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How to Engage Your Audience Using Digital Advertising


Digital advertising doesn’t have the best reputation amongst consumers. In fact, earlier in 2016, HubSpot Research dug into how people interact with digital advertising, and it confirmed what many marketers have known for a long time: Consumers are actively avoiding our ads.

Over half of the respondents said they used ad blockers or were planning to install one in the next six months — certainly not something most brands want to hear, but what’s the solution?

For many businesses, the solution is simple: inbound marketing.

But inbound marketing is a long-term play, and building a loyal audience and a constant flow of organic traffic isn’t an easy task. Is it so wrong to supplement your inbound strategy with digital advertising? Can digital advertising ever complement your inbound marketing and provide a positive, valuable experience for your prospective customers?

Absolutely, but it’s all in the execution. First, we need to understand why people are so turned-off by conventional online ads to ensure we can create better ones.

Why Do People Hate Digital Advertising?

The report from HubSpot Research on consumers’ relationship with advertising uncovered some truths behind why people are avoiding online advertising:


Here are the top three reasons …

1) It’s annoying and intrusive.

Unsurprisingly, the biggest reason people are turned-off by digital advertising is because they find ads to be annoying and intrusive.

We’ve all experienced those terrible mobile pop-up ads that cover the main content the second you get there and require multiple attempts to dismiss them. In fact, Google recently announce that it’s making a conscious effort to crack down on websites that employ those types of ads (read more on that here).

2) It disrupts browsing experience.

The second biggest reason is that digital ads are downright disruptive to a user’s browsing experience. Auto-playing videos and flashing banners exist to distract people from the content they’re actively trying to consume. Whilst auto-playing videos might succeed in doing that, it’s for all the wrong reasons. In other words, people are usually only paying attention to these ads because they’re scrambling to turn them off.

As for banner ads, it’s no secret that ‘banner blindness’ is real. We’ve become desensitized to this kind of advertisement because we’ve learned where it appears, and know when to tune it out. These ads are often poorly targeted and badly designed, meaning we’ve developed both a conscious and subconscious ability to simply ignore their existence so we can focus on the content we actually want to consume.

3) It creates security concerns.

The third biggest reason for people disliking digital advertising is the security concerns it brings.

Lots of websites host third party advertisements distributed by ad publishers. In this case, it’s difficult for websites to control the quality of the ads they display or ensure their security. The disconnect in quality and security between the website host and the advertising publisher has caused a lot of tech savvy browsers to use ad blockers.

How to Engage Your Audience Using Digital Advertising

There’s an obvious misalignment between brands utilizing these kind of advertisements and the consumers they’re trying to pull in.

For anybody who’s familiar with inbound marketing, you’ll know that what we’ve discussed so far doesn’t align with the fundamentals of inbound: to market your products and services to people in a more human, more helpful way.

But that doesn’t mean digital advertising can’t be considered inbound-y. We just have to adjust the way we’re thinking about advertising to create a more positive experience for the people on the receiving end. Here’s how marketers can start doing that.

1) Focus on native (or social) advertising.

In the same HubSpot Research report we mentioned above, we learned that in the eyes of consumers, not all ads are created equal.

Whilst no ads generated an entirely positive experience for respondents, some did receive a more neutral reaction:


In the above chart, there’s a commonality between the types of digital ads that received the highest score. They’re the types of digital advertisements that fall into one of two categories:

  1. They’re something users have chosen to receive.
  2. They’re non-disruptive within their platform.

Email newsletters are an opt-in form of communication, in which people can choose to unsubscribe whenever they want to. They tend to be less pushy in nature, and focus more on sharing great content or offers, so it’s no surprise to see that people don’t react negatively to them.

Sponsored Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter posts, however, do feel more like traditional online advertising in the sense that users don’t opt-in to see them. Yet there are a few things that set them apart from the likes of auto-playing videos and pop-ups, which received a very negative reaction.

  • They’re not disruptive: They match the look and feel of the platform they’re on.
  • They usually provide useful content: They’re not simply asking you to buy something.
  • They can be highly targeted: You tend to see content that’s relevant to you.

For that reason, native advertising on social media platforms can be a much smarter use of your digital advertising spend. It’s not as likely to be subconsciously blocked out by your audience, and it allows you to add value by offering something that’s relevant to them.

