How to Plan a Digital Marketing Strategy

Planning a clear digital marketing strategy is a vital part of driving results, cross-channel collaboration and general project management. It’s time-consuming, but the work pays off. This piece is for anyone looking to pull together a digital marketing plan.

Every strategy is completely different, but our guide is designed to speak broadly to a variety of goals. It should prompt you to ask yourself and others the right questions.

Ultimately, using our free digital marketing plan strategy template, you’ll hopefully be able to create a clearly structured marketing business plan to set your campaigns off on their way to driving results.

What does a good digital marketing plan look like?

A good digital marketing strategy will provide all stakeholders with a clear idea of what their KPIs are, their responsibilities, where each channel should fit in, who the target customer is, and topline budgets.

It should not go into the nitty-gritty, but it should empower teams and specialists to go away and fill in the blanks. It should enable them to design their campaigns - e.g. their SEO strategy or content marketing strategy - which fits around your cohesive whole.

As such, it’s vital to involve others throughout the planning process. Once you have formulated the ultimate business goals and some initial thoughts, collaborate with colleagues to plan out the details, and how their channels can fit in.

You shouldn’t micro-plan at this stage - because it risks suffocating individual flexibility and innovation later in the process. Plugging into specialist expertise from the start highlights issues earlier, it encourages cross-channel collaboration, and it generally helps you get buy-in later on.

Collaboration doesn’t just happen; you have to enable it. Make it as easy as possible for people to add to and feedback on the plan. Our template encourages this with comment boxes, the delegation of ownership, and steps to spark collaboration.

Planning template comments section

This guide will break down what you should be looking at when planning a digital marketing strategy, with the following stages of planning:

  1. Map out your ultimate business goal and micro-goals
  2. Identify your key targets
  3. Use the RACE framework to plan out your funnel
  4. Allocate budgets and resources
  5. Plot out approximate timing

Then you can find our template at the bottom.

Map your ultimate goals and KPIs

Every plan should start from your ultimate business goals: What are you looking to do with this campaign?

This means starting with your ultimate goal(s) and plotting out the micro-goals that feed into this.

A macro-goal might be, for example, to drive product sales revenue. The tangible micro-goals for teams to contribute towards this might be a share of voice on core keywords, traffic to the site, product adds to basket, or even app-installs.

Always make sure that the goals for your upper funnel activity are priming customers for your ultimate business goals. Site traffic via people searching for “icelandic volcano” might look great in GA, but possibly less good if you’re trying to sell handbags.

At the feedback stage, channel leaders can then suggest new micro-goals which contribute to your ultimate aim. It’s damaging to set the same KPIs for channels as varied in their aims as SEO and CRO, so planning micro-goals gives each clear and measurable targets to design their plans around.

The aim of this stage is four-fold. It:

  • Gives channel owners a clear idea of the ultimate goal
  • Defines clear goalposts to help measure success
  • Proves to execs that this strategy is measurable and targeted
  • Manages expectations on channel targets from the start

Absolute targets don’t need to be set, but you should have an idea of what metrics you’re looking to influence. On some channels, it’s next to impossible, and can ultimately be damaging, to define targets too arbitrarily.

On SEO for example, we use our proprietary tools such as the ART to design and track targets. It tracks micro and macro-goals, from the share of voice to keyword positions on target terms. Whilst SEO targets are notoriously difficult to define, having target metrics allows earlier feedback, and gets as close as it is wise to assess the impact on search engine behaviours.

We’ve similarly done a lot of work on digital to assess the impact of offline campaigns, even down to magazine ads. If you have offline campaigns running, you should add these into your digital marketing plan both for information, and also to discuss how your team can help them measure impact.

Select your key targets

Research your target customer. Use first-party data where possible to identify clusters, of demographics or interests, who react well to the product you’re pushing.

In B2B marketing strategies you might need to supplement quantitative research with qualitative: It might be identifying your ideal prospect, the sort that your sales team get on the phone with and lets out a sigh of relief.

Try to sample this from an unbiased source - Your current customers might only be there because that’s who you’ve targeted in the past, leading to a self-fulfilling cycle. Non-brand search data is a great way to research people who are looking for your product naturally.

This stage lets you broadly define who you are trying to reach, and lets you or your teams hone in later on:

  • What channels to target
  • How to target the right people
  • What copy would work best
  • Improvements to the user journey

The impacts of picking your targets carefully on your digital marketing strategy can be enormous, particularly for paid media: For example, by clearly segmenting PPC campaigns into 42 separate target groups for a First Aid training supplier, we drove a 47% reduction in non-brand CPA and 26% more conversions YoY.

This could be a blog post in its own right, and the book “Obviously Awesome” by April Dunford is a fantastic guide to this if you want more depth.

Plan your digital marketing funnel

Plot out where each stage fits in the marketing funnel. We’ve based our template on the RACE marketing model because it takes retention into consideration, and is more applicable to B2B and B2C equally. But, you can also use the AIDA model if you prefer it (attention, interest, desire and action).

  • Reach - Build awareness of your brand/ product among the target audience
  • Action - Prompt the user to some form of action
  • Convert - Complete the ultimate business goal
  • Engage - Build a long term relationship with the customer

Classic marketing funnel

Segmenting your plan at this stage helps you do two things:

  1. Start to plan suitable delivery times for each part of your strategy
  2. Track and rectify where in the funnel your strategy might be too light or too heavy. We’ve added summary charts within our free template to help you visualize this

Bar chart example showing marketing funnel sections budget

Channels and specific campaigns can, of course, work across the funnel, and don’t be confined by the initial example. This is just designed to make you ask the right questions whilst building your digital strategy.

Cross channel planning and communication drive incredibly effective results: For example, we’ve built integrated search campaigns with impacts as large as a 117% increase in sign-ups from search YoY for one nutrition brand, and a 43% increase in YoY search revenue for a large global lifestyle brand.

Budgets and resources

This is where your plotting of KPIs and channel aims will come into its own.

You will need to do some analysis to identify initial topline budgets and collaborate to iron out the details and get buy-in. We’ve added charts on spend by target metric and by channel to help you hone in on the right mix here

example of channel budget

Historical performance is key for initial drafting. We’re developing and testing ML tools to optimise marketing spend based on historical performance, but you can equally dig manually into channels that have previously driven the strongest performance for your target KPIs.

Working with channel experts, or competitor analysis can also be useful if you don’t have historical data.

Digital marketing plan template

You can find our downloadable template here, with instructions and an example marketing plan.

Browse the plan and simply click “Use Template” to copy it to your own drive and start making changes.

Template of a marketing plan

Unlike Hubspot’s template, this is designed to help you with planning it out, rather than just provide a summary, so don’t be afraid to chop and change things. And don’t feel confined within this template. Every marketing plan is different, and this template should be a starting point to set you on your way.

You can learn more about Ayima’s tools and technology here,

Or, if you just want a chat, or you’re looking for further support with planning and executing your digital strategy, you can get in touch with our award-winning teams here 

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