Struggling to lasso every branch of your marketing efforts into one cohesive digital marketing plan? Streamline your strategy for maximum results with this helpful guide.

The 5 elements of a digital marketing plan:

  1. Conduct competitor analysis
  2. Define your target audience
  3. Set clear performance goals
  4. Detail your digital marketing strategy
  5. Determine your budget

Keyword rankings, video advertising, social media analysis, content creation — the digital marketer’s to-do list is endless

On average, brands dedicate more than half of their overall marketing budget to digital marketing. What’s more, they plan to increase that budget by 16% this year. 

More investment means more competition.

Digital marketing is crucial for generating ROI, but you need to know how to harness it. Thankfully, a well-thought-out digital marketing plan lays out the precise strategy, tactics, and skills needed to wield that ever-sharp marketing weapon. 

But in such a diverse industry, mediums, talent, and channels are so vast, (and FOMO is so real). So, how can you funnel your efforts into a concise, targeted marketing plan that honors your business goals (without the headache)?

To answer that, we consulted HawkSEM’s CEO Sam Yadegar about the fundamental elements of a digital marketing plan.

Yadegar is a seasoned marketing professional. He’s got years of proven experience using ROI-driven strategies to improve brands like Nike, Verizon, and Microsoft’s revenue and traffic.

Below, he helps walk us through creating a winning strategy, one step at a time.

(Image: Adobe Stock)

You’ll need competitive analysis and audience research to know exactly which channels to leverage. (Image: Adobe Stock)

What is a digital marketing plan? 

A digital marketing plan details your brand’s performance goals and maps out how you plan to achieve them through online marketing platforms.

These platforms can include Google Ads, organic search, your website content, and social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn.

Of course, you’ll also need competitive analysis and audience research to know exactly which channels to leverage.

But how long will it take you to reach your goals, and what will it cost? Your digital marketing plan covers that, too, complete with benchmarks along the way to keep you on track.

Yadegar points out that HawkSEM’s digital marketing plans include share of voice (SOV). This metric tracks your brand awareness compared to your competitors on every marketing channel.

According to Search Engine Journal, a brand’s SOV is demonstrative of their share of the market and revenue. So, what does a proper digital marketing plan look like? 

5 elements of a digital marketing plan

It’s easy to spread yourself thin trying to reach everyone on every platform. That’s a fast-track to burnout and inconsistency, and it happens to even the most experienced marketers.

To avoid this, focus your efforts on these five key components of a successful digital marketing plan.

 1. Conduct competitor analysis

Competitor analysis helps you improve upon your competitors’ strategies. But it’s not about stealing their ad copy (plagiarism is never cool) or mimicking their blog topics (originality is the coolest). It’s about learning how they successfully target customers and looking for ground they’re not covering. 

To find this valuable intel, conduct some research:

  • Find out who your competitors are. Peruse through industry resources like LinkedIn and PR Newswire to find niche leaders. You can also use tools like SpyFu, Semrush, and Ahrefs.
  • Google them: Type the keywords you want your brand to rank for into search engines like Google, Bing, or Yahoo!, and see who pops up. 
  • Review their ad extension copy: These are the little snippets of text that fall under the links in the search engine results pages (SERPs). Use that inspo to create your own snippets that highlight your brand’s unique selling propositions  (USPs) as a way to differentiate from competitors.
  • Check out their press coverage: After you’re done browsing the SERPs, dive into those links. What kind of press do your competitors have? Look for awards and accolades to see what impact and buzz they’re getting.
  • Explore their profiles on review sites like Trustpilot or Google Reviews. This will give you direct access to their customers’ (and your potential customers’) input, needs, and goals.
  • Peruse their social media channels: What content generates the most comments, likes, and views? Is their audience engaged? What narratives and conversations are trending?

Now, collect all of that 411 and put the most essential elements into your digital marketing plan. 
Try to decipher what elements in their strategy engage (or don’t engage) their audience. Marketing tools like Brandwatch are great for automating your competitor research on social channels.

The goal for competitor analysis? Insights and inspiration to better reach and engage your target audience. But… who are they?

 2. Define your target audience

Digital marketing is all about targeting potential customers to purchase your products and services. But before you do that, you’ll need to engage your ideal customers with content that hooks into their needs and interests. And before that? You’ll need to figure out who they are.

Otherwise, your blog, ads, and social media posts won’t reach the people most likely to buy your products. Kind of defeats the purpose, right? 

But when you have a clearly defined audience supported by data? You get much closer to reaching them because you know what they actually want.

