To answer the question “How do I write an online marketing plan?” which is the same as “How to create digital marketing plan“, here you will find an overview of 10 steps to draw up an online marketing plan or setup your digital marketing strategy. This helps you enormously in strengthening your online impact.
How do I write an digital marketing plan?
Writing an online marketing plan or creating a digital marketing plan contains many specializations. Just think of online promotion forms such as search, display or email, improving the website, getting the online sales process right, creating good content, online branding, planning social media, etc. etc.
Making a plan adds all those different elements each other, bundles this and links it to the overarching business plan (or per SBU), marketing or communication plan. So get the business plan (if there is one), read it and see where the leads are and see the overlap. Take the IT with you, because there are so many interfaces between online and IT.
What is included in an online marketing plan? 10 key points you should pay attention to.
First, see why you need this online approach. Sometimes a simple action list of digital activities can be enough, if digital is not that very important to your organization.
If, on the other hand, several departments are involved with several different people and roles, and digital is the core of your business, you need an appropriate plan that tackles the different sub-areas structurally. So, first consider why do I need an online marketing plan?
For internal communication? For the budget? For an overview? For your manager? Maybe all of them.
Step 1 – Why do I need an digital marketing plan?
The online marketing plan is very useful for:
- How does the mission, vision and the marketing plan translate into online?
- Plan and keep an overview of all the online activities
- Provide an annual overview of all digital activities and the planned online promotions
- Accounting, KPI setting and results, monthly, quarterly and at the end of the year
- Determine and signoff a budget, check resources and use an extra financial plan for your budget
- Mapping online processes and handling service online (possibly in a separate plan)
- Connecting all kinds of running, planned and future online marketing campaigns
- Integrate learnings from old digital marketing campaigns
- Helping your organization (team) to align internal communication. For example: who creates the advertising material, what activities are there for online planned?
- A handle for internal staff and new staff onboarding- they are more likely to be trained and know where the direction is going – then it becomes more of a manual
Step 2 – Determine what you want to achieve with online
Determine the scope
Is the plan only about the online marketing, and also about the online processes, or even the entire organization, or just a part of it – just think of different arease like online HRM, online sales, online service, online IT, online logistics, and / or CRM? , etc. etc. For an online marketing plan, choose your online scope wisely: only online marketing actions. Set this also in the plan.
If you want broader scope, define a complete digital strategy at company level, which has a broader scope than just online marketing. Then you enter the field of digital transformation. Actually adapting your entire market approach to the online changes. (and that can also be your earnings model, or the markets in which you operate – and that is quite a challenge).
After determining the scope, determine the goals of the plan.
Determine the goals of the plan
For example, how many customers you want to reach through your online channels. How much website traffic, how many leads, how much conversion, how much turnover, how much profit, etc. At this point wait a little longer with the budget estimate, it is first to determine the goals. With goals you hang numbers on the goals. These numbers are needed to monitor progress through many great analytics tools that are now on the market.
How long is the time horizon of the plan?
Also determine the time horizon of the plan. For example, is it for a week (operational, suitable for daily business), month (monthly meetings), year (annual plan), 3 years (strategic plan), 5 years (for the investor). An annual plan is often useful.
If you want to look a little further, for example 3 years, the projects will be more strategic in nature. If it is a bit shorter, for example on a monthly basis, then it becomes much more concrete, but then you cannot handle the large projects.
It works well to first look ahead with forecasting, for example looking at 3 years further, than to sketch the point on the horizon where you want to go (also given the trends in your market). You then translate that per year (called backcasting).
Then you record that in steps each year, growing to the end point. This way you work towards the end result in steps. For example: 3 million turnover over 3 years, 2 million turnover over 2 years, 1 million turnover this year. You then add the extra activities to each of the goals.
Not a straight path to the goal
Reaching the end point is often not a straight road. Think like a ‘river’, it also meanders, if you have the dot on the horizon, it offers enormous support and when something goes wrong, you experience a delay, the technology breaks down, the scope changes, new insights take place with new management, etc.
