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6 Steps Small Businesses Should Take to Create an Effective Digital Marketing Plan

By Ray Wang - August 20, 2015

Developing an effective digital marketing strategy requires customer, competitor and industry analysis, an understanding of different digital tools, and concrete quantifiable goals.

To create a comprehensive digital marketing strategy, take the following six steps:

  1. Define your brand

Before starting to create a strategy or ads, define your brand first. Articulate your unique selling proposition and why it matters to customers. You may need to conduct some research to discover why and how your company is different from your competitors.

To define your brand, you should be able to answer the following 6 questions:

  • How would you describe your company in 3-5 words?
  • What makes your company different?
  • How do you express that differentiation in words, images, and actions?
  • Why is your brand differentiation important to your clients?
  • What are your company values and why are they important?
  • If your brand were a person, how would you describe him or her?
  • What is your overall brand positioning statement?

(Source of the questions: Smartt Digital Marketing P.A.C.E. eBook)

Defining your brand will help you develop content and advertisements that express the unique values your company offers.

  1. Create buyer personas

Decide who you want to target, what they do, and what their challenges are. To focus on your audience, create buyer personas.

A buyer persona is a fictional profile for the stereotypical decision maker who plays a role in the purchase process of your product or service.

To create a buyer persona, fill in the profile with information such as:

  • What does their environment look like? Who surrounds them? Who are their friends? What kind of advertisements do they see every day?
  • What do their friends say? What does their spouse say? What do their family members say?
  • Who really influences them, and how?
  • What is really important to them that they may not say in public? What moves them? What concerns keep them awake at night?
  • What is their attitude? What are they telling others? What are they doing that is contrary to what they say?
  • What are their biggest frustrations?
  • What obstacles stand between them and what they want to achieve?

Creating buyer personas will help you create ads, digital content, and marketing collaterals that communicate values that align with your audience’s needs.

  1. Select digital marketing programs

Once you’ve defined your brand and profiled your target audience, you can start selecting digital marketing tactics that are suitable for your company and relevant to your audience. This includes finding ways to integrate your traditional marketing tactics with digital channels.

Popular digital marketing tactics include bloggers outreach, content marketing (e.g. eBook, podcast, whitepaper), social media marketing (e.g. organic or paid advertising), and AdWords campaigns (e.g. search and remarketing campaigns).

To determine which tactics are most suitable, consider the user persona you’ve developed and discover which channels are best for reaching them, and what types of content or ads they favor.

For example, if you’re a bakery in an urban neighborhood and your user persona is a millennial who does a lot of face to face business networking, you may want to use local search and Facebook mobile ads to promote your bakery as a great place to meet for coffee and snacks because this is a demographic that uses smartphones for a majority of their online interactions.

  1. Create steps for launching the digital marketing programs

After you’ve selected digital marketing tactics you’ll implement, break down the steps for launching the programs.

For example, if you select SEO, the steps you take might include :

  • Perform an on-page website audit to find how you can optimize your on-page SEO.
  • Perform a backlink analysis on competitors to see where you can earn backlinks.
  • Commit to a certain number of backlinks you will gain per month by doing guest blogging, interviews, or other white hat SEO tactics.


  1. Create metrics to measure performance

It’s important to set goals, but ideally they should be measurable. Use metrics to track your performance so that you can determine whether you’re meeting goals and where you can make adjustments to improve results. This could be the number of click-through from your website’s call-to-action button(s) or meeting your goals for gaining backlinks.

You should also collect website traffic statistics. If you’ve never set up metrics to assess your traffic, you can start by using simple measurements such as:

  • Web traffic to specific webpages
  • Web traffic to the overall website
  • Search ranking for specific keywords
  • Number of new backlinks
  • Traffic from social media sources

To evaluate your performance based on these metrics, use a combination of free and paid tools such as Open Site Explorer, Rank Tracker, Google Analytics, and Google Webmaster Tools.

Download our Custom Strategic Plan Template

Open Site Explorer is a free SEO tool (there’s a premium version of it) created a Moz which you can use to track the number of backlinks you gain.

Rank Tracker is a paid SEO tool created Moz which lets you track your search ranking for targeted keywords.

Google Analytics is a Google-powered analytics tool you can use to track the number of visits to your website, including specific pages.

Google Webmaster Tools, also a Google-powered tool, which you can use to track your search ranking and the number of backlinks to your website.

Digital marketing performance measurements rely on a combination of metrics such as: traffic statistics, click-through rates, ROI on paid campaigns, social media engagement, and many other indicators. Ultimately, the metrics you follow should relate to business goals.

  1. Implement the tactics

Once you’ve selected digital channels you want to use for your digital marketing plan and set up tools to measure your performance, you can start executing!

For example, you can write articles for your website or guest blog to improve your search ranking, develop display advertisements for AdWords remarketing campaigns or take photos of your products for Facebook paid advertising campaigns.

Taking the step-by-step approach mentioned above helps you plan out key elements of a digital marketing plan. This helps you create a comprehensive strategy to target your ideal market, monitor performance, and make corrections to your tactics based on timely, objective data.

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