A strong digital marketing strategy has a solid foundation and the ability to adapt. When it comes to setting future goals, a candid evaluation of what worked and what didn’t the year before is a crucial step for every modern business. To stay ahead of the curve this year, our team has a few insights on how to evaluate yours from an integrated point of view.
Louis Venter, CEO
‘Identify game-changing ideas’
How to develop a great strategy: It’s very difficult to be creative on demand so when plotting a strategy, I take a few weeks and just jot down ideas as they come. A good idea would be to keep a notebook or app with you as you’ll get them all over the place. The science says the connections will happen in downtime so use it properly in the preceding weeks. Take time to outline goals with your team/agencies and ask them to do the same.
Once you have a few ideas in place, set aside some quiet time to start shaping them. To help you focus on the ones that will really drive change and improve performance, categorise them as either game changers or incremental gain ideas. Flesh out the game changers and note the incrementals, then start working out the forecast and model against the previous year’s performance. If the idea really impacts the bottom line, keep it, if not, bin it. Be ruthless, or you’ll have a list full of ineffective ideas.
Next, take a good look at the performance of every channel. If it looks underwhelming, question the ROI on the spend and identify if you have a channel issue or an agency/team issue. Ask your agency/industry mates about the ROI they’re getting across brands and see how you stack up.
How to identify what worked and what didn’t: It’s down to the ROI for me. If it’s not driving ROI, then question it. One strong focus should be brand demand. If you only focus on ROI and don’t have a marketing team focusing on brand health, that needs to be in your plans.
Things to look out for: To be honest, a lot of this is a gut feeling. For example, if you feel a channel is overestimating revenue, cross-check their reporting with yours. Ask how their attribution model works and question it. If it passes the smell test then fine, if not dig deeper until you understand.
Also question the things going really well and invest more. Ask your teams how to add big growth again the following year and make sure their plans stack up, then build them into your strategy.
Common pitfalls to avoid: Don’t take external reports as gospel. Question the attribution and models as it could cost a lot if you just assume they are correct. Also make sure you focus on the game changers as far too much time is spent on the poor converting channels at the expense of the ones going really well. The good ones have the opportunity to improve even more, so challenge those teams to do even better.
Rishna Patel, Head of Client Services
How to develop a great strategy: Take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Start off by asking yourself a few key questions like:
- What exactly are you trying to achieve?
- What resources do you have at your disposal?
- How much growth can your business realistically handle?
Once you’ve established your ideal goals, look back and assess previous activity. Did each channel perform the way you expected? If not, why not?
Make sure that your strategy is also agile enough to adapt to new advancements. Factor in ongoing research and development to stay ahead of the game.
How to identify what worked and what didn’t: Start with assessing your activity against the objectives. ROI is the primary measurement goal, but you need to mindful that different channels will generate different ROI’s and it’s not just about investing in the channels that deliver the best ROI at face value. Digital is so interlinked that even though channels have different objectives, from brand awareness to direct sales, each contributes to the other.
Things to look out for: It can be easy to take numbers at face value without digging into whether the measurement metrics you’re tracking are the right ones for your business.
Common pitfalls to avoid: Be realistic about your goals and objectives given the resources you have. It’s easy to be too overzealous about your goals without taking into consideration the logistics. Will you have enough product available? Will you hit the point of diminishing returns on your media budget? Do you have enough staff available to fulfil the increased demand?
Jack Felstead, Head of Paid Media
‘Give equal attention to what worked and what didn’t’
How to develop a great strategy: Every great paid media strategy starts with understanding the needs and objectives of a business. Once these have been identified and KPIs have been agreed on, next steps are to plot a strategy with timelines, measurables, deliverables, and key actions that need to be carried out by team members.
How to identify what worked and what didn’t: By having set KPIs in place, we’re able to measure our results vs. targets and identify what worked well and what didn’t. Both are equally as important as we’re able to learn from projects/campaigns that may not have performed as well as expected, then either enhance them or move resources and budgets to projects that worked better.