Here’s how to define your audience:

  • Understand their demographics: This is a great starting point. Find out your target audience’s age, occupation, income, location, family status, and education. 
  • Look at their online and purchasing behavior: How much do they spend, and what do they buy? Pull up some transaction reports and examine your customers’ purchase patterns. Of course, your entire target audience hasn’t made a purchase — yet. So, you can also look at things like website history, social media engagement, interactions with your brand, and app usage. 
  • Peek into their psyche: We’re talking habits, lifestyle, and preferences. In other words? How they think. Survey and study your existing customers and those of your competitors. Check out social media activity, too. 
  • Pain points: What’s a problem you can solve for your audience? Use keyword research to learn what they need support with and brainstorm ways to communicate that you offer the best solution.  

Another huge component of audience targeting is learning where they spend the most time online. Yadegar says the last thing you need is a digital marketing strategy that speaks to the wrong audience.

“It’s always key to determine the best channel for your brand,” he explains. “A good agency will have solid experience and be able to lend proven recommendations. Simple examples are to utilize LinkedIn for B2B lead generation, but use Meta for more brand awareness for ecommerce brands.”

How audience targeting affects your budget

Yadegar says knowing your audience’s favorite digital marketing channels helps you allocate your marketing budget:

“We analyze the industry the client is in, determine the budget and revenue goals, and then build a strategy that backs right into the planned ROI.”

Put all that together, and HawkSEM clients see an average 4.5X ROI. 

Your digital marketing plan should display at least one buyer persona that embodies all the above information. This makes it easier for you to understand their needs, so you can better reach them through personalized digital marketing campaigns. 

 3. Set clear performance goals

Your performance goals are your “why” behind every element of your digital marketing strategy. These vital benchmarks guide your plans and budget. They also help keep your digital marketing efforts grounded in what’s most important to your bottom line.

First goal that might come to mind? “I want to improve my brand’s revenue.”

OK, we’re with you, and we’ve certainly helped clients achieve broad goals like this. But adding more specificity to your goals will direct our marketing activities to an even more tangible result. 

How about this? “I want to double my return on ad spend (ROAS) for Google Ads campaigns in the next six months.”

That’s better. Digital marketing goals must be clear, concise, measurable, and realistic. Otherwise, you risk falling short or going after the wrong goals. 

For example, if you know only 10% of your audience is on Pinterest, your digital marketing budget shouldn’t dedicate a significant amount of money to Pinterest-focused digital marketing goals

Similarly, Yadegar recommends setting realistic expectations:

“Keep in mind the time it takes to produce the assets, as well as the time it takes Google to index and rank those assets. Generally, you should see an uplift within 6 to 12 months, but always have a long-term strategy in mind.”

Here are a few more examples of performance goals for your digital marketing plan (fun fact: they link directly to results we’ve achieved for our clients!). Just remember that specific timelines and platforms will depend on your unique business landscape:

Next, let’s break down your to-do list to help you reach those goals.

 4. Detail your digital marketing strategy

If performance goals are the “why,” a digital strategy is the “how.”

PPC campaigns and search engine optimization (SEO) come to mind first—and these broad strategies have tons of related marketing initiatives as part of a holistic digital marketing plan

A quick browse through our case studies demonstrates a wide range of digital marketing strategies that brought in results like year-over-year (YoY) revenue increases and skyrocketed conversions. 

You might employ one or more of these digital marketing strategies in your plan: 

Beef up your content marketing

Maybe you’ll produce a weekly blog article, monthly podcasts and webinars, interactive quizzes, or YouTube videos. Your content strategy can encompass all these formats or focus on the ones most relevant to your audience and goals. Overall, content marketing helps you engage your audience and boost brand awareness

Think about it: would you rather buy from a brand with zero digital presence and resources, or a business that’s pumping out quality, helpful content on the regular?

While many of our clients produce blog articles for SEO, we recommend video marketing as well since people are 52% more likely to share a video over any other form of content.

Do an ad spend audit

HawkSEM conducts an audit on all your marketing campaigns and activities before we get started on our strategy. But if your digital marketing goals are centered on cost reduction, audits help you identify excess in any of your outgoing costs, like ineffective keyword bids or landing pages

Build solid PPC campaigns

Every search engine marketing expert knows PPC campaigns are a brand’s bread and butter for quick conversions. This strategy could involve a wide range of PPC techniques, from A/B testing and location targeting to remarketing tactics and bids management.

Set a strong foundation with SEO 

Looking for high-SERP status? An SEO strategy deserves its own space, but it’s a big component in your digital marketing plan for building brand awareness and trust. SEO activities include both on-page and technical tasks like keyword research, sourcing high-quality backlinks, website optimization, and content creation. 

