Digital marketing is more important now than ever. Take steps to create, streamline, or optimize your marketing strategy today and accelerate your results in the coming year

Where do you start if you want to develop a digital marketing strategy? It’s still a common challenge since many businesses know how vital digital and mobile channels are today for acquiring and retaining customers. Yet they don’t have an integrated plan to support digital transformation and business growth, and engage their audiences effectively online.

If your business doesn’t have a strategic digital plan aligned with your business plan you will suffer from the ten problems I highlight later in this article and you will lose out to competitors who are more digitally savvy.

For each of the ten problems, I will also recommend marketing solutions and next steps to help you optimize your marketing strategy to win more customers in 2022.

What is digital marketing? The six pillars.

Digital marketing must support your marketing and business goals, so in my book – Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice –  I define Digital marketing, also called online marketing, simply as:

Achieving marketing objectives through applying digital technologies and media.

This is the big picture which you need a strategy to support, but, as we explain on Smart Insights, to be successful in online marketing you also need mastery of the details to compete across the main digital platforms that consumers or businesses use to find and select products.

The algorithms used to power Facebook, Instagram, Google, LinkedIn and the publishers control your visibility and how much you pay, so to get visibility digital marketers need to get to grips with the latest techniques. It’s why my books on digital marketing run to over 500 pages, yet they can only touch on the best practices we detail on Smart Insights.

Before we review the different channels that make up digital marketing, it’s useful to simplify since business managers like the owners, finance or operations directors ultimately want to know what they need to invest in at a top level and the returns they will get. There will be a finite budget assigned to online marketing for the year and they want to ensure their team are spending time on the right activities and investing in the right types of media to get a positive return.

The six pillars comprising digital marketing

When training and consulting on digital strategy and as recommended in our free template, I recommend grouping digital marketing in these six areas which each need someone responsible to manage them and improve results.

A focus on each of these is important regardless of the size of business. The pillars help show that success in digital marketing isn’t just about digital media and platforms, important as they are. Creating an effective digital experience, messaging and quality content to fuel your digital strategy are all vital too.

In smaller businesses, it may be one person such as a digital marketing manager responsible for all, or one for each pillar with many team members in larger businesses. The six pillars are:

  • 1. Strategy and governance (or management): Goals – Analytics, Strategy (Segmentation, Targeting, Brand Positioning), integration, marketing and sales alignment, resourcing, structure, marketing technology  and data
  • 2. Goals and measurement: Forecasts, digital reporting including KPI dashboards, attribution and customer insight
  • 3. Media: Paid, owned, earned media including Search, Social and Display ads
  • 4. Experience: Desktop / mobile website and apps. Customer service.
  • 5. Messaging: Email, Chat, Social media, customer service, on-site interactions and personalization
  • 6. Content: Product and blog content to fuel content marketing, PDF downloads, Interactive tools

Our free digital marketing plan template has more details on the key decisions for each of these.

This simple division of digital marketing can also help students learn beyond the complexities of the different types. I have created this video to introduce these terms.

How does digital marketing differ for B2B and B2C marketing?

Many of the largest brands in the world today including the digital platforms like Facebook (Meta) and Google (Alphabet) are consumer brands, but when considering how best to use digital strategies, it’s important to consider business-to-business brands too. There are many B2B companies which often serve B2C brands.

Smart Insights developed our RACE Marketing planning framework so that it works equally in B2B and B2C markets. This is the case since it integrates your customers’ digital experiences interacting with brands across Reach, Act, Convert and Engage – the full customer journey.

However, to be truly successful, digital techniques must also be integrated with traditional media such as print, TV, and direct mail as part of multichannel marketing communications. More importantly, now more than ever, you need to be able to demonstrate the value of your work.

The purpose of this article is to uncover 10 reasons why you need a digital marketing strategy, but you can read more about the 16 types of digital marketing techniques with more recommendations and examples in Dr. Dave Chaffey’s What is digital marketing?

How important is digital marketing today?

A simple measure of the importance of digital marketing is how much money is spent on digital media. The latest IAB research on Advertising Spend and Revenue shows that in the United States, over three-quarters of media budgets will be in digital media. We see similar figures from IABS in the UK and European, so this is happening globally.

