How to Prepare Your Digital Marketing Strategy for 2015

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It’s that time of year again, the time when you need to do your research and prepare your digital marketing strategy for the upcoming year.

Getting your digital marketing strategy ready is vital to your success next year. From new marketing trends to business shifts, you’ll want to prepare a marketing plan for 2015 before the end of the year so you can stay ahead of the curve.

Get a head start with your 2015 digital marketing strategy by using this guide. 

For each step, you will be presented with one or two options. Choose the option that fits your needs depending on where you’re at with your business – whether you’re just starting out or you’ve had your business for a few years already.

Let’s get started!

First Step:

Option A: Set business goals

If you’re just starting out, a successful marketing plan will take more time to put together. Since you don’t have a lot of information to feed off of, you’ll have to evaluate your business and marketing strategies in a different way. But first, you need to set business goals before you plan your marketing strategy for 2015.

Business goals will help guide you in the right direction with your marketing plan. For instance, say you want to build your email list to 3,000 subscribers by the end of 2015. That main goal will give you an area to focus on.

Make sure each main goal is pretty specific, so it is actionable. The more specific a goal is, the better your marketing plan will be.

Think about each area of your business. Consider if you want to create goals for these areas and add them to your marketing plan. A few aspects to consider include:

  • Products or services you plan to provide and how you want to market them
  • Marketing tools you want to use to help you achieve these goals
  • Who you need on your team to help you achieve these goals
  • Possible strategies to use for your marketing plan

After figuring out what you want to achieve, you now have the foundation of your marketing plan!

When you’re starting out and have no information from the previous year to refer to, everything starts with you. You’re the center of every part of your business. Once you start planning your marketing strategy for the next year, clear your head, figure out your main objectives, and work from there.

Use mind maps to get your ideas out of your head and organize them. Figure out what goals to set. Get your marketing strategy mapped out and ready for the new year.

One thing to note about creating goals: Whatever you plan to do for your marketing strategy, make sure you focus on how you can stand out from the crowd. This step most likely will require a lot of time and research on your part. But to ensure you have an effective marketing strategy in place for 2015, do what you can now.

Option B: Review your digital marketing plan from 2014

If you’ve been in business for the past year or so, you have information to look back on and use as a basis for your marketing strategy in 2015. Take time to evaluate all that you accomplished regarding digital marketing in the past year. Here are a few questions for you to ask yourself and your team as you review the 2014:

  • What strategies worked and helped grow your business?
  • What were the most effective marketing strategies that helped give your business a boost?
  • What are your customers’ feedback to your marketing and advertising efforts?
  • Which digital marketing flopped?
  • How has your business changed in the last year? Can you adapt your digital marketing strategy for 2015 to support those changes? Are you going to change your business again before or in the beginning of 2015?
  • Has your target market changed? Can you plan next year’s strategy by including your new target market? What changes do you need to make to appeal to your new target audience?
  • How is your competition doing? Are you keeping up with the competitive pace in your business?

An assessment of 2014 will help you see where you’re at and where you want to go with your business. This information is the foundation of your digital marketing strategy for 2015. Get your team together, and go over all the details of your marketing strategy for 2014. Make note of anything you find significant and will aid in your success in 2015.

Second Step:

Option A: Create micro goals and plans for your main objectives

In the previous step, you came up with the main goals you want to achieve in 2015. To make them more manageable and easier to accomplish, break these big goals down into smaller goals or action steps.

Here’s an example of a broken down goal:

Main Marketing Objective: Build email list to 1,000 subscribers by June 2015.

  • 1st step: Build landing page for email list, and set up a form for visitors to subscribe to newsletter.
  • 2nd step: Have a free product giveaway created to offer as an incentive to prospects.
  • 3rd step: Prepare automated emails and set them to send out on certain days.
  • 4th step: Come up with more content ideas and use content idea creation tools if necessary. Write content and add to automated email series for newsletter.
  • 5th step: Track progress over six months. Track number of subscribers and unsubscribers over the six month period. Continue to improve email marketing strategy until 1,000 subscribers have been reached.

To help you figure out your action steps, think backwards. Say you already achieved your goal. Trace back and figure out what you had to do to reach each one of the action steps. Continue to go backwards until you reach the step you’re at now, which is setting your goals.

You don’t have to figure out all action steps right now, though. Trying to do too much at once will cause you to stress out. If you’re stumped on a step, take a break and come back to it later. Start coming up with micro plans for your other main goals and come back to the goal you got stumped on later.

