How to Build an Integrated Digital Marketing Plan for Your Business

Building an integrated digital marketing plan requires marketers to think about the media channels to reach consumers.

By: Michael Brito

Category: Content

An integrated digital marketing plan can help you reach your target audiences with creative campaigns, programs, and game-changing brand messaging.

Image of an integrated digital marketing plan

By using a variety of digital, social, and other online channels, you can connect with customers where they are most active online and drive action. Examples of digital marketing programs include paid and organic tactics, like search engine optimization (SEO), social media, email marketing, and digital media. In some cases, an integrated public relations program may also play a vital role in a digital marketing plan.

Digital media is typically used to drive mass awareness and website traffic, funneling down to sales and leads. Organic marketing tactics can be used for consideration and interest in a product or service. But there are always exceptions, so this is not always true. Every integrated digital marketing campaign is different, so you should be fine if the tactics align with the business goals.

Why is integrated digital Marketing important?

Integrated digital marketing strategies will surround-sound the audience with repetitive and consistent campaign messaging. If done right, it should work together to take customers down and through their path to purchase, reinforcing that your brand has all they need.

Some of the benefits of an integrated digital marketing plan include:

  • Reach a wider audience: Using multiple digital channels, you can reach a larger audience with repetition. Remember, consumers must interact with brand messaging 3-5 times before believing. Take action. Purchase. Tell others.
  • Build brand awareness and reputation: By delivering a strong, consistent message across all channels, you can control the narrative and build a better reputation for your brand.
  • Generate leads: Using digital marketing tactics that nurture customers and guide them through their purchase journey, you can generate more leads for your business.
  • Improved customer loyalty and retention: By providing a positive, consistent customer experience across all channels, you can improve customer loyalty and the likelihood to return in the future.

How to build an integrated digital marketing plan?

An integrated digital marketing plan outlines how you will achieve your marketing goals. The program should consider the brand’s strengths and weaknesses, audience definition, messaging, budget, and resources.

It should also be flexible, as the digital ecosystem is constantly changing. An excellent example of this is the opportunity of using the metaverse for business. An innovative digital marketing plan should include an integrated mix of search engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click (paid search), email and content marketing, organic social, paid ads in social media, and influencer marketing. It may also include digital advertising, events, and brand sponsorships for larger brands.

The exact mix of channels will vary depending on your company and business goals. But your digital marketing plan should always be integrated across all channels and work together to tell a cohesive story. It’s not uncommon for brands to launch quarterly digital marketing campaigns, so each should align with the plan.

Digital marketing strategy = business outcomes

When documenting your digital marketing strategy goals, you’ll need to map your programs to a larger business initiative. For example, if you want to sell more products, the digital marketing plan will need to include measurable goals that define the approach. For example, one marketing goal might look something like this:

  • Increase online sales by 32% by the end of 2023

Establishing goals will help you stay grounded, and you can prioritize all of your marketing tactics accordingly. Other business goals that you may have to align your integrated digital strategy to are more significant issues like reinforcing brand reputation, customer reputation, hiring top talent, and new product launches.

Defining your audience

The first step of building a digital marketing strategy is defining your audience. Without a clear understanding of who you are trying to reach, it will be challenging to create a digital marketing program and messages or choose the proper channels for reaching them.

To get started, you’ll have to get answers to the following questions:

  • What are their demographics? (age, gender, location, etc.)
  • What are their interests?
  • What are their needs and pain points?
  • What motivates them? (fear, greed, altruism, etc.)
  • Where do they spend their time online?

You can create buyer personas, which are visual representations of your ideal customer. Buyer personas help focus your marketing efforts and ensure that you are creating relevant and engaging content for your target audience. To do this the right way, you must facilitate an audience analysis to get the data you need.

If you don’t have the budget to do an audience analysis, you can also leverage 3rd party research from resources like GlobalWebIndex, Statista, or eMarketer. They often publish market research that you can reference in your plan. Below is a great example.

