Start With Strategy: The Route To Digital Marketing Success

start with strategy for digital marketing success

Recently, I’ve been listening to Sun Tsu’s Art of War on my commute. I’m admittedly a sucker for the classics and the Art of War is a great piece of literature that is surprisingly relevant to the business and marketing world. In essence, as it applies to digital marketers, we are all trying to outmaneuver the competition to win. Modern digital marketing could easily be described as a battle. We are all fighting for our audience’s attention. This probably means I could be described as a “Web Warrior,” but that might be a stretch on the ole’ resume.
Anyways, while listening, I caught one line that really stuck with me and made me start thinking about how it applies to digital marketing.

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory, tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” —Sun Tsu

How easily that can apply to the digital marketing world! Campaigns, ads, and posts are our tactics, but if you’re not applying an overall strategy to support them, then you will be defeated. Even if you aren’t currently using actionable tactics, if you have a strategy in place, you have a route to victory. This highlights just how important strategy is and why we need to filter all of our tactics and campaigns through our overall digital marketing strategy.

So let’s dive in. How do we develop a winning digital marketing strategy?

Developing a successful digital marketing strategy is about making a set of choices and answering internal questions that help you identify the best marketing tactics and channels to reach your overall goals.


Your digital strategy is the foundation of your online marketing. It needs to be the base that you build every marketing decision on. When coming up with engagement tactics you’ll need to throw around a lot of ideas. By developing a solid digital strategy, you’ll be able to look at those ideas and identify initiatives, campaigns, and channels that will have the most impact on your business and will provide the greatest return.

Remember: It’s important to realize that marketing campaigns and plans are not strategies. They are the step by step actions that you take to implement your overall strategy. They are the tactics that move you towards meeting your goals.

To build a simple digital marketing strategy you need to ask yourself 5 simple questions and expand on them. Spend careful time analyzing each question and build your understanding of each aspect of your strategy.

1. What makes you unique?

2. What are your goals?

  • Sales? Traffic? Email subscribers? Press? Authority? All of the above?

3. Who is your target audience?

4. What capabilities do you have and what assets do you need?

  • Audit your existing channels, content, and assets.
  • Identify new channels and potential opportunities using your customer personas and audience data.
  • Identify how’ll you’ll implement your plans. What will the workflow look like?
  • Identify your budget and schedule.

5. How will you win?

  • Develop individual strategic plans for each of your chosen goals.
    1. Identify marketing campaigns and channels that best correspond to each goal and your audience.
    2. Compare your plans to your assets and capabilities and then adjust accordingly.
  • Identify your KPI’s/Metrics and your measurement plan.
  • Create A/B scenarios. Planning to win often means having a trick up your sleeve, just in case.

Now you are armed with the best tool a digital marketer can have: a strategy that is thorough and actionable. You may need to tweak your campaigns and initiatives using data that you’ve gathered. In fact, you almost certainly should. That’s fine. An important part of any plan is to be fluid and flexible. Remember, there is always a route to victory, even with all the noise and competition in digital marketing today.

“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity” ― Sun Tzu


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