Taking it Back to Where it all Began: 1983
I have been in marketing and sales for the technology industry since 1983. I understand that 34 years date me a bit, but I have always thrived on helping to push towards greater innovation, especially in the product development sector of technology.
One of my most exciting roles was in 1994 when the Internet was in its infancy.
I was the Product Manager leading the product development team at BellSouth.net that launched one of the first public ISPs (Internet Service Providers) in the nation.
After helping various corporations grasp this whole “Internet” thing throughout the years, Xcellimark came to life in 2001.
Being one of the first few firms out there pushing the unknown concept of “digital marketing” and “SEO,” it is fair to say that through many trials and errors, we have successfully built out a comprehensive digital marketing framework for you to use to grow your business.
The Marketing Agencies & Strategies of Today
There are thousands of digital marketing agencies out there that gradually jumped on the digital marketing trend.
I cannot speak for all of them, but I have now come to realize that Xcellimark shares a common mentality with the other digital marketing companies that started their business around the same time as we did.
They too viewed the Internet as an untapped gold mine containing an incredible potential to grow businesses unlike any growth strategy before.
Our commonality is how we define, create, develop and implement a digital marketing strategy.
As more digital marketing agencies jumped on the trend of marketing a business online to reach customers where they spend most of their time, the views of what a digital marketing strategy involves split into so many different directions I get dizzy thinking about it.
So, to avoid any confusion, let’s get it straightened out before we get into examples, mistakes, and the digital strategy breakdown.
What is a Digital Marketing Strategy?
A digital marketing strategy is an outcome of what needs to take place in order to:
- Achieve your top business goals and objectives
- Overcome your business’ top challenges and roadblocks that are keeping you from accomplishing your goals and objectives
- Successfully get your ideal buyers to choose your company as their solution instead of your competition
Once you understand the complexities and the competition that you need to beat, you will have a better idea of what to do to stay competitive in your industry.
These key insights are crucial to your business strategy because now you can realistically determine your specific goals, objectives, and milestones required to produce profitable growth for your business.
These “goals” are what you explicitly view as a “success” for your business. These “goals” are your key metrics to determine if your marketing performance has been successful or unsuccessful.
To intelligently identify the goals you should be setting for your marketing strategy, you need to grasp these two key components.
The 2 Key Components You Cannot Afford to Miss:
Your top business challenges you need to eliminate.
You first need to identify your weaknesses, roadblocks, and problems holding you back from growing.
If you choose to ignore these factors, you will be working extremely hard yet blind to the direction that gets you where you want to be.
Not only is knowledge incredibly powerful, but it is also a huge time and money saver for your company and you.
The businesses you are competing against and their digital strengths and weaknesses.
At the very least, knowing who your top online competitors are gives you critical insight into where the bar sits for your company and industry.
For you to remain reasonably competitive in your industry, your business must run an evergreen strategy that calibrates to the dynamic requirements set by the demand in your industry.
It's when you start to rise above average that you begin to cultivate a change in your business growth.
That change is measured, tracked, and analyzed by the key performance metrics that represent your business’ “success.”
Knowing the intricate details about your key metrics that determine what you are striving to accomplish and knowing who your competition is instantly starts to bring the insights you have lacked into your marketing strategy to transform your idea of “success” into a reality.
Once you identify your business targets (i.e., yearly, quarterly and monthly), you need to determine the strategic and specific activities on which to focus your efforts based upon your current business assessment along with additional research and analysis.
Knowing the Difference Between a Digital Marketing Strategy vs. a Digital Marketing Plan
You may be asking yourself at this point,
“Wait! Did you just say digital marketing plan? What the heck is the difference?”
No, worries. I will explain below.
Because if you are confused, you are not alone.
Digital Marketing Plan:
A digital marketing plan is the detailed set of tactics and deliverables to be developed and effectively implemented to achieve your business goals and objectives. This “plan” details exactly how you are going to implement your Strategy.
Digital Marketing Plan Example from a Classic Movie
For example, it is similar to the moments in Oceans 11, 12, and 13 when they reveal their incredibly detailed, well-thought-out plan. Their plans are always about laying out how they will pull off outsmarting the people in power and the roadblocks that seem “impossible” to beat.
The keyword there is “outsmart.” The plan is how to overcome the insurmountable challenges they are up against to ultimately attain their identified target determined from the beginning.
Granted, they are stealing from casinos in those movies, but the overall concept of strategic planning is still the same.
Digital Marketing Strategy:
The digital marketing strategy determines what you need to do to achieve your goals and your challenges.
After you determine what you need to do, you then determine how you will do that (which is the digital marketing plan).
Basically, your digital marketing strategy talks about what you need to do (your goals). Your digital marketing plan is the blueprint of how you are going to achieve the goals you just set in your digital marketing strategy.
If you are one of the countless business owners or marketing executives that are trying to determine where to find the best digital strategy, out of all the digital strategies published out there, you may be wondering,
“Okay, so…is this finally the Holy Grail of how to effectively develop a Digital Marketing Strategy?”
I will not mislead you by telling you what you may have been hoping to hear.
My honest reply to that question is:
There is no such thing as a Holy Grail to developing a Digital Marketing Strategy…Yet.
The reason I say that is because of where we are as a digital marketing industry.
The ugly truth is that we are in an industry where we have no unified vision, definition, or distinction in the use of the terms:
These words are all consistently used interchangeably by agencies, CMOs, and the vendors of what I like to call “the silos of technology.”
A few examples of these “silos of technology” are SEO, social media, and email marketing.
