Creating a successful digital marketing campaign plan

It’s been a few years since I studied for my IDM Digital Diploma but, by far the most valuable thing I learned was how to structure a digital marketing campaign plan using the SOSTAC framework.

The brainchild of PR Smith, applying SOSTAC makes it simple to create a well researched, thought out, measurable digital marketing campaign plan. Crucially SOSTAC (Situation, Objectives, Strategy, Tactics, Actions, Control)  is memorable and easy to apply.

It logically flows from where you are now, where you want to go, how you get there, the individual steps needed to get there, who’s does what and when, and how can tell if you’ve got there.

Using SOSTAC to create your digital marketing campaign plan

I’ve seen the SOSTAC framework interpreted and used slightly differently depending on circumstance. This often occurs in the Tactics and Action stages, where it’s easy to overlap activities. You may even find it easier to group these together in your plan.   

The beauty of this framework is you can adapt it for use for fully fledged long-term planning or a smaller individual campaign. The most important thing is that the plan ties together to achieve the objectives you’ve set.

Below is how I’ve found it best to organise activities but you may wish to tweak it to your own situation. I’ve included some examples for illustration purposes only.

Situation

The research and assessment stage. It covers where you are as a business, your product/service, customers, market trends, target audience, competitors, and USPs. This stage is highly valuable as the information gathered here will help set the rest of the plan. Techniques you can use include:

  • SWOT analysis
  • Customer data
  • Personas     

Example:

SWOT - Digital marketing campaign plan

Objectives

What you’re looking to achieve from your digital marketing campaign. Each objective should be SMART and fit with your overall business objectives.

Smith recommends setting objectives using the 5 S’s:

  • Sell – acquisition and retention targets
  • Serve – customer satisfaction targets
  • Sizzle – wow factor
  • Speak – engaging customers
  • Save – efficiency gains

You can use also use RACE to make sure that your objectives cover each stage of the sales cycle.

  • Reach
  • Act
  • Convert
  • Engage

Reaching these objectives will ultimately be how you measure the success of your digital marketing campaign.

Example: Objective 1  Acquire 1,000 new online customers this quarter at an average CPA (cost per acquisition) of £25.

Strategy

Use the results of your research, personas and SWOT analysis to identify the customer/market segments that you’re going to target.

Layout how you’re going to target them to achieve each objective. And set KPI’s that’ll help you track performance against your objectives.

Example. To acquire 1,000 new online customers this quarter we’re going to:

  • Increase our unique website visitors to from 80,000 per month to 90,000 and increase our conversion rate from 4% to 5% by:
    • Improving our organic search rankings for products
    • Running a paid search campaign
    • Introduce a new affiliate programme
    • Targeting existing customers with “recommend a friend” offers
    • Build early engagement through social channels
    • Optimising our product landing pages and reducing clicks to order
    • Retargeting ads for visitors that leave without purchasing

Tactics

The granularity on how you’ll execute your strategy including:

  • The Marketing Mix. 7 P’s.
  • Digital marketing tactics. How you’ll use the digital channels outlined in your strategy (e.g. SEO, PPC, affiliate, email, social) to engage your target audience through the sales funnel covering awareness, consideration, decision, purchase and customer retention.   
  • Content plan.

Example: We’ll improve our organic search rankings for products by:

  • Carrying out an SEO audit to identify where meta and technical improvements need to be made
  • Identifying the best keywords to target based on our user’s search intent
  • Creating a content marketing calendar for optimising existing content and producing new content
  • Use our site blog to produce quality content to complement our product pages
  • Amplifying content on social media channels
  • Building quality authoritative links through:
    • Relevant directories
    • PR Syndication

Actions

This covers who’ll be doing what and when. I find it useful to create a marketing activity calendar. And detail any internal or external resources that’ll be used.

Example:

When Task Who
Week 1 SEO audit Tom – Marketing Exec
Week 1 Keyword research Tom – Marketing Exec
Week 2 Create content marketing calendar Dan – Marketing Manager

Control

How you’re going to measure and monitor the campaign’s performance based on the objectives set.