Google AdWords is a common advertising channel that can also be considered ‘native’ as it’s non-disruptive in nature and can be highly targeted based on what a user is searching for.

Because of the amount of data these platforms have collected about their users, you can segment your advertising on a really granular level, allowing you to serve up the most relevant content, to the right people, at the right time.

2) Add value with your ads.

Your digital advertising is still a form of content, so why aren’t you using it as an opportunity to add value to your audience, rather than push them into a purchase?

Nobody loves being advertised to, but not all ads have to feel sales-focused or pushy. Use paid channels to promote your content with the goal of turning the traffic generated by your ads into leads, and you’ll be adding far more value to your audience and positioning your brand in a more positive light.

But what does that look like in practice on native advertising platforms? Let’s take a look at how digital advertising can be made more inbound-y using Google AdWords.

When I search for interior designers using Google, I’m served four ads from companies trying to promote their services. But if I’ve never heard of these companies, how do I know which interior design company is right for me?

That’s where content-based pay-per-click (PPC) ads come into the picture. If you’re advertising an ebook titled “How to Find the Best Interior Design Company for Your Project”, it’s likely to stand out against the other ads and search results because it directly helps solve a problem. This means your ad is more likely to get the click and the conversion.

Here’s an example of a content-led ad for the keyword ‘blogging’.


3) Improve your targeting.

One of the biggest advantages of using digital advertising as opposed to offline advertising is the targeting options available to you. Here are some examples of brands using targeting to ensure they’re adding value to their prospective customers with their ads.

On Facebook

This ad from Contently was targeted towards Facebook users that are interested in content marketing according to the data the platform has collected about those users.

Rather than bombarding everyone on Facebook (including those who Contently’s post might be irrelevant to), this ad only appeared to the segment of Facebook users who are most likely to find it useful.

This example of digital advertising fits into the realms of inbound marketing as it’s adding value by offering useful content, driving relevant traffic, and turning those visitors into high quality leads.


On Twitter

Similarly to Facebook, Twitter can also be used as a paid channel to promote useful content to a segment of your audience. Twitter offers four main targeting options with its ads.

  1. Followers: Target your ads based on people who follow certain users.
  2. Keywords: Target people who are tweeting about certain topics.
  3. Tailored audiences: Upload your email database and target people who are at certain lifecycle stages (your blog subscribers who aren’t yet leads, for example).
  4. Remarketing: Set up conversion tracking and target users who have previously been active on your website.

After I visited this page which showcases Twitter’s various advertising targeting options, Twitter used their own platform’s advertising capabilities to remarket to me using useful content (see below image).

They knew I’d visited that page and must be interested in Twitter ads, but they didn’t serve me a message pushing me to advertise with them. Instead, they targeted me with some useful content to help me learn more about using video on Twitter to increase engagement, gently moving me through my buyer’s journey by adding value.


Via LinkedIn

When a user saw this advertisement in their LinkedIn feed, it was as a result of visiting Bupa’s website and entering their details to receive a quote for health insurance. Whilst this ad isn’t overly intrusive as it’s ‘native’ to the platform, it’s certainly doesn’t feel as inbound-y as the other examples. However, this is likely because of the intent this user has already shown by requesting a quote.


Whilst inbound digital advertising is generally content-centric, it’s smart to use the targeting capabilities of social media platforms to tailor your ads depending on where someone is in their buyer’s journey.

For example, in the example above, it wouldn’t make sense to target that user with a piece of content about different types of health cover. They already know they need the overseas visitor cover and have requested a quote, meaning they’re probably ready to buy. In this case, it makes much more sense to target them with product-specific messaging that demonstrates the value of Bupa’s overseas cover.

Inbound Marketing + Digital Advertising = More Loveable Ads

We’ve seen some example of how targeted digital advertising can add value to your audience, rather than putting them off your brand. The final example from Bupa however, demonstrates the importance of getting even more granular with your advertising to make sure you’re reaching the right people, in the right place, at the right time with your ads.

It’s totally possible for your digital advertising to coexist with an inbound marketing strategy. In fact, the two can work alongside each other really effectively to ensure you’re providing the best possible experience for your audience, whilst improving your business’ bottom line.

