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4 Must-Have Elements for any Digital Marketing Plan

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Whether they're large or small, online or offline, all businesses can benefit from a digital marketing plan. In fact, as the global addiction to social media spreads (with, according to Statista, currently 1.55 billion people using Facebook worldwide, 400 million using Instagram, 320 million using Twitter, and predictions for a total of 2.44 billion social media users by 2018), the use of digital platforms can no longer be an afterthought, but a crucial element of the marketing mix.

Today's consumers have accepted the face-paced world of social media with gusto, and spend on average around 20 hours a week online! So, by failing to connect with consumers on digital platforms, businesses can do serious damage to their brand. Moreover, although social media of course plays a huge role in digital marketing, marketers have a lot to gain from other digital platforms too - including search engines, mobile, and email. Indeed, a good digital marketing plan will include and integrate all digital channels, and dedicate sufficient time and resources to each.

Many businesses today, especially SMEs, quickly run into difficulties when approaching digital marketing. This is because digital marketing moves quickly, and what works today may not necessary work tomorrow. Because of this, businesses with relatively scarce resources and time may struggle to identify and implement strategies that will positively impact their levels of sales and brand awareness.

To help such organisations, this article will run through four elements critical to the success of any digital marketing campaign.

1. Marketing Automation

For those businesses which lack time, digital marketing automation tools can be a huge benefit, with 79 percent of "top-performers" making use of some type of automation.

Since marketing automation has advanced, many of its prior associations (for example, being clumsy, "spammy", and ineffective) are no longer applicable. Used properly, marketing automation can significantly reduce time spent on mundane, repetitive tasks, leaving marketers free to focus on more high-level, strategic work.

Not all aspects of digital marketing are appropriate for automation. However, it can noticeably enhance areas such as email marketing, CRM integration, and lead management.

For example, automated email marketing used to extend merely to sending template messages to a large number of accounts. Now, however, with superior automation, email marketing tools are able to identify and segregate groups of consumers based on their needs, and send appropriate, timely follow-up messages. GetResponse's AutoResponder tool, for instance, is able to automatically respond to subscribers based on certain triggers - such as opens and clicks, completed transactions, contact sign-ups, and so on - saving marketers a lot of time and energy.

Salesforce's automation tool Pardot also allows marketers to save substantial amounts of time. The software suite offers solutions for smarter lead generation, lead management, ROI reporting, and sales alignment. The functionalities all work together to help marketing a sales teams generate and qualify leads, shorten sales cycles, and demonstrate marketing accountability.

Content Marketing
"Content marketing" has become one of the modern marketer's favourite buzzwords. But don't be put off; as a marketing technique, it works. According to Kapost, those companies adopting an inbound marketing strategy are saving $14 dollars for every new customer acquired, and are doubling their website conversion rates.

The trick to content marketing is creating consistently varied and interesting content in different forms (e.g., visual, video, written, etc.), and serving it up on a website that's both fast and responsive. Various tools exist that help businesses optimise and speed up their websites so they can load up their site with lots of great content without fear that their page load times will take a hit.

When it comes to creating content, it's ultimately up to the business to ensure quality. However, by employing freelance copywriters, designers, and videographers from sites such as Upwork; using tools such as Hemingway, Evernote, and Nimbus Screenshot; as well as a good Social Media Marketing tool (see fourth section on SMM, below), anybody with the inclination can create content that gets results.

Lead Generation
For many, the primary objective of digital marketing is raising brand awareness. But, whilst digital marketing can certainly have a massive positive impact on an organisation's brand, it can also be used to grow sales levels, too. Increasing revenue is the overall aim of all of a company's marketing strategies, and digital marketing provides a great opportunity to directly (as well as indirectly) increase sales.

Lead generation tools, ideally, give anybody, no matter their level of technical expertise, the ability to generate high-quality pages to promote yourself, product or services. For example, SunZu is a more comprehensive business software package that allows users to build microsites and landing pages, and to manage and analyse resulting visits and leads using the transaction manager and real-time analytics. Integrated with Xero accounting software and Mailchimp, SunZu was developed specifically for the needs of SMEs, including the Health and Fitness sector.

Unbounce and similar tools allow businesses to perform A/B testing on landing pages. By linking to landing pages in social media posts, blog articles, and video descriptions, businesses are able to refine and re-refine their landing pages in light of performance. Eventually, this process leads to the creation of a maximally-optimised landing page that's proven to generate the most amount of leads possible.

Social Media Marketing
Last year, marketers spent £8.3 billion on social media marketing. And it's no surprise. Internet users love social media, and regularly use it to keep in contact with friends, family, and colleagues. But, more than that, social media has now become an incredibly popular platform for brands to connect and engage with consumers, and vice versa.

In order to maintain a good social media marketing strategy, you need to dedicate time and energy to creating original posts as well as re-posting interesting third-party content. And remember, social media is not a purely an advertising channel. In fact, according to social media today, only 20 percent of your social media content should be about your brand. The other content should be aimed purely at interesting and engaging your audience. It makes sense, really, since social media users are unlikely to follow pages that only talk about themselves.

This, then, means creating lots of engaging content. But it also means planning, scheduling, and analysing that content. Good SMM tools (such as AgoraPulse, HubSpot, Hootsuite, etc.) provide all of the features (social inboxes, publishing tools, monitoring tools, CRM tools, and personalised reports) necessary to make your social media marketing strategy a success.

Do you agree with our four must-have elements for any digital marketing campaign? Or have I missed something important? Let me know with a comment!

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