We will teach you how to build a digital marketing strategy by showing you what we do at In Marketing We Trust and go through the framework we use. We’ve also created a mock strategy for a real brand. We’ll outline how this particular company can double their revenue in the next 12 months by looking at the type of strategy we’d employ and provide a detailed (but general) tactical plan, covering potential costs, results, tasks and timeline.
What we’ll cover:
- Why Do You Need a Digital Marketing Strategy?
- SOSTAC Framework
- Real-world Example
- Download Example Digital Marketing Strategy & Plan
Why do you need a digital marketing strategy?
Growth starts with strategy. It’s always been hard to define, but once a business has a strategic focus it often underpins the greatest periods of growth. Strategy helps define everything else.
Marketers are always on the hunt for the next tactic that can generate them x number of leads or xx$ in new business sales but doing so risks missing a critical part of the marketing process.
What do we mean when we say marketing strategy? To IMWT, strategy is the simplest description of how our business will achieve its goals.
Sounds abstract, I know. So to help crystallise it, let’s look at an example of a good strategy.
Example of a Good Marketing Strategy
Take a look at this article from 2006 on Tesla’s business strategy written by Elon Musk.
“The strategy of Tesla is to enter at the high end of the market, where customers are prepared to pay a premium, and then drive down market as fast as possible to higher unit volume and lower prices with each successive model.”
A strategy so simple it can fit in one sentence and is immediately understood.
Tesla has of course done exactly this by launching the production of the high price point Roadster in 2008, the Model S in 2012, the Model X in 2015 and the Model 3 in 2017. Each one of the models being at a slightly lower price point equals a larger addressable market with each car and wider proliferation of the brand across the world. In 2020, Tesla became America’s most valuable car manufacturer.
The Marketing Strategy
So strategy – the simplest description of how a business will achieve its goals.
How then, does this translate into a marketing strategy?
Let’s take Tesla’s example and translate that to marketing. If we know that our market is high-end luxury consumers with our first car and we want to slowly move to appeal to the mass market over each iteration, it makes the job of creating a marketing strategy that much easier.
A clear business strategy creates a better marketing strategy.
That being said, often, most marketers aren’t blessed with a clear business strategy. So how do you go about creating a marketing strategy on your own?
This is a how-to guide based on how we work with our clients to help them achieve a clear strategy across our 4 product lines:
- Measure: Web analytics – What you don’t measure you can’t improve
- Growth: Organic – What you need to do to grow organically
- Growth: Paid – What you need to do to pay for growth profitably
- Optimise: CRO – What you need to optimise to get more growth from less
The SOSTAC Framework
It helps to have a framework that defines how you think about creating a strategy. We use the SOSTAC framework which stands for:
- Situation – Where you are now
- Objectives – What you want to achieve
- Strategy – How you will achieve your objectives
- Tactics – What you will do to achieve your objectives
- Actions – Define the tasks, responsibilities and timeline
- Control – Define the metrics that demonstrate success
Each part informs the next and helps you to define on a deeper level what you will do. At IMWT we treat each part of the customer lifecycle with a different strategy. This helps to break up what you intend to do for customers in each stage of the funnel, such as how you intend to reach prospects that have never heard of you or your product vs people that already know you or are using a competing product.
You can use the framework to create as many situations for each funnel stage as you like and move through the process to address multiple issues separately. You can also create more detailed situations that cover multiple problems if that’s preferable.
For a simple example, let’s say you’re a B2B SaaS platform that is about to launch in the UK:
- Situation: We are market leaders in the US and rely heavily on that awareness to generate demand for our platform. In the UK we are not known and our product is not generating enough demand.
- Objectives: To generate brand awareness within our target enterprise market and increase demand (leads in the pipeline).
- Strategy: Provide value to our target market before expecting anything in return to demonstrate the value of our product without commitment and build brand affinity.
- Tactics: Create and promote audience-relevant, valuable free tools, and content that generate qualified traffic and leads.
- Perform keyword research to determine what our market finds valuable
- Ask our existing customers what is most useful about our platform
- Identify a feature that could be made free
- Build a free tool that fits an audience pain point
- Create content on how to use the tool
- Promote content across available channels
- Add lead gen forms
- Set up email automation to nurture leads and alert sales teams
- Set up performance tracking
- Report to stakeholders
I want to provide you with as much value as possible and the best way to do that is by picking a real business and going through the process of creating their marketing strategy, by filling in the framework.
Obviously there are problems with this:
- I have to make a lot of assumptions
- I don’t have access to real-life data (Google Analytics, Search Console, etc.)
