The New Year brings with it a great opportunity to review your wins – and, of course, your losses – from 2017.

Whether you’ve been busy getting your ship in order for the last few months, or you’ve left it until the end of December to organise your digital marketing strategy for 2018, now is the time to decide on the best way forward for your business. Knowing where to start can pose a problem, though, which is why we’ve put together some timely advice for all marketers who are mulling over their future plans this Christmas.

Read on to find out how to develop an effective digital marketing plan that will ensure 2018 is your most successful year yet.

Work out where the bulk of your business came from last year.

As business owners, we often have fingers in many promotional pies. We flit niftily between networking events; we spend hours writing and marketing our content; we get up at the crack of dawn to attend trade shows, exhibitions and conferences so we can sell our wares face to face. But although we’re finding more and more ways to advertise ourselves and showcase what we can offer, do we actually know where most of our business is coming from?

Depending on the size of your company, the complexity of its setup, and whether or not you make tracking leads a priority, it may take you longer than you expected to find your answer to this question. The main thing is, don’t trust an educated guess. You need cold, hard data to back up your hunch, however accurate you think it might be.

Certain platforms can help you discover which activity is driving the most conversions for you. If your organisation is online, you’ll benefit from reviewing your Google Analytics data from the previous year. You should take a look at the information in your Search Console account for an accurate overview of how your website is being indexed and found in search. If you run regular e-marketing campaigns, your dedicated email analytics platform will provide you with an interesting insight into who is reading your newsletters; if you’re active on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, all of these networks offer native analytics dashboards to help you discover how many clicks you’re getting from your content.

You could also sit down with your team and ask them for their feedback. After all, they’re out on the front line talking to your customers and clients, so they may have a better understanding of how these people are finding you.

Ask yourself: what did you do well?

You may not have scored your dream contract just yet, and you may not have made your first million, but you’re sure to have had various successes in the last year. So why not give yourself a big pat on the back for all your recent achievements?

Write down a list of all your proud moments from the last twelve months and think about the actions that led you to these wins. Did split-testing your ad copy eventually lead to better conversions? Were you quick to react to a news story on social media, and did this lead to record engagement on a post? Make a note of the approaches that worked, and emulate them in 2018.

businessman celebrating success with mid air jump

Brace yourself: what didn’t go so well for you?

It takes guts to focus on the negatives, even for a short while. But identifying the things that didn’t quite work out as you’d hoped will teach you valuable lessons. For example, if a particular digital campaign didn’t deliver the results you expected, why was this the case? Look at how the strategy unfolded, identify any weaknesses that could have hindered your progress, and make sure you don’t make the same mistakes again.

What do you want to achieve next year?

It’s a big question, and you need to answer it truthfully if you’re going to make next year count.

Your vision for 2018 will largely depend on what’s important to you right now.

For example, you might not necessarily want to ‘grow’ in the traditional sense by increasing your turnover, employing more staff or taking on more clients. Perhaps you’ll want to improve the quality of your online content, because your users have found their experience of your website to be a little confusing or lacklustre. Maybe you’ll want to scale back your business so you can adjust your working hours to suit a change in lifestyle. This is no bad thing – after all, a step sideways is never a step backwards.

Ask yourself what the future looks like to you. Create a list of all the things you want to achieve with your company in the coming twelve months. Set goals and make sure you have a strong understanding of where you want to be in a year’s time.

Define your audience.

You might think you know who you’re targeting – but times change, and your model demographic may look dramatically different in comparison to when you first started up. You need to really get to know your audience before you even begin to think about developing your digital marketing plan, because all of your content needs to be 100% tailored to their needs and behaviours, which will of course be unique.

A great way to hone in on your ideal customer(s) is to create personas. This guide to creating marketing personas from Buffer really is one of the best resources on this topic.

Set SMART goals.

Establishing your goals for the year is a great start – but making your objectives SMART will make all of your aims much more attainable. If you’re not familiar with this acronym, SMART stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely. (There are a few variations out there, but this is the most popular version).

