“As with any marketing campaign, defining your target market is essential.”

There are certain things that small businesses know are critical to success, and a business plan is one of them.

But increasingly, a digital marketing plan, which lays out your policy and priorities for the management of electronic property, has become another must-have document for modern business.

Catherine Gray knows all about the importance of online marketing. As the founding director of a business which has won awards for helping its clients reach customers with carefully planned online advertising strategies, she understands the importance of crafting a digital message to help a business hit its digital targets.

That strategy could entail everything from desktop and mobile websites, apps, social media campaigns to web banners and email marketing. Or a mix of all those things positioned to catch the attention of customers. She says there are seven key steps in developing a successful digital media strategy.

1. Define your goals from the start

The starting point of a thorough plan should be defining what you want to get from it.

“Businesses should ask what it is they want their digital marketing to do. Are you looking for brand awareness, to drive sales or to interact with customers? How you answer this question will shape your strategy,” she says.

2. Always research your industry

Knowledge is power, as the old saying goes. So to give yourself the best possible understanding of your industry, Gray says that research is essential.

“Do you know who your competitors are and how they are conducting themselves online? How many social media followers do they have? What content are they sharing on their website? By documenting the ‘who’ and ‘what’, you can clearly determine how you can better meet the needs of your audience,” she says.

3. Understand your audience

As with any marketing campaign, defining your target market is essential. In a nutshell, who are you trying to reach. And you can kick this off by asking some simple questions.

“Who are they? What do they like [in lifestyle terms]? And most importantly how do they spend their time online? By keeping your customer top-of-mind in all aspects of your digital marketing you will ensure you remain relevant,” says Gray.

4. Don’t be afraid to go back to basics

“Take an audit of your current online brand properties,” suggests Gray. Once you know what your digital portfolio looks like, conduct a thorough review of each to ensure your brand is putting its best foot forward. Does each of those efforts have at its core your brand message?

Does it appeal to your target and are you easy to interact with? Check how easy your site is to navigate. If it’s too difficult potential customers may switch off and not make it to the end of the journey,” she says.

There is a simple test for this. Is the path to making contact with you or a sale simple or complicated? If it’s the latter, you’ve got an opportunity to clear away some roadblocks between you and – hopefully – more business.

5. Know the essentials of SEO

Gray says the most impressive-looking website means nothing if your customers can’t find you. And one of the keys to finding your website is search marketing.

"The absolute goal of online marketing is to be there when someone is looking for you. All websites should be built to Google’s best practices for organic searchability. Ensuring your SEO is in order is possibly the most important investment you can make,” says Gray.

6. Advertising still matters

Don’t just rely on your customers finding you organically. “Cost effective advertising such as Facebook and Google Ads have the ability to offer solid results and should be included in your marketing strategy,” says Gray.

But she warns against a set and forget approach.

“Review any advertising regularly to find out what’s working and what isn’t.” As a rule of thumb,

Gray says 20 per cent of your budget should be spent on media and the rest should be channelled into getting your digital marketing in shape for when customers find you.

7. Keep content fresh and current

You want to engage potential customers and you want them to come back. Be proactive with your content and outline in advance the different pieces of information you will distribute at different times.

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