To give you context to this disconnect within the industry as a whole, I will tell you about a conversation I encountered with another professional in our industry:
Recently, I had a private online debate with the manager of a major LinkedIn Group for digital marketing.
The LinkedIn Group Manager stated there is no difference between a digital strategy and social media strategy. He claimed that they are very much the same thing!
What is being touted by so-called “online digital marketing experts” at times is…
I will just stop there.
Always Keep the Bigger Picture in Mind
The bigger picture is the ability to view a Digital Marketing Strategy as a whole.
As a whole, the Digital Marketing Strategy is a blueprint that is made up of individual components. Just like the plans for a house.
Example of a Digital Marketing Strategy vs. Individual Tactics:
Social media is simply one component that factors into the full digital marketing strategy.
Social media alone is not a complete digital marketing strategy.
Still, there are “digital marketing experts” that claim a “Social Media Strategy” is all you need to accomplish your business goals.
These components are purely separate elements that factor into getting you to the end goal. Even though these factors are critical to implementing and carrying out the strategy, they are only a small piece of the entire plan, not the whole strategy in itself.
When people fall into the trap of losing sight of the bigger picture, they tend to find themselves jumping from an “SEO Agency” to a “Social Media Agency” to a “Website Developer” or “Content Marketing Agency.”
In the end, they are frustrated and tired of marketing agencies promising great results and never seeing the results happen.
In fact, most of our clients come to us in this state of frustration. We are usually the third or fourth agency they hire.
Fortunately, we focus on being a performance-driven digital marketing agency. Our secret is to integrate a holistic, all-encompassing, performance-driven strategy to reach the desired outcome.
It looks a little something like this:
(click image for larger view)
Viewing Digital Marketing As A Holistic Approach
With all that said, a lot of these problems boil down to two major mistakes consistently made when digital marketing service decisions are made.
The Top 2 Mistakes Made in Digital Marketing Service Decisions
I have seen many changes occur throughout the years. I’ve seen people trying to figure out how to beat the search engines to get ahead of their competition.
There are two consistent mistakes I have seen business owners and executives make about digital marketing services.
As it turns out, the same two errors have also been proven to be the top reasons online marketing efforts fail by Ascend2, in a conducted survey of business owners and marketing professionals in October 2016.
Mistake #1: A Lack of an Effective Strategy To Reach Goals
When business owners or marketing executives make decisions about digital marketing services, they rarely take the time to develop a digital marketing strategy.
According to the Ascend2 Survey:
“A lack of an effective strategy is one of the top 2 significant barriers to online marketing success.”
The lack of an effective strategy has consistently ranked as one of the top reasons why business owners and marketing professionals say their digital marketing efforts fall short of their goals.
Mistake #2: A Lack in Budget
Supporting your marketing team with the critical resources and budget for them to make an impact with their marketing efforts is essential.
However, the second significant barrier to their marketing success is the “lack of an adequate budget.”
“The lack of an adequate budget.”– Ascend2 2016 Survey
The Typical Phone Conversation
Today, when we receive calls from business owners and marketing executives, I feel like I am in a fast-food restaurant.
The standard initial phone calls usually sound similar to the two listed below based on two characterizations.
Characterization 1: Call From a Business Owner
A characterization of the initial call from a business owner typically goes something like this:
“I want a website redesign with SEO, a little social media, and some email marketing on the side."
Characterization 2: Call From a Marketing Executive of a Medium to Large Business
A characterization of the initial call from a marketing executive of a medium to large business goes something like this:
“I understand you do SEO; how much does that cost, and how fast can I get ranked #1 in Google.”
Ordering up digital marketing tactics is not a strategy or a plan.
You will continue to fall short of attaining your goals and objectives until you create an effective digital strategy that ties to your business goals and objectives.
It is not to say that the tactics mentioned in the phone calls I have just characterized are not part of your digital marketing strategy and plan. They are or can be if you successfully integrate them into an overall digital marketing plan of action.
This action plan is still based upon a credible digital strategy that ties to your business goals and objectives.
My Reply to the Initial Call Questions
So my first response to the caller when I get these calls are,
“Why do you think you need this?
At the end of the day, what is the result you want to get from these efforts?”
Usually there is a pause or brief silence from the caller at this point in the call. I sense a little bit of a “deer in the headlights” look.
It may be that they think it is a stupid question, or frankly, they have not given deeper thought to it.
The Typical Business Results Desired by Most the Callers
After a short silence, I hear their real reason for calling when they answer my question.
The answers to the business results that they want to achieve tend to fall in one or more of these categories:
Ok. Now we know what the real need is, and we can start our conversation about how to address their needs.
So, I then like to ask if they have developed a digital marketing strategy for their inbound content marketing efforts.
They usually respond with,
“Yes. I gave it to you just a minute ago.”
Now, let’s take a step back.
There’s that pesky problem again of having an infinite number of definitions as to what is a “digital marketing strategy.”
In defense of our callers, many digital marketing agencies are proclaiming that these silos of digital marketing tactics (SEO, social media, email marketing, website design, blogging, online press releases, sponsored or native content, and so forth) are all strategies.
However, these silos of digital marketing tactics are just a subset of the digital marketing strategy.
So it's essential to understand the 12 components that make up a digital marketing strategy.
Click here to learn more about The 12 Components that Make Up a Digital Strategy Framework.
Your Next Step to Get Your Strategy Started
At Xcellimark, we help you get started by allowing you to set up a free 30-minute consultation - that will not be a sales pitch.
We focus on your goals, challenges, and how you can strategically and efficiently approach them.
Get started by booking your free 30-minute consultation now.