Why You Need a (Better) Digital Marketing Strategy in 2018 – and HOW to Get There

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In case you’ve been wondering – digital marketing is still going hot. And if you or your company is not yet on the digital marketing bandwagon – you are in trouble. But it’s not too late to fix that – but in 2018, digital marketing needs more than getting an intern to do some posts on Facebook. What you need is a digital marketing strategy.

And yes – I know “strategy” may be a dreaded word for some of you. Isn’t digital marketing all about the doing and less about the “strategizing” and planning?

Yes… and no.

Digital Marketing Strategy Jack WelchThe State of Digital Marketing in 2018

Digital marketing is about allowing yourself to get more for less. But the online and digital world has changed. Digital media has changed – it’s no longer a world where of random happenings, viral wonders, and “what’s hot today may be gone forever tomorrow.”

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Think about it: Facebook has been the dominant social network for nearly 14 years now. The dominant mobile players Instagram and Snapchat were founded 7 and 6 years ago. Twitter – which is still a favorite of many influencers is 12 years old (and it’s not going anywhere). The most popular blogs in the world were founded/started ages ago – Techcrunch, the worlds leading technology blog is over 12 years old. Even niche blogs are now established media companies – if we are staying in the marketing niche, Jeff Bullas‘ blog and Social Media Examiner come to mind – which are 8 and 9 years old. And in about the same time frame, Neil Patel has built a marketing niche empire based almost exclusively on his various blogs. And even The Social Ms (the site you are on) is already active in the space for over 3 years.Digital marketing is about allowing yourself to get more for less. But the online and digital world has changed. Digital media has changed - it's no longer a world where of random happenings, viral wonders, and “what's hot today may be gone forever tomorrow.” That is why you need a better strategy #digitalmarketing #digitalmarketingstrategy #onlinemarketing #marketingstrategy

This all burns down to a few simple facts that you have to take into account for your marketing efforts in general and your digital marketing efforts specifically:

  • The digital marketing world isn’t changing anywhere as fast as it used to – the established marketing channels and media outlets will stay, and while there may be newcomers once in a while, there won’t be new social networks and content outlets every other day.
  • While experiments are still part of any valid digital marketing strategy, there is data for the past 15 years freely available online that should form the backbone of your strategy. A digital marketing strategy that does not rely on existing data, as well as self-generated data based on your own experiments, is not a viable route.
  • If you want to become a part of the digital revolution in 2018 you’ve got new obstacles to overcome – depending on which niche you are in, there will be varying amounts of established players already active in your field. That means that in every market you are active in there is also competition.
  • The growing amount of established media outlets as well as marketing tactics (like email marketing and marketing automation, landing pages, …) means that there is a selection process involved before even starting with digital marketing at all.

The above points are not in any way meant to discourage newcomers – or even established marketers. These are just the environment you are going to find yourself in when you are trying to marketing digitally in 2018. There are still many reasons to be active in the online world for yourself and your business. All this boils down to is that success – unlike for many of the “leaders” that came before you – will not come by accident.

And that’s a good thing – because that means that when you reach success, you will have earned it.

The 5 Most Compelling Reasons Why You Need A Digital Marketing Strategy in 2018 (and beyond)

Whether you are a blogger, a small business, an affiliate marketer, a coach or consultant, or anyone else trying to get yourself established, in 2018 you are in trouble if you don’t have a digital marketing strategy. There are still indefinite amounts of reasons why you need a digital marketing strategy in 2018 – and I wanted to list the most important ones in this post before continuing:

