Digital Marketing

How To Make an Effective Digital Marketing Plan

By Jessica Bubenheim, on 13 July 2020

digital marketing plan is an essential map to achieving your brand's objectives. It is a tool which will guide all of the marketing activities and day to day work. But just making a plan does not guarantee getting results.

To be truly effective, a digital marketing plan must include all the necessary information and be practical. If you dedicate time, care, and resources, the results will be worth it. So, let's review how to make an effective digital marketing plan step by step. No need to take notes, we’ve created a downloadable template just for you!

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How To Make an Effective Digital Marketing Plan


1. Why Do You Need a Digital Marketing Plan?

2. Step by Step Guide to Making a Marketing Plan

3. Effective Planning Best Practices

Why Do You Need a Digital Marketing Plan?

digital marketing plan is a document that includes, at least, the following information:

  • The environment of the brand, both internally and externally. In this context, environment refers to the current market situation, including consumer and competitor analysis. 
  • The objectives that are intended to be achieved. These will always have to be coordinated with the general business goals of the company. Some companies choose to include the online marketing plan as a section of the general plan and others work with separate departments, but it is important that they are always coordinated.
  • The strategies and actions that we are going to carry out to achieve those objectives (temporary planning, description of the campaigns, tasks, etc.).
  • How are we going to measure the results of the actions?

Having a well developed digital marketing plan brings multiple advantages to the company:

  • Gain in depth knowledge of the market and your target audience. A good marketing plan always begins with a research phase that allow you to understand the situation and how you can respond to it.
  • Align digital marketing actions with the overall brand objectives, so that all company departments are rowing in the same direction.
  • Use the resources that are available in an effective and organized manner, without unnecessary budget or staff time.
  • Improve internal communication, since all team members can use the marketing plan as a guide to coordinate with each other.
  • Improve communication with the client. In the case of marketing agencies, it is essential to develop a marketing plan jointly with the client, to ensure that it meets their expectations and needs. Throughout the project, client and agency can refer to the plan to follow the evolution of the actions.

How to Make an Effective Digital Marketing Plan, Step by Step

1. Analysis and starting point

The first step to creating your plan is to analyze the current situation your company is in. An effective online marketing plan always starts with a research phase.

During this phase, you should aim to answer the following questions:

  • What are the products and services we offer? What is the unique selling proposition of the company?
  • What have we done so far in our online marketing and what results have we obtained with it? What are people saying about us online?
  • How is our website? Are there aspects that we need to improve?
  • What is the competition doing? How does our brand compare and what can we learn from them?

2. Objectives

The objectives are the scale by which we will measure the success or failure of the digital marketing strategy. When setting your objectives, I recommend using the SMART acronym:

  • Specific: the objectives must be detailed and concrete. Try to answer the basic questions of what, who, where, when, how and why.
  • Measurable: if you cannot concretely measure an objective, it will be impossible to know if you have reached it. Therefore, you should think about what KPIs you will use and how you will define success.
  • Achievable: goals that are too easy or too ambitious do not work for us.
  • Realistic: that is, that it takes into account our previous resources and achievements.
  • Time-bound: finally, specify a deadline for your goal to establish a time frame to see if it has been fulfilled or not and why. It may be useful to divide a global goal into smaller objectives, in order to correct the course as we move forward.

Based on these parameters, the specific objectives will depend on each brand and its situation. Include as many objectives in your plan as necessary, but always ensure they complement each other and not compete or have opposite trajectories. Here are some examples of common goals of a digital marketing plan:

  • Reach new markets, either by location or by type of audience.
  • Increase brand awareness among the target audience.
  • Launch a new product or service.
  • Improve the return on investment (ROI).
  • Expand the market share with respect to the competition.
  • Increase the profits of the company.
  • Optimize the conversion funnel
  • Attract new customers.
  • Loyalty to existing customers.
  • Increase sales.

3. Buyer persona

The buyer person is a portrait of our ideal client, which helps to focus your product and service offer and guide all the segmentation of the brand. Sometimes it may be necessary to define more than one profile, if you have product lines for different types of users.

A buyer person must include:

  • Demographic information: age, gender, occupation, income level, place of residence ...
  • The user's online and work behavior.
  • Customers current relationship with your brand
  • What their aspirations and needs in relation to the brand.

4. Content Plan

A good plan should outline what kind of content you are going to create and how you are going to distribute it among your target. You can define different formats and create a content calendar that helps in planning.

When it comes to creating the content, my recommendation is that you align it to both the buyer persona you just defined and the different phases of consideration. The more the user has advanced in the conversion funnel, the more specific and focused the content should be.

5. Keywords

Keywords are the backbone of SEO, SEM, and all the content that you are going to create. For its key role in structuring the website and directing traffic to it, it's necessary to dedicate a special section within the content plan for your keywords.

When it comes to researching keywords, we have to take into account the following parameters:

  • The relevance of the keyword for your brand.
  • The intention of the user searching for this keyword (at what stage of the funnel is it found?).
  • The volume of searches.
  • The level of competence.

6. Platforms

The world of social media offers many platforms to promote your brand, but it is always better to focus on those that are more adapted to the objectives and well define what we are going to use each of them for.

Therefore, in this section of the digital marketing plan I recommend that you include the different social networks and other media that you are going to use and the objectives that you hope to achieve with each one of them.