- I don’t know what kind of marketing activity they are currently doing
Problems aside, I’ll try and use whatever public information I can, to make a real digital marketing strategy they could use and you (reader) can copy to your heart’s desire!
Seeing as we’ve already started with a B2B SaaS platform – we may as well continue down this route as a SaaS customer journey is really relevant to a lot of online business models whether they be subscription (recurring revenue), product or service-based. It is amazing how the biggest B2C brand successes are having the most success now by adopting a SaaS approach to their business strategy.
If you’re interested in seeing some really great B2C strategies from 2019, check out these success stories from Casper, Dollar Shave Club, Harry’s, Warby Parker on this awesome post from CB Insights.
One Aussie company that recently went through a funding round is Coassemble raising ~$4m. They have built a Learning management system (LMS) that facilitates the creation of a company eLearning portal. You can “Create, deliver, train and report” on courses “all in one place”. They’ve helped Christian Super develop and conduct annual compliance training, as well as AMAC (Australian Medical Acupuncture College) to set up their national curriculum online, across any device.
We like the look of Coassemble’s product and we like the look of the potential addressable market for them.
Disclaimer: We do not currently work with Coassemble and have no affiliation with them whatsoever. However, if someone on the marketing team in Coassemble thinks this strategy looks alright, get in touch and we’d be happy to talk to you about it 😉
Let’s jump in and look at this through our SOSTAC lens and see exactly how we’d build a strategy for Coassemble.
The first thing to do is to evaluate the current situation. Typically this would involve a discovery process with the Coassemble team discussing:
- The business strategy
- The target market
- The product and features
- The marketing strategy
- The results so far
- What the current figures are (revenue, customers, leads, traffic)
But… We can’t do that in this case so we’re going to make a few assumptions instead. I did find this handy article though which we can glean some insights from.
So the situation could be something like:
Coassemble has just had a second round of funding securing an additional $4.4m after the smaller first round of $2.2m. The first round was used to grow the business in terms of headcount which has led to the rapid expansion of monthly recurring revenue (MRR) from $30k in 2018 to $140k as of February 2020.
The business strategy is:
“To expand monthly recurring revenue (MRR) by growing the marketing and sales function and focus squarely on targeting the US market.”
They found that the companies interested in Australia were mainly education companies. That hasn’t fit with the market they believe has the best potential. Which they see are small/medium businesses that have an internal need to upskill team members.
“They’re usually companies that are really tech-savvy and have remote teams, but require a way to train staff, or just a way of sharing knowledge in general.” 
The product is a learning management system that helps businesses build online learning sites and applications that work across devices. They have drag and drop templates that allow for building engaging and interesting learning experiences. They have reporting tools that allow HR teams to report on engagement, progression, student results allowing companies to fine-tune and improve their training over time.
Along with those features they have world-class customer service with live chat and local support for their customers. As with most SaaS companies they also integrate with Salesforce, Stripe, Slack and Zapier allowing almost endless integrations into the SMB tools businesses are already using.
The pricing appears to be based on a flat $299 p/m fee for the (Unlimited plan) however there is a reference to other plans – should you need the integration functionality.
Coassemble also offers a design service to assist in the transfer of an offline course or existing eLearning course into the system. This could include “a full set of asset creation: illustrations, infographics, animations, videos, assessments”.
Existing marketing activities
Coassemble is doing really well in creating tools and interactivity on the site for prospective customers (as you’d expect from an online training software). They have a calculator which helps a prospect understand the money to be saved by moving all training to their LMS. They have a library of use cases to help a prospect understand why they might use their LMS. They clearly display trust signals and awards won by the platform for “Great UX”, “Value for Money”, “Customer Experience”. They’ve developed an eBook based around a core value proposition of Coassemble – “The Learner first training model”. The idea that businesses should be building their training around the learner first – sort of similar in marketing to having the customer in mind first and creating a buyer persona focussed marketing strategy.
Most interestingly, they’ve created prebuilt training content hosted on the Coassemble platform. This gives prospects a real look into what their training could look like and the rich features of the platform. I’ve seen this strategy work really well for a number of different SaaS providers like Klipfolio, Databox and Workable.
In terms of channel-specific marketing, organically they look to be improving MoM from SEMRush data (which is not always accurate) and they appear to be using paid search and display.
With social advertising, they do have Facebook and Linkedin ad tracking installed. and I can see from the Facebook ads library that they are running a single Instagram remarketing campaign, with a focus on the great reviews they have on G2.