  • Shoppers 81% Research OnlineEvery single audience is now consuming content online… or in other words: When you want your target audience to know (more) about you, your products, your services, your blog, your business, or anything else, digital marketing is not a choice, it’s mandatory. 81% of shoppers search for information online before buying a product.
  • Digital marketing is available for everyone. No one is stopping you from starting a blog or opening a Facebook page. There is no entry barrier to starting a business online. You can start a blog for as little as 17 Dollars (7 Dollars per month hosting, 10 Dollars for the domain per year). Email newsletter services are free for your first subscribers. See this post for more information on how to start a blog.
  • Digital marketing allows you to grow your strategy with your business. Most traditional marketing channels rely on reaching a certain number of eyes for a certain price. If you buy magazine ads, you get as many eyes as the magazine has readers. If you buy television ads, there is a certain circulation tied to it. Online you can either decide your needed circulation (when buying ads), or you can build your own circulation numbers with your business (email list building, social media followers, blog subscribers, …)
  • Digital marketing allows you to compete almost on eye-level with the big players. Money and size isn’t everything that counts online – quite the contrary. A carefully thought-out and optimized digital marketing strategy still allows you to compete with the big players. And this is true for any niche and every single market. If you are selling soft drinks, you can still compete with CocaCola.
  • In the long term, you will not be able to survive without a digital marketing strategy at all. You might think that some businesses will continue to strive without a digital marketing strategy – but that isn’t true at all. Even if you run a grocery store, you will at some point be threatened by giants like online delivery service Amazon. Our world is becoming more digital by the minute – and we are constantly facing new digital challenges. And for any business, the only way to counter this development is to become more digital themselves – asap.

There are many more reasons why you will need a digital marketing strategy – and why you will need to constantly improve your existing strategy. But the above represent the most important ones. (And not only that – the above reasons are also the reasons why I, myself, love digital marketing!)

Why 2018 Could Be The Year Of The Small Player – Because Of Content Shock!?

Are you a small player: a blogger? Or a small business? A consultant?

That’s awesome! And I’ve got good news for you – in 2018 you are at an even bigger advantage than any year before that! Why? Because of a phenomenon that happened in recent years: Content Shock. Content Shock is relevant for you because any valid digital marketing strategy does include a content marketing aspect – and that is never going to change!

What is Content Shock?

If you don’t know what content shock is – that isn’t anything to be ashamed of. Marketers who have been in this game longer than 4 years know the term but anyone else might not.

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Content Shock is a term coined by my fellow marketer Mark Schaefer back in 2014. Back then, content marketing was all the hype – because when the internet was created, it created an empty space longing for content. And marketers found a tremendous way of marketing almost everything by adding content to that empty space.

But the more content that got created and published on the web, the less empty this space got. And creating content that would find an audience got more expensive and marketing content to make sure it got an audience got more expensive as well.

Content Shock describes the situation that happens when the creation and distribution of content become more expensive then the ROI (return on investment) it creates. Or in other words – when content marketing isn’t able to create more value than cost. Here is Mark Schaefer’s original post. Below is a graphic from that post highlighting the phenomenon:

Content Shock

This phenomenon has now happened (at least in many niches). So, that’s a bad thing, right? Game over for content marketing, and game over for online marketers… right?

Not so fast! Content Shock may have happened – but content shock hasn’t happened for you!

Why Content Shock May Be Your Greatest Asset In 2018

Content shock is a great problem for big organizations – because these organizations are focused on two things regarding their marketing: ROI and scalability. And that means when an organization like CocaCola, or a car manufacturer like Volvo thinks about content marketing, they think about whether they can create content, that will provide a positive ROI after distributing it to a huge amount of people.

Do you see your big opportunity yet? No? It’s coming:

When you are a small player, reaching those big numbers right from the start doesn’t matter as much. Think about it: What are 100 daily visitors to your website worth to you? What are 10 leads worth to you? What would it mean to you if you could make 2 or 3 sales of $100 every day? These are numbers almost anyone can reach online fairly quickly!

To a big player, these numbers wouldn’t even be worth a note on their balance sheet. So for a big company, a digital marketing strategy needs to scale right from the start – and that means they will have to pay massive amounts of money for distribution!

But for a small player, these numbers are worth a lot! For a marketing strategy that costs almost no money – this isn’t just worth the investment for a small player – this is a tremendous start!