Ready to get started creating more inbound-y digital advertising campaigns? Download The Essential Guide to Social Media Advertising for free and learn how to create ads people actually want to click on.

free guide to advertising in social media




Why You’re Thinking About Digital Marketing Analytics All Wrong


Measuring the effectiveness of digital marketing is one of the greatest challenges facing organizations. According to HubSpot’s 2016 State of Inbound report, 46% of marketers cited “proving the ROI of our marketing activities” as one of the biggest challenge they face within their company.

The trouble is, when most marketers hear ‘digital marketing analytics,’ they tend to think of the metrics you’d typically associate with a web analytics tool like Google Analytics — traffic, bounce rate, unique visitors, etc.

While web analytics can provide you with a wealth of insight and data into the performance of your website, marketers really need much richer data to understand the impact of their marketing campaigns on conversion rates and a person’s journey through the marketing and sales funnel. Looking at top-level web analytics metrics like traffic is only part of the puzzle.

Enter digital marketing analytics, which offers a much more comprehensive view of what’s working, and what isn’t.

Why Digital Marketing Analytics Matter More Than Web Analytics

So why exactly do digital marketing analytics matter? Quite simply, because web analytics (like traffic and website performance) just isn’t enough. The data web analytics provides just don’t cut it for marketers who need to understand how their work makes an impact throughout the entire marketing and sales funnel.

Let’s face it: Today’s marketing goes well beyond the bounds of your website. It’s the intersection of what happens between your marketing channels and the outcome on the other side that provides the most marketing insight, and your reporting needs to reflect this.

Web analytics measure things a webmaster or technical SEO specialist cares about, like page load speed, page views per visit, and time on site. Digital marketing analytics, on the other hand, measure business metrics like traffic, leads, and sales, and which online events influence whether leads become customers. Digital marketing analytics includes data not only from your website, but also from other sources like email, social media, and online PR.

With digital marketing analytics, marketers can understand the effectiveness of their marketing, not just the effectiveness of their website. Using marketing analytics allows marketers to identify how each of their marketing initiatives (e.g., social media vs. blogging vs. email marketing, etc.) stack up against one another, determine the true ROI of their activities, and understand how well they’re achieving their business goals.

As a result of the information they can gather from full-stack digital marketing analytics, marketers can also diagnose deficiencies in specific channels in their marketing mix, and make adjustments to strategies and tactics to improve their overall marketing activity.

You can spend hours and hours slicing and dicing data in web analytics tools, comparing new vs. repeat visitors month over month, but when it comes down to it, you’ll never have a comprehensive understanding of how your marketing is doing. Marketers have known this for a long time (check out the explosion of people searching for the term ‘digital marketing analytics’ taken from Google Trends below).


There’s no doubt that marketers are aware there’s a deficiency in how they’re able to measure the effectiveness of what they do; here’s how full-stack digital marketing analytics makes up for that deficiency.

Why Digital Marketing Analytics Gives You the ‘Full Picture’

There are lots of things that digital marketing analytics achieves where basic website analytics falls short. Let’s highlight three of the main differentiators:

1. Integration across different marketing channels.

With digital marketing analytics, you have a good, solid look into the direct relationships between your marketing channels. It’s great to be able to see how each of your individual channels (e.g., social media, blogging, email marketing, SEO, etc.) are performing, but the true power of analytics comes into play when you can easily tie the effect of multiple channels’ performances together.

For instance, let’s say you did an email send to a segment of your database. Digital marketing analytics not only tells you how many people clicked through from your email to your website, but also how many of those people actually converted into leads for your business when they got there. Furthermore, you can compare the impact of that individual email send with other marketing initiatives. Did that email generate more leads than the blog post you published yesterday? Or was the content you shared via Twitter more effective?

2. People-centric data on the buyer’s journey.

As we mentioned earlier, a key differentiator between web analytics and digital marketing analytics is that the latter uses the person — not the page view — as the focal point.

This enables you to track how your individual prospects and leads are interacting with your various marketing initiatives and channels over time. How did an individual lead first come to find your website? From Google? Via Facebook? From direct traffic? Is that lead an active part of your email subscriber base, often clicking and converting on marketing offers presented via email? Do they read your blog?

Full-stack digital marketing analytics can tell you all of this and more, providing you with extremely valuable lead intelligence that can help inform the direction of your future campaigns.


Looking at all of this information in aggregate can help you understand trends among your prospects and leads and which marketing activities are valuable at different stages in the buyer’s journey.

