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Six Fundamental Pillars for Successful Digital Marketers

by Shawn Schwegman, on February 24, 2016

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Today’s digital marketers live in the most dynamic and complicated Internet ecosystem we have ever seen. Those of us tasked with making sense of this ecosystem—figuring out how to navigate and utilize it in a productive, effective way—have one of the toughest jobs in modern business.

Acquiring and nurturing customers, planning detailed multi-channel strategies, driving revenue, and doing it all without spending too much money are just a few of the major hurdles a digital marketer has to work around each day.


In order to help, we've put together a list of 6 fundamental pillars to keep top-of-mind while executing a digital strategy.  The sequence or priority of these pillars may vary depending on the size of your company or pace of growth, but the basic principles will remain the same. This holds true whether you are working at a fledgling startup or a multinational enterprise.

Knowing Your Audience

Think “why” first, then think “what”.

Knowing and understanding your audience is one of the most basic principles of marketing. But believe it or not, many businesses don't spend the time, energy, and resources necessary to define a clear picture of who their target customer actually is.

Instead of guessing who may or may not be interested in your products and services, start testing your assumptions and proving yourself right or wrong. Qualify and study your leads as they come in, and work to learn the ins and outs of your market.

Take it a step further and understand how your customers are responding to not only direct competitors but indirect ones as well.

Get to know your existing customers by starting a conversation. Doing so will give you a leg up on your competition and will help refine your ideal buyer.


Goal Setting

Begin with the end in mind and you’ve already taken the first major step towards success.

Setting goals is so important, especially when it comes to digital marketing.

Ensure everyone knows exactly what criteria is being agreed upon to define success. Otherwise, as teams work through the programs people will have varying opinions about success and whether to continue or veer off course.

It also plays directly into our natural sense of competition. We are all conditioned to be achievers. When we have something to work for, a goal that is tangible, it encourages us to do whatever we can to get there.

It also sets a physical milestone with which we can all say, “Wow! We did it.”

Sit down with your team and define exactly what you hope to gain from your digital strategy.

HubSpot recommends using SMART goals to help keep your business on track. This proven method calls for validation of each goal based on whether or not they are:

  • Specific: Define exactly what your business goal is. Use numbers and deadlines to help make sure your entire team is on the same page.
  • Measurable: Make sure you are in a position to track your goal.  Don’t say, “We want to increase our ROI of x email campaign by n%” when you have no way of verifying what that ROI actually is.
  • Attainable: It’s always good to challenge yourself, but make sure it’s within reason.
  • Realistic: The buzzword here is “honesty”. Know yourself and know your team. That will give you the best chance of success.
  • Time-bound: Always set a deadline. This gives you and your team something to work towards. Vague words like “eventually” and “someday” aren’t productive for anyone.

Use these goals to streamline your digital strategy. Everyone’s resources are limited at some point. But careful planning and coordination can help maximize time and marketing spend.


Efficient Budget Management

Trying to allocate that budget to make the best use of each resource is a new challenge all in itself. With thousands of tools, people, channels, and services, it can be very difficult to find that perfect mix.

Additionally, it’s not uncommon for more traditional managers to be inherently skeptical about certain digital marketing initiatives. Proper budget allocation is a great first step towards conveying value. Higher-ups will be happy to see that money used in an efficient way.

The best way to monitor and refine your budgeting decisions is through relentless tracking and measuring. Pay close attention to your investments as well as your initiatives in order to see what’s working and what isn’t.

Be sure to set ROI targets and get executive buy-in. Then, as you track and measure—be sure to evangelize your success or key learnings. It will pay off down the road when you are seeking additional funding or executive support for your initiatives.

Invest in analytics tools and keep your eyes out for data-driven marketers on your team. Grant them ownership here so they can do what they do best!


Measuring Return On Investment

Ok… so we all know this is easier said than done. Even guessing at revenue attribution, let alone proving it, can be a daunting task. True return on investment is effectually the holy grail of marketing.

However, quantifying certain elements of an overall marketing strategy is possible. And it’s especially possible in terms of digital marketing. It’s an important challenge and, when done effectively, can be a powerful metric in terms of validation, planning, and adjustment.

Proving the effective return on your digital marketing strategy is much easier if you use a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution. Choosing the right CRM depends largely on your industry and/or business.

Some softwares, like Salesforce, are able to cater to a wide variety of clients while others such as Blackbaud’s Raiser’s Edge has carved out a niche with charities and nonprofits.

Once you find the right software… use it! Outline standard procedures and best practices to ensure your team is getting the most out of it.

Stay current and informed about your data. Really pay attention to where your important metrics are changing and correlate these changes with specific events. Diligent reporting is the best way to determine true return on investment.

Accurate Reporting

Accurate reporting affects more than just your return on investment data. It affects everything.

Many marketing teams today live and die by the data they collect. There are so many channels, so many customers, and so many intertwining relationships, that make marketing of any kind without careful use of analytics is just plain silly.

Sometimes it may feel next to impossible to figure out exactly which data points you should be measuring. From site visits and click-through rates, to social engagement and conversions, it’s enough to keep even the most experienced digital marketers up at night.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that your reports should be reflective of your goals.

For example, if you want to measure the impact of a content piece, tracking page visits isn’t necessarily the best option. Instead, you might want to measure the effectiveness of a specific call to action by tracking conversions.

Similarly, not all sales leads are created equal. It’s important to keep your team, and your leaders, on the same page about this. Accurate reporting will help to determine which opportunities are the most promising, or the most worthwhile.

Lay out specific guidelines for your team about the way data is collected. Be sure to address any oddities and verify important information by cross-checking it with a second source.

Accurate data is one of the best weapons for a digital marketer. Report on what matters and do whatever you can to ensure the information collected is true and relevant.

Using the Right Tools

Finding the right marketing technology to support your goals is essential. And with almost 2,000 known martech platforms available today it can be difficult to hone in on what specific tools are best for you.  

These platforms are expensive in many cases. And not just because of the outright cost. There is also training and labor associated with each investment.

So how do you determine which tools are best for your team?

Focus on what you’re trying to accomplish.

Go deeper than simply what tool seems best. Ask yourself exactly what you need to know or what you need to be able to do. Then source the tool based on those specific criteria.

By first outlining long term goals and targets, it becomes much easier to determine what insights, functionality, tracking support, etc… will save you time and money, while also improving your marketing effectiveness.

The real question becomes, “If my marketing budget was ever slashed, what information is really making me money and what tools do I use to get that information?

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As marketers, we know there are dozens of challenges in the digital marketing world. By putting these six pillars to work, those challenges will start to seem a little less daunting.

Please let us know what you think! There’s never a perfect way to market, so if you’re doing something differently we’d love to hear about it.

Drop a comment or send us a tweet @DemandJump!

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