Attract organic social media engagement

How’s your LinkedIn profile? If you’re looking to engage and convert a B2B audience for your business, you’ll build trust with a unique LinkedIn presence filled with shareable insights and expertise. We’re talking personalized, relevant posts and digestible infographics that offer value to your audience. 

Organic social media marketing also includes audience engagement with genuine comments and adding to the industry discussions happening within your niche.

Up the ante with paid social media

Ecommerce brands: imagine your products on full-carousel display as your audience browses Instagram. This is the beauty of paid social media ads. You can offer audiences an online catalog with fresh images to encourage a sale. The best part? You have plenty of time to convert them, since people scroll through social media for an average of 151 minutes each day.

Provide a flawless user experience

Notice a high bounce rate on your website? Do your web elements seamlessly respond on mobile devices? If not, you might need to invest  in improving the customer experience to boost your website traffic

This could look like adding high-quality graphic design work or interactive content to your website. We always recommend a user experience (UX) refresh since Google’s algorithm updates have shown a long history of placing UX as a ranking factor.

So, what’s all this gonna cost you?

person creating a digital marketing plan on a laptop

If you find your digital marketing budget going over, look at metrics like leads, sales, and ROAS. (Image: Adobe Stock)

 5. Determine your budget

We get it: it’s hard to budget and forecast for activities you’re trying for the first time. What will your new blog calendar cost you in writer outsourcing, and how much will you pay the new marketing manager hire? 

It’s hard to quantify a budget for specific marketing activities, but HawkSEM can help with that analysis. With support from our proprietary tech, ConversionIQ, we get the real-time data deets on what everything costs or should cost, and we help you visualize it with digestible, easily accessible charts and dashboards.

The trick? It’s not about the budget at all. It’s about the ROI the budget brings. So if you find your digital marketing budget going over, look at metrics like leads, sales, and ROAS. These are the key performance indicators (KPIs) that will serve as a roadmap for your budget.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to remember them all by heart. We’ll lay out the KPIs along with everything else a digital marketing plan entails in this easy-to-follow checklist.

Free digital marketing plan template

Conduct competitor analysis

  • Acquire customer reviews
  • Study social media profiles
  • Look at SERP snippets
  • Check out their PR, industry presence, and news coverage

Define your target audience

  • Research your audience 
    • Social media activity 
    • Customer surveys
    • Purchase history 
  • Conduct keyword analysis and strategy
  • Flesh out your buyer personas

Set clear performance goals

  • Build brand awareness
  • Demonstrate thought leadership
  • Boost conversions
  • Generate more sales
  • Attract more organic traffic
  • Increase engagement on website and socials
  • Create a lead generation strategy

Detail your digital marketing strategies

  • Do an ad spend audit
  • Create targeted PPC ads (Google and Bing)
  • Leverage Google Shopping (ecommerce brands)
  • Consider YouTube marketing
  • Roll out email marketing campaigns
  • Create blog content
  • Revamp website with SEO 
  • Perform keyword research
  • Create landing pages
  • A/B test PPC Ads
  • Share interactive content
    • Quizzes
    • Surveys
  • Take advantage of organic social media marketing
  • Use paid social media
    • LinkedIn
    • Pinterest
    • Snapchat
    • Twitter 
    • Facebook
    • Instagram
    • TikTok
  • Devote time to remarketing efforts
  • Manage your bids
  • Outline ad segmentation

Determine your budget

  • Set a realistic budget
  • Detail your KPIs
    • Leads
    • Sales
    • Conversions
    • Return on ad spend
    • ROI

The takeaway

Digital marketing covers so many different types of marketing tactics, channels, goals, and audiences that it’s hard to design a comprehensive plan on your own. But it’s certainly doable, especially with the right resources.

Use the above digital marketing plan template to get started, and if you need support bringing it all to life, you can lean on HawkSEM. 

Our dedicated marketing team of content strategists, PPC experts, and SEO gurus will work together to take a deep dive into your brand’s industry, competitive landscape, and audience to craft an effective digital marketing plan that prioritizes ROI. 

Increased YoY revenue? Boosted organic traffic? New leads? Take your pick of all the marketing goals we’ve helped our clients — large and small businesses alike — achieve.

Let’s create a digital marketing plan that makes your brand pop on your audience’s radar and into their shopping carts!

Free Digital Marketing Plan Checklist Cover Image

Download The Checklist Now

Download Checklist

Contact HawkSEM for Free Consultation