Things to look out for: I’d suggest starting by checking one of our industry average trends (if you can’t find one then contact us and we will provide you with some insight). We can also see what your competitors are doing to achieve significant year on year increases.
Common pitfalls to avoid: Avoid setting unrealistic results without a clear plan of action on how to achieve them. Instead, focus on laying down achievable results with detailed steps on how to get there.
Marius Badenhorst, Head of SEO
‘If a strategy is working, build on it’
How to develop a great strategy: There are always new trends and developments to consider when developing an SEO strategy, but always go back to basics when you first start planning. The most crucial thing is to understand your audience and make sure goals and KPIs align with business objectives. A solid SEO strategy needs to include initiatives from other channels to ensure marketing activity is aligned to a greater goal. Ensure you set realistic expectations from the start.
How to identify what worked and what didn’t: Keep an eye on performance trends. If a specific part of a strategy is working, build on it further. Ensure your strategy is agile because if the performance trends buckle, ensure you have the time and resources to change.
Things to look out for: Benchmark yourself against competitors to keep ahead of the curve and set aside research time to stay ahead of new tech, then test, optimise and experiment.
Common pitfalls to avoid: There are always new trends emerging in SEO and it’s important to be aware of them and stay up to speed on all the latest developments. That said, don’t try to reinvent the wheel. If you’re seeing growth using a tactic, invest time and energy into it.
Jodie Harris, Head of Content & PR
‘Identify what content success looks like’
How to develop a great strategy: A content strategy is nothing without research and self-analysis as a starting point. Look at what you’ve produced and what clients and competitors have produced and then analyse a few brands completely outside your realm for inspiration. Once you’ve listed a few ideas, rank them according to complexity, potential impact, and audience focus to identify the most valuable.
How to identify what worked and what didn’t: Success means nothing without measurement to back it up. The first thing to do is identify what success looks like to you. Is it organic traffic, leads, sales, brand awareness, or backlinks? Before you can gauge how content has performed, you need to know why it was created in the first place.
Things to look out for: Planning is as important as execution, if not more so. Ensure you have a detailed plan that includes key milestones, so you have a solid foundation to work from. Be realistic and ensure everything detailed in your strategy is possible. It might be ambitious, but make sure you can pull it off.
Common pitfalls to avoid: It is very easy to get caught up in the creative on a content strategy, but don’t forget the basic details that go into website build, new pages and content hubs.
‘A good PR strategy should integrate with other channels naturally’
How to develop a great strategy: The difference between a good digital PR strategy and a great one is research. A competitor analysis, backlink analysis and a review on press trends can tell you a lot before you put together a plan. Start your strategy by identifying objectives and limitations for each brand.
How to identify what worked and what didn’t: The proof should be in your PR hits, but it doesn’t just stop there. Segment each campaign, story, product launch or content piece and analyse them singularly. This will tell you what story/campaign worked the best for that brand. Tie this back to the objectives, measuring what worked and what didn’t. A good strategy should integrate with other digital services naturally. Was this in the plan and did the strategy accomplish it?
Things to look out for: Each story that gets sold into press needs to tick the following basic checklist:
- How well has it met objectives?
- Has the Digital PR strategy launched without any glitches?
- Were deadlines met? If not, why?
- How much time is spent on sell in and to how many titles? If you’re working as more as a PR than a link builder, you need to ensure your contact list is fresh.
- How many contacts are listed and how long did it take?
- Number of hits. Count these by campaign or story rather than by timeframe.
- Quality of links – are they follow links? Where do they link to? What is the DA of the site. Include social sharing or syndication.
- Did the campaign run smoothly within the proposed time and budget?
- Press feedback.
Common pitfalls to avoid: Don’t start planning before you know the strategy and timeline of other marketing channels. Ensure you’ve taken note of all vital dates and launches. Be realistic about timelines and planning. A huge common pitfall is not knowing how much involvement a traditional PR agency will have and what their plans are. This can lead to crossed wires; the same contacts being approached more than once and sell in happening at different times. All parties need to be singing from the same hymn sheet for an excellent activation strategy.