  • Analytics
  • Reporting – including dashboards to accurately measure your KPI’s
  • Budget – Include your overall budget and target cost per acquisition.

Example:

  • We’ll set up a dashboard in Power BI that pulls data from Google Analytics, AdWords, and our CRM to track the KPIs for each of our objectives. This’ll be used for reporting results to all stakeholders
  • Weekly campaign performance review meeting

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at how I use SOSTAC to create a digital marketing campaign plan. You can find more at PR Smith and Smart Insights.

What Sitecore 9 means for Marketers

Sitecore 9 released recently as part of the platform’s rebranded Experience Cloud offering. Sitecore and Adobe are fighting for top spot in the enterprise web content management space, as Gartner’s WCM Magic Quadrant shows. So what does Sitecore 9 bring to the table for marketers? And how will it help Sitecore attract more big brands to its platform?

The added power of machine learning

Machine learning has been a buzzword in digital marketing and data management for a while. It means your machine or system is continually learning behaviour from large quantities of collected data to provide a business outcome.

The collection, storage and use of data to personalise customer experiences across all marketing channels have been Sitecore’s calling card since Sitecore 8 was introduced in 2015. Sitecore 9 ramps this up with some nifty innovations. Chief among these is Sitecore Cortex, it’s new machine learning tool. This is a dedicated engine for processing machine learning algorithms at scale.  

Sitecore Cortex

The benefits to marketers include:

  • New customer insights that would have previously been extremely difficult and time-consuming to discover. For example, new audience segments to target, based on the content visitors are consuming.
  • Automated testing and optimisation. Content can be iteratively scored and rescored to map to relevant customer segments. This improves personalisation experiences.
  • Measurable personalisation, based on a customer’s current and past context. Sitecore uses an engagement value to measure personalisation effect. This means marketers can tie conversions to revenue to measure success.  

Feed Sitecore with your other systems’ data

Sitecore xConnect lets you seamlessly connect and collect data from other 3rd party software systems such as your CRM, ERP or EPOS and store them in Sitecore xDB. This significantly enriches the quality of the data that you have available for personalisation and machine learning. And the richer the data, the more intelligent the results. What’s more Sitecore xConnent allows:

  • Push and pull on contacts and interactions with the connected 3rd party system
  • Automatic indexing of any contact, facet, interaction or event in Sitecore xDB.

Enhance your entire marketing strategy

Anyone that’s been frustrated by Web Forms For Marketers (WFFM) in Sitecore can breathe a big sigh of relief. They’re gone in Sitecore 9! Sitecore has introduced drag and drop to some of its key built-in marketing tools. This means redesigned web forms that are actually simple to set up and reuse.

Sitecore Forms

Another useful drag and drop feature is the ability to easily create engagement plans to nurture prospects with highly personalised messaging, offers and emails.

marketing automation

Frankly, this user interface (UI) overhaul was overdue. Sitecore offers brands the ability to create highly personalised, contextual experiences but this hasn’t always been easy to put into practice. Improving the UI will make getting the most out of Sitecore much smoother for marketers.   

The promise of future innovation

Sitecore isn’t sitting on its laurels. More innovation is promised in later versions of Sitecore 9. Two that stand out are codenamed, ‘Horizon’ and ‘Zenith’.

Sitecore Horizon will extend intuitive drag and drop to content creation. This’ll change the way that marketers can design pages in Sitecore, with real-time tips and insight as you create and publish content.

Zenith will enhance Sitecore’s headless capabilities. It’ll let you store, manage and distribute content, from one simple interface in Sitecore to external devices such as aps or IoT’s.

Overall Sitecore 9 is an exciting release. Sitecore is ahead of the curve in using intelligence and insight, gleaned from seamless customer data, to drive highly personalised experiences. This makes Sitecore a great digital marketing platform choice for brands.

