you their email address, or books a consultancy call immediately after seeing your message for the first time. It takes many touchpoints for a person to start trusting and remembering your brand, product, or service.

Systematize your Marketing

Online markets are always changing. Competitors enter and exit the market, while strategies need adjustments.  While initial research will give you a starting point for launching your activities, periodic evaluation of results is necessary. This allows you to react, timely, and accordingly to changes inside your market.

Evaluating results means that you compare your measured KPI’s with baseline numbers. Baselines can be industry standards or derived from earlier digital marketing campaigns. You can monitor using Google Analytics and other tools such as SEMrush. A good practice is to consolidate data into a clearly organized dashboard using tools like Google Data Studio.

Best Practice – Monitor your data and evaluate the results against your KPIs. Keep monitoring the market, your competitors, and your audience for changes, opportunities, and possible threats. Analyze your measured KPI’s with a purpose. Test only one thing at a time and use statistical significance in order to draw conclusions. Data-driven decision-making is the only way to improve your online results.

Budget Allocation

While doing your research and planning your strategies, it’s good practice to keep your available budget in mind. Parts of the marketing budget will be allocated to certain strategies, deepening on the findings of your market research. For example, if your data tells you that you can probably outrank your competition for a certain keyword, but not through PPC, then it makes sense to allocated more budget to SEO.

The way budgets are allocated to certain activities depends on your business and situation. It’s something that needs to be clearly stated so that you and your team exactly know what your possibilities are. Structure and clarity make for better efficiency and ultimately, better digital marketing strategies.

Digital Marketing Planning

As mentioned in the previous paragraph, structure and clarity are important. Structuring your digital marketing into a clean and orderly document will keep you focused on the tasks at hand. Writing a digital marketing plan involves clearly describing the most important parts of your strategies, such as goals, tactics, budget, and timelines.

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Digital Marketing Strategist - Lex Gabrees
Lex Gabrees
Digital Marketing Strategist / Consultant
I’m a digital marketing professional with over 20 years of experience helping entrepreneurs and small to medium sized businesses succeed online.
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