Follow these criteria when developing your goals and you’ll find that things will start to fall into place within a much shorter timeframe.

Decide which marketing channels you want to focus on.

When it comes to choosing the right channels to market in 2018, don’t be tempted to market in the dark. Initially, you’ll either be relying on your previous experiences with a particular marketing method, or other people’s opinions of it. The trick is to find out for yourself what you should really be investing in. Carry out some good solid research into which marketing approaches typically work best for your industry.

Without making an informed decision as to where to place your marketing budget, you could be compromising your return on investment. As an example, some B2B companies choose to plough their whole social media marketing budget into Facebook ads, perhaps because their marketing manager is familiar with the site and their CEO believes that any activity online is better than none. However, many trials have shown that LinkedIn is likely to be a more effective way of reaching this particular target audience because it can get a brand in front of real decision-makers. Changing focus because you’ve come across evidence that encourages you to make the switch could lead to a healthier bottom line.

Do the maths.

Like most of us, you’ll need to be considerate with your cash. Your digital marketing budget will ultimately define the approach you take, so spend some time working out what is a realistic spend for your organisation.

Do the sums, take all of your projections and expenses into account, and work out how much you can feasibly put aside for your marketing efforts on a monthly basis. Don’t be tempted to blow all your cash in the first quarter – a smaller yet more sustainable monthly contribution will deliver better results in the longer term.

Delegate digital marketing tasks to your team.

Everyone already has their own role within your company, but could they take on some new digital marketing responsibilities? Could the keen, young, tech-hungry apprentice manage your social media posts? Could your account manager contribute to your content strategy by writing a blog post once a month?

If you often struggle to find the time to focus on your marketing activities, assigning jobs to other capable staff members will help you keep on top of your task list (and they’ll feel like their input is valued, too).

Bring your website up to date.

A slow, tired and uninspiring website will not be making a great impression on your prospects. Remember that, aside from being mentioned in practically all of your offline marketing materials, your site will also act as your online shop window. Those who find you via your social accounts, blog posts and online listings will be directed straight back to your domain, so it needs to deliver an exceptional browsing experience if these shoppers are going to take your company seriously.

If your website needs some TLC, now is the time to schedule in an audit and make some improvements. Rewrite your web copy, refresh your SEO campaign, invest in onsite optimisation, boost your blog – do whatever it takes to ensure your site is working as hard as it possibly can for your business.

Make sure the information on your site is accurate, too. Incorrect prices, outdated product descriptions, low quality images and marketing copy littered with poor grammar could spell disaster for your conversion rates.

business team agreeing on new digital marketing plan

Incorporate new trends into your strategy.

Blogs, landing pages and PR pieces are still hugely important, but digital marketing is evolving by the day.

Have you considered audio content? Can you see the benefits in setting up a vlog for your brand? Don’t forget to consider cutting edge marketing tactics if you want to stay ahead of your competition. This guide from the Digital Marketing Institute is an interesting read and will get you up to speed with all the latest digital methods.

Create a content calendar.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve decided to add reams of new content to your website or just increase your activity on Pinterest – you’ll need content for all of your channels, and everything you send out into the ether will need to be designed to capture the attention of potential clients.

(Remember, ‘content’ can refer to text, images, videos and any vessel that delivers information to your audience).

The best way to keep your digital marketing plan in check is to create a calendar that references key events within your company and your industry. You can then follow this calendar on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, making sure you’re covering off everything of importance as the year progresses.

You’ll find plenty of content calendar templates online to help you get started. A quick Google search will bring up some of the most widely-used.

Be flexible with your digital marketing plan.

Having clear aims will help keep you on the straight and narrow, but life happens. Business happens. An unexpected turn of events may change your course halfway through the year, or perhaps you’ll expand much faster than you anticipated and you’ll need to scale up your business activities. Build a little flexibility into your digital marketing strategy and you’ll take the pressure off you and your team if things don’t quite go to plan.

If you’re struggling to put together your 2018 digital marketing plan and need a helping hand, contact Indy today. Our team have helped hundreds of businesses explore their options, so we can help you settle on the right strategy.