That dot on the horizon and the bandwidth involved, gives you room to work towards the end result, perhaps via a different or adapted path. This bandwidth decreases your stress, that it all should be done exactly in the 2nd quarter, perhaps it can also be done in 4th quarter. As long as it flows in the right direction. This provides verhy helpful peace of mind and targeted action.
Also the consequence of defining an end point is the scrapping of many unnecessary small actions. This often results in a lot of savings and much less hassle. In short, making choices provides you with focus and creates space and resources are free to use, by not doing things either.
For this online marketing plan, we use a period of 1 year, and we focus on online marketing.
Determine the online marketing goals and objectives, for example:
- How many customers you want to reach
- How much website traffic you want for your goals (awareness)
- How high should the conversion be (performance)
- Which customers do I want to approach (and where can they be located)
- Also view the ratio of fixed versus new customer approach – there is often a lot of profit (focus on regular customers)
- How much a customer is worth to you (profit, Acquisition costs, Life Time Value, etc.)
- The infrastructure of the organization (IT), with an IT landscape card (works very handy for communication)
- Personnel requirements (number, skills, organization, recruitment)
- Projects you want to realize (website upgrade, technology, content, promotion)
- What appearance you want (beautiful website with your characteristic appearance (branding)
- Number of Leads Or customer subscriptions
Afterwards you can also ask yourself how this plan relates to the general marketing plan and / or the company objectives. If there are none, draw up and test with general management. If there are none, reserve time for the questions concerning marketing, service, sales, personnel, business objectives.
There is often a lot of delay here because the main goals of marketing or sales or the company are not yet hard defined. If this is the case, it will be a bit easier. Another tip is chopping up revenue goals into pieces per month and per online channel.
After setting the goals, create goals. Then you hang the numbers on your goals. For example, the goal: reach more customers. and the more precise (SMART) objective is for example: Reach 100 visitors to the website who are between 35-45 years old, in the month of October from Adwords. Create up to 5 goals. That immediately forces you to focus on the important.
Step 3 – Determine the Strategy
Strategy is determining how to achieve the goal. They contain different elements. Use various management theories and models to better assess the situation.
Make a strengths and weaknesses analysis of your online approach. Applying a SWOT analysis for your online promotions is often an unused sharing tool for online. This way you determine what you already score well on, what needs to be improved, and what is not really important to adjust immediately.
This often also results in larger projects (for example upgrading total CRM, setting up an integrated customer view across the channels, starting with content marketing, or improving the total branding / corporate identity, or tackling the digital infrastructure (databases, hosting, payments). as separate parts with separate projects in a digital plan, which also means project management.
If you want a complete digital transformation, you put digital at the center of your strategy, and you go back to the drawing board and tackle things in a broader and more strategic way. That means years of sessions, and more strategic deployment with the linking of business assets and certainly a horizon of 3 years.
Inventory of your current online situation
Let’s look back at last year. What really worked well (perhaps once or structurally)? And what did not go well (sometimes due to too little effort)? List those elements. You may need some interviews or conversations for that. Ask carefully.
… and what is the existing situation?
A check of the existing situation immediately helps to map and review the current situation. Perhaps your website is already in good shape, but you are spending too much money on Adwords, you find that SEO is slowing down a bit compared to your competitors, but then your e-mail is already well organized and you want to start working with Agile?
Also you may find you are short staff to achieve all your goals. An online marketing plan maps this out, allowing you to approach things in a more structured way, often removing the ad-hoc pressure from the organization.
Or you find out that you are getting enough traffic, but the wrong customers via website analyzing, or that repeat customers come to your website a lot, but are not served properly at all (return traffic segment duration), or that mobile is suddenly become more important than last year (% traffic from mobile on your website), but it is still not working properly (loading speed too slow). So put that in an overview.
