I know what you guys might be thinking. What is this all about. This is related to starting websites for commerce. You have to plan your strategy, not in the normal marketing you do for Real Businesses but related one specifically for Internet Businesses, the new E-Marketing.
STAGES IN DEVELOPING YOUR E-MARKETING PLAN
It is important to recognize that planning for e-marketing does not mean starting from scratch. Any online e-communication must be consistent and work with the overall marketing goals and current marketing efforts of your business.
The main components of an e-marketing plan will typically include the following stages:
- Identify your target audience – if you identify multiple targets, rank them in order of importance so that you can allocate resources accordingly. Profile each target group and understand their requirements and expectations. This type of customer segmentation will help you choose the right tactics for your plan.
- Understand your competitors – profile your competitors and the market in which you operate. What types of online marketing do your competitors use and how well do they perform? This type of benchmarking will help you understand the environment in which you are operating.
- Set your objectives – possible objectives could include raising awareness of your brand, improving sales or online registrations, improving customer retention, providing greater internal efficiencies such as decreased marketing costs and reduced order-taking and fulfillment costs. The objectives that you choose depend on your business needs.
- Plan your tactics – once you have a top-level strategy including your overall objectives, you need to identify the tactics that you want to use. The plan can also cover any other non-internet marketing activities that are being undertaken. Think about how you will measure your success – build in feedback mechanisms and regular reviews to enable you to assess the performance of your e-marketing activities and identify areas for improvement.
- Agree a budget – careful budgeting allows you to prevent costs spiraling out of control. Identify the returns you expect to make from your investment in e-marketing activities and compare these with the costs in order to develop a cost/benefit analysis.
PLANNING – EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
The executive summary of your e-marketing plan should provide a short synopsis of your entire e-marketing strategy. It should include highlights from each section of the rest of the document.
The role of the executive summary is to provide enough detail to interest busy senior executives and encourage them to buy in to the e-marketing plan and how it can benefit the business.
It should be concise – ideally a page in length – easy to understand, and interesting without using hype. It’s advisable to write this section of your plan after you have completed the rest.
The summary should outline the following:
- your business environment
- the key issues that have emerged from your situation analysis
- the key objectives of your e-marketing plan
- the strategies and tactics to be used
- the projected outcomes and expected return on investment
PLANNING – SITUATION ANALYSIS
The situation analysis section of your e-marketing plan needs to describe the context in which your e-marketing will take place. It should include an analysis of your business’ internal (micro) and external (macro) environments.
Internal considerations include your:
- market, and any trends in this
- current online proposition
External considerations could be:
- social – how changing consumer attitudes could affect your approach
- legal – i.e. complying with e-marketing laws, such as data protection
- environmental – i.e. making sure your approach is ethical and sustainable
- political – how local or national government could impact on your plan
- technological – how advances in technology could affect your marketplace
PLANNING – OBJECTIVES & STRATEGY
The objectives you decide on for your e-marketing need to be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely).
When defining your e-marketing objectives, you should think about how they will align with your overall business’ goals and your key performance indicators.
You should also consider what the return on your investment will be – this is likely to be financial, but could also include, for example:
- an improved conversion rate
- greater brand awareness
- an increase in visits to your website
- a greater market share
How you measure the success of your plan will depend on your general business and marketing objectives. This will differ from business to business.
Your plan needs to look at the whole customer journey – ie how a customer will become aware of your brand, why they will then want to visit your website and finally how easily will they be able to make a purchase or register once on your site. This can be summarized simply as awareness, acquisition and conversion. Different online tactics will support different parts of this customer journey.
Once you have defined your objectives, you should provide a summary of your strategy, showing how you are going to use e-marketing to meet your goals. This should summarize the ‘big picture’ and lead naturally into the next section of your plan, in which you will define the tactics that you want to use.
PLANNING – TACTICS
- a summary of your digital marketing mix – what channels will you use?
- the reasons why you have chosen each channel and details of implementation
- the customer segmentation that you will use and how each channel will be targeted
- a summary of the metrics that you will use to measure performance for each channel
- what key performance indicators you will use to assess performance
Digital marketing channels available for you to use
Email – great for building relationships and keeping your customers up to date with offers, and is less intrusive than telephone marketing. However, growing concerns about spam mean you need to make sure you adhere to government regulations.
SMS (short messaging service) – almost everyone has a mobile phone, so marketing via text messaging is a viable option. However, the personal relationships people have with their phones means marketing needs to be carefully considered.
Websites – a hugely flexible option to meet any marketing need. However, with so many other websites, you need a strategy for getting yours noticed and used.