They have Intercom live chat installed on the site for quick access to a customer support rep if a prospect has questions.
The main conversion on the site is to see a course demo (an example course on how to set up your training in Coassemble). The only requirement is an email address.
All in all, they have really great foundations in place and the website provides tremendous insight into how the platform works, its features, opportunities to interact and engage at any point in the prospect journey.
The fact they are only remarketing on Instagram suggests to me they are largely focussing paid activity on the bottom of the funnel conversions of already warm traffic.
The organic growth and regular use of the blog (3 articles a month) suggest the main top of funnel activity has been building out the keyword footprint. I can see from SEMRush that “improve recruitment process” is a top performer and a comparison of 2 desktop eLearning authoring tools “Articulate Storyline 2 vs Adobe Captivate 9” is another.
This makes sense as the strategy to grow bootstrapped pre-investment, however, with funding and a desire to grow the marketing function in the business, I believe a focus will be on building out the paid channels and acquisition in the next 12 months.
Looking at objectives I’m going to have to make a guess, but given the position of the business, the amount of investment, the move to the US and the large addressable market I’m going to guess that goals are pretty significant for Coassemble this year.
Let’s say our objective is:
- To Grow MRR by 100% YoY
If that is the case, what does that translate to in terms of need from online marketing?
If current MRR is $140k at an average order value of $299 p/m. That means they have ~468 customers. To double that they will need another 468 customers which at an average sales conversion rate of 50% they’d need 936 Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs), at a CVR of 20% from marketing qualified lead (MQL) to SQL they’d need 4,682 MQLs, which, at a 5% website conversion rate would mean they’d need 93,645 website visitors. Meaning an average of 7,804 visitors a month over 12 months.
|MRR Goal||AOV MRR||Customer Goal||SQL Goal||MQL Goal||Traffic||Monthly Traffic|
This is of course based around the website generating ALL of the necessary sales which realistically wouldn’t be the case.
David Skok’s ForEntrepreneurs 2019 private SaaS survey found that direct online sales typically account for 15% of total sales (for companies with ACV of $1k-$5k) and Inside Sales accounting for 49% of total sales. Inside sales being the process of generating online leads and a salesperson being operative in the process to convert that lead into a customer.
Given Coassemble don’t have online signup or a free trial currently, online direct sales are not possible. Realistically, online marketing would be expected to drive around 50% of sales. So, our revised objectives might look like:
Online Marketing Driving 50% of required sales
|Recurring Revenue Goal||Avg Revenue Per customer||Customer Goal||SQL Goal||MQL Goal||Traffic|
The economics of SaaS businesses is well documented – much better than I can give justice to – elsewhere, so I won’t spend too long on this other than to refer you to the industry-defining article on SaaS metrics from David Skok at ForEntrepreneurs.com.
It seems like the strategy so far has been to create valuable content foundations for their customers and prospects. I would say this is why they have gone in for additional investment now. They have working assets and validated products with good market fit in the newly confirmed US Market.
Now they want to scale.
Just as an aside here this happens to be an absolute specialism of In Marketing We Trust. If you’re a business who is in a similar position with a valid value proposition, good product-market fit and you’re looking to invest in scaling your business. Get a free consultation, we can help
A scaling strategy is really about choosing your marketing mix and building a customer acquisition system that is repeatable and scalable. We do this by planning the channels where you want to invest your money and testing/validating multiple creative angles of approaching the market until you find winners that can scale the acquisition of new users.
For instance, with Coassemble they could be approaching the market with messaging angles along the lines of:
- All in one eLearning course creation portal
- Award-winning eLearning course creation portal
- Authoring and Learning Management System for medium-sized businesses
Use case focussed:
- Onboard your team members faster with our Learning Management System
- Get compliance testing done the easy way with our online learning portal
- Move your employee training online with our online authoring and learning portal
Pain Point focussed:
- Hate how clunky your learning management system is? Try Coassemble – Online LMS and authoring to create engaging courses for your team.
- Engaging, mobile optimised training content doesn’t have to be hard to create. Try Coassemble – Online LMS and authoring system, plays nicely with any device, out of the box.
Typically, we’ll help our client build out their messaging matrix and bring the angles to market allowing quantitative data to decide which work best. We’ll then build out messaging across the customer journey that best speaks to the goal a customer has at a particular touchpoint.
In the generation of awareness, a customer is more likely to be engaged by a pain point focussed message over a brand message because the prospect is likely not aware of the brand at that point. Having creativity and flexibility in how you approach the market is crucial to the success of your marketing campaigns.