Option B: Improve your digital marketing plan from 2014

You may be wondering what the point is in improving an outdated marketing plan, but this step helps you see what would you do differently. With the knowledge and experience you’ve gained over the past year, you’ll be able to come up with better, more effective ideas for your 2015 marketing strategy.

Instead of building a marketing plan from scratch, you already have a foundation for next year’s marketing plan from last year’s evaluation. For this step, focus on where you would improve marketing tactics as well as changes in the industry over the past year.

Once you’ve revised and updated last year’s marketing plan, make sure you can use the edited plan for next year. Can the changes and improvements you’ve made be applied to your marketing goals for 2015? Evaluate this improved marketing plan you’ve created to see if it fits what you have planned for 2015; you can now start building your marketing strategy for next year in this step, too.

Third Step: Choose the Right Tools

Whether you’re experienced or just starting your business journey in 2015, digital marketing tools are essential to your strategy. Not only do they maximize your marketing efforts, but they also offer easier and quicker solutions to any marketing obstacle you stumble upon.

In this step, you’ll learn various tools to add to your marketing strategy that will help you achieve your marketing goals faster and more efficiently.

Content Ideas

There’s only so much that you can write about on a certain topic. But when you’ve come to a block, brainstorming more content ideas is easier with the following tools on your side:

WhatToWrite: This website helps you come up with topics to write about by asking you questions. These questions are meant to get your gears grinding and help you crank out content ideas. It’s a fun way to come up with unique content ideas when you’re stuck.

The website is easy to use, and directions are provided for each step that you go through. For instance, the second step asks you a question about books that have inspired you and that are related to your field. You get two minutes to provide the answers and complete this writing task:

Content Planning Ideas

Inbound Writer: See how your content will do before you publish it with Inbound Writer! Inbound Writer is a content analytics tools that predicts content performance, provides topic suggestions, and helps you improve your content marketing strategy based on real data. Instead of researching popular keywords or topics on your own, Inbound Writer does the work for you.

The cool part about Inbound Writer is the scoring feature, which scores your content from a scale of 0 to 100. The higher your score, the better your content. Another feature Inbound Writer offers is the suggestions tool. Once you enter your document into Inbound Writer’s system, you’ll get an initial score and suggestions to improve your content. As you take the suggestions and revise your content, your score will go up.

inbound-writer

Also, Inbound Writer has a relevant keywords tool in the Content Lab. This feature allows you to add keywords as well. With this tool, you’ll be able to optimize your content and make it SEO-rich.

Portent’s Content Idea Generator: When you’re out of ideas, Portent’s Content Idea Generator is a handy tool to find more topics to write about. All you need to do is follow the search guidelines and enter the subject into the designated space.

Portent - Content Ideas

A mind-map-like graph will appear with words and idea bubbles for the word you enter. Here’s an example:

Portent - Content Ideas

Buzzsumo: Discover popular content ideas with Buzzsumo! This tool gives you a way to analyze the most shared content on the Web. To use Buzzsumo, register for the free or pro plan, and enter the keywords of the topic you want to write about in the search bar. Let’s go with ‘Pinterest marketing.’

Buzzsumo Content Ideas

Related content will appear in the search results with the most shared one at the top. Buzzsumo uses social media shares to determine the popularity of the content, and you can specify the search to the social media platform you’re most interested in.

Buzzsumo Content Ideas

Other search filters are available to help you search for more specific content.

Buzzsumo Content Ideas

Search Tip for Buzzsumo: Use quotation marks around the search term to find content with the exact term in the titles.

QuickSprout: Analyzing SEO on your website is easier with QuickSprout’s software. To analyze your SEO and see how your site is doing compared with your competitors, enter your website URL in the space provided and click “Search.”

Quicksprout - content ideas

You can see what content is performing well for a competitor and try to improve on that piece of content!

CoSchedule: Sharing and scheduling content is easier than ever with CoSchedule! With this WordPress app, you can connect to your social media accounts while you blog, so you won’t have to go from browser tab to browser tab. You can even set social media and blog posts to go live at the same time.

Connecting CoSchedule

 

Another great feature that CoSchedule provides is its editorial calendar. This calendar is meant to fit your scheduling needs, and you can edit the calendar right on your WordPress Dashboard. With the drag-and-drop feature, you can easily organize scheduled social media messages and blog posts. You and your team can easily stay on top of content creation and publishing with this incredible feature.

CoSchedule Calendar

You’ll also be able to create social media messages, link to blog posts you want to go live with the messages, and have them all automatically scheduled on the editorial calendar.

