Digital marketing is essential; it helps you connect with customers via online channels and enhance brand awareness. To ensure your campaigns succeed, you need an effective digital marketing plan and strategy. Not all businesses understand strategic planning’s importance. According to a Smart Insights report, only 17 percent clearly define their digital marketing strategies. If you want to create a digital marketing plan, here’s an overview of what it needs and four steps to take. Free E-Book: Your Guide to Online Learning Success Access your free e-book today. DOWNLOAD NOW What Is a Digital Marketing Plan & Why Is It Important? Technology has revolutionized business, but that doesn’t mean traditional marketing tactics are obsolete. “There are certain aspects of marketing that remain true no matter how technology changes,” says Harvard Business School Professor Sunil Gupta, who teaches the course Digital Marketing Strategy. “One of these aspects is the importance of developing a plan to effectively use your marketing resources.” A digital marketing plan is a comprehensive strategy outlining how your company will use digital channels to promote its products and services. Unlike traditional marketing tactics, it focuses on identifying your target audience and connecting with consumers via online platforms and channels. Your plan’s significance can’t be overstated. It provides a strategic focus while optimizing your marketing efforts and budget. More importantly, it ensures your company remains agile and responsive to market dynamics and maintains a competitive edge. Adaptability is particularly crucial in times of uncertainty. According to HubSpot, 20 percent of marketers pivoted their established marketing plans last year due to the potential for a recession. To help craft your digital marketing plan, here are four steps to ensuring it’s comprehensive and can weather market challenges. 4 Steps to Creating a Digital Marketing Plan 1. Set Goals & Objectives The first step to creating your digital marketing plan is understanding what goals and objectives are essential to succeed. “Companies often have multiple objectives, and you’ll need to prioritize and balance these goals,” Gupta says in Digital Marketing Strategy. “Often these goals are tied to the overall strategy of the company.” For example, if you don’t work at a big-name company, you may want to focus on brand awareness. If you’re a market leader, you may want to expand your target audience by highlighting a new or revised product or service. The best way to determine your company’s objectives is by identifying its challenges and opportunities throughout the customer journey , which has three stages: Awareness: Introducing customers to your brand or product to address a problem they have Consideration: Making customers aware of your brand or product while they evaluate alternatives Decision: Using information gathered during the previous stages to influence consumers’ purchasing decisions “Which stage of the funnel you focus on and how you allocate your budget across different stages depends on the specific context of your brand and where you feel is the greatest barrier for your growth,” Gupta says in Digital Marketing Strategy. Your company’s strategic decisions hinge on which customer journey stage they pertain to. For example, to increase conversion rates at the consideration stage, you could allocate more resources to producing targeted, personalized content. 2. Identify Your Target Audience Your digital marketing strategy is only effective if you know who you’re trying to attract. That’s why identifying your target audience —the consumers most likely interested in your products or services—is the next step to crafting your digital marketing plan. To determine your target audience, collect data related to: Demographics: General information like age, gender, and occupation that help you make implicit assumptions about customers Customer behavior: Behavior patterns related to your products or services, such as purchasing history and website interactions Consumer motivations: Primary motivations when making purchases, such as convenience, value, or status You can use your insights to employ tactics like segmentation —organizing your customers into groups. “While you can try and market a product to everyone, consumers have different needs and preferences,” Gupta says in Digital Marketing Strategy. “What appeals to one group of consumers may not appeal to another.” By segmenting your customers, you can provide personalized experiences—even when their needs or market conditions shift. 3 Most Common Types of Customer Needs to Be Aware Of Related: 3. Define Your Value Proposition Once you know who to target, you can communicate your value proposition . “If you want to convince consumers to buy your product, you need to give them a compelling reason to purchase your brand instead of a competing brand,” Gupta says in Digital Marketing Strategy. To start, you need to know your: Target audience Unique value Competitive set Justifications for brand value You can then combine these components into a value positioning statement: For [target market] , [Brand X] is the only brand that offers [unique value claim] among all [competitive set] because [reason to believe] . According to Digital Marketing Strategy, you can analyze your value claim’s validity and potency using the three C’s of brand positioning: Consumer analysis: Understanding your target audience’s behaviors, needs, preferences, and motivations. Competitor analysis: Evaluating your competitors’ strengths, weaknesses, and market position to enhance your strategy. Company analysis: Assessing your value proposition, capabilities, resources, and performance to identify areas for strategic improvement. Effective brand positioning requires being faithful to your value claim and ensuring it’s feasible and favorable. “As you work to create a value proposition, remember: A brand’s position is not just defined by the brand itself,” Gupta says in the course. “A brand co-creates its position with its consumers as they interact with each other and react to emerging cultural trends.” 4. Establish Metrics Metrics are critical to your marketing plan. Without key performance indicators (KPIs) , it can be difficult to tell whether it’s effective. Common marketing KPIs include: Impressions Click through rate Conversion rate “At the simplest level, you need to measure what you set out to achieve with your marketing objectives,” Gupta says in Digital Marketing Strategy. “And certain metrics will be more relevant for specific stages of the funnel.” For example, you can focus on metrics like impressions —the number of times your brand-specific content was displayed—to determine your strategy’s effectiveness at the awareness stage. With a well-crafted digital marketing plan, you can use metrics to optimize your strategy as priorities shift throughout the customer journey. Create Your Own Digital Marketing Plan If you want to be a more strategic marketer, you need a digital marketing plan. With one, you can solidify your company’s position, enhance your digital marketing skills, and satisfy customers. “Determining your marketing goals, who you’re reaching, understanding the uniqueness of what you have to offer them, and how you’ll measure the value of your marketing efforts isn’t always easy,” Gupta says in Digital Marketing Strategy. “However, as you clarify these components and create your plan, you’ll have a much clearer path ahead toward identifying, acquiring, and retaining customers.” One of the most effective ways to learn how to craft a plan is by enrolling in an online marketing course, such as Digital Marketing Strategy. Through real-world case studies and interactive exercises, you can understand how to position your brand for success. Do you want to create a digital marketing plan? Explore Digital Marketing Strategy to discover how. If you’re interested in exploring online education but aren’t sure where to start, download our free guide to online learning success. About the Author Kate Gibson is a copywriter and contributing writer for Harvard Business School Online.