The IAB also gives an indication of the budget breakdown into digital channels. This is useful since it suggests a mix of the type of marketing activities we should be investing in. Bear in mind though, that the IAB data is based on data from the largest publishers and platforms, so it is less representative of smaller businesses and underplays the importance of organic search (Search engine optimisation), Digital PR and influencer marketing. The data shows that, as we would expect social media marketing and search marketing are important digital marketing investments. Yet, the data also shows that digital display and digital video are significant. Remember, that this is more representative of spend by larger businesses who are now using these channels to replace investment in TV and print advertising.

How will digital channels grow?

As discussed in the latest edition of my book, some have said we are living in a post-digital age since now digital marketing equals marketing, so it shouldn’t be considered separately from a strategic point of view. While the figures above support the contention that digital marketing is marketing, it’s dangerous to assume that digital marketing isn’t evolving and becoming even more important. The forecasts from the IAB show that digital marketing will continue to grow in importance over the next few years.

How important are jobs in digital marketing?

Another way to assess the importance of digital marketing today is to look at how many jobs are now in digital marketing. Recent research by LinkedIn of the changing marketing jobs landscape shows the importance of digital:

One in every two of the top marketing jobs listed on LinkedIn fall into the digital or media space.

The top fastest-growing roles of the past six months, from the highest to lowest rates of growth, are media coordinators, search managers, social media coordinators, search engine marketing managers, media managers, marketing analysts, email marketing specialists, search engine optimization analysts and digital media managers. LinkedIn reports that among other highly in-demand roles are digital account executives, social media managers, digital marketing managers, copywriters and digital strategists.

As the visual shows, the pandemic has seen the number of remote roles increase dramatically. Whereas just 2% of marketing roles were remote on March 1 2020, today nearly one in 10 are. At the time of the article, had seen a 177% increase in the number of remote job postings for marketing roles in the last six months.

The challenges of digital marketing

In my experience, a common challenge is where to start drawing up your digital marketing plan. I think there is a fear that a massive report is required, but we believe that lean planning works best. That’s why all our Learning Paths are integrated across the RACE Framework, so you can create one integrated strategy.

Your plan doesn’t need to be a huge report, a strategy can best be summarized in two or three sides of A4 in a table linking digital strategies to SMART objectives within our OSA Framework – Opportunity, Strategy, Action. As a Business Member, we can support you to get it right the first time.

How does your digital marketing compare?

Our Managing Digital Marketing 2020 report found that that nearly half of companies don’t have a clearly defined digital marketing strategy. But of those who do, the majority have integrated it into the marketing strategy (the second step mentioned above).

Currently, about 12% are still using a separate digital document, which is the first step in the process towards a fully integrated strategy.

So, what are your next steps to fully optimizing your digital strategy?

I’m sure many of the companies in this category are using digital media effectively and they could certainly be getting great results from their search, email, or social media marketing.

But I’m equally sure that many are missing opportunities for better integration, or are suffering from the other challenges I’ve listed below. Perhaps the problems below are greatest for larger organizations that most urgently need governance.

From talking to marketers and business owners, I find the creation of digital plans often works best in two stages.

  • First, a separate digital marketing plan is created. This is useful to get agreement and buy-in by showing the opportunities and problems. At this stage, you can map out a path by setting goals and specific strategies for digital.
  • Second, digital becomes integrated into marketing strategy, it’s a core activity, “business-as-usual”. But, it doesn’t warrant separate planning, except for the tactics. This is the stage at which your integrated omnichannel marketing will be the most effective. This is the aim, and we can get you there.

All our marketing tools and templates are integrated across the RACE Framework. This renowned marketing structure is designed to empower managers and marketers with a clear, concise winning marketing strategy, to win more customers.

It’s important to be able to make the business case to invest more in digital marketing since, if you can’t convince yourself or your colleagues to invest, then the future of your business is in jeopardy. It’s simple, you won’t be able to compete to attract new customers in the future.

Incredibly, I originally suggested these 10 reasons to invest in digital marketing twenty years, ago, but they remain important so I have kept evolving approaches to develop digital strategies in line with the latest digital marketing trends.

So, if you don’t yet have a strategy, or maybe you want to review which business issues are important to include within a strategic review, we’ve set out the 10 most common problems, that in our experience arise if you don’t have a strategy.