Inventory of your current online situation
Let’s look back at last year. What really worked well (perhaps once or structurally)? And what did not go well (sometimes due to too little effort)? Perhaps you ran a POD business and some of your merchandise did not sell too well? Or maybe you exceeded certain expectations in selling specific products?
List those elements. You may need some interviews or conversations for that. Ask carefully.
How do you want to achieve your goals?
Via more promotion, content marketing, a better website, different products, better online services, a new revenue model, better software, more sales, different customers, a new corporate identity with appearance, just publish more articles, use an active social media approach – in short, all kinds opportunities. So put the goals in a list, link the actions to them. What are the paths you can take to achieve the goals?
Check now: with what intensity do you want to achieve the goals?
Is that rippling, just extra for the daily activities with a slightly different structure, or with an extra resource boost (budget, team, knowledge, external party), or via a one-off campaign?
Also choose your best performing channel
There are just too many places you can stand on. This is often only reserved for the very large organizations. Therefore, only determine a few platforms that you really want to go for. This limits enormously and provides a nice focus.
Marketing to YouTube Video channels
For example YouTube (for explanation of products and videos use), Facebook (for consumer interaction, Linkedin (for my salesforce and business communication), and then not Twitter, Vimeo, Blogger, etc., for example Pinterest (providing inspiration for your customers.
That saves a lot of time and effort later on. If you have a business approach, then LinkedIn is certainly part of it. Think, for example, of optimizing all your LinkedIn profiles of your sales staff, all posts on the company page of LinkedIn, responding (who does it) on incoming responses, targeting of prospects (e.g. via LinkedIn Sales Navigator) and recruiting new staff and for employer branding (human resources).
Therefore, choose the best suitable digitial channels. Sometimes not all channels are suitable for the online marketing approach, for example business LinkedIn doesn’t really work well for a consumer site, or there are no YouTube videos available at all – or they are too expensive to make. Or maybe Facebook is very suitable for reaching consumers or your type of customers. Determine the characteristics of the online channel and choose.
Apply the 80/20 rule
Yes, this works.
If you apply the 80/20 rule (80% of the result is due to 20% of the actions), you may also be able to delete the low impact actions. This results in enormous (time) savings. Furthermore, you can then use a lot more budget to further professionalize the 20% of the actions which drive 80% of results.
Perhaps this can be done by, for example, better new software (e.g. personalization for driving conversion), extra resources (e.g. an extra SEO specialist for driving more relevant traffic out of SEO) or the intensity of the content creation (e.g. more targeted content) or by further increasing the quality of it.
For example, if the newsletter works very well for your organization (as an information channel for your regular customers), check whether your e-mail list is neatly segmented, whether the quality of the posts is high enough, or whether your e-mail package needs to be renewed. turn into.
Or if LinkedIn provides a good image of your organization, consider upgrading the profiles of all your employees on LinkedIn. Perhaps with a good professional profile photo (tip: hire a real photographer that works very well), or an improvement of your company profile on LinkedIn. (and check your logo quality on LinkedIn).
Tackling issues when creating the digital marketing plan
After you have done all those analyzing, you determine the issues (from the SWOT) you will adress, and you will then tackle them with an action plan. You cannot do it all, so choose your battles wisely.
For example, a situation such as: I want more website visits (reach). – Situation – content marketing already generates a lot of search traffic to our website, but it does not convert properly yet. Action: improve the conversion of the website.
And then make it realistic (SMART): – Make the landing page of your service x from conversion from 0.2% to 0.35% through content improvements on the landing page. You can then pass these goals on to your employees or your online marketing agency.
Or for example – use a direct sales goal: Situation the leads that come in there are too few potential customers. Action: improve the lead process. In concrete terms: Actions could include: analyze current lead process and scores, determine target groups and best performing customers and services, identify drop-out points and improve parts of the website. This can be a separate project that you can easily incorporate into the plan. (Lead improvement).
Work from large to small.
So first determine what you want to achieve in broad terms (because the ‘why/ or purpose’ is already in your company mission), detail the main points a little and then determine the how.