20 tips for a successful PPC Campaign

I’ve run pay-per-click (PPC) paid search campaigns for several brands. Paid search is a fast and effective way of marketing your product or service on search engines. Especially if you’re a small business, lacking domain authority to compete with larger brands in the SEO space. But PPC can be quick to burn through budget if you’re not careful.

Here are 20 tips to help you create and manage a successful PPC campaign. 

Before you start your PPC campaign

  1. Spend time researching which keywords are worth bidding on. Google Adwords Keyword Planner tool is the best starting point. It’ll show you search volumes, predicted costs and the level of competition. Paid options from SEMrush and the Moz Keyword Explorer are worth considering for more insight.
  2. Brainstorm to come up with keywords or search terms that may not be immediately obvious. Involve other relevant parties such as the sales team to come up with ideas.
  3. Do your homework on the competition. Look at their Ads, keywords and landing pages. How can you improve on them?
  4. Consider your audience. Adwords lets you specify locations, times and devices to best target your ads and ad budget. You should already have a good idea of who your customers are. Plus, Google Analytics has useful metrics on the breakdown of your current website traffic and conversions.
  5. Set KPIs and goals before starting a campaign. These should align with your overall business and marketing strategy. This will give you metrics to measure against and help determine campaign success.

Setting up your PPC campaign

  1. Start small and build out the campaign. Begin with the most targeted keywords. And I’d usually advise setting these to exact matches. You can always build out the volume once the campaign is up and running. You don’t want to be burning budget on broad search terms early in the campaign.
  2. Make sure not to have too many keywords in one ad group. 10-15 should be the maximum. Any more and you risk your ads becoming too generic.
  3. Create three different ads for each ad group. This’ll make it easier to test and optimise.
  4. Work out your product or service’s unique selling points (USPs) and include these in your ad copy.
  5. Set up a dedicated landing page for each PPC campaign. Your goals for a PPC campaign are often conversion based. Content may differ from pages you’ve created for SEO to target the same keywords. Make sure you tag your unique PPC landing pages as noindex, nofollow to avoid duplication with your SEO ranking pages.
  6. Make sure that your ad copy and landing pages work in harmony to deliver the same message. The keywords you’re targeting should be on the landing page. There should be a clear call to action (CTA) that highlights the conversion result you’re looking to achieve.
  7. Work out your monthly budget and set a daily limit as appropriate. Google calculates a monthly budget as 30.3 x your daily limit. One thing to be aware of is you can spend up to 2x more than your daily budget when there are traffic spikes. But Google guarantees that you won’t spend more than the calculated monthly budget. Or rather if you do, they’ll credit you the difference.

Managing and optimising your PPC campaign

  1. Optimise your ads and landing page regularly. This is important as these impact click-through-rate (CTR) and keyword quality score. Both of which go a long way to determining how much you pay for each click. Keep your best performing ad in each group and work on improving the other two. And A/B test your landing page.
  2. Break out high performing keywords into their own ad groups so that you can target them with more effective ad copy.
  3. Bid on your brand. This is good practice, even if you’re top ranked in organic results. Brand keywords are generally inexpensive and if you don’t bid on yours you may find a competitor does.  
  4. Broad Match modifier is a great way of increasing volume for campaigns by targeting long tail search terms, while still maintaining good control over quality.
  5. If you keep hitting your daily spend limit you’re missing out on impressions and clicks. You could increase your budget but this may not always be an option due to cost. There is another way. You could reduce your bid amounts to make your budget last longer.
  6. Use ad extensions to make your ads stand out in search results. For call extensions use a unique number and display it on the landing page. This will let you attribute incoming calls to the PPC campaign.
  7. Consider also using Bing for PPC campaigns. The cost of search terms can be substantially less than Google Adwords. Best of all you can import your existing campaigns from AdWords.
  8. Soak up as much as you can on PPC best practice and trends. AdWords is constantly evolving and adding new features. Google has a lot of guides available. I’d also recommend Search Engine Land and Marketing Land. 

Of course, this advice is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to managing a PPC campaign. Other suggestions are welcome in the comments below.