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Digital Marketing Strategies & Ideas You Can Use

Digital Marketing Strategies and Ideas

In today’s screen-obsessed world, digital marketing is no longer just part of doing business — it is the business. Yet according to a recent study by Smart Insights, 47% of companies who use digital marketing tactics do not have a digital marketing strategy.

We get it. Tactics are easy. Strategy is hard. We’re here to share our proven process of mapping your business goals onto an actionable digital marketing strategy. Along the way, we’ll show you how to choose the right mix of tactics to achieve the tangible results you’re after. We’ll even share real-life examples of digital marketing strategies that have transformed businesses from bit players to market leaders.

Let’s get started.

What Is a Digital Marketing Strategy, Anyway?

A digital marketing strategy is the high-level approach a company takes to achieve its business goals through a number of digital marketing tactics, such as search engine optimization (SEO), paid digital media, content marketing, email marketing, and more. Digital marketing is “strategic” when a company takes the time to establish clear goals, thinks through what digital marketing approaches will be most effective, and then measures the results and works to continually improve them in order to meet defined key performance indicators (KPIs). With a digital marketing strategy, online marketing tactics work together to deliver a cohesive brand message and experience while fulfilling the company’s most important business goals.

Here’s a visual example of what a digital marketing strategy is and how it interacts with a company’s goals and marketing tactics:

Digital marketing strategies and tactics

What’s the Difference Between Digital Marketing Strategies and Digital Marketing Tactics?

A tactic without a strategy is a tool, plain and simple. A strategy is an actionable plan for how to use that tool to achieve a specific, measurable outcome. In our example above, content marketing is a tactic. Content marketing is the creation and use of written, visual, or video content in a marketing context. If you record a how-to product video and post it on YouTube, you’re using content marketing as a digital marketing tactic — but unless you have a plan for what you want to achieve with your video and what you’re going to do besides simply putting it on YouTube in order to achieve your goals, you don’t have a digital marketing strategy.

Let’s say your goal is to increase online leads by 20% annually. Your digital marketing strategy might be to create and post useful search-optimized videos on YouTube with a call to action that sends viewers to a lead-generation landing page offering a free product demo in exchange for contact information. To make sure your strategy is fully baked, you’ll need to measure engagement and conversion data for both your videos and your landing pages to determine things like how often to post videos, what topics and formats perform best, whether to augment your SEO strategy with paid digital media, and so on.

What Makes a Good Digital Marketing Strategy?

Not all strategies are created equal. We could say that a good digital marketing strategy leads to the successful accomplishment of your business goals (plus some lessons learned along the way); a bad digital marketing strategy is one that fails. But since we can’t guarantee success in life or digital marketing, skilled strategists build plans that share common characteristics to minimize risk and maximize the chances of success.

Here’s how:

S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Effective digital marketing strategies are designed to achieve business goals — and the more clearly defined those goals are, the easier it is to tackle them strategically. Many companies use this S.M.A.R.T. framework when setting goals:

  • Specific. Goals should be as specific as possible. “I want to increase profitability” is too vague. “I want to increase profitability enough so that my business is self-sustaining, meeting or exceeding industry standards, and growing at a pace that beats inflation” is a better start.
  • Measurable. To make your goals measurable, you need to establish at least one core KPI and define the changes you want to achieve. Sticking with our above example, we can make a profitability goal measurable: “To increase profitability to 10% annually.” (Let’s assume we’ve done the math and that figure checks all the boxes for our imaginary business’ sustainability.)
  • Achievable. You need to know you have the time and the resources to achieve your goal. If you’re starting at 3% profitability, getting to 10% might be a longer-term goal that you need to break down into smaller goals in order to achieve.
  • Relevant. The easiest way to tell if a goal is “relevant” is to ask whether it directly relates to your business’ ability to survive, thrive, and achieve its mission. Profitability is pretty core to most businesses’ survival, but there are any number of other goals that could be highly relevant, depending on the business in question.
  • Time-bound. A good goal includes a timeline for achieving success. What happens at the end of your timeline? You measure, take stock of what worked and what fell short, and start over again with new goals and strategies.