Image of primary research of social media usage

Brand narrative: Writing your source of truth

In today’s competitive marketplace, it’s not enough to just sell a product or service or be “open for business.” To succeed, you need to create an emotional connection with your customers. The best way to do this is by writing a brand narrative. A brand narrative is a story that encapsulates the essence of your brand and why you exist. It should be written like poetry. Not like Haiku or a nursery rhyme. If you read it aloud, it should flow, and you should get tingles. It needs to be passionate and deliver on emotion.

When writing your narrative, you’ll need to answer these three questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you stand for?
  • Why should others care?

A brand narrative is NOT where you would find information about the company history, locations, or executives. That’s what the “about” section is for on the corporate website. Instead, think of your narrative as a manifesto or north star. All integrated digital marketing campaigns, assets, status updates, and web pages should align with that narrative. Writing a brand narrative will be crucial to your marketing plan, and key message statements will make it easier to implement.

Aligning key messages to the narrative

Writing out key messages is a best practice for providing more specificity to a brand narrative. These are used to provide more clarity to the larger brand narrative.

Any marketing campaign is only as strong as its key messages. These are the concise phrases that capture the essence of what you’re trying to sell, and they should be at the heart of every ad, piece of content, and interaction with potential customers. It needs to be the foundation of your customer experience.

Without clear and concise messaging, your target audience may get confused, and the performance of your digital media campaign will suffer.

Below is an example of a brand narrative of a fictional photography brand called Photolabs.

Image of a brand narrative for a digital marketing plan

And below is an example of what supportive key messages may look like based on two different audiences. Remember, key messages are meant to reinforce the brand narrative, and work especially well if you have multiple products and audiences.

Image of key messaging points for digital marketing

Using PESO to build a digital marketing plan

PESO is an acronym that stands for paid, earned, shared, and owned media channels. It provides a way to segment all of your digital marketing activities across each of these channels. In my mind, PESO is synonymous with integrated marketing.

When integrating PESO into your plan, one example might look something like the following:

  • Paid Media: This would include a summary of all your digital media programs that would consist of budget (spend by channel), creative (including tech specs), channels (display ads, Google paid search, sponsorships, content syndication), other paid media programs and measurement. This approach would be similar to creating a complete digital media plan.
  • Earned Media: A summary of your target media outlets, relationships, influencer/and brand ambassador programs, and measurement.
  • Shared Media: This would include a social media strategy with objectives (by platform), content themes, influencers/advocates, paid social media programs, and measurement.
  • Owned Media: A summary of your website goals, SEO and optimization tactics, lead capture forms, landing pages, email marketing, nurture program, and measurement.

While PESO is one way to structure your digital marketing plan, you can also approach it at the channel level.

Building a digital marketing plan by media channel

HubSpot recently released its 2021 State of Marketing report, and there is a wealth of information for digital marketers to help them prioritize in the coming year. They surveyed over 1500 marketers globally and provided critical insights, strategic recommendations, and best practices for digital marketing success.

Below are the top 10 digital marketing tactics of 2021. In addition, your digital marketing plan should include some actionable data points and marketing stats.

Content Creation for Digital Marketing

Almost 35% of marketers focused on content creation in 2021. This data point surprises me. Every digital marketing program requires content creation. So I would expect this to be much higher than 35%.

What is content creation?

Content isn’t a digital marketing channel. It’s the fuel that powers everything. Content creation for digital marketing can be defined as developing and distributing digital assets across all channels. This can include creative campaigns, social creative, blog posts, infographics, video content, etc. Content must be well-written, informative, engaging, and creative to be effective. It must provide value to your customers, whether entertainment, news, education or the availability of new products and services.

It should also target the right audience and distribute on the right digital media channels. The good news is that you can use performance analytics from previous campaigns to serve as benchmarks and inform future programs. Unfortunately, many people equate content creation with content marketing. It’s related, but they aren’t the same thing.