Perhaps you find that many customers’ last point of conversion was on a certain ebook or whitepaper. Having this data makes it possible to implement an effective lead management process, enabling you to score and prioritize your leads and identify which activities contribute to a marketing qualified lead for your business.

3. Closed-loop data.

One of the most useful functions of marketing analytics is its ability to tie marketing activities to sales. Sure, your blog may be effective in generating leads, but are those leads actually turning into customers and making your business money? Closed-loop marketing analytics can tell you.

The only dependency here is that your digital marketing analytics system is hooked up with your customer relationship management (CRM) platform like the free HubSpot CRM, for example.


Having this closed-loop data can help you determine whether your individual marketing initiatives are actually contributing to your business’ bottom line. Through it, you can determine which channels are most critical for driving sales. Perhaps you find that your blog is your most effective channel for generating customers, or conversely, you find that social media is really only powerful as an engagement mechanism, not a source of sales.

The Digital Marketer’s Measurement Challenge

Most marketers know they need to be looking at more than just traffic and website performance to get the insights we’ve talked about so far, but why do so many of us still struggle to measure the impact and prove the ROI of our online marketing activities?

Probably because:

  • A) We don’t have solid goals in place for our campaigns.
  • B) We don’t have the means to successfully measure our success.

Quite often, you’ll find it’s a combination of the two.

The fact is, most marketers need to have a number of different digital marketing analytics platforms in place in order to get all the insights they need to understand their marketing performance and make sound decisions. They gather data about their email marketing through the analytics provided by their email service provider, information about their social media performance through their social media monitoring tool, blog analytics from their blogging platform, and the list goes on.

This fragmented approach to reporting makes it really difficult to connect the dots and make informed decisions about the future of your strategy. The ideal solution is to implement an all-in-one marketing and reporting platform that offers end-to-end visibility on your marketing activities, allowing you to measure everything in one place.

How Digital Marketing Analytics Impacts Your Business

All of the insights, information, and data you can gather from your digital marketing analytics tool(s) is really only useful if you do something with it. The true value of analytics isn’t just to prove the value of marketing to your boss; it’s also to help you improve and optimize your marketing performance — on both an individual channel-by-channel basis as well as an overall, cross-channel machine.

As mentioned above, you’ll also be able to implement closed-loop reporting, making it easier to prove how your marketing efforts are positively impacting your sales team, who are being fed much higher quality leads.

The important thing to realize here is, if you’re relying solely on top-level web analytics, you’re missing out on a lot of powerful data that can help inform your marketing strategy. So when evaluating digital marketing analytics tools for your business, be sure you’re looking for evidence of digital marketing analytics, not just website analytics.

How are you faring in terms of digital marketing measurement? Are your analytics sophisticated enough to effectively measure your marketing performance?

free marketing reporting templates




21 Revealing Statistics About Content Marketing in Asia Pacific in 2016


Do you know how your content marketing efforts stack up compared to other companies in Asia, Australia and New Zealand?

To make content marketing work for your company, it’s useful to have some idea of how other businesses are succeeding.

It helps you find and fix gaps in your own approach to content strategy, content creation and content promotion, and helps you to develop a realistic view of how you should budget and plan.

To help out fellow marketers in Asia Pacific, our Australian and Singaporean teams dove into some data on the state of content marketing in APAC. Alongside SurveyMonkey, we surveyed over 700 marketers across Asia, Australia and New Zealand to see where they’ve been focusing their efforts, where they’re struggling, and what their plans are for the remainder of 2016 and beyond.

To learn about these findings in more detail and get access to insights and tips from local content marketing experts, download the full Asia Pacific Content Marketing Report 2016 here.

21 Revealing Statistics About Content Marketing in Asia Pacific in 2016

1) Key Statistics Revealing the State of Content Marketing in Asia Pacific in 2016

Marketers in Asia Pacific believe in the power of content marketing to generate ROI.

  • Marketers in APAC believe content marketing to have the most commercial impact on their business.  Tweet this stat Twitter_Logo_Blue-6.png
  • 49% of businesses in APAC intend to increase their content marketing resources during the rest of 2016. Tweet this stat Twitter_Logo_Blue-6.png

Businesses in Asia Pacific are doing content marketing, but haven’t quite cracked it yet.

