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shutterstock_528855556John ringHow do you line up your digital ducks in a row for 2017? John Ring offers some suggestions.

“Failing to plan is planning to fail” according to Roy Keane amongst others. What’s true of the preparations for a World Cup in Saipan many years ago is equally true for the success or otherwise of your digital marketing activity for the year ahead. Hopefully you’re well into the planning stages now that it’s nearly Christmas. What follows are some brief thoughts on five major elements necessary for digital success in 2017. When done properly, these collectively “make your boss happy”. The five are budgets, objectives, website, tactics and results.

Budgets: Depending on the nature and lifecycle stage of your business, digital budgets can be hard to determine without detailed knowledge of what’s involved. If you have such knowledge however, you’re likely to know exactly the budget you’ll need in which case no business case is required for the board. A successful multi-million euro traditional business I know of with a very smart CEO recently got some quotes ranging from €20K to €200K for a web project. The initial instinct of course is to laughingly dismiss the €200K quote out of hand with an incredulous “that’s insane”. When the potential client was taken through the complexity of the project plan however, the mood slowly changed from “€200K is insane” to “the €20K lads clearly haven’t thought through our complex requirements”. Without you having to be a digital expert, you still need a good level of digital understanding to be able to allocate 2017 budgets correctly to get the best ROI.

Objectives: When it comes to what you want to achieve with your budget, have you got clear target numbers in mind? It’s frightening how often we speak to good B2B companies who are not able to answer simple commercial questions like how many enquiries do you get, how many are tire kickers vs genuine leads, how long to convert genuine leads etc.

If you don’t know these numbers for your business – and the questions are pretty similar in B2C – get them fast.

Your Website: A website is owned media. Most digital activity is earned or paid media meaning that your site is and should be the centre of your digital world. The sole objective with everything you do online in 2017 should be to get “something” from each and every person you manage via costly campaigns and hard work to attract to your site.

Whether it’s leads, sign-up’s, enquiries, sales or just pixeling the person for future remarketing efforts, get something from everyone.

Tactics: Is there any other marketing channel that has such a bewildering array of tactics as digital? With digital often getting more than 30% of marketing budgets and as much as 100% in some cases (eg: Ruffles from Pepsico), getting the right blend of tactics to deliver maximum ROI is difficult.

Search marketing is pretty easy to conceptually get if not sometimes hard to deliver decent results in depending on your industry or niche. ie: Poker on SEO or Car Hire on PPC. Now that we appear to be heading towards a non-globalised Brexit and Trump world, the rationale for local search domination is stronger by the week. Have you got “local” sorted out across both paid and organic search? It’s a really cheap and easy win.

When you see Facebook taking the huge chunk of digital ad spend that Google isn’t, you know we’ve moved on lots from “likes” as the measure of success. You know as well about their demographic ad targeting capability of course but what customer data like emails or mobile numbers are you using securely via hashing to massively ramp up your visibility to lookalike / similar audiences? If Linkedin is your preferred social channel, have you got onto Linkedin Pulse to get global visibility with your thought leadership pieces? You can legitimately buy cheap Facebook traffic from developing countries at 2% of the Irish cost just to get real people seeing your Linkedin content – such a surge in eyeballs causes Linkedin Pulse to massively increase the visibility of your content in places you do care about.

Content of course is the hardest tactic to see a clear ROI on as you typically need researchers, writers, designers, animators, project management as well as digital PR expertise to do it right and few brands have those resources readily available internally. I recently came across a great European study by a top Irish legal firm. Other than a press release to the usual suspects like RTE etc, no international digital PR had been done which was an incredible wasted opportunity to demonstrate the legal expertise of the commissioning partner. The moral of the story here is that if you plan to do market research over the next year, if harnessed correctly, this is digital marketing gold if you want to generate sales, leads or just awareness via your site.

As the oldest workhorse in the digital stable, email rarely gets much of a look-in but if you haven’t started dipping your toes into marketing automation via Marketo / Pardot / Hubspot etc, there’s no time like the present. Personalisation of relevant content is what we’re talking about here and while making it work can be resource-intensive, it’s just as hard for your competition.

Lastly on tactics, for top of funnel awareness, display ads are the way to go if you’ve decent budget available. Programmatic take-up is relatively slow here for various reasons but if lead generation or online sales are your primary objective however at a low CPA, I’d skip display.

Results: If the objective of your 2017 planning is to deliver stellar results to keep your boss / brand happy, tracking is key. From tagging all pages with remarketing codes and rules pre-campaign to integrating offline / call centre data with online behaviour via Google’s Universal Analytics, there’s a bit more involved than just adding a UTM code on the end of an ad’s destination URL.

Cost per Acquisition, traffic levels, conversion rates should be the focus for each and every tactic used. If something doesn’t deliver, kill it fast and reallocate the budget.

First published in Irish Marketing Journal (IMJ November Issue 2016)© to order back issues please call 016611660