Step 4 – Create the action overview, determine actions and prioritize
After analyzing and making the considerations, you can now create an action list with all your online actions. You then estimate how much effect they have on the estimated results, how much time / effort they take and whether they also strongly influence the result. You then put these priorities in a calendar. This way you spread the tasks in time, and it becomes more manageable. Now you have a rough action plan.
So what do you want to tackle?
So determine priority, which parts are the most important, where are the priorities, This is where the budget comes to the fore. You make a list of the actions and attach priorities and financial aspects to it. This is your actual online marketing plan in an Excel to start executing. Also adjust the actions to feasibility (financial, technical, resources).
Do you run online promotion campaigns?
If you also want to use a solid online campaign on top of your existing and current activities, for example with a new product introduction or new promotions, we recommend that you make a separate campaign document and include this in the general online marketing planning. as a separate project.
Determine the realization with responsibilities of the different stakeholders.
As with any project, make sure that involved and interested parties are mentioned by name and surname (preferably in the order of department function – officer name), this increases the sense of responsibility, and ensures that you are the right person in various situations. can discuss it. This does take some meeting and coordination time. Better to do this in the beginning (and also after six months during the evaluation), for better involvement, support and motivation to cooperate.
Step 5 – The Financials – Determine the Costs and Revenue
What does it cost? And what are the benefits? Estimate. Then you will see the priorities, and then you can fine-tune your plan again. This probably takes you 2-3 times, and a few discussions internally.
Put this in the financial section of the plan, this will be your business case.
Make financial calculations.
Think of Customer Life Time Value, and Profit per Customer to justify the lead acquisition investments. Also make an expense list and a revenue list. For example, how much does the promotional campaign cost and how much does this yield in numbers of traffic, customers and customer value and potential profit.
Step 6 – Organization – Check the impact on your environment
OPAFIT (Organization, Personnel, Administration, Financial, Information, Technology)
As with any project, you can write out the OPAFIT variables in your online marketing plan or digital project plan (if you work per project for example a website redesign or a CRM implementation or a platform change). This thinking is necessary to achieve results. If you work via Agile, make a long backlog for your sprint.
Dependencies & Stakeholders
You are not alone, your digital marketing plan has effects throughout the organization. Map this. Who will be affected by the plan and what are the pros and cons for them? Have they already been informed, involved or responsible (RACI model [link wikipedia of business models]). Do they want to cooperate or not, and why. (Angels / Demons model), prepare the arguments in advance.
Online Marketing impact on IT
New website tools or more traffic to your website has a technical impact on hosting and your technical infrastructure
Involve your IT organization in this plan (for example when reviewing, or even better at the time of first drafting – plan for example a week of review time. Also new tool choices and marketing technology (just think of (new) Customer Relationship Software this has a great impact on your IT operations.
Check the impact on Sales
Yes leads, but good ones please. A website is one thing, but the personal attention is much more important the salesforce will say is the most important. Whatever your perspective, you actually need them both. You need online and offline. Online often lends a hand with the sales deal, because most customers now search online for your company or services (thus you need SEO).
The sales department often signals (verbally) what is wrong with online. It is very handy to make a top 10 list what they would like to improve. From the customer perspective, which is what they often hear on the road. That makes it all a lot better. For example making traditional folders downloadable for customers. That saves the sales force and a customer an action,
Assess the impact of promotions on the sales organization
The effect of more digital promotion (for example LinkedIn campaigns, Google Ads campaigns, of Insta/FB campaigns) can also affect the sales departments. A new promotion campaign with for example new leadforms on the website, can simply drive more informationrequests for the service or sales organization.
For example if you do an email campaign, the peak response you’ll get, it is very helpful to notify service in advance, for handling extra customer requests.
With a good online campaign, you often get extra leads, which must also be qualified, contacted and followed up. Therefore, involving sales before running your online promotion campaign is essential to its overall effectiveness. You only get that, when you measure the bottom line (not only extra leads, but also extra customers (which is difficult to find out), or extra turnover.