Here is an example of how big Volvo has been willing to invest in content creation in the past. Back in 2013, Volvo invested heavily in a viral video campaign for their truck business – one of the videos was the now famous Epic Split – featuring Jean Claude Van Damme:

Can you see the types of investments needed to satisfy the interests of big players? This is only one in a series of video of similar production value – but this one got most of the attention. And can you see the disconnect that appears when the ROI on these types of investments drops too low?

This is where I see the biggest trend for 2018 and for years to come: Small players taking over small segments of the target audiences of big players. And only when enough small players have stacked up in a niche to actually take away a noticeable amount of revenue from big players, they are even going to care about this trend.

This point is still years out! Until then – small players will have a massive opportunity with clever digital marketing strategies.

On the Importance of Having a Digital Marketing Strategy… and NOT just Digital Marketing

A study from 2017 revealed that only 34% of organizations had a digital marketing strategy that was integrated into the general marketing strategy and that 49% of companies did not have a clearly defined digital marketing strategy at all.

Digital Marketing Strategy Study

Data and image from Smart Insights

This is mindblowing! What this comes down to is that nearly two-thirds of companies are still not treating digital marketing as equally important to traditional marketing. Or in other words – the biggest marketing channels with huge growth potential are still given the least importance. Where does that come from?

One important reason for this is that companies act slower the bigger they get. Huge companies have established marketing strategies that have been in place for decades. And before these marketing strategies become ROI negative, very little is going to change for many of these companies.

Again, this is where the big chance lies for small players in the market. But you should still take a highlighter and mark the word “strategy” in red – because this is where the big emphasis lies.

If you start digital marketing without a plan, you will be in trouble – because even if you become successful for a while, without a plan, any corporate company can simply outspend you. Take online advertising for example: You may have some positive revenue from your ads for a while – but without a relevant strategy you can be outbid by a competitor at any point in time!

Having a strategy is where the big difference lies between a successful digital marketer and a digital marketer who has random episodes of success. It is also the key to competing with other players online – the key is to have a digital marketing strategy!

How to Create A Digital Marketing Strategy for a Blog, Startup, or Small Business

Providing you with a complete overview of how to create a digital marketing strategy for your blog, startup, or small business would blow this post out of proportion. But I will give you some initial thoughts:

  • A digital marketing strategy for a small player should always focus on growth – not stagnation. The scalability over time is what makes digital marketing so immensely valuable – even if the big results may come only in the future.
  • Digital marketing for a small player should focus on lean marketing – a process of constantly making assumptions, testing assumptions, iteration, and new assumptions.
  • There are different stages in the implementation of digital marketing: You start with a selection process for the marketing channels you want to use. You continue with a process of testing various tactics until you find tactics that work for you. Then you start building what I call growth engines – semi-automatic processes that allow you to scale tactics that work for you based on marketing automation systems.The value of a digital marketing strategy in contrast to “trying some digital marketing” has grown indefinitely this year. The days when simply “trying some stuff online” was a sustainable approach are gone. #digitalstrategy #digitalmarketing ämarketingstrategy #onlinemarketing #smallbusinessmarketing

Final Words

The value of a digital marketing strategy in contrast to “trying some digital marketing” has grown indefinitely this year. The days when simply “trying some stuff online” was a sustainable approach are gone.

That’s a good thing! It means that success is also not randomly assigned to lucky individuals – it means that it is based on how well you apply digital marketing tactics and how well you develop your strategy.

This does not mean that digital marketing success is out of your reach – learning digital marketing is still within everybody’s reach – especially for small players. But you have to be willing to put in the work.

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“The Social Ms blog and books have shown us great possibilities of growing on Twitter and via online media. In addition, they actually respond to email reactions. Practicing what they preach gives them the credibility edge.” Guy Pardon, Atomikos

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In 2018, simply going online and "trying a few things on Facebook" isn't enough for marketing success. Digital is now established - and you need a digital marketing strategy to succeed.

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