So our strategy could be:
- Promote existing content assets with winning messaging across biddable media to acquire new users.
Given Coassemble already has the calculator, the eBook, the example courses and “Course Demo” conversion. It would be a case of identifying the channel mix to promote these assets across Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Google Search and Display. Increasing the reach and value of the work already done. That, with an initial round of creative testing to validate messaging, would build certainty into the sales pipeline, as well as define critically essential SaaS metrics like customer acquisition cost (CAC) by channel.
Every business needs a system of demand generation that is repeatable and scalable. Having validated messaging and an optimised channel mix is that system. So to create that is the Strategy.
Tactics are less about the “How” we are going to achieve and more about “What” exactly we are going to do. Turning an idea into action.
A couple of big “tactical” questions will arise at this point:
- How can we understand what the correct channel mix is?
- How do we know how much we should spend to hit our goals?
How can we understand what the correct channel mix is?
The correct channel mix is a combination of premium publishers, social media, Google Ads, etc. However, exactly what that mix would be in terms of what publishers, and social channels, what budget, where and with what message is more of an art than a science. It definitely takes some deeper research into the customer base to find what channels they are most present on.
For example, many of the decision-makers on the customer’s side may be reading a particular online/offline publication frequently, therefore it would be necessary to appear there no matter the cost or directly attributable result.
We’ll also look to optimise the channel split on a monthly basis, in order to maximise return on ad spend. That being said, a presence on Facebook, Google Search, Display and Youtube, as well as Linkedin, would be a good place to start.
How do we know how much we should spend to hit our goals?
Without access to the existing conversion data, it would be difficult to say exactly what we’d need to spend to hit our goals. However, we do have a forecasting template that uses benchmark CPCs, CPMs and CTRs to forecast potential results by channel. I’ve filled it in with our channel split for Coassemble and you can see that here.
By using the forecasts we can play around with CTRs and CVRs to identify what the results could be based on average MRR.
You’ll notice in the sheet that a lot of the channels/campaigns are returning a negative ROAS. This is because Customer Acquisition Costs (CACs) are typically high for SaaS businesses. That being said, the monthly recurring revenue model means that even if it costs more than a month’s income to acquire a customer; if the customer is still paying months down the line Coassemble can afford to pay a high cost (as long as the average customer payback period covers the CAC).
A good SaaS can normally afford to outlay up to 12 months of income on acquiring a customer. As long as the Lifetime Value (LTV) of an average customer is 3x that cost.
Tactically then we have:
- Our media channel mix
- A general idea of audience targeting and campaigns
- Expected media budget
There is a level of tactics missing which would be the creative messaging and where we are sending the traffic, i.e. to what landing page (Calculator, eBook, Use Cases, etc). This would need to be included in set up tasks.
Out of the tactics then come the actions. These are the tasks that we need to complete to get everything done we’ve talked about.
Generally, these would include:
- Build creative messaging matrix
- Write a creative design brief for needed assets (images, videos, banners, etc.)
- Set up campaigns outside of channels for approval
- Audit existing tracking set up and pixels
- Build email communications plan to assist sales, moving MQLs to SQLs
- Set up creative testing campaigns in channel
- Run creative testing to validate messaging
- Take winning messages into wider prospecting campaigns across channels
- Continue to test creative and push new winners through to prospecting
- Identify stable winning ads that are ready to scale
- Scale winners aggressively in terms of budget spend
- General campaign management
- Reporting to stakeholders
What then are the metrics we’d use to measure our success?
- Sessions – How much traffic are we driving to the site?
- MQLs – How many leads are we generating from our efforts?
- SQLs – How many of those leads turn into sales qualified leads?
- New Customers – How many become new customers?
- MRR – What’s the monthly recurring revenue?
- LTV – What’s the lifetime value of the new customers we’re driving?
- Conversion Rates – What are the conversion rates from stage to stage of our new customers?
These are the bare minimum I’d expect to report on to the board. There could be more but these cover the essentials.
We’ve considered a company that wants to scale their business from doing well to doubling in revenue in the next 12 months. We’ve looked at the type of strategy we’d employ and also provided a detailed (but very general) tactical plan that covers potential costs & results, tasks and timeline. This is the type of plan we’re creating in much greater detail for our clients and prospective clients every month. It by no means is the only way to create a digital marketing strategy for your business but we thought it might be helpful to those digital marketing managers who are looking for advice, to see how an agency thinks.
Coassemble, if you’re reading this and you like the ideas, we’d love to further customise and plan out how we’d tackle your challenges in 2020.