A digital marketing plan helps you determine the most effective digital marketing strategies for your business and then put those strategies into action.

Without a well-defined digital marketing plan in place, you’ll likely end up wasting money and not making the impact you want.

A digital marketing plan can include business and marketing goals, strategies you’ll use to meet those goals, timelines, digital channels, and more.

Digital marketing has become exponentially more complicated since the early days of the internet. Back then, businesses rarely created a digital marketing plan. And those that did, focused mostly on websites, banner ads, and email marketing.

Now, you have dozens of digital marketing channels and platforms to choose from. Should you focus on SEO or PPC? Blogging or webinars? Social media or email? Podcasts or video marketing? Augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR)? How much should you spend and when can you expect to see results? Trying to choose the best options for your brand can feel daunting, overwhelming even.

What you need is a digital marketing plan.

An effective plan helps you determine the most effective digital marketing strategies for your business and then put those strategies into action. A digital marketing plan helps you organize your initiatives so that you’re continually connecting with your audience, engaging them, and driving them to action. With a digital marketing business plan, you think ahead, coordinate among departments, and integrate your digital marketing for greater impact.

Read on, and learn nine steps to creating a powerful digital marketing plan.

A digital marketing plan is a document in which you strategically map out your digital marketing objectives, as well the actions you’ll take to achieve those objectives. Among other things, it can include business goals, digital strategies you’ll use to meet those goals, competitive landscape analysis, timelines, budgets, digital channels, and more.

Think of a digital marketing plan like a roadmap of sorts. You know where you want to go, and the plan provides you with a specific route to follow.

Without a well-defined plan in place, your digital marketing efforts will be inefficient and ineffective. You’ll likely end up wasting money and not making the impact you want.

Now, let’s talk about the various digital marketing plan components as well as the specific steps to follow as you develop your strategy.

Clear, measurable, and attainable digital marketing plan objectives help you define exactly what you want to achieve and measure. When setting these goals, be as concrete as possible. Include specific numbers and timeframes that can serve as benchmarks for your progress.

For example, goals like increasing lead generation, boosting conversion rates, or improving customer experience are too vague. You can’t measure your results and it’s not apparent what steps you should take to reach that goal.

A much better goal is to double organic search traffic in the next 12 months. This provides you with a deadline, a framework for setting milestone goals, and specific actions to take (optimize your site, create amazing content, and conduct strategic outreach for SEO, etc.).

Smart goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) give you clarity on the actions you need to take to achieve those things.

Create a Digital Marketing Plan in 9 Easy Steps
Create a Digital Marketing Plan in 9 Easy Steps

For any digital marketing campaign to be successful, you need to know who you’re targeting. Segmenting your audience and then building buyer personas for each of those segments can provide you with insights about what types of marketing will be most effective.

For example, say you sell IT services. Part of your audience might be small businesses with less than $500,000 in revenue. You might also sell to large corporations with significant IT needs. Your buyer personas and marketing strategies for each of these segments will look very different. Messaging that resonates with a small business owner probably won’t resonate with the head of a large IT department, and vice versa.

Start by defining the different segments in your target audience. From there, begin building out the personas of your ideal customer within each segment. Here are 9 great examples of buyer personas to get started.

Your buyer persona information will vary depending on whether you’re B2B or B2C and the price of your product/service. Some demographic and additional information you may want to include is:

Your goal in creating personas is to get inside the minds of your target customers and to see things from their perspectives. When you understand what matters most to them, you can craft a digital marketing plan that speaks to their deep desires and big challenges.

If you want your marketing efforts to be effective, you need to know who you’re up against. A competitive analysis allows you to identify your competitors and analyze what they offer, the marketing strategies they employ, and any ways you can differentiate yourself.

When doing your competitive analysis, consider the following types of things:

A thorough competitive landscape analysis will give you insights into how you can use online marketing to surpass your competitors. For example, you may realize that their positioning and differentiation are well known, and so you’ll benefit from crystalizing your own in contrast. Or, you may see that they are strong in social media marketing but are lacking when it comes to SEO and their performance in the search engines.

A SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis is the other side of the coin from a competitive landscape analysis. It provides you with a framework for analyzing your business in the overall framework of your market. It enables you to identify what is and isn’t working, spot potential growth opportunities, and prepare for external threats.

Start by analyzing the strengths of your company. What are your primary advantages over your competition? Which things do you do particularly well? What unique resources do you have at your disposal?

Next, look at your weaknesses. What elements of your business aren’t working particularly well? What things keep you from making sales? Where do you fall short of your competitors?

The third step is to look closely at the opportunities available to your company. Are there any market trends you can take advantage of? Can you utilize new technology that your competitors can’t? Is there an under-served segment in your audience?

Finally, identify any potential threats to your business. Could a competitor steal market share? Are there any obstacles blocking your growth? Are there potential financial issues on the horizon?

The data from your SWOT analysis will help shape your digital marketing plan. Your plan should cater to your strengths, mitigate your weaknesses, move toward opportunities, and proactively avoid potential threats. All in the name of helping you to increase sales.

The next step in creating the best digital marketing plan for your brand is to calculate your budget. The budget will define how much you have available to spend on digital marketing activities, as well as guide you toward specific channels, strategies, and tactics.

