It’s a marketer’s dream to have a high-conversion, flawlessly-integrated strategy that delivers fantastic sales.
But after considering all of the technical, data, channel, and other items that affect marketing, executing a simple strategy feels impossible. How can marketers approach the numerous components of a great marketing strategy and make them all work together (especially without feeling overwhelmed)?
Before you actually start creating a strategy, you need to figure out what you have to work with. The marketing stack approach provides a clear framework to understand the different parts of marketing, how they all fit together, and which ones are dependent upon others.
Approaching marketing with this perspective makes the following clear:
- What you’re working with
- What you need to do better
- Which goals fit your company or client
- Which methods and processes will allow you to meet these goals
- How you can put it all together
Everything in the marketing stack is dependent on the items below it. So in order to use effective paid, earned, or owned channels, you need to have great content.
And in order to craft great content, you need the data to inform your content strategy.
This model checks out, too – marketers spend more on infrastructure than advertising, according to Gartner. That’s because advertising (paid channels) isn’t a prerequisite for any other marketing activity, yet every marketing consideration depends on the infrastructure.
Here’s a step-by-step to assess your marketing so you can create and implement an integrated digital strategy.
Evaluate What You’re Working With
You can’t plan a strategy unless you fully understand what you’re working with. That’s why your integrated digital strategy plan starts with a massive inventory.
This inventory is crucial. The amount of detail and effort you go into for this stage directly affects what you’re able to achieve in every step after.
If you’re an in-house marketer, congratulations! Getting access to the information you need will be much easier than your compatriots working with clients.
Getting access to this data can be harder for client-facing marketers. CMO Council reports most marketers (54 percent) say inadequate budgets are a major hurdle to achieving data-driven marketing strategies. Convincing your clients to expand your budget (while you’re trying to sell your services in the first place) is challenging.
But if you do provide marketing services for clients, you’re not out of luck. Just make sure your clients understand you’ll need access to this information as part of your service agreement.
When you’ve got access to data, run your inventory through the marketing stack:
- Infrastructure: Look at your infrastructure strengths and weaknesses. How are your load times? What programming languages do you use? How’s your tech team, and are they able to implement your exciting marketing ideas?
- Analytics: Are your analytics tools set up properly to collect data? Where are the gaps? Can you measure conversions throughout the entire conversion journey?
- Content inventory: Does your content match your buyer’s journey? Which content performs best? Are there additional buyer personas you could reach with new content types?
- Channels: What have you been doing across channels? How much time or money are you spending on each?
- Other considerations: Are there intangibles that could affect your business strategy? Does your company or client have a unique story or opportunities to reach specific psychographic profiles?
Again, this will take a while. But trust me, it’s worth it.
Determine Measurable Opportunities for Growth
Once you’ve performed your inventories, you’re ready to analyze them and identify growth opportunities.
This boils down to two simple questions:
- What are your company’s or client’s strengths, and what are your competitor’s weaknesses?
- What can you do to exploit them effectively?
This is where marketing becomes as much of an art as a science. We can gather the data, but knowing how to interpret it into something meaningful? That takes experience and practice.
Fortunately, there are plenty of tools to help us gather competitive data we can use as a benchmark for our own improvement.
BuzzSumo and SEMRush – two popular tools – can help identify high-performing content, even among your rivals.
SEMRush in particular gives insights on several different aspects of your (and your competitors’) marketing strategies. This includes how your paid traffic campaigns are performing, your backlink profile, and even page load issues.
Just make sure to catalog all of these opportunities for growth in a way that’s measurable. It doesn’t do you much good to say, “We don’t have a lot of content.” Instead, find a way to express that same thought, but in a quantifiable way: “Our competitors put out three high-quality, full-length blog articles per week, while we only publish one per month.”
Or, “Our page load speed is 6.4 seconds, but our competitors are loading at 2.3 seconds.”
Make sure the measurable growth opportunities you find include every step of the marketing stack – infrastructure, analytics, content, and paid/earned/owned media.
Gathering these insights sets you up to set the right kind of actionable, results-producing goals your integrated strategy needs.
Craft Goals That Fit With Your Company (or Client)
This is where the real fun begins. All of the work you’ve done to audit your marketing stack and determine measurable growth opportunities was all leading to this: goals.
With an understanding of your current marketing stack performance, you’re ready to establish your core strategic goals.
Which goals you set is completely up to you – be as conservative or ambitious as you feel is appropriate, based on your client or company.
If you have a strong relationship with your client, you’re in a position to set more realistic goals. We know our clients or employers often want as much growth as possible.
Because you’ve taken the time to gather data, you’re in a great position to know exactly what kinds of goals you can set.
For example, say you look over your metrics and see that you convert 0.1% of your total web traffic to customers, and your average customers are worth $10,000. If you want to increase revenue by $1,000,000 this year, you need to attract 100 new customers.
These metrics mean you have two secondary goal paths to achieve your main goal:
- Increase web traffic by 100,000 visitors
- Increase your conversion rate
Make a Strategy to Determine Your Methods
Now that you have your goals in mind, you get to do the fun part of creating your strategy. You’ve identified what you want to do, why you want to do it, and the resources you have to accomplish it. In this step, you get to define the “how”.
Rather than dive into a high-detail, day-to-day level strategy, begin with broad strokes. This makes it easy for you to connect each tactic you implement to the strategic goal you’re trying to achieve.
Organizing your strategies in the same order as the marketing stack makes it simple to put it all together. Not only does this help prioritize strategic initiatives; it also serves to educate your client or boss. Having trouble getting buy-in for your infrastructure investment? Show the decisionmaker your marketing stack and explain how planning paid ads doesn’t really work if you aren’t able to serve your content quickly.
To return to the example above, if your average customer value is $10,000 and you want to increase customers by 100 in the next year at a 0.1% conversion rate, you need either:
- 100,000 new visits to your site with your current conversion rate
- Fewer visitors with a higher conversion rate
So let’s say you want to increase your conversion rate. We know that things like page load speed, quality of ad targeting, and content targeting affect your conversion rate.
That means one strategy could focus on increasing those items while continuing to drive the same amount of traffic as last year.
Or, if you simply want to focus on traffic generation, you can explore additional ways to bring more visitors to your site and ultimately increase visits by 100,000.
As you can see, the same set of data gives you options to choose a strategy that fits your business style and resources.
One quick note about digital chaos factors: depending on your industry, you might want to include a section about digital chaos factors. These are the unpredictable things that might force you to revisit your strategy and make adjustments. By planning ahead for them, they’re not unpredictable anymore; they’re now just part of the strategy.
Some of these digital chaos factors could include social media platforms changing their ad rules, poor media coverage, an unexpected boost from an influencer, or any other intangible that might affect your strategy.
Don’t worry about creating a detailed plan for each of these – simply having a rough to-do is enough.
Put It All Together and Apply the Above Execution Plan
You’ve got an audit. You’ve analyzed your data. You’ve identified goals. And you’ve made a strategy.
Now it’s time to put it all together.
The good news is that by the time you’ve reached this stage, you’re basically done.
Of course, you can go into far more detail than we covered here. For example, you might want to look into the specific factors that contribute to your marketing metrics. Or you could identify the specific frequency you want to post onto owned and earned media channels.
Whichever approach you take, you should now have the following:
- A great understanding of how your entire marketing stack contributes to your integrated digital strategy
- A clear execution plan to bring your integrated strategy to life
This takes more time than slapping together yet-another tactics-driven “strategy”, but the results speak for themselves.