A Comprehensive, Cross-disciplinary Approach

Most digital marketing strategies will include a mix of different disciplines and tactics, such as SEO, paid digital media or PPC, social media marketing, and so on. To maximize your chances of achieving your goals, don’t treat each tactic as a silo. Instead, set up analytics and reporting that enable both full-funnel attribution — the ability to see where each lead, purchase, customer acquisition, etc. originated and what digital touchpoints were involved along the way — and cross-platform learning and insights. For example, Vital’s SEO team uses data-driven insights from high-performing PPC campaigns to inspire new content ideas (and vice versa).

A Regular Cadence of Measuring and Reporting on Results

A good digital marketing strategy is one you keep a close eye on. Don’t assume that executing your plan will lead to success. Build in regular milestones for measuring and reporting on the key metrics that will tell you if you’re on track.

A Process that Balances Discipline with Flexibility

Inevitably, when you measure the results of your digital marketing efforts, some will perform better than expected and others will be more disappointing. Knowing when to stay the course and when to shift tactics is crucial to the success of your digital marketing strategy.

Experience, Experience, Experience

If you set out to achieve something you’ve never done before (or if market conditions have changed since the last go-round), you may get lucky and devise a brilliant strategy that exceeds your expectations — or, more likely, you’re going to try a bunch of different stuff and gradually figure out what works. Maybe too gradually. Enlisting advisors who’ve traveled this road before or finding an experienced digital marketing agency partner to consult with you on your goals, strategy, and tactics can make the difference between success and failure.

Creating a Digital Marketing Strategy

Before we jump into specific digital marketing activities, let’s lay a solid foundation for your strategy. In this section, we’ll explore how to define clear goals, break them down into actionable steps, choose the right strategy levers, and assess your resources to ensure your digital marketing efforts are both effective and efficient.

Goal Setting

As we mentioned, it’s critical to set clear, achievable goals. You already know how to make your goals S.M.A.R.T., but beyond that, how do you know which goals to focus on? Begin by assessing your current business performance. Identify areas where you’re excelling and where you’re not meeting expectations. This evaluation will guide your digital marketing efforts, helping to focus on areas that need improvement and capitalize on strengths. By setting specific, measurable goals, you provide a target for your strategies to aim for, making it easier to track progress and make adjustments along the way.

Breaking Down Goals

Once you have your overarching goals in place, the next step is to break them down into manageable, actionable steps. These stepping stones should be smaller, quantifiable objectives that collectively lead to the achievement of your main goals. For instance, if your goal is to increase sales by 10% within the next year, one of your stepping stones could be to increase lead generation through your website by 30% in the next six months.

Levers to Address with a Digital Marketing Strategy

In digital marketing, there are two primary levers you can manipulate to meet your goals: driving more traffic to your website and improving your conversion rates. First, analyze which area is most likely to help you meet your goals. If your website has substantial traffic but low conversion rates, focusing on conversion optimization might be more beneficial. Conversely, if your site converts well but few people visit it, a strategy centered on increasing traffic would be appropriate. Often, a balanced approach targeting both aspects is necessary to maximize impact.

Assessing Your Capabilities

Understanding the capabilities and limitations of your available resources is an essential piece of your digital marketing strategy. Consider what digital marketing skills your team possesses and what needs to be outsourced. Evaluate your budget, keeping in mind that digital marketing can be scalable. Also, define the timeline for achieving your goals, allowing for flexibility to adapt as your strategy progresses. Understanding these parameters will help you tailor a strategy that not only achieves your goals but also aligns with your company’s operational capabilities and financial constraints.

6 Digital Marketing Tactics You Can Use, With Examples

Once you know what you’re trying to achieve and you have a solid strategic plan for getting there, it’s time to assemble the digital marketing tactics that will go into executing your strategy. An exhaustive list would be — well, exhausting — so we’ll focus on the heavy hitters that are most likely to play a role in today’s digital marketing strategies.

Note that there’s some overlap between tactics, and many top-level tactics can include potentially dozens of different sub-tactics. For example, paid digital media is a tactic that covers several fine-grain tactics such as paid search advertising, paid display advertising, and paid social media marketing — the last of which might also be considered a subset of social media marketing. We aren’t here to split hairs, but rather to give you some idea of which tactical approaches you might want to leverage as part of your digital marketing strategy.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

What it is: Optimizing digital content for search engines.