  • 70% of APAC businesses feel their content marketing efforts are limited, basic, or inconsistent. Tweet this stat Twitter_Logo_Blue-6.png
  • 62% of APAC businesses are creating more content in 2016 than they did in 2015. Tweet this stat Twitter_Logo_Blue-6.png
  • 50% of businesses in APAC are doing content marketing, but have no strategy. Tweet this stat Twitter_Logo_Blue-6.png

The key issues with managing content marketing in this region are the creation of quality content and developing a strategy.

  • 57% of APAC marketers say producing quality content is an obstacle to their success. Tweet this stat Twitter_Logo_Blue-6.png
  • 56% of marketers in Asia Pacific struggle with content strategy. Tweet this stat Twitter_Logo_Blue-6.png
  • 53% of marketers in APAC struggle to produce enough content. Tweet this stat Twitter_Logo_Blue-6.png

APAC marketers are finding success with blogging and paid promotion on Facebook.

  • 47% of marketers in APAC have the most success with blog posts and articles. Tweet this stat Twitter_Logo_Blue-6.png
  • 35% of APAC marketers rate e-newsletters or online magazines as effective forms of content marketing. Tweet this stat Twitter_Logo_Blue-6.png
  • 37% of marketers in APAC find Facebook advertising to be the most effective form of paid promotion. Tweet this stat Twitter_Logo_Blue-6.png

Asia Pacific marketers are focused mainly on top-of-funnel when it comes to measuring the success of their content marketing.

  • 69% of APAC businesses use website traffic to measure of content marketing success. Tweet this stat Twitter_Logo_Blue-6.png
  • 62% of APAC marketers measure their content success using social shares. Tweet this stat Twitter_Logo_Blue-6.png

2) Key Statistics on the State of Content Marketing in Australia & New Zealand 2016

  • 52% of businesses in ANZ are convinced of the value of content marketing & can measure its ROI. Tweet this stat Twitter_Logo_Blue-6.png
  • 71% of businesses in ANZ said they are producing more content in 2016 than in 2015. Tweet this stat Twitter_Logo_Blue-6.png
  • Almost a quarter of marketers in ANZ are planning to increase resources to assist with content marketing. Tweet this stat Twitter_Logo_Blue-6.png
  • 68% of marketers in ANZ plan to increase investment in promoting their content via earned media (PR & social sharing).Tweet this stat Twitter_Logo_Blue-6.png

3) Key Statistics on the State of Content Marketing in Asia 2016

  • Only 40% of businesses in Asia are convinced of the value of content marketing & can measure its ROI. Tweet this stat Twitter_Logo_Blue-6.png
  • 62% of businesses in Asia struggle to create sufficient volumes of quality content. Tweet this stat Twitter_Logo_Blue-6.png
  • 51% of marketers in Asia plan to increase investment in promoting their content via earned media (PR & social sharing). Tweet this stat Twitter_Logo_Blue-6.png
  • 58% of marketers in Asia struggle to define the best content & influencers to build reach and support conversion. Tweet this stat Twitter_Logo_Blue-6.png

Want to see more data on the state of content marketing in Asia Pacific alongside commentary from some of the region’s best content marketers? Check out the full report here: The Asia Pacific Content Marketing Report 2016.

free 2016 APAC content marketing report




The Ultimate Kit for Getting Started With Inbound Marketing [Free Download + Book]


You’ve read up about inbound marketing and have identified it as the best way to start attracting, converting, and closing more customers online, but what’s next?

Getting your inbound marketing strategy off-the-ground can feel like a mammoth task, but it doesn’t need to be. That’s why we’ve created the Getting Started With Inbound Marketing Kit, complete with all the templates you need to simplify and speed up the process of kick-starting your inbound strategy at the top-of-the-funnel.

We also worked with Robert Coorey, #1 best-selling author, to include a free copy of his book How to Feed a Starving Crowd. It’s filled with inspiration for your campaigns and features case studies from those who’ve already succeeded with inbound marketing.

In the Getting Started With Inbound Marketing Kit, you’ll find:

  • A free copy of How to Feed a Starving Crowd by best-selling author, Robert Coorey
  • SMART marketing goals template
  • Buyer persona templates
  • Content mapping template
  • Blog editorial calendar
  • A “teach your team inbound marketing” presentation

Ready to kick-off your inbound marketing plan and leave dated, outbound strategies behind?

