Model rocket

Creating a successful digital strategy isn’t rocket science. But, even now, many businesses aren’t sure where to start. Here’s what has worked for me.

1) Look at your business goals. Every piece of your communication strategy should support specific business goals. What traditional marketing tactics do you use to support your business goals? Trade shows? Ads? Direct mail? Think about what’s working, and what isn’t. Could you transform that catchy print ad into an interactive feature for your website? Compile a list of questions you’re always asked at trade shows, and share them as an email newsletter feature or blog? Showcase your quirky company culture on social media to reduce recruitment costs?

The answer is not one-size-fits-all–it requires really thinking about your business needs, your customers and how you can better serve them.

2) Set some clear targets for what you’d like to accomplish with your digital outreach. “We should be on Twitter” is not a strategy. I’ve heard many small business owners lament that Twitter just doesn’t work for them. Unsurprisingly, questions about their strategy are met with blank stares. Don’t jump on the latest social media platform without a reason. Do you want to be known as a go-to resource in a specific niche? Create new (non-sales!) content and share industry news important to that field … and watch your inbound contacts increase. Want to increase online sales by 20%? Post content with links to your “buy” pages, and consider offering follower- and fan-only discounts on social media. ModCloth does a nice job sticking to their brand voice, while driving traffic to their sales pages in a non-pushy way.

3) Make an editorial calendar. It’s not enough to say you’ll create one new blog post a week, tweet 3 times a day and post to Facebook 4 times a week. What are you going to post, and when? What blog topics will you cover this month (and who will write them)? How will you make sure you balance your tweets with a mix of your target content, and not overdo the self-promotion? I like to make my own templates in Excel, tailored to exact business needs. But if you’re looking for ready-to-roll solutions, MarketingLand offers more on editorial calendars for social media, including downloadable templates.

4) Figure out how you’ll measure success.  Go back to your targets from step 2 and determine your baseline. Let’s say your goal is to increase contact form submissions by 30%. Figure out what the number is now, and start tracking progress. One way to do this is tracking conversions with Google Analytics, which lets you set up specifics on your desired outcomes. Then you can use a “reverse goal funnel” to figure out how visitors got to that point. (And, of course, look at what’s working and duplicate it elsewhere!)

To measure contact forms or other non-monetary objectives, use goals in Google Analytics. To measure sales increases, look at your online sales figures now (or averaged across the last six months or so), so you’ll have a baseline. Check out–you guessed it–Google Analytics ecommerce tools.  Or you might just need a simple spreadsheet to track your key metrics. Again, measuring success isn’t one-size-fits-all–the right way will make sense for your business, and not break the bank.

As you evaluate your digital marketing, remember: building relationships–even digital ones–takes time. Be patient. Set clear goals, plan how you’ll get there and follow-through on your editorial calendar schedule. Then monitor your results, and do more of what’s working. Simple? Yes. Easy? No. Worth it? You bet. But don’t take my word for it–that’s what your metrics are for.