How it works: A combination of on-page factors, such as keyword targeting and creating valuable content that meets Google’s standards of Experience, Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness (E-E-A-T) and off-page or technical factors such as site speed, page loading time, schema markup and more helps search engines identify content that is likely to meet a searcher’s intent when they’re using a search engine.

Goals it helps achieve:

  • Increase traffic to individual webpages, content such as videos and images, and websites as a whole.
  • Increase brand visibility, awareness, and authority.

Real-life example:

One Vital client, University of San Diego Professional and Continuing Education, has had incredible success driving organic traffic with valuable, search-optimized blog content. One SEO blog post, What Is Medical Terminology? ranks for 4,000 keywords and drives 10,000 organic sessions per month.

A screenshot of a blog headline and graphic showing a group of students dressed in white coats and medical scrubs.

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)

What it is: Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is a digital marketing tactic focused on increasing the percentage of visitors to a website who take a desired action. This action could be anything from filling out a lead-generation form and signing up for a newsletter to making a purchase.

How it works: CRO involves understanding how users move through your site, what actions they take, and what’s stopping them from taking or completing an action. By analyzing this data, you can make targeted adjustments to your web pages, improve user experience, and ultimately enhance the effectiveness of your website to turn visitors into customers. This approach not only drives sales but also maximizes the return on your existing traffic and marketing efforts. CRO can involve copy and content strategy, form and button design, information architecture, and more.

Goals it helps achieve:

  • Increase online lead generation
  • Increase cart fills and checkouts
  • Improve brand perception by delivering a better user experience

Real-life example:

Every conversion challenge is unique. One of our higher education digital marketing clients, University of San Diego Online, needed to boost “request information” and “apply” conversions for their Masters in Applied Data Science program. We applied industry expertise combined with data-driven insights into what types of information and validation prospective students need in order to take the next step. The result is a robust, high-converting program page that makes it as easy as possible for prospects to choose this program.

A screenshot of a section of a program page for an online degree.

Paid Digital Media

What it is: Whenever you pay to have your content appear online, that’s paid digital media. The most common forms of paid digital media are pay-per-click advertising (PPC) — itself a combination of paid search advertising and display advertising — paid social media marketing (either ads or paid influencer campaigns), and over-the-top (OTT) advertising (ads that are delivered through streaming video like YouTube).

How it works: Every form of paid digital media involves some form of targeting. You can target people based on search terms, audience characteristics, behavior (such as previously viewed sites), and more. The basic idea is to deliver marketing content (usually in the form of ads) that will be relevant and persuasive enough to the target audience to get them to take the action you want — such as clicking on your ad.

Goals it helps achieve:

  • Increase online lead generation
  • Increase online purchases
  • Increase site traffic to desired pages
  • Increase brand awareness and perception

Real-life example:

One of our clients, a financial technology provider, generated 128X ROAS in an opportunity pipeline as the result of our unconventional approach to paid digital marketing strategy, which combined high-value content with innovative audience targeting. Learn more about this PPC success story.

Content Marketing

What it is: Content marketing is a digital marketing tactic focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and ultimately, to drive profitable customer action. Content can come in various forms, including blog posts, videos, infographics, podcasts, and social media posts, among others. Each type serves a different purpose and caters to different segments of your audience at different stages in their purchasing journey.

How it works: Content marketing is all about understanding your audience offering them high-quality, useful content that answers their questions, solves their problems, or engages their interest. Instead of pitching your products or services directly, content marketing builds a relationship with your audience by providing them with content that is genuinely helpful. Over time, this strategy helps to build brand trust and credibility, making users more likely to choose your business when they are ready to buy.

Full-funnel content marketing takes things a step further by developing content that is valuable enough for your audience to trade for their contact information in order to generate leads. A typical content marketing strategy might involve creating search-optimized content aimed at top-of-the-funnel prospects, and embedding a call to action to fill out a form to download a mid- or bottom-of-the-funnel piece of content such as a data-driven study or an informative webinar.