Download your free Getting Started With Inbound Marketing Kit and get all the templates and inspiration you need to help you build out your strategy.

free inbound marketing starter kit




The Complete Guide to Creating a Digital Marketing Strategy That Works


In an ever-changing digital landscape, success in business can often depend on what you do (or don’t do) in terms of marketing your company online.

From SEO to content marketing and analytics, it can be overwhelming figuring out where to start — and, more importantly, what’s going to have the biggest impact on your business. To be effective at digital marketing, you’ll need a strategy. Download our complete guide to creating a digital marketing strategy that  works here.

What is Digital Strategy?

The term ‘strategy’ might seem intimidating, but building an effective digital strategy doesn’t need to be difficult. In simple terms, a strategy is just a plan of action to achieve a desired goal, or multiple goals. For example, your overarching goal might be to generate 25% more leads this year than you drove last year.

In short: Your digital marketing strategy is the series of actions that are going to help you achieve that goal using online marketing.

Now depending on the scale of your business, your digital marketing strategy might involve multiple goals and a lot of moving parts, but coming back to this simple way of thinking about strategy can help you stay focused on meeting those objectives.

Despite our simplification of the term ‘strategy’, there’s no doubt it can be difficult to get started actually building one. So, we’ve put together a series of seven building blocks to help you create an effective digital marketing strategy and set your business up for online success.

What is a Digital Marketing Campaign?

It’s easy to confuse your digital strategy with your digital marketing campaigns, but here’s how to distinguish the two.

As we’ve already outlined, your digital strategy is the series of actions you take to help you achieve your overarching marketing goal. Your digital marketing campaigns are the building blocks or actions within your strategy that move you towards meeting that goal.

For example, you might decide to run a campaign sharing some of your best performing gated content on Twitter to generate more leads through that channel. That campaign is part of your strategy to generate more leads.

It’s important to note that even if a campaign runs over the course of a couple of years, it doesn’t make it a strategy — it’s still a tactic that sits alongside other campaigns to form your strategy.

Now we’ve got to grips with the basics of digital strategy and digital marketing campaigns, let’s dig into how to build your strategy.

How to Build a Comprehensive Digital Strategy

1) Build your buyer personas.

For any marketing strategy — offline or online — you need to know who you’re marketing to. The best digital marketing strategies are built upon detailed buyer personas, and your first step is to create them. (Need help? Start here with our free buyer persona kit.)

Buyer personas represent your ideal customer(s) and can be created by researching, surveying, and interviewing your business’s target audience. It’s important to note that this information should be based upon real data wherever possible, as making assumptions about your audience can cause your marketing strategy to take the wrong direction.

To get a rounded picture of your persona, your research pool should include a mixture of customers, prospects, and people outside your contacts database who align with your target audience.

But what kind of information should you gather for your own buyer persona(s) to inform your digital marketing strategy? That depends on your businesses, and is likely to vary depending on whether you’re B2B or B2C, or whether your product is high cost or low cost. Here are some starting points, but you’ll want to switch them up depending on your particular business.

Quantitative (or Demographic) Information

  • Location. You can use web analytics tools like Google Analytics to easily identify what location your website traffic is coming from.
  • Age. Depending on your business, this may or may not be relevant. It’s best to gather this data by identifying trends in your existing prospect and customer database.
  • Income. It’s best to gather sensitive information like personal income in persona research interviews, as people might be unwilling to share it via online forms.
  • Job Title. This is something you can get a rough idea of from your existing customer base, and is most relevant for B2B companies.

Qualitative (or Psychographic) Information

  • Goals. Depending on the need your product or service was created to serve, you might already have a good idea of what goals your persona is looking to achieve. However, it’s best to cement your assumptions by speaking to customers, salespeople and customer service representatives.
  • Challenges. Again, speak to customers, salespeople and customer service representatives to get an idea of the common problems your audience faces.
  • Hobbies and interests. Speak to customers and people who align with your target audience. If you’re a fashion brand, for example, it’s helpful to know if large segments of your audience are also into fitness and wellbeing, as that can help inform your future content creation and partnerships.
  • Priorities. Speak to customers and people who align with your target audience to find out what’s most important to them in relation to your business. For example, if you’re a B2B software company, knowing that your audience values customer support over a competitive price point is very valuable information.