The amount you budget for digital marketing will vary based on a number of factors, including:

How much will you allocate to building brand awareness? What about to specific campaigns and offers? Are you going to allocate a certain amount of digital marketing budget for customer retention? Do you know how much to spend on SEO?

It’s important to establish your budget upfront. However, remain flexible so you can capitalize on opportunities for greater SEO ROI. If you notice that a certain campaign just isn’t generating positive ROI, then you may be better off eliminating that spend. Similarly, if you see that a certain campaign (or channel) is producing outsized results, consider shifting the budget and allocate additional dollars towards what’s working well. If you have a specific return-on-spend in mind that’s highly profitable, then keep increasing the budget as long as you’re keeping your acquisition costs under the target.

In this way, your budget can be a dynamic, evolving support mechanism of your digital marketing initiatives.

Create a Digital Marketing Plan in 9 Easy Steps
Create a Digital Marketing Plan in 9 Easy Steps

Before you develop a content strategy, you’ll need to define the primary digital channels you’ll be using. Your choice of channels needs to take into account your audience, goals, and budget.

For example, say your goal is to drive 30% more targeted traffic to your website. One way to do that is through PPC ads, which can give you an immediate boost. However, Google Adwords can also be expensive.

If you have a limited budget, you’ll need to turn to more cost-effective channels, like SEO and content marketing. These channels take longer to produce results but also deliver a far lower acquisition cost, giving you more bang for your buck. Plus, SEO and content marketing results compound over time, setting you up for longer-term sustainable success.

When defining your digital channels, consider where your audience spends most of their time. If you’re in a B2B industry, you may want to focus on channels like LinkedIn or webinars. If your audience is younger, you may want to consider influencer marketing on Instagram. Focus on how you can deliver value to your audience within the channels they favor most.

After defining your channels, you need to develop the digital marketing tactics and strategies you’ll use within those channels.

For example, if you’re going to focus on search engine optimization, you need to determine the keywords you’re going to target and how you’re going to target them. You may decide to create a comprehensive knowledge hub, SEO topic clusters, online courses, or a series of online tools. Or you may decide to provide more detailed, superior how-to information, or to deliver insights on upcoming trends, or to deliver content featuring celebrities.

Or, if you’re focused on b2b lead generation, you may want to create case studies that showcase your results.

As you think through your digital marketing strategies and tactics, look for ways to differentiate yourself from the competition. If you do what everyone else is doing, you’ll have a hard time standing out.

Dollar Shave Club caught people’s attention by being funny and irreverent in a traditionally boring industry.

Tableau offered a free online tool and garnered backlinks from more than 56,000 websites.

LEGO created an online, interactive community with more than 300,000 in monthly organic traffic.

You may do something completely different.

The more crowded the market space, the harder you’ll need to work to capture attention and achieve true optimization across your digital marketing portfolio. Whatever you do when developing your digital marketing strategies and tactics, be true to your brand.

A marketing calendar allows you to map out exactly when you’ll implement your digital marketing campaigns and initiatives. It also creates accountability, ensuring that you hit deadlines and effectively execute the plan throughout the year. A calendar also helps ensure that you are consistently reaching each of your various audience segments throughout the year.

Try to map out 12 months in advance, and break down your calendar into each month of the year. This will provide you with an overall framework, along with sufficient time to prepare and execute on each delivery. For example:

Be realistic when creating your calendar. Give yourself sufficient time to get everything done in a quality manner, and make sure that each deliverable is clearly assigned to a specific individual.

The final step in creating a digital marketing plan and strategy is to measure your results through the definition of metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs). You need to compare the outcomes of your marketing efforts to the baseline as well as original goals. If the results are underwhelming, adjust and optimize, and then measure again.

Be sure to measure each channel so that you, as a marketer, can identify what’s working most successfully for your brand, and what may need to be cut.

Keep your entire marketing team informed through dashboards. Popular dashboard software includes Klipfolio, TapClicks, Grow, and Domo.

Create a Digital Marketing Plan in 9 Easy Steps
Create a Digital Marketing Plan in 9 Easy Steps

Developing a digital marketing plan encourages marketing integration which fuels greater business impact. Customers can’t ignore your brand when you consistently engulf them in your messaging, offers, and calls to action. As a result, you will achieve more, with less, by efficiently and intelligently repurposing and atomizing your marketing assets.

Whether your company is an established ecommerce brand or a brick-and-mortar juggernaut, you need to have a digital marketing plan. Although it takes time, effort, and coordination, it’s worth the work. Your marketing will be much more effective, and you’ll achieve greater marketing results for the business.

Create a Digital Marketing Plan in 9 Easy Steps
Create a Digital Marketing Plan in 9 Easy Steps
Create a Digital Marketing Plan in 9 Easy Steps
Create a Digital Marketing Plan in 9 Easy Steps
Create a Digital Marketing Plan in 9 Easy Steps
Create a Digital Marketing Plan in 9 Easy Steps
Create a Digital Marketing Plan in 9 Easy Steps
Create a Digital Marketing Plan in 9 Easy Steps
Create a Digital Marketing Plan in 9 Easy Steps
Create a Digital Marketing Plan in 9 Easy Steps
Create a Digital Marketing Plan in 9 Easy Steps
Create a Digital Marketing Plan in 9 Easy Steps
Create a Digital Marketing Plan in 9 Easy Steps
Create a Digital Marketing Plan in 9 Easy Steps