What you need to know when developing an effective digital strategy

Let's talk about what a digital marketing strategy is and what it consists of.

What Is a Digital Marketing Strategy?

Digital marketing strategy is a list of related actions aimed at achieving the company’s global goals using digital tools. The digital strategy is part of the company’s overall marketing strategy. The implementation of a digital strategy is necessary to achieve the company’s global business goals.

What Do You Need a Digital Strategy For?

Typically, companies start working with digital in a haphazard way. They test channels and experiment with tools to find out their potential, not to achieve specific results. If the experiments are successful, they need to be systematized and built into an overall action plan – this is where the need to develop a digital strategy arises.

How to Build a Digital Strategy

A digital strategy is built on the same principles and with the same development stages as any other:

  • research of micro- and macroenvironment;
  • choice of main direction
  • setting global goals;
  • decomposition of global goals into specific steps;
  • regular checks to see if tactical actions are in line with the strategic plan.

Let’s consider each of the steps in detail.

Step 1. Research of Micro and Macro Environment, SWOT Analysis

Before planning for the future, you need to understand the current situation. In fact, to carry out a re-estimation of resources and look around at external factors. This is where the classic marketing tool, SWOT analysis, comes in handy.

SWOT analysis in marketing is a tool for assessing the current situation, a way to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the company, its opportunities, as well as potential threats.

Usually, SWOT analysis separately examines the microenvironment (the situation within the company that can be influenced) and the macroenvironment (external factors that need to be taken into account, but cannot be changed).

Micro environments factors include:

  • digital channels and audience in them – blog, social media accounts, mailing lists, media partners, etc.;
  • target audience and opportunities to communicate campaign messages to it;
  • available tools and services – web analytics, CRM, ad automation, etc.;
  • employees working with digital and their level of expertise.

And in the analysis of the macro environment, the following aspects are important:

  • technical literacy level of the target audience;
  • legal restrictions on the target market (GDPR, advertising restrictions for certain products, blocking of any channels, etc.)
  • limitations of the tools used (for example, the indexing conditions in the new Google algorithm);
  • actions of competitors in digital, etc.

When you have collected information about your own resources and external factors, it’s time to distribute them according to the SWOT matrix. And then the question arises of assessing the situation like: “2000 subscribers on Facebook – is it a lot or a little, a strength or a weakness?”. An easy way to find out is to analyze your competitors. Make a table in which to check competitors for a particular instrument.

Step 2. Formation of the Confrontation Matrix

When you have completed your SWOT analysis and have a ready-made table with strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, create a confrontation matrix based on it. It sounds scary, but in essence it is about planning four possible behaviors. Let’s look at a schematic example.

Let’s imagine a flower shop that opened digital a long time ago as a point of growth. And over the past 2-3 years, he has improved SEO, learned how to collect leads with contextual and targeted advertising. Sales are usually one-time, but in general it’s not a problem, because every time customers find exactly this company and selling them again is not a problem. But demand is growing, young competitors are appearing, who are gradually entering digital. And in this situation, something must be done.

The SO strategy is a growth strategy, use strengths to take advantage of opportunities. We continue to invest in context, further strengthening SEO in order to cover demand even more extensively.

ST’s strategy is to use strengths to mitigate threats. Here, too, we continue to increase SEO and paid traffic, but we do this not to increase our performance, but to deplete competitors. For example, you can artificially increase bids for “your” keywords so that the use of PPC becomes unprofitable for competitors.

The WO strategy is to minimize weaknesses using available opportunities. We make the most of the growth in demand, and we invest the resources thus obtained in mechanics that ensure the return of customers and brand building.

WT strategy is a strategy to protect, strengthen weaknesses and avoid threats. It is necessary to stand out from competitors, develop a USP and build a recognizable brand that will stand out from competitors and be remembered by regular customers.

Thus, we get 4 plans, which can be done in the current situation with the available resources. Which one to choose is your managerial decision. Compare the potential damage from threats to the potential growth from opportunities and choose a path for your company.

