Before I got into digital marketing, I was a freelance podcast producer. Although I enjoyed the work, over time it became increasingly frustrating, and I started losing that sense of purpose and meaning that motivates us.
I kept seeing cases where having a large podcast audience didn’t translate into customers and revenue. I wanted to be able to make a bigger impact and help my clients grow their businesses, but at the time, I couldn’t connect the dots.
Everyone says content is king these days. Although this is true to some extent, it’s a little too simplistic. It implies that if you just put out as much content as possible, you’ll automatically get more leads and customers. But there’s much more to it than that.
Why You Need an Integrated Strategy
In 2018, I took on a major project to help a coaching company relaunch their podcast. We embarked on a massive effort, pumping out three long-form podcasts every week, and in only four months, managed to break 10,000 downloads per month.
Unfortunately, this massive podcast audience we built up wasn’t leading to an increase in customers or revenue. After putting in so much time and energy over many months, the company suddenly ended the project because there was no clear ROI.
Imagine as a business owner, you invest tons of time and money into building up a new marketing channel, only to see no improvement in your bottom line. It’s easy to get tunnel vision and double down on the same tactics that aren’t working. Then six or twelve months later, you look back and wonder what went wrong. You might even feel like it was all a waste.
This is what can happen if you don’t take an integrated approach to digital marketing. You might jump from one tactic to another, hoping it’ll help grow your business, but it rarely ever does, because you haven’t established an overarching strategy.
Maybe you decide to start a podcast just because “everyone else is doing it,” or because it “sounds like a good idea.” There’s no denying that podcasting can be a great marketing stream. But it’s not a magic pill, and it’s not always the right strategy for every business out there.
You have to consider how it fits into your overall business goals. Is it the right medium to connect with your target audience? You also have to assess your overall digital presence and figure out what’s working and what isn’t. If you don’t map out these details clearly, you can end up wasting a lot of time, energy, and money in the long run.
That’s why I transitioned from podcast production to full stack digital marketing. Over time, I realized that understanding the big picture and taking an integrated approach is the key to success in marketing and growth. Businesses often have a number of digital touch points. Focusing too much on one component at the expense of everything else can lead to failure.
Three Phases of a Successful Marketing Machine
Digital marketing is not one-dimensional. There are many different pieces to the puzzle that is your online presence. It involves everything from your website, SEO, funnels, and email marketing, to social media, content marketing, paid advertising, and more. It’s important to analyze all of these factors and create an integrated strategy if you want to successfully grow your business online.
Below I describe the three phase process that you can use to craft, implement, and maintain a successful marketing machine. While the specifics will vary depending on your unique needs, goals, and challenges, the same general principles hold true for any business.
Phase 1: Auditing and Planning
In many ways, the first phase is the most important. In order to get to where you want to go, you need to define your goals, assess where you are now, and develop your roadmap in clear detail.
Clearly define your goals and objectives
This might seem like an obvious step. While you probably know where you want to take your business, it’s important to document everything and be as specific as possible.
What is the mission and vision of your company? What products and services do you offer, and what solutions do they provide? Who makes up your customer base and target audience? Does your business cater to more than one type of customer or audience?
Make sure you clearly define your goals and objectives. Don’t get overly attached to exact numbers, but setting approximate benchmarks and timelines your goals is beneficial in many ways.
If you want to grow your audience and increase cash flow, be specific. Do you want to exceed 1000 monthly website visits by the end of the year? Do you want to increase your sales and revenue by 50% over the next six months?
Along with your goals, it’s important to account for obstacles and constraints. This helps you manage expectations, keep your goals reasonable, and not bite off more than you can chew. Maybe you’re limited by the amount of time or resources available. Maybe your specific industry has certain regulations that limit the types of marketing campaigns you can use.
Writing all of these details down helps you develop the right strategy and action plan. It helps you stay focused and accountable when implementing new marketing projects. It also comes in handy when you’re tracking your results and looking for ways to improve.
Conduct a comprehensive digital audit
Once you’ve defined your goals and challenges, it’s time to conduct a comprehensive digital audit. Before you can develop your marketing plan, you first need to assess where you are now. What’s working well and what isn’t? What can be improved? This is both a qualitative and quantitative process, and it can get quite intensive, especially if you already have a large online presence.
Think of your online presence as a machine. There are many individual parts, but they all work together like a team. Even one or two faulty parts can significantly affect the performance of the entire machine.
Your online presence typically includes several key categories: your website, funnels, search engine optimization (SEO), email marketing, social media, content marketing, and paid advertising.
Keep in mind that this isn’t an all-inclusive list. There’s always some degree of overlap, and within each category, there’s a number of smaller components to consider. Additionally, not every business will utilize the same tactics in the same ways.
But it’s important to evaluate the full scope of your online presence to get a complete picture.
