It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that a new media agency thinks that digital advertising is the best way to grow a business in 2019. We haven’t just drunk the Kool-Aid. We have an IV pumping sugary-red digital fruit punch directly into our veins. Hopped up on 500 CC’s of sucrose, artificial coloring, and analytics, we are annoyingly over-enthusiastic evangelists for the power of digital advertising. It’s possible we are also riding a liquid bullet train straight to diabetes town but that is an issue to confront another day.
The challenge with digital advertising is that it is complex, ever-changing, multiplatform, highly-technical, and opaque. Even as industry professionals, it takes focus, work, and constant education for us to consistently produce great results.
Matters become more complex when it comes to creating a digital strategy that fits the objectives of a specific business. For example, a B2B SaaS company has different needs than a local veterinarian who has different needs than a multi-location commercial pilot school.
From a high-level view, creating and implementing a digital advertising strategy requires three things:
When you zoom out like that, it almost looks simple, doesn’t it? Especially when you lump all the actual work into a single step called “Execution”. If only.
In reality, the execution of just a single segment of a digital advertising strategy may require hundreds of hours of labor and expertise. This is why businesses typically hire advertising agencies. It’s also why the people who work in advertising typically have crippling coffee addictions.
Today, I want to skip all that execution stuff and the headaches that come along with it and focus on #1 and #2 which can help you create your very own digital advertising strategy.
But first, I want to take a quick turn as Aristotle to deliver our whole philosophy on digital advertising so that you can understand where we are coming from. You should never take advice from anyone unless you know their perspective on things. That’s just good life advice guys.
Helix House Philosophy
We believe that digital advertising and the use of new media is the single best way to rapidly and predictably grow a modern business.
With strong brand positioning, powerful messaging, detailed tracking, analytics-based decision making, and a thoughtful approach to strategy creation the growth of your business can be objective oriented, straightforward, predictable, and reliable.
For over a decade, we’ve used the same winning formula to grow local and national businesses alike.
Next, we will talk about clearly establishing the objectives of your strategy. Starting with objectives helps us work backward into creating an actionable plan.
After a lot of preamble, it’s time to kick things off and start building your digital advertising strategy. Next steps look like this:
Over the years, we have worked with a lot of businesses on a lot of digital campaigns. That experience has given us a clear understanding on how businesses can best position themselves to grow through digital advertising.
To put it bluntly, the businesses that succeed and grow have their shit together. Having your shit together in this world means your understand two core things:
1) Your identity as a business
2) Your numbers
If you don’t already know these things like the back of your hand, that is okay. You can learn them. Most businesses who work with us have to spend time developing or unearthing a few aspects of these core elements. It’s possible to be in business for years without having a strong grasp of your numbers or your branding. However, it’s rare (and difficult) to experience consistent growth without eventually coming to terms with them.
These things change as your business grows as well. It’s important to engage with these elements on a regular basis. Your identity and numbers when you are a fledgling $1 million business will be different as you grow to a $20 million business and a $100 million business.
Next, we will take a closer look at both of these elements and talk about what they actually mean.
What Is Your Identity as a Business?
Does that question give you a little bit of anxiety? That’s okay. It’s a big question and a tough one to answer. However, as an owner, C-level executive, or managers, it’s vital that you have a clear understanding of what your business is, what it does, who it services, and why it exists. This is important because it allows you to align your business internally, set clear objectives, and communicate clearly with consumers.
Without a clear understanding of your identity as a business, even a perfect digital advertising strategy will fall short of the objectives you have set for yourself.
Now, let’s break up this question of identity into more manageable pieces so that you can get an answer.
Who are you?
Who are your customers?
What do you do well?
What don’t you do well?
Once you have a good grasp on these questions, you can take the next steps of creating a strong brand identity with clear positioning. These elements are necessary when it comes to the execution of your strategy.
Who are you?
The world is home to millions of businesses, big and small. What sets yours apart? Why do you exist? What makes you different in the world? What is your value proposition when compared to your competitors. Answering each of these questions will help you build a clear picture of who you are as a business.
Who are your customers?
There is an adage in advertising that says if you try to sell to everyone, you’ll end up selling to no one. Finding your niche is important. Who is most likely to purchase your products or services? We call this person your ideal client avatar. They are a representation of your core buying audience. They represent all of the traits, desires, habits, and pain points of your target market.