CoSchedule Scheduling

From organization to consistent publishing, maintaining and growing traffic, managing content, and staying productive is much simpler and more enjoyable with CoSchedule.

 

Social Media Posting

Social media marketing continues to be a must for businesses. But managing your social media marketing strategies can be overwhelming. Having the right tools in place will give you a better way to handle the workload that comes with social media marketing.

One of the best tools to handle those tasks is the Buffer app. If you have multiple social media accounts, Buffer helps you manage them all in once place. From scheduling posts to post performance analysis, Buffer provides you with all the necessary information you need to enhance your social media marketing strategies.

After signing up for Buffer, you can instantly connect to your social media accounts.

Buffer

 

Once you connect your social media accounts to the Buffer app, you can now create social media posts, schedule posts, and start using Buffer’s other great features.

Another fantastic feature Buffer offers is that it works with the CoSchedule app. CoSchedule allows you to create social media posts as you’re blogging, which you can send directly to Buffer to schedule. Connecting CoSchedule and Buffer will give you more control over your social media posting.

To connect CoSchedule to Buffer, you need to have both apps and connect the social media accounts you want to use in CoSchedule. Go to your Settings, choose Social Integrations, and find the Connected Profiles section. You’ll see a “Connect to Buffer” button for each of your social media accounts.

Connect to Buffer

Allow CoSchedule to access your Buffer app account, and now you can create and manage social media posts from CoSchedule to Buffer. When you want Buffer to handle your social media posts, choose the “Add to Buffer” option. Your posts will go live when you scheduled them, and Buffer will handle the automation process.

Buffer authorization

Buffer also has browser extensions where you can buffer social media posts right on your account. For instance, if you have a Facebook account, the Buffer button will appear in the status bar along with the Post button. Buffer provides a browser extension for Twitter as well:

Campaign Management Tools

Whether you have an established business and team already or you’re just starting out, organization is essential to your success. But you don’t have to set a system up yourself when there are tools that make the job effortless.

One great task management tool that you can use is Workado. This is a product I created and used internally at my agency for years and I just recently launched it publicly for other marketing agencies to better manage their marketing campaigns.

Marketing Campaign Management

Assigning tasks to your team members is easier than ever, and you can keep track of all the assignments and make sure everyone’s doing their part. You also have control over the access each team member gets by assigning specific roles to each person, such as employee and administrator.

Marketing Campaign Management

Workado also makes it easy to track all the completed assignments for your projects. You can even send clients activity logs to show them what you’ve done for them, which helps build trust and customer loyalty.

Campaign Management Reporting

Another tool that you can use as an organization system is Trello. If you’re a beginner in the business world, Trello is a great place to build your organization system. Trello allows you to create Trello boards, which you can make for each aspect of your business. With these boards, you can keep track of ideas, tasks lists, projects for clients, and so much more.

Trello - Campaign Management

Trello boards act like checklists: You can mark tasks as complete, delete tasks you don’t need to do, and drag-and-drop tasks from board to board. For example, say you have a main to-do list and make a Trello board for it. To organize your to-do list, you can move tasks that you’re working on to another Trello board labeled as the “In Progress” board.

After completing the tasks, move the tasks over to a board called “Completed Tasks.” Now you have a visual aid to show you where you’re at with all your projects and see how many tasks you complete within a certain timeframe. Productivity and efficiency never looked so good!

Also, Trello allows you to add members to boards, so this is a great way for you and your team to manage tasks and projects while keeping everyone on the same page.

Fourth Step: Refine Your Marketing Plan

Once you know the tools you’re going to use, you can refine your marketing strategy and include the tools you want to use for each area.

Let’s take a few tools that we mentioned in the previous step and put them all together. Say I chose CoSchedule, Buffer, and Workado as my main digital marketing tools. Since CoSchedule and Buffer can be connected and work together, I can do more with social media marketing and create a better plan for this part of my marketing strategy.

With CoSchedule, I can schedule half my social marketing posts to publish at the same time as I publish my blog posts. Then, I can use Buffer to schedule other social marketing posts. I can also use Buffer whenever a social media post idea comes up suddenly, and I can schedule the post to go out on a certain day to not interrupt my current schedule.

With Workado, I can track all the marketing activities I perform, and the tasks I have yet to perform for various campaigns.

CoSchedule, Buffer, and Workado work well together in order to help me achieve my marketing goals.