Goals it helps achieve:

  • Increase brand awareness
  • Boost website traffic
  • Generate leads and conversions
  • Improve search engine rankings
  • Enhance customer engagement and retention

Real-life example:

At Vital, we’re not just a full-service digital marketing agency that offers content marketing services — we’re also a client. We use content marketing in our own blog and resource center to attract more people to our website and generate valuable leads. Here’s a recent example:

An image showing a smiling white man adjusting his tie, with the headline: 7 Paid Ad Campaigns Universities Should Be Running (But Aren’t)

[Alt text: An image showing a smiling white man adjusting his tie, with the headline: 7 Paid Ad Campaigns Universities Should Be Running (But Aren’t)]

As an agency that specializes in both B2B digital marketing and higher education digital marketing, we produced this webinar for our education audience. A webinar like this does a lot of heavy lifting, generating leads from both sign-ups and on-demand viewers after the event, engaging participants, demonstrating thought leadership, differentiating our approach from the competition’s, and producing video content that can be re-cut and re-purposed for a variety of uses, including social media.

Social Media Marketing

What it is: Social media marketing involves promoting your brand, products, or services through various social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, X, LinkedIn, and TikTok. This tactic utilizes both organic strategies, such as creating engaging posts or communities, paid advertising, and influencer marketing, which may be paid, unpaid, or in exchange for goods or services. Different platforms cater to different audience demographics and behaviors, enabling brands to tailor their content and ads to specific groups for more effective engagement.

How it works: Social media marketing works by leveraging the platforms where your target audience spends a significant amount of their time. Brands create and share content that is entertaining, informative, or inspiring to initiate interaction and engagement with users. This content can be amplified further through paid promotions, targeting very specific audience segments. Additionally, social media allows for direct communication with consumers, providing a two-way channel for feedback and customer service.

Goals it helps achieve:

  • Enhance brand visibility and awareness
  • Drive traffic to your website
  • Increase engagement with your brand
  • Boost sales and leads
  • Improve customer satisfaction and loyalty

Real-life example:

We use social media in all kinds of ways, for both ourselves and our clients. This LinkedIn post shares a video testimonial from one of our brand messaging clients, building trust through social validation.

We’ve also had great success using social media for hiring and recruiting, sharing client success stories, and more.

Email Marketing

What it is: Email marketing is a powerful digital marketing tactic that involves sending emails to a list of contacts who have opted to receive updates from your business. This strategy can encompass a variety of email types, including promotional campaigns, automated lead-nurture campaigns, newsletters, event invitations, and personalized messages.

How it works: Email marketing works by first building a subscriber list of users who have expressed interest in receiving emails from your brand. This list can be segmented based on various criteria like demographics, buying behavior, or engagement level, enabling more targeted and relevant messaging. Brands can then design and send tailored emails to these segments, using engaging content and clear calls-to-action (CTAs) to encourage opens and clicks. The success of email campaigns is typically measured through metrics such as open rates, click rates, and conversions.

Goals it helps achieve:

  • Support content marketing strategy by promoting content and nurturing leads
  • Increase engagement and brand loyalty
  • Drive sales and promotions
  • Improve customer retention
  • Gather insights into customer preferences

Real-life example:

One of the most effective areas in email marketing for our clients is lead nurturing. We use marketing automation tools to automatically send emails to those that take specific actions. For example, our clients may have an eBook that gets downloaded by their ideal target audience. We will have a lead nurture campaign setup to send automated emails at specified cadences to nurture them through the funnel, and get them to book a call with the sales team, or take the best next action.

The Takehome

Ten years ago, a study by GE Capital Retail Bank revealed that 81% of consumers did research online before making a purchase. Today, the internet is so intertwined with most people’s lives that nearly everything we do, from buying a house to finding the proper cooking time for a soft boiled egg (6-8 minutes) involves a search, a click, a scroll, a stream — or all of the above. And everywhere we search, click, scroll, or stream, we are targeted by organic and paid content designed to connect us to products and services that will entice us to open our digital wallets (or fill out a lead generation form). And when we check our email, we usually find our inboxes brimming with more marketing content.

Now more than ever, it’s critical to have a comprehensive, full-funnel digital marketing strategy to enable your brand to rise above the noise. At Vital, we specialize in helping B2B and higher education brands meet their goals through digital marketing. To get you started, we created a digital marketing plan template you can follow to lay the groundwork for your own strategy. Read our post on how to write a digital marketing plan if you need some guidance, or jump right in and get the template.

Marketing Plan Templates

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