Impact on Service
Do you have more social media traffic, do you receive more e-mails, or if an online storm erupts? Just think of the NS (public transport organizations), or KLM (airlines), if there are delays. Huge peak reactions. This makes a huge difference with proper handling in advance. A lot of internet traffic also impacts your service department, more incoming phone calls, or new technology sends extra phone calls to your service department, or vice versa.
Thinking about the changing service volume is really useful to include in the online marketing plan. Determine the volume of phone calls, e-mails, posts to respond.
The impact on Webcare team
Also determine who is in your webcare team. whether you respond facebook within 1 day. who has e-mail service etc. etc.
Helpful tips: write a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) list, with the email topics you receive in the inbox, or the questions from your customers. This way you create a self-service page, which works as self-service, but also increases customer satisfaction, because the customer can find all the questions already answered online, without extra effort.
Impact on Suppliers
Chances are that you already have several suppliers for your digital activities. You have to look at your suppliers. An online marketing plan helps enormously in briefing different suppliers or making even new choices in purchasing.
Impact on the Communication department
Creating more e-mails, different website maintenance methods, more or less IT, expanding daily social media care, or drawing up better whitepapers, or using more or fewer media agencies for your organization, activities of your communication departments can shift somewhat. An online marketing plan helps provide an overview.
Extra Tip: Prepare a PR escalation schedule, have an schedule ready, before it happens.
In a PR storm or with rising strong reactions on social media, a big tip is to determine in advance who is responsible for answering difficult questions. The storm often subsides, but there are urgent issues. Marketing manager + CEO or head of communication + CEO is often directly approachable. It makes a huge difference if this has already been discussed somewhere and it is determined ‘what to do with …’, because if it happens you often have to respond quickly within 30 minutes. Or is there a journalist on the doorstep, and he immediately uses social media to draw attention to the issue. Also determine in advance what the steps you will take, this provides a lot of clarity, in the event of a ‘communication crisis’. Make sure that the CEO (yes, and check this) is immediately accessible in case of strong media issues with a high brand impact.
Influence on Finance
For example, do you have an online shop, or do you handle debtors online and is this linked to your accounting? Involve the finance department or your favorite accountant in this approach. Estimating peaks in Cash Flow, currencies, tax handling and costs are all very useful. You can also discuss the financial KPIs nicely. This also forms a nice part of the total budget.
An integrated or a separate plan? Scope and organization – extra tip:
Because online is so ubiquitous, the online plan can also be drawn up per department. The tricky part of this is that they all become part initiatives, the wheel is invented the same thing several times in different places and that there is no line in it. Then work with a matrix approach, which means 1 point of contact for online matters or a coordinator with mandate (including Service, Sales, IT, etc.) who collects and maps all activities.
If your scope is simpler and online results in a website, online promotion and service, you can do with a simpler approach. The extent to which online influences the core of business operations and how your business is deployed determines the scope of the online plan.
Is it too much work to put all this into a plan and make one yourself or do you need help setting up a marketing plan? Request a quote. We are happy to help you write your online marketing plan.
Are you still here? Great, you are really interested in creating an online marketing plan!
Step 7 – Managing the Risks, quality, etc.
You can also name extra risks or quality elements. With a risk overview you can manage a little better. For example, Risk: the website breaks down – the web builder fixes it again – Solution: backup plan, mitigate risk – backup website once a month / a permanent web agency with 1 point of contact for urgent problems
Step 8 – Implement. Execute. The most important step.
The most important thing is the result. This comes through the continued execution of the plan. Once you have identified and defined actions and discussed the conditions, arranged them in a good order, you can now start the real work. This could be yourself, your team, your department, your organization, or outsourcing.
You have already made ‘the make or buy decision’ (do it yourself or outsource it) before (with financial analyzes & environmental scan). Use the online marketing template checklist for the overview.
Deploy extra resources, one-off or fixed?