When you choose tools, go with ones that fit your needs. You can test out ideas with digital marketing tools, but don’t stick with them if they don’t do anything for your business or marketing efforts. As you go through your marketing strategy, see where you can test out strategies; but don’t get caught up in ideas. Make sure you add tactics you know will help push your marketing plan forward.

A few areas you should focus on while you refine your marketing strategy include:

Content Marketing: From social media posts to blog posts, content creation needs to be planned out. You don’t have to plan every post you’re going to publish next year. But you need a content marketing plan. Here are a few questions to consider:

  • Are you going to focus on writing blog posts only? Are you going to focus more on social media marketing and spend less time on your blog if you already have a bunch of content on it?
  • How many times are you going to post each week e.g., once every day, three times a day? Are you going to test out different time periods to see which is most effective?
  • What information does your target audience want to know? How are you going to deliver that information e.g., e-book, reports, blog posts, infographics?
  • What tools are you going to use to help you create content?
  • Are you going to hire a freelancer or task another employee with content creation?

Branding: If you’re in a niche with a lot of competitors, what are you going to do to make your brand stand out? How are you going to attract your customers to your brand? If you’re experienced in the business world, what are you going to change or keep the same in your marketing plan to attract more customers?

Remember, you don’t have to continue changing your brand or anything like that; in fact, consistency helps develop a sense of familiarity with your customers. It is also important to check out what your competitors are doing and review your marketing plan to see where you can spice it up.

One way to bring attention to your brand is to base some of your marketing strategies on different events and holidays. For instance, you can make marketing fun by making content based on “Dress Up Your Pet Day” which is on January 14th. This is a great social media marketing tactic.

Get your customers involved by asking them to share pictures of their dressed up pets. Even if pets don’t directly have something to do with your business, you can still connect with customers by celebrating out-of-the-ordinary holidays and events with them. You can find a boatload of unique holidays to celebrate and include in your marketing plan here.

Objectives: What you want to achieve with your marketing plan should be outlined and used as the center of all your marketing efforts. Whether it’s to increase sales by 20 percent or grow your list of buyers, every main objective should have micro goals backing it up. Your marketing strategy for the upcoming year needs to have one big focal point, and your mini goals need to back up the main one.

Each goal should be achievable and realistic. You don’t want a string of failures due to over-the-top goals.

Fifth Step: Finalize Your Marketing Plan and Roll it Out!

You have the ‘rough draft’ of your marketing strategy for next year on paper (or computer). You have the marketing tools you’ll use in place and ready to go. Now it’s time to finalize your plan and roll it out!

Here’s a checklist for your new marketing plan:

  • Have you defined your goals? Do you know exactly what you’re aiming for?
  • Do you know your target market? Do you understand the people you’re targeting and what they want?
  • How is your brand going to stand out from all the competitors?
  • What are the core values of your business, and are they shown through your marketing plan?
  • What offers or other incentives are you going to give your customers?
  • What other ways are you going to entice prospects and get former customers to come back?
  • How are you going to retain your customers? How are you going to connect with your customers and build relationships with them?
  • What tools do you need to help you with your marketing plan?
  • What are you doing for content marketing and social media marketing?
  • Is your message clear through your marketing?
  • Is your website easy-to-use? Does it have a simple interface that your customers will enjoy navigating through?
  • Do you have a way to organize all your tasks? Are you prepared for success?

At this stage, you’re just reviewing your marketing plan for the new year. You want to make sure everything is set in place in this step. Take your time checking every detail of your plan before you execute it.

Once you have your marketing plan in order, the next decision you need to make is when to carry out your marketing strategy. Many businesses don’t start in January, so you don’t feel like you need to launch on January 1st. Since Christmas is just around the corner, you can set up a special event or offer for customers and spread the holiday cheer. Or, you can start in mid-January – it is up to you.

Remember, your marketing plan for next year is meant to guide you to where you want to be by the end of the year.

As you continue to grow your business throughout the year, you may encounter obstacles and have to make difficult decisions. You’ll most likely have to make changes to your marketing plan and tactics throughout the year. For example, if a particular category of content is not performing well (low visits, shares, comments, etc), then you might need to change focus. Or perhaps, maybe your publishing schedule isn’t the ideal time/days for your audience. So instead of posting on a Monday afternoon, try posting on a Tuesday morning.

Be open to the changes your business needs to continue growing.

Conclusion

The plan you created going through this guide is the starting line for your marketing success in 2015. As you carry out marketing strategies, track the progress of each one. See how they affect your business, and, if you need to, tweak the strategies or scrap them if they’re not working for you 100 percent. In some cases, though, all you need to do is tweak a small detail and you’ll see major, positive results.