While going through the full audit process is outside the scope of this article, you can check out our free downloadable Digital Audit Guidebook to assess some of the most important aspects of your website and funnels.
Develop a clear and actionable marketing plan
After conducting the audit, the last step is to develop your digital marketing plan. Based on the results of the audit, take note of what new digital assets need to be developed, and what existing assets need to be improved upon and how.
Additionally, refer to the information you compiled in the first step. Consider your business, target audience, goals and challenges, and any other factors to formulate your marketing plan. Focus on what matters and weed out anything that’s not relevant.
Once again, it’s important to lay this all out in clear detail. What are your priorities, timelines, and expectations? What needs the most work? Which improvements can wait until later? What resources will you need to implement the plan accurately and efficiently?
Phase 2: Implement Your Digital Marketing Plan
Once you have your digital marketing plan mapped out, it’s time to implement it. If you have big goals or your audit revealed a lot of red flags, you might feel overwhelmed and unsure of where to start. By following the process below, you’ll have much more direction and organization, and maximize your digital marketing ROI in the long run.
Optimize your core digital assets
The first step in the implementation phase is to optimize your core digital assets, which the business owns and has full control over. Generally, this includes your website and funnels, on-page and local SEO, and email marketing.
To a lesser degree, this also includes your social media profiles. However, it’s important not to rely on social media as the foundation of your online presence. The terms and conditions of these platforms can change, and sometimes businesses see their social media profiles shut down with little or no notice. Always prioritize your website, SEO, and email list.
It’s important to optimize these assets first because there’s no sense in driving traffic to a weak funnel that won’t convert leads into customers. It’s kind of like pumping water into a leaky pool. If you just focus on traffic-driving strategies like content marketing and advertising, without first optimizing your core assets, you can end up wasting a massive amount of time and money.
For some businesses, this will be a quick step that just involves a few minor design and messaging tweaks. For others, it might take several months to build out an entirely new website with multiple funnels and email automations.
Increase awareness and traffic
Once you’ve optimized your core digital assets, then it’s time to increase awareness and traffic with strategies such as content marketing, social media, backlink acquisition, and paid advertising. With a consistent ongoing effort, you’ll start building brand awareness, getting a more consistent flow of leads and customers, and ultimately increased revenue.
Many of these efforts will be ongoing, and will involve publishing content regularly both on your website and social media. It might also involve networking and outreach to encourage other brands and platforms to link to your content. If you invest in ads, then you’ll have to determine the right platforms, and test different audiences and ad design and messaging to optimize your ROI.
Phase 3: Ongoing Maintenance and Optimization
After fully implementing your digital marketing plan, you’ll shift into an ongoing maintenance phase where you regularly reassess and course-correct to continue building on your results.
Utilize tracking and analytics
It’s important to utilize tracking and analytics to measure how effective your marketing efforts are. Digital marketing is constantly changing, and algorithms get updated periodically, so make sure you’re regularly checking in on your digital assets. Data allows you to gain insights into your audience, assess what’s working and what isn’t, and then make any necessary improvements.
Sometimes minor adjustments can lead to massive changes. It might be as simple as changing the design or messaging on a landing page or email to increase your conversion rates. Other times, more significant changes will be needed, like restructuring your website or funnels.
Digital marketing is part art and part science, so set the expectation that you won’t get it 100% right on the first iteration. However, by setting up tracking and analytics tools, you’ll be able to use data to intelligently inform your decisions.
Explore new marketing campaigns
In addition to maintaining and optimizing your existing marketing machine, you should also periodically brainstorm and implement new strategies and campaigns. Use seasonality, current events, and industry trends to inspire new ideas.
Look out for new tools or resources that can streamline your workflow and automate your marketing efforts. Experiment with an up and coming social platform or launch a new content stream. Maybe a new market demand appears and you decide to launch a new product or service. Stay alert for new opportunities and be ready to jump on them.
Achieve Sustainable Long-Term Growth
Growing your business with an integrated digital marketing strategy is not necessarily quick or easy. If it was, everybody would be doing it.
It starts with carefully documenting all the details about your business and your goals and challenges. Then it requires auditing the full scope of your online presence to uncover your strengths and weaknesses, and mapping out a step-by-step marketing plan.
It often takes a few months to implement the entire plan, building out and optimizing your core digital assets, and then building awareness and driving more people to your website and funnels.
It can take several more months to start seeing significant results. Beyond that, in today’s saturated and competitive digital landscape, it requires an ongoing effort to monitor, maintain, and tweak your marketing so you continue scaling up.
While it might take more time and investment on the front end, you’re setting your business up for sustainable long-term growth. It’s much more effective than jumping from one tactic to another, without a clear strategy in place, and wasting tons of time, money, and effort.
By taking an integrated approach to digital marketing and following the process discussed in this article, you give yourself the opportunity to reach more people, expand your business, and make a bigger impact than you ever imagined.