Step 3: Set Global Digital Marketing Goals

When the direction of movement is clear, it’s time to set goals. The chosen strategy must be packaged according to SMART.

SMART is a goal setting methodology where goals must be specific, measurable, achievable, meaningful, and time bound.

For example, consider the goal of “build a recognizable brand” in the context of SMART.

  1. Specific. “Increase the number of visitors who come to the site from organic or paid channels for branded queries.” There are many definitions of brand awareness, so in this paragraph, we will decide which one to take as a basis.
  2. Measurable. “For 20%”, “for N users”, etc. We replace the abstract “increase” from the last paragraph with numbers that can be collected and counted.
  3. Achievable. “Using N dollars of the budget.” For any action, resources are needed, and these resources must be calculated. Here, additional research may be required, on how many resources are needed for a particular result. 
  4. Relevant. “To stand out from the competition.” It is necessary to prescribe the desired result for the performers so that their tactical actions do not contradict it.
  5. Time bound. “In N months” or before a certain date. Without a time limit, the work will go on indefinitely and there is a high chance that the goal will never be achieved.

Let’s put the puzzle together. A SMART goal in a digital strategy would look like this:

“Increase the number of visitors that come to your site from organic or paid branded channels by N% using N dollars of budget over N months to stand out from the competition.”

Do the same analysis with all directions of the strategy and you will get a plan of concrete actions for the foreseeable future.

Step 4. Decomposition of Goals into Specific Tasks

This is perhaps the easiest, but at the same time the most time-consuming step. Plan the main actions that will lead to the achievement of a particular goal. If you want to increase subscribers by 200% in a year, break down the growth into individual months based on seasonality and demand, and write down possible actions for each time frame.

The strategy does not need to prescribe every day every action of each performer, this is an excessive level of detail. Mark out roughly what promotions you can run at different times, how you will distribute the advertising budget for different periods, what tools you need to launch and what channels to master.

Our clients usually take the first three steps within the company and come with specific tasks. Therefore, in building a tactical strategy, we rely on the client’s data, his market research and our own best practices. And directly in creating a plan, we start from determining the target audience, its needs and pains. Traditionally, the audience is divided by the degree of familiarity with the brand and product into:

  • cold audience,
  • neutral audience,
  • warm audience,
  • hot audience. 

Tactical strategy answers a number of questions.

  1. Where will the ads be placed for each audience?
  2. What is the purpose of developing each segment?
  3. What KPIs will cold, neutral, warm, and hot audiences have?
  4. What targeting should be used in each case?
  5. What creatives and in what formats will we place?
  6. What will be the frequency for cold, neutral, warm and hot audiences?

We conduct market research, and test campaigns, use our own experience, and answer each of the questions. The result is a table like this:

Step 5. Check Results Regularly

A strategy is useless if it is not followed. Therefore, here, at the planning stage, lay down a regular check of intermediate results. The frequency of such checks depends on the characteristics of your business and your team: someone brings statuses together once a week, someone needs only one meeting a month.

Collect data from analytics systems, ad cabinets, and reports on completed tasks to track how the company is moving along the strategy. So you can correct actions if somewhere the plan is overfulfilled or, on the contrary, stuck.

BrandLift is a great way to measure the effectiveness of your ads. Read our article “What BrandLift is and How it Works”.


  1. A digital marketing strategy is part of an overall marketing strategy that describes a plan to achieve business goals through digital channels.
  2. Companies create a digital strategy to streamline their work with digital tools and get stable, predictable and manageable results from them.
  3. The development of strategies begins with the collection of data, and here SWOT analysis will be an effective tool, which provides an understanding of the micro and macro environment.
  4. After conducting a SWOT analysis, build a confrontation matrix and choose a strategy based on existing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
  5. Formulate SMART strategy goals to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound.
  6. Further, the global goals should be decomposed into smaller ones and a plan should be written to achieve them. This plan will be your digital strategy.
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