Presenting your tactics in a table will help make your summary easier to read. It may also be useful to group tactics into awareness, acquisition and conversion activities. If you are employing an agency to carry out specific parts of your e-marketing, they should feed into this section.
PLANNING – BUDGET
The final section of your e-marketing plan will outline your budget for achieving your objectives. This is best presented as a single spreadsheet, providing specific detail on:
- what you plan to spend overall
- how this will be broken down across tactics over a fixed period
- any financial key performance indicators or milestones that need to be met
- potential return on investment across channels
- a summary of projected benefits – which can be used in the executive summary
The summary of projected benefits should include estimates of how much traffic will be generated from each tactic and the number of prospects that will likely go on to convert. Try to back up your estimates with figures wherever possible. This will help justify the mix of tactics you have chosen.
You should also include an analysis of projected sales, across tactics, and the profit that each will generate. This will help you quantify the net profit from your overall e-marketing plan.
LEGAL CONSIDERATIONS IN E-MARKETING
There are a number of regulations that relate specifically to e-marketing. You need to keep abreast of developments in this area to ensure that you are complying with the various rules.
Email and SMS marketing – regulations
There are rules covering marketing emails and SMS messages to individuals.
The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations introduced an opt-in consent procedure for commercial emails – which means you can only target people who have agreed to be contacted.
The rules only apply to new customers. You can continue marketing to existing customers provided they can opt-out of future messages and the marketing messages cover similar products and services.
You must also clearly mark your emails with your contact details and include a valid return email address.
All websites should carry your company’s registered address and company (or charity) registration number.
Cookies are small pieces of software that websites store on users’ computers. They have a wide variety of uses, but an important one is to track the movements of visitors to websites, counting clicks, establishing how people arrived at the site and how they navigate around it. In short, cookies can be a very useful marketing tool.
HOW TO DEVELOP & IMPLEMENT AN E-MARKETING PLAN
Get the branding right
“Four years ago, our family business of fruit stalls in prime London locations was suffering from changing consumer shopping habits and the rise of the supermarkets. However, I had noticed that more and more companies were sending staff out to purchase quantities of fruit for general consumption in the office. I did some market research and financial forecasts to quantify the market potential and refine the target audience and became convinced that we could re-focus the business on this area, offering quality produce and an efficient delivery service direct to the customer’s premises.
“I realised that e-marketing was going to play a key role, simply because of the huge growth in internet commerce. I also felt that there was no point in jumping hastily on the bandwagon. I wanted to start with a great brand around which the marketing could be built and which would immediately inspire customer confidence. Branding was particularly important because we were the first company to specifically target fruit for offices and because the product itself is quite hard to differentiate from what future competitors could offer.
“Utilising my research and comparisons with other successful food brands, I worked on the brand image with a trusted design company to formulate a company name and logo, an overall design blueprint and key marketing messages.”
Put the online infrastructure in place
“E-marketing has to start with a good website. We already had a static one-page site to publicize the fruit stalls, but it wasn’t up to the mark. Working with our design agency, we started again from scratch, planning in meticulous detail, testing pages for usability and search engine optimization and ensuring we would be able to easily add content in future.
“Data capture and building customer relationships are essential. We encourage visitors to sign up for our regular email newsletters, by including special offers, details of food festivals and other information that’s of interest to our target market. We’re careful to abide by Data Protection laws when collecting customer details and always gain opt-in rather than automatically adding someone to our list.
“The website also includes a blog with feedback facilities, which reflects the brand personality and includes fun and informative fruit-related features plus company news such as our regular charity fund-raising efforts. We invested a lot of money in the website and a launch campaign, but it paid for itself within weeks of going live.”
Monitor, review and update
“I use the Google Analytics tool every day to help monitor our e-marketing. It gives crucial information about how people are using the website and responding to our marketing messages, so that we can refine and develop them and segment the e-marketing further to reach specific customer groups. I also use the tool to analyze the performance of our competitors. In addition, we conduct an annual e-mail survey to gain customer feedback, the results of which are fed back to all staff.
“We’re constantly reviewing and updating our e-marketing plan to keep us ahead of the competition. For example, we’re about to implement a huge data capture exercise using a bought-in database and offering fruit-related prizes as incentives to register with us. This should provide a major expansion of our own database for future e-marketing campaigns.”
“The website has proved a highly successful e-marketing tool from day one. However I wish we’d originally built in more “landing pages” – the pages that potential customers are directed to when they type a particular keyword into a search engine.”