State Policy Network
Six guidelines for creating an effective digital marketing strategy

If you build it, they will come.

There are few times in recent marketing history this has happened. Your content competes for your audiences’ attention with everything else in their lives, and a strategy allows you to break through the clutter.

A better phrase might be: “If you build it and are thoughtful about getting the right messaging to the right audience on the right platforms, they might come.”

Maximizing that chance is where your digital marketing strategy comes in. Creating it up front will save you time later and streamline your efforts from start to finish.

Step 1: Determine what you want to accomplish.

Hopefully you have already developed your communications and content strategies. If so, you will have an easier time knowing what you want to achieve through digital marketing. Look at those strategic objectives and tactics and identify how digital marketing channels can support those efforts.

Step 2. Define your audiences and the best ways to reach them.

This is often referred to as creating “buyer personas.” Think about your audiences – what motivates them? Where do they go online (even if it isn’t related to your topic area)? What sources are more likely to influence or persuade them? What are their likes and dislikes? What messaging will resonate, or what messages have you observed resonating with them?

Step 3. Consider your capabilities & capacity when choosing channels.
You don’t often see this recommendation in digital marketing strategy guidelines, but for small non-profits, it is essential. Just because your audience is active on a particular platform, it doesn’t mean it’s the best platform for you to reach them.

If you do not have staff with the talent or time to effectively manage your presence on say, Twitter, the results might be worse than if you had avoided that platform altogether. Be realistic about what you can do in-house, and make sure you can hire or outsource any missing skills before you commit to a platform.  And avoid turning over your digital marketing channels to an intern. Those channels are not only critical to your short-term success; they’re a real-time, lasting reflection of your brand.

Step 4. Articulate your tactics and map them to a timeline.
Once you’ve considered your audience and your capacity, identify specific channels and tactics you’re going to use – Facebook ads, online op-eds, Instagram posts, etc. – and create a timeline for rolling them out. This is a great time to reference your content calendar to make sure everything is in sync.

Step 5. Your messaging will make or break you.

Finding the right platform is only one step. Your messaging is also critical to success. You may get 100% coverage of your desired audience, but a boring or irrelevant ad will get zero conversions.

Take note that your messaging includes graphics, as well as words, and calls-to-action, as well as information. If you want to succeed on Instagram, amateur or low-quality photos will not get you there. If you want people to sign a petition, make sure that ask is clear.

Your idea, solution, or request should appeal to what your audiences care about, framed in language they understand. No jargon.

Search engines, and increasingly social media platforms, restrict exposure to your content, even paid content, based on how relevant audiences perceive it. Your content needs to be written to engage your audiences and show that you relate to them—and vice versa.

Step 6. Establish metrics, and when possible, benchmarks.

A major benefit of digital marketing is the ability to react quickly, changing campaigns that aren’t performing well and expanding upon ones that are. In order to take full advantage of this benefit, consider what success would like and how you will measure it beforelaunching your campaign Identify your key performance indicators and make sure you have the requisite tracking set up before you hit send or publish. This will save you time, money, and a lot of frustration later.

It is not always possible, but when you can, try to establish benchmarks for your efforts as well. Is your email open rate faring well compared to the industry average? Is your cost per click unusually high?

Even if you don’t have much time for research, your email and advertising platforms often have this information readily available.

Anticipating what to expect before it happens will help you be even more responsive as the results start to come in.

Categories: Best Practices
Organization: State Policy Network