Sometimes you need extra reinforcement from your team. An independent specialist can help with this. But don’t forget your permanent staff who may want to take up new tasks as part of personal growth. You may be able to divide several tasks additionally. Or hire a new staff member. If it is one-off work, consider work with external parties, if it is a lot of repetitive work (for example if social media, or drafting communication elements, ensure a smooth internal organization, which can produce beautiful articles on a continuous basis. time too short, consider hiring an external specialist.
The Financial Analysis comes in handy here now.
Because you have made a financial analysis, you can better determine, whether you should outsource or do the work in-house. The prioritization of tasks is also now more easy, because you have put a budget on the actions. That makes choosing and prioritizing your digital actions a lot easier.
Also allow 10-20% of the time for experiments and you still have room for unknown and new opportunities in the year.
Use of The Agile Methodology
If you work Agile, make a number of goals in the sprints. Often things could be a bit more difficult than expected, or your assumptions need to be adjusted. You can do this in the sprint. During the sprint implementation you often run into practical hindrances. If you already have an online plan, you have planned ahead of it. (Read more about Agile here. [link])
And just build. Go!
Step 9 – Evaluate the Operations
When you are performing the online actions, they often have an effect or take effect after a certain period of time. If you have installed good measurement tools for your organization, you can monitor how the performance will be. Measure and monitor for effect, analyze the responses and improve.
Some things work well or beyond expectations. Perhaps Facebook Ads, or are they under performing or not working well, or are they?
Put your best results on a beautiful A2 in color and hang it on the wall. Then everyone can see what is happening. And this also works as a talking point that you are working on. Such a nice infographic, takes a little time to make, but does a great job for you / your department / your organization. Everyone can see what is happening, this is a great PR tool.
An evaluation over the expiry period also improves insight through reflection, you can then see where things are already going well (reinforce, or do nothing more) and what parts are less performing (sometimes scrapping also works), or something else be made stronger (perhaps an email program). Improving once a year or every six months works well. That helps enormously. You can now make adjustments on a day / week / month / quarter basis.
After several improvements you will see the desired result getting closer, or that it has already been achieved suddenly, or that nothing at all happens, that means that you can start doing corrective actions, what can you do to make the result even better? Sometimes that’s more of the same, getting things done faster, etc. etc.
Step 10 – Enjoy the effect and celebrate the result!
When your online plan is finished, it will give you peace of mind, you can also pass it on to others in the organization, or use it at the briefings of your media agencies, website builders or ad suppliers, or conversion optimization parties, or your social media agency. It also ensures (if you also share it internally), for a good understanding of what is happening online.
This way you get the maximum benefit from your plan. When if you have specified and detailed the KPI’s properly, you also have control variables per year, quarter, month and even on a weekly basis, so you have laid the foundation for a structured approach to your online marketing and possible improvement of the rhythm for your online approach.
Nice tip: buy a cake with the website / promotion printed on it from a good bakery and treat your team with it ;), for celebrating when you reach milestones. Take a picture of it and post it on various (internal) social media. Feels good!
Finally, a closing note …
Finally, you see, making a plan is all answering about conceptual questions and discussing all those choices, which takes time and fine-tuning. When you do this properly, it will take more time in the beginning and afterwards you will have a solid plan, which you then can adjust annually (and that saves a lot of time afterwards). the year next after. You also become more professional with a digital marketing plan.
For example, creating an online marketing plan involves a lot of thinking and sorting. Schedule time at least 1-2 months of analysis, interview, review and (re)thinking time. If you already have a plan structure from previous years, it works faster because you can adjust the objectives. This saves a lot of time.
With this method you have laid good foundations for a solid and successful online marketing approach to build your business forward!
Do you need even more information and build your online marketing framework faster? Download an example online marketing plan template here. That works faster, easier and more focused.
If you would like some professional support in drawing up your online strategy or online marketing plan, please feel free to contact us, or request a free quote, we are happy to help you.