Take this information and create one or more rounded personas like HubSpot’s Marketing Mary, and ensure they’re at the core of your digital marketing strategy. If you need more detail, check out this comprehensive buyer persona guide with templates.

2) Identify your goals & the digital marketing tools you’ll need.

As a marketer, your goals should always be tied back to the fundamental goals of the business. For example, if your business’s goal is to increase online revenue by 20%, your goal as a marketer might be to generate 50% more leads via the website than you did last year to contribute towards that success.

Whatever your overarching goal is, you need to know how to measure it, and more importantly, actually be able to measure it (i.e., have the right digital marketing tools in place to do so). How you measure the effectiveness of your digital strategy will be different for each business and dependent on your goal(s), but it’s vital to ensure you’re able to do so, as it’s these metrics which will help you adjust your strategy in the future.

(HubSpot Customers: Reporting in HubSpot brings all of your marketing and sales data into one place so you can quickly determine what works and what doesn’t. Learn more here.)

3) Evaluate your existing digital marketing channels and assets.

When considering your available digital marketing channels or assets to incorporate into your strategy, it’s helpful to first consider the bigger picture to avoid getting overwhelmed. The owned, earned and paid media framework helps to categorize the digital ‘vehicles’, assets or channels that you’re already using.

Owned Media

This refers to the digital assets literally owned by you. Whether that’s your website, social media profiles, blog content, or imagery, owned channels are the things your business has complete control over.

Earned Media

Quite simply, earned media refers to the exposure you’ve earned through word-of-mouth. Whether that’s content you’ve distributed on other websites (e.g., guest posts), PR work you’ve been doing, or the customer experience you’ve delivered, earned media is the recognition you receive as a result. You can earn media by getting press mentions, positive reviews, and by other people sharing your content on social media, etc.

Paid Media

Paid media is very self-explanatory and refers to any vehicle or channel that you spend money on to catch the attention of your buyer personas. This includes things like Google AdWords, paid social media posts, native advertising (like sponsored posts on other websites), and any other vehicle which you directly pay for in exchange for visibility.

Gather what you have, and categorize each vehicle or asset in a spreadsheet so you have a clear picture of your existing owned, earned, and paid media.

Your digital marketing strategy might incorporate elements of all three channels, all working together to help you reach your goal. For example, you might have an owned piece of content on a landing page on your website that’s been created to help you generate leads. To amplify the amount of leads that content generates, you might have made a real effort to make it shareable, meaning others are distributing it via their personal social media profiles, increasing traffic to the landing page. This is the earned media component. To support the content’s success, you might have posted about the content to your Facebook page and have paid to have it seen by more people in your target audience.

That’s exactly how the three can work together to help you meet your goal. Of course, it’s not compulsory to use all three. If your owned and earned media is very successful, you might not need to invest in paid. It’s all about evaluating the best solution to meet your goal, and then incorporating the channels that work best for your business into your digital marketing strategy.

Now you know what’s already being used, you can start to think about what to keep and what to cut.

4) Audit and plan your owned media.

At the heart of digital marketing is your owned media, which pretty much always takes the form of content. Everything your brand says is your content, whether that’s your ‘About Us’ page, your product descriptions, blog posts, ebooks, infographics, social media posts — it’s all considered content. Content helps convert your website visitors into leads and customers, and helps to raise your brand’s profile online. Whatever your goal, you’re going to need to use owned content to form your digital marketing strategy.

To build your digital marketing strategy, you need to decide what content is going to help you reach your goals. If your goal is to generate 50% more leads via the website than you did last year, it’s unlikely that your ‘About Us’ page is going to be included in your strategy (unless that page has been a lead generation machine in the past!)

In fact, it’s much more likely than an ebook that’s hidden behind a form on your website drives far more leads, and as a result is probably something you want to do more of.

Here’s a brief process to follow to work out what owned content you need to meet your digital marketing goals:

Audit your existing content

Make a list of your existing owned content and rank each item according to what has previously performed best in relation to your current goals. If your goal is lead generation, rank them according to which generated the most leads in the last year. That might be a particular blog post, an ebook, or even a specific page on your website that’s converting well.

The idea here is to figure out what’s currently working, and what’s not, so that you can set yourself up for future success.