The best ideal client avatars represent a large group of potential customers and have a distinct, meaningful identity. When you outline your ideal client avatar, consider the following characteristics:
What Are Your Core Services/Products?
Here is an important question – what do you actually do to make money? Depending on the size of your business, the answer to that question could be handled with just a few words or require something closer to a doctoral dissertation. Here, we want to focus on your core products or services that make up the bulk of your revenue. Focusing your advertising efforts on your major revenue drivers helps you create predictability and stability for your business. Honing in on something that works and that is profitable allows you to fund the growth of your business.
Your brand positioning is the frame of reference from which all your messaging and creative assets should draw their inspiration. It is essential that your brand position stays consistent across all digital platforms and channels. Your positioning should be based on two major factors: your core differentiating factors and your ideal client avatar.
The following are examples of strong brand positioning statements:
You can create your own brand positioning statement by drawing together your answers from the previous three questions.
What Are Your Numbers?
We have a deep unabiding love for numbers. Yes, numbers are cold and unyielding. But when you surround yourself with numbers you will finally experience the warmth and comfort that comes with having absolute clarity as to how your business functions and what you need to do to make it successful. Simplicity and certainty. Doesn’t that sound good?
When we are talking about numbers, we can look at two major categories: digital advertising numbers, and business numbers. Today, we are focusing specifically on the business-related numbers you should be fluent with as you start creating a digital advertising campaign. The following are a few of the most important business-related numbers you should familiarize yourself with.
Understanding these numbers will set you up for success as you create your digital advertising campaign. Most importantly, these numbers will help you create KPIs to track and understand the success of your campaign.
A digital advertising campaign could have a wide range of trackable KPIs. One of the simplest and most common KPIs is cost-per-conversion or CPC. This is essentially a threshold for how much you are willing to spend at every level of your campaign to generate a sale or conversion. Businesses create this KPI by using the numbers we discussed above.
For example, when a business knows their operating costs and understands their profit margins, then they know how much they can spend on advertising to generate a sale/conversion while staying profitable. If they also know their close percentage/conversion rate, then they know approximately how many leads they need to acquire to generate a sale. Next, they can combine all of the information to discover how much they can reasonably spend to generate a lead. Wow, what great information!
Now, if this same business knows their lifetime customer value, the math could change dramatically. For example, if a one-time sale has a value of $100, your initial instinct is to say that you need to pay less than $100 for a conversion. Probably significantly less after you factor in your profit margin. However, if you know that a first-time buyer is likely to become a repeat customer with an average lifetime value of $1,500 dollars, then math changes in a major way. If you don’t know that information, you could be holding yourself back in crippling fashion.
A strong understanding of these numbers will make it very easy to establish meaningful, realistic KPIs. These KPIs will shape your digital advertising strategy.
If you don’t already know these numbers, don’t despair. You are not alone. Many businesses need help coming to grips with these numbers and using them to create a realistic budget, target cost per conversion, etc. An agency or a consultant can always help you out with that if needed.
With a strong understanding of your identity and numbers, you are ready to be introduced to the basics of digital advertising. To create a strategy of your very own, you will need to become familiar with methodologies, platforms, and tools.
The methodologies of digital advertising are very simple when broken down to their constituent parts. The whole process looks like this:
That’s it! Simple, right? The fun part is that there are about 8 million ways to accomplish each step. Oh, and make sure you are constantly and endlessly optimizing each step as well. There are about 8 million ways to accomplish that as well. Let’s go over how each of these steps works.
Step 1: Introduce your business to consumers
Before anyone can become your customer, they need to know that you exist in the first place. The question is, how do you get in front of someone for the first time? The answer is simple. You place your message somewhere that they are already spending their time. In traditional advertising, this was accomplished in print, over the radio, and on television. In digital advertising, we have a wide selection of platforms on which we can place our message, many with hundreds of millions of users.
Step 2: Convert consumers into customers
Now that consumers are aware that you exist, you need to convince them to pay for your products or services! Depending on what you do, you could have a short sales cycle or a very long one. That is going to have a big impact on how you go about converting consumers into customers. The conversion process is often represented as a marketing funnel where consumers start at awareness then move through the buying phases of interest, consideration, intent, and conversion.