My take: According to the same report, over 60% of marketers used video as a primary form of media within their content strategy in 2021. This is a good thing. Short-form video on TikTok or Instagram is a no-brainer for the Gen Z audience. And as stated earlier, long-form content, specifically video content on YouTube, has a shelf life of forever, as YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine, right behind Google.

Social Media Marketing is Table Stakes

According to HubSpot, almost 70% of marketers surveyed said that social media was the primary approach to their digital marketing strategy in 2021. That shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. For years, social media has been a channel to engage with customers, build brand advocacy, activate influencers, and tell brand stories.

What is social media marketing?

Social media marketing (SMM) is the process of creating content that encourages audience engagement to achieve specific marketing goals. For example, SMM can increase brand awareness, build relationships with customers, generate leads, or even drive sales. To be effective, SMM must be carefully planned and executed to understand the target audience and the desired outcome.

Several social media platforms can be used for your digital marketing strategy, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and LinkedIn. All the social media platforms have their unique features and demographics. Therefore, it is essential to carefully select the media platform (or platforms) that will best reach the target audience.

Once the platform(s) have been selected, the next step is to develop engaging content to encourage the audience to take action. This might include blog posts, infographics, images, videos, or even just short status updates about what’s going on with the company or product. It is also essential to monitor and respond to user activity on the chosen platform (or platforms). This can help build relationships with potential customers and create a positive reputation for the brand.

My take: Social media marketing will continue to be a channel where marketers will find success. However, brands should segment their marketing execution and provide different approaches for each channel. Every social network is different based on audience, functionality, best practices, etc. This approach will require more work and budget, but the benefits of telling unique and relevant brand stories are worth it.

Search Engine Optimization

According to HubSpot, 40% of marketers surveyed prioritize SEO as a part of their digital marketing strategy.

What is search engine optimization (SEO)?

SEO is the process of improving the ranking of a web page in the Google search results. The higher the ranking, the more likely people will find your content while researching online. Several factors contribute to a website’s ranking, including the quality of content, the number and authority of links to the site, and the age of the domain. SEO is a complex and ever-evolving field, and it can be challenging to keep up with all the latest changes. However, there are a few basic principles that remain constant. The first is that keyword research is essential.

Keywords are the terms that people use when searching for information on a given topic. By understanding which keywords are most popular, you can ensure that your website appears high in the search results for those keywords. The second principle is that writing quality content needs to be a priority. A website with well-written, informative content and optimized metadata (title tags, description tags, H1 tags) will rank high on Google.

Finally, link building is important to achieve high search results on Google. Inbound links from high-quality websites signal to search engines that your site is also high-quality and should be ranked accordingly.

My take: This is a massive miss for two reasons. First, Google is the gateway into the entire digital ecosystem. It is the home page for every consumer and B2B buyer. Second, the shelf life of long-form content lives forever in the Google search results. SEO should be a staple in every marketing strategy.

Account-Based Marketing (ABM)

Almost 40% of marketers prioritized ABM or account-based marketing in their 2021 strategy. ABM is a marketing tactic for B2B brands and involves a strategic partnership between marketing and sales teams. They create customized programs and target accounts through personalized content, email, digital activation, and thought leadership.

What is Account-Based Marketing (ABM)?

Account-based marketing (ABM) is a strategic approach to B2B marketing and requires you to tailor your marketing efforts to a select group of high-value accounts. The goal of ABM is to generate more revenue from these accounts by working closely with them to develop customized solutions that meet their specific needs.

ABM departs from traditional marketing techniques, which typically take a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, with ABM, each account is treated as its market, and the marketing strategy is designed specifically for that account. This approach requires a deep understanding of the account’s business objectives, challenges, and decision-makers.