From setting business goals, to choosing the tools and tactics you’ll implement, you’ve completed the five steps to design your marketing strategy for next year. The plan you have now is just the beginning. Get as much information and feedback as you can next year, so you can make better marketing plans every year afterwards. Here’s to your success in 2015!

Image Credits

Featured Image: Pexels

All screenshots taken December 2014 and Inbound Writer screenshots –  Make Use Of

Justin McGill
Justin McGill is the author of www.SelfMadeMarketer.com, a book that helps other digital marketing consultants grow their revenue. He also founded www.LeadFuze.com, an email outreach... Read Full Bio
Justin McGill
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  • Ngan Son

    Hi Justin, I know more tools after reading your article. I saw you suggest Trello, it so good but I also suggest to you other tool with the same function, it’s called Wuderlist, its design beautiful and easy to help you track the work.
    Keep your sharing…!

  • If you haven’t thought about your content strategy going into 2015, you’re already behind! Planning is essential. When content isn’t planned out in advance it’s often the first thing to get pushed to the side, even though it’s one of the most important marketing tactics today!

  • Max Hund

    Wow, just wow. Thx for this great post. I always struggle to finish my content ideas … something I’ll try to change in 2015.

    • Thanks for reading and good luck with getting it into motion in 2015!

  • Great idea Justin! Hopefully you will be able to implement some of these digital marketing strategies into your 2015.

  • Excellent article, Justin. Strategy and planning with a very pragmatic approach: awesome tips!

  • Great post! We’ve started planning all of our digital strategies for the upcoming year – video will definitely be a huge piece of what types of content we will be pushing out for clients.

    • I want to get more involved in video too, as well as custom images for my content.

  • Another tool I use for content ideas is the Content Ideator from Content Forest. You can never have too many tools!

    • Just checked it out – that’s a good one Dominique. Thanks for sharing!

  • Laxmi Tomer

    Hi Justin
    This is a great post enlightening digital marketers to get maximum output of their efforts. There are many tools you have mentioned here which I never knew about before.
    Thanks for sharing!

    • Glad you liked it Laxmi. Hope you find some of the tools helpful in your own efforts!

  • Great strategy Justin! It would definitely help people like me to define digital marketing goal and objective. thanks for sharing.

  • I handle about 15 clients (and growing) social media accounts (Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter) and I post on their behalf at least twice a week so I’m look for the most efficient program to do this. My biggest issues/needs are:
    1. Reasonable price point for 50+ social media accounts
    2. white labeled for each client; says posts are via “Client name” instead of the suite i’m using or by my company name
    3. Will post on BOTH Facebook and LinkedIn
    4. Can plan posts at least a month in advance
    5. Doesn’t require clients to sign in or approve anything (I have all their social media user names and passwords, I’m also a manager of a majority of their accounts.
    6. Will allow me to “like” posts of my clients from my other clients.

    ALSO, if I’m the manager of an account, do I have to add their profile to whatever program I end up using, or can I just add myself and manage their accounts all from one profile (Which means I could choose a plan with 20 or 30 accounts instead of 100)?

    • Buffer might be able to do all of this. However, I don’t know how many accounts the business plan lets you have. It’s $50 month and i think I have about 15 in mine currently.

    • I agree with Kelsey – Buffer should be what you’re looking for! 🙂 Other than the white labeled/branded portion, every thing else is covered by their tool. I’m not sure of a tool that lets you do all that while also branding it as your own.

  • Yeah great writing it gives me some introspection to do in the coming 2015. I have a query about campaign management tools though. Please elaborate about it in your next writings. I will look forward to it.

    • Thanks for reading Sonam – anything specifically you want me to elaborate on?

  • Great article! Lots of useful information here Justin. I’m an internet marketer myself, and I have got to tell you it’s a bit of “information overload” at first. It’s really hard to kind of put what you learned into action.
    Luckily, I found a really good mentor, and needless to say I’m no longer working a day job.

    • Nice Jackie – the goal was for this piece to be a bookmarked piece you can keep coming back to. 🙂

  • Hi Justin, pretty comprehensive article, thanks and keep the good stuff coming in 2015 too.

    • Thanks for reading Sebastian – glad you found it useful!

  • hi Justin,

    Thanks for this great article with great suggestion. I am little bit suffering from my e-commerce SEO projects. I really need this. Some of the tools I know but some are new for me. Now, It’s time to create a new strategy replacing with the older one.

    Thanks 🙂