Identify gaps in your existing content

Based on your buyer personas, identify any gaps in the content you have. If you’re a math tutoring company and have discovered in your audience research that one of your persona’s biggest challenges is finding interesting ways to study, but you don’t have any content that speaks to that concern, then you might look to create some.

By looking at your content audit, you might discover that ebooks hosted on a certain type of landing page convert really well for you (much better than webinars, for example). In the case of this math tutoring company, you might make the decision to add an ebook about ‘how to make studying more interesting’ to your content creation plans.

Create a content creation plan

Based on your findings and the gaps you’ve identified, make a content creation plan outlining the content that’s needed to help you hit your goals. This should include:

  • Title
  • Format
  • Goal
  • Promotional channels
  • Why you’re creating it (e.g., ‘Marketing Mary struggles to find time to plan her blog content, so we’re creating a template editorial calendar’)
  • Priority level (to help you decide what’s going to give you the most ‘bang’ for your buck)

This can be a simple spreadsheet, and should also include budget information if you’re planning to outsource the content creation, or a time estimate if you’re producing it yourself.

5) Audit and plan your earned media.

Evaluating your previous earned media against your current goals can help you get an idea of where to focus your time. Look at where your traffic and leads are coming from (if that’s your goal) and rank each earned media source from most effective to least effective.

You can get this information from tools like Google Analytics, or in HubSpot’s Sources Reports if you’re a customer.

You might find that a particular article you contributed to the industry press drove a lot of qualified traffic to your website, which in turn converted really well. Or you might discover that LinkedIn is where you see most people sharing your content, which in turn drives a lot of traffic. The idea here is to build up a picture of what earned media will help you reach your goals, and what won’t, based on historic data. However, if there’s something new you want to try, don’t rule that out just because it’s not yet tried and tested.

6) Audit and plan your paid media.

This process involves much of the same process: You need to evaluate your existing paid media across each platform (e.g., Google AdWords, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to figure out what’s likely to help you meet your current goals.

If you’ve been spending a lot of money on AdWords and haven’t seen the results you’d hoped for, maybe it’s time to refine your approach, or scrap it altogether and focus on another platform that seems to be yielding better results. (Check out this free AdWords guide for more on how to leverage it for business.)

By the end of the process, you should have a clear idea of which paid media platforms you want to continue using, and which (if any) you’d like to scrap.

7) Bring it all together.

You’ve done the planning and the research, and you now have a solid vision of the elements that are going to make up your digital marketing strategy. Here’s what you should have so far:

  1. Clear profile of your buyer persona(s)
  2. One or more marketing-specific goals
  3. A spreadsheet of your existing owned, earned and paid media
  4. An audit of your existing owned, earned and paid media
  5. An owned content creation plan or wish list

Now, it’s time to bring all of this together to form a solid strategy document. Let’s revisit what ‘digital strategy’ means — ‘the series of actions that are going to help you achieve your goal(s) using online marketing’.

By that definition, your strategy document should map out the series of actions you’re going to take to achieve your goals based on your research to this point. An Excel sheet is probably the best format. For the sake of consistency, you’ll probably find it easiest to map out according to the owned, earned and paid media framework we’ve used so far.

You’ll also need to map out your strategy for an extended period of time (usually 12 months or longer, depending on how your business is set up) so it’s helpful to overlay when you’ll be executing each action. For example:

  • In January, you might start a blog which will be continually updated once a week for the entire year.
  • In March, you might launch a new ebook accompanied by paid promotion.
  • In July, you might be preparing for your biggest business month.
  • In September, you might plan to focus on earned media in the form of PR to drive additional traffic during the run-up.

By taking this approach, you’re also creating a structured timeline for your activity which will help communicate your plans to your colleagues — and help keep you sane!

Your strategy document will be very individual to your business, which is why it’s almost impossible for us to create a one-size-fits-all digital marketing strategy template. Remember that the purpose of your strategy document is to map out the actions you’re going to take to achieve your goal over a period of time — as long as it communicates that, then you’ve nailed the basics of creating a digital strategy.

If you’re eager to learn more about digital marketing and how you can build a truly effective digital marketing strategy for your business, check out The Simple Guide to Digital Strategy in 2016.

What other questions do you have? Share them with us in the comments below.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

free guide to digital strategy

free guide to digital strategy

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