ABM programs are usually implemented by sales and marketing teams working together. The sales team provides insights into the account’s specific needs, while the marketing team creates personalized content and messages that speak directly to those needs. The goal is to create a seamless experience for the customer that builds trust and ultimately leads to more business.

While ABM requires a more significant investment of time and resources than traditional marketing, the pay-off can be substantial. For example, studies have shown that ABM programs deliver ten times higher ROI than general awareness campaigns.

My take: ABM is not easy. It takes patience and requires strong collaboration internally. ABM will not be successful without these two characteristics. It’s also important to note that ABM can be integrated with more prominent influencer and thought leadership campaigns. A few ABM case studies from brands like Snowflake and GumGum used ABM successfully.

Paid Social Media Ads

Just under 30% of marketers surveyed were focused on buying targeted social ads in their digital marketing. Posting social media content organically wastes time, energy, and budget. Organic reach is less than 1%.

What is paid social media?

Paid social media is promoting a product or service on social media platforms. This can be in boosted posts on Facebook, sponsored tweets on Twitter, or LinkedIn ads. The benefit of using paid social media is that you can target your audiences at a very granular level, increasing their chances of seeing and engaging with the content.

Paid social media can be an extremely effective way to reach new consumers, but it is essential to use it wisely. Overuse of paid social media can lead to audience fatigue, and the performance of your ads will suffer.

My take: I’m glad to see that marketing and communications teams are allocating budget for paid social. Teams use it outside of demand generation programs to create awareness and consideration. However, just because marketers promote content doesn’t necessarily mean that it will perform. The content itself must tell a story and drive action simultaneously.

Demand Generation Marketing

Over 20% of marketers prioritized demand generation marketing programs in 2021. HubSpot refers to this as “generating referrals.” I call it demand gen.

What is demand generation marketing?

At its simplest, demand gen marketing generates interest in a product, service, or technology to create audience demand. However, there are various ways to generate demand. The term “demand gen marketing” can refer to a wide range of activities, from content marketing and lead generation to email marketing and ABM.

My take: In the same report, marketers cited Facebook as the top social media channel to see the best ROI. I want to double click on this data point to see how these marketers defined ROI. It would also be nice to understand whether these marketers worked for a B2B or consumer brand. If these business verticals segmented the survey, the data would tell a different story.

Inbound Marketing

Less than 20% of marketers surveyed were focused on inbound marketing in 2021.

What is inbound marketing?

Hubspot invented the term “inbound marketing.” It describes a marketing strategy that focuses on attracting customers rather than actively seeking them out. Inbound marketing aims to create a relationship with potential customers and build trust and credibility.

By providing relevant and valuable information, you can attract customers who are already interested in the product or services that you are selling. Once a customer is engaged, your goal is to convert them into a paying customer. You can turn one-time buyers into lifelong fans by nurturing the relationship and providing excellent customer service.

My take: I am not a fan of using inbound marketing as a term, and I don’t think it makes sense to add that as a question on a survey. Inbound marketing is a modern way of saying “pull marketing,” which creates unique digital and content experiences to pull customers into a branded ecosystem.

TV Advertising

About 20% of marketers surveyed were focused on buying TV ads in 2021. This makes sense, given that most of the world was working from home. We’ll see how much this will change in 2022. What’s missing in the report is OTT advertising.

Buying media on television is self-explanatory. It’s a commercial. This has always been a powerful way to reach consumers. The most popular form of TV advertising has always been a Super Bowl commercial. Most creative teams strive to create and produce a 30-second spot during halftime.

There are various formats that TV commercials can take, from traditional 30-second spots to longer infomercials. If you are a night owl like me, you’ve probably noticed Chuck Norris infomercials selling various exercise and workout equipment. I’ve purchased many of these products.

OTT advertising is taking over

OTT stands for “Over the Top” and refers to any streaming service that delivers ads over the internet. It’s also known as streaming TV ads, and if you are a subscriber to Hulu or Peacock, you are familiar with these ads.