This is usually where we would include a fancy diagram of funnel to remind you what funnels look like, but you know what a funnel looks like, right? Big at the top, smaller at the bottom? All upside down triangles? We don’t have to do this anymore, do we?
Instead, enjoy this picture of funnel cake which we could all use a little more of in our lives. (Hey, remember that bullet train to diabetes town? It’s like, a real problem over here).
We will talk more about how to move consumers through each phase of the funnel when we talk about platforms and tools.
Step 3: Profit
Finally, you have converted consumers into customers and made money. Congratulations!! This is what being in business is all about. It was a hard fought fight, but you did it. Now you need to keep doing it – faster, more frequently, and with a higher profit margin. This can be accomplished a number of ways include optimizing your strategy, increasing your lifetime customer value, and growing your customer base. Now that you are making money, you can reinvest across every level of your business, including your advertising channels, to increase your revenue… and profit!!
Digital advertising platforms are the places in which your business will be appearing in front of and interacting with potential customers. Unlike the traditional media platforms of television, print, and radio, digital platforms provide you with powerful demographic targeting options as well as in-depth analytics. Here is a list of many of the most important digital advertising platforms.
Each of these platforms has its own strengths and weaknesses. Each features different tools and methods for interacting with consumers. By far, the most important platform is your business’s website. It is also the platform you have the most control over. Whether you are using digital advertising to generate leads or sales, it’s likely that your website and its extensions will be the hub of your entire strategy.
Large-scale digital campaigns create multiple touch points across many of these platforms. Strategies like that are expensive. If you are just starting off, you should select 1 – 2 platforms that match the demographics of your audience and provide you with the most cost-effective and appropriate tools.
For your digital advertising strategy to be successful, it is essential that you use the right tools at the right time to accomplish your objectives. Unfortunately, digital advertising is a world in which the tools are countless and ever-changing. We would love to have the digital equivalent of a hammer – simple and effective with no need for improvements. Instead, we have SEO, paid search, and social advertising, all of which are in a constant state of change. However, once you understand the basics of these tools you should feel confident building out your initial strategy. None of this is set in stone. Track your success based on your KPIs. If you are consistently underperforming, you need to try something different. If you are consistently overperforming, then you nailed it. Good for you!
As you create your strategy, you should familiarize yourself with these essential tools:
Each of these tools have their own strengths and weaknesses and should be deployed at specific points in your funnel to accomplish specific goals. A large-scale campaign may require the use of all of these tools. Smaller, focused campaigns may require just one or two of these tools to be successful.
Paid search, SEO, social advertising, and affiliate marketing are all great top of the funnel tools. If you have a quick sales cycle, one of these may be all you need. For longer sales cycles, you may need to incorporate email marketing, content marketing, and remarketing to re-engage consumers and drive conversions. Analytics are necessary for any strategy in order to track KPIs and optimize.
When we are building a strategy and selecting the right tools to use, we ask lots of questions. Here are a few examples:
Do you have a high-ticket item with a longer sales cycle?
Is your business built on repeat customers?
Are you introducing something new to the market?
Are you meeting an existing need in the market?
Are you ahead of the game and offering a new product, solution, or service that consumers don’t even know they need yet?
These questions help us select tools that match the client’s needs.
With all of this information in hand, it’s time to put together your strategy. To be successful, regardless of complexity, scope, or budget, your digital advertising strategy should:
To create your strategy, start by laying your company’s identity with a strong brand positioning statement and a clear picture of your ideal client avatar. Use these elements to build out your creative assets and select your demographic targeting.
Next, think about the digital advertising methodologies we discussed. How are you going to engage them at each level of the funnel starting at awareness and moving through conversion to retention, re-engagement, and advocacy?
What tools will you use? What platform? What messaging? What KPIs will you be tracking? How will you be tracking them?
As you answer each of these questions, a clear strategy will begin to emerge like a glorious advertising statue from a block of conceptual granite. Hopefully, your end result looks more like the digital marketing version of the Venus de Milo rather than that one horrifying bust of Cristiano Ronaldo that still haunts my dreams today.
If indeed you fall closer to the latter rather than the former, go ahead and do one more thing for me. Throw that monstrosity out and give us a call. We offer free, no-obligation consultation and would love to help you out.
We build strategies like this every day, for businesses large and small. Whether you own a local brick and mortar business or work in the marketing department of a national brand, we would love to work with you! Contact us today to start the conversation.