7. KPIs and measurement strategy

Now that you have your objectives (from section 2), you are going to "translate" them into key metrics or KPIs.

For each key metric, set a monthly goal (or with the periodicity that makes the most sense for your plan) and establish what controls you will perform to make sure you are on the right track.

8. Contingency plan

Finally, to come to a close on your marketing plan, you must answer the following question: what will happen if the objectives are not met?

For each one of the KPIs that we defined in the previous section, you need to think about a response plan for different scenarios. For example, what will you do if you do not reach the objectives by 75%, 50% or 25%. You can define different actions such as diversifying the platforms, opening new investment channels or even rethinking aspects of the plan that are not working as you expected.

And done! You now have everything you need to start working with your team and achieve all the objectives that you propose in your digital marketing.

You should now be more clear on how to develop a digital marketing plan that responds to the needs of your brand. To make it even easier, we have developed a downloadable template with all the steps you need to create a complete online marketing plan. You can download your template here.

Effective Digital Marketing Planning

Effective digital marketing planning is the application of available resources, to target market segments, to achieve marketing objectives. A successful marketing strategy out maneuvers competition via exploiting competitive advantage that provides greater value to the target.

A successful marketing strategy is typically achieved via:

  • Managing the segmentation process. Understand the market place and customer needs and wants.
  • Marketing planning. Design a customer-driven marketing strategy and construct an integrated marketing program that delivers superior value.
  • Developing an appropriate marketing mix. Build profitable customer relationships and create customer delight. Capturing customer value, loyalty, market share and brand equity

Successful marketing strategies find the effective digital fit between customer needs and wants with our marketing mix variables. This allows us to add value to our target market segment using our competitive advantage.  To find this effective digital fit, between target market segment and competitive advantage, let’s apply the basic planks of planning.

Understanding your target market segment

This has to do with understanding your customer needs and wants. Use situational analysis to identify key and relevant customer characteristics. Define your mission by identifying key and relevant customer characteristics you aim to serve.

Situational Analysis

Define your business environment and context by looking at current market, products, and sales. Here the process of segmenting is important to identifying key and relevant customer characteristics. Subdivide your customers based on similarity of characteristics, requirement and/or behavior and on the likelihood of similarity in their response to marketing stimuli.

  • If you’re planning a B2C strategy look at consumer’s geographic variables, demographic variables, psychographic variables, and behavioral variables.  
  • If you’re planning a B2B strategy look at the businesses demographic variables, operating variables, purchasing variables, situational variables, and ‘personal’ variables.

To understand where your firm is in relation to your market, ask yourself:

  • Where are we now?
  • How did we get here?
  • Where are we going?

Mission statement and objectives

Once you understand your situation start with a clear understanding of your target, clearly identify which segments you wish to serve. Knowing your target is your basis for formulating a mission statement and objectives.

It’s impossible for any organization to serve every possible segment, and to serve each better than the competition within the segment. Targeting is the process of evaluating each segment within a market to determine its actual or potential attractiveness to the business and then selecting which segments (if any) to serve.

possible targeting strategies:

  • target none- don’t compete in this market: consider downside risk of withdrawal
  • mass targeting: ignoring segment differences and offering to entire market
  • differentiated: target multiple segments each with a separate marketing program
  • concentrated or niche: dominate one or very few carefully selected targets
  • micro-marketing: localized or individual targets

Understanding your competitive advantage

This has to do with developing value using your marketing mix variables. Here, focus on strategy and implementation to modify the offer and create superior customer value. Then with implementation control you can manage the offering in the minds of the target.

Strategy and Implementation

Have you thought about how yours going to use your marketing mix variables to develop value?  That’s what strategy and implication is all about. Start by considering the core competencies, the differentiating factors of your firm, and modifying the offer to create superior customer value.

Areas to consider in your strategy for differentiation:

  • product differentiation: features, performance, style, design
  • service differentiation: speed, convenience, delivery, backup, installation
  • channel differentiation: coverage, expertise, performance
  • people differentiation: training, competence, character
  • image differentiation: symbols, signs, myths, design, atmosphere, layout

When selecting differentiators, make sure they are:

  • important; to the customer
  • distinctive ; clear between you and competition
  • superior; better than alternatives
  • communicable; customers can understand it
  • pre-emptive; hard to emulate
  • affordable; within customers ability and willingness to pay
  • profitable; delivery costs less than perceived value added

When you move into your strategy and implementation phase, make sure to ask yourself:

  • How might we get there?
  • Are we able to get there from here?

Implementation Control

Here’s where we look at our journey and our positioning and manage our offering in the minds of our target. To stay on track businesses must understand key customer values. Assess where your firm is relative to the competition within your selected target segment in the minds of the customers.

Make sure to establish key performance indicators (KPIs) which you can actively measure and track, so when you take some time to reflect, you’ll have a data-backed answer to the question:

Are we on course?

Effective digital fit and planning

Your effective digital fit lies where your competitive advantage meets your target market segment needs and wants. In short there are 7 questions to ask yourself for effective digital marketing planning:

  1. Where are we now? 
     How did we get here? 
    Where are we going? 
  2. Where would we like to be going?
  3. How might we get there? 
    Are we able to get there from here? 
  4. Are we on course? 

The must-have checklist for launching your digital campaigns

Jessica Bubenheim

International Business at Warwick Business School. Inspired by Social Entrepreneurs.