OTT specifically refers to delivering content over the internet to consumer-connected devices, including smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops, and streaming media players like Roku. Advertisers and marketers use various OTT platforms to reach their target consumers with video ads played before, during, or after the main video content is viewed.

The OTT ecosystem comprises several stakeholders, including content creators, distributors, tech platforms, and digital agencies. The key advantages of OTT advertising are its potential to reach a large audience with targeted messaging and its ability to generate real-time feedback that can be used to optimize future digital marketing strategies and campaigns.

Trade Shows & Customer Events

About 15% of marketers surveyed were focused on trade shows in 2021. It makes sense that this number is also low, given that there just weren’t many trades shows even happening in 2021.

Trade shows & events are back post-pandemic

Trade shows and events are critical for B2B and tech brands. For many, it’s the one event where the sales pipeline is filled with new leads for a given quarter.

Trade shows and customer events allow you to showcase your products and services to existing customers or new prospects. Trade shows are usually organized around a particular industry or theme. As a result, they tend to attract attendees interested in that specific subject, like the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, SXSW in Austin, or the annual Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society HIMSS conference.

Customer events are more focused on the business. The most famous customer event is Dreamforce which typically takes over the entire city of San Francisco for several days. In addition, most B2B and technology companies have annual customer conferences to showcase and demo new products and interact with high-profile customers.

My take: If 2022 opens up, trade shows like CES and SXSW will be in full swing, attracting marketers and thought leaders across all industries. The benefit of using trade shows and events in marketing is that they could be integrated with ABM, influencer marketing, and thought leadership.

Out-of-Home Advertising

About 15 % of marketers surveyed were focused on buying media out of the home. This includes billboards, posters, bus stops, and anything “out-of-home.”

What is out-of-home advertising?

Out-of-home advertising is a type of marketing that exists in the physical world and is not confined to electronic screens, although that is changing with digital billboards. This could include anything from billboards to bus stops and flyers to façades. It’s one of the oldest forms of advertising, and its history can be traced back to ancient civilizations that used things like wall paintings and stone carvings to communicate messages.

In more recent times, out-of-home advertising has evolved into a highly sophisticated industry that uses cutting-edge technology to create dynamic and interactive experiences.

My take: This number will undoubtedly increase in 2022 as more business community returns to work, public transportation reemerges, and more consumers start traveling again.

There’s more to integrated digital marketing

The ten digital marketing tactics just covered are the basics and should be included in all plans. However, there’s more to consider. The emergence of the Metaverse opens up new opportunities for marketing in virtual reality. Influencer marketing has become increasingly popular and effective, but only if done correctly. And, of course, analytics play a critical role in understanding what’s working and what’s not so you can adjust your strategy accordingly.

The Metaverse Brings New Digital Marketing Opportunities

As technology evolves, new media platforms and digital channels are constantly emerging. One of the most promising new frontiers is the metaverse, a virtual world that offers endless possibilities for brand engagement. While the metaverse is still in its early stages, it has already shown immense potential as a digital marketing platform.

For example, you can create virtual experiences that allow customers to interact with your products in a completely new way. In addition, the metaverse offers an unprecedented level of data collection and analysis, providing marketers with valuable insights into customer behavior. As the metaverse for business matures, it will become an increasingly important part of a digital marketing strategy.

Influencer Marketing is Still a Thing

Consumer, B2B, and healthcare brands spend millions of dollars per year on influencer marketing. While the approach for each industry differs, the results are the same. Influencer marketing allows you to partner with third-party, influential voices or content creators and creates integrated brand experiences.

Data, Analytics, and Consumer Insights

Data is everything. You most likely already have a vast amount of data on your customer. The most successful companies know how to make use of this data. Data analytics is essential for understanding customer behavior, and it can be used to develop targeted and integrated digital marketing campaigns that are more likely to result in conversions. Including data analytics in a digital marketing strategy can help improve ROI and provide valuable insights into customer behavior.

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