My customers, who start a new company or begin their blogging adventure often ask me: how do I start? There are many advertising possibilities. How do you make sure you did not miss anything?

I want to show you a scaffolding that I use. It consists of two main parts: a digital strategy skeleton, and something called “the pirate metrics” (a popular tool in the startup world). But it’s their unique combination that creates a perfect tool for building your digital promotion strategy.

A skeleton of the digital strategy

What should your digital marketing strategy contain? The right answer is different things for different businesses. So, how does the skeleton below help you? First, it allows you to choose the elements you need to focus on. You don’t like the video? No problem. Your customers don’t enjoy social media? Don’t worry. Just pick and choose what’s valuable for you and your customers. Second, prioritize the components of the digital skeleton. It will tame the chaos that is ever-present in your day to day business activities.

Website

It’s the central information hub for your brand. It’s what people find when they google your name. Make sure it contains only the necessary information, and it has a clearly stated goal — what do you want from your visitors? What do you consider to be a conversion? Is the path to the goal clear? Are your texts understandable?

Decide if you want your website to be more original or more functional. I know, it would be best to combine both but most companies don’t have the luxury of paying for the great design that has also been extensively tested towards UX. The most popular website engine, WordPress, plus a properly customized template from ThemeForest may address most of your needs.

Email marketing

Email is still one of the most engaging forms of communication — even in today’s world of messengers and bots. Your email strategy should not be limited to sending newsletters. I would start with designing your business email templates: how are you going to thank the customer for his buy? What offers are you going to send out? Making money first, marketing later.

Save these email templates in free Google Docs or Dropbox Paper — then you can share them with the rest of your team.

Content marketing

If your company is not known, you can’t count on your customers rushing to your website to buy things after they’d read your cold email. You have to show your knowledge, prove your authority. Writing articles for your blog or educating your customers via newsletter courses, even answering questions via LiveChat or on Quora — all those are the elements of your content marketing strategy.

Creating content is complicated and I can’t describe this process in a single paragraph. But long story short: create personas to tailor your content. Make a list of general topics you are going to build your authority upon. Search for places you are going to be heard at (using only your blog that has little or no traffic is not the best idea). Talk to a content marketing expert. And familiarize yourself with tools such as BuzzSumo or Google Trends — they allow you to check what’s the most shared content at the moment. Can you ride those trends?

Search engine marketing & SEO

When you’ve set up your website, it would be nice to see Google drive some traffic there. The first thing you should do is to connect your website to Google Search Console. It’s a simple tool that will tell you whether your site has some serious errors that can get you banned from Google. It will also provide you with some simple tricks (such as creating a sitemap) to boost your website’s position. If you use WordPress you’ll get your basic SEO audit from plugins such as Yoast or All-In-One SEO Pack.

Further steps are not that easy so you’ll have to either learn your SEO or talk to an expert. But at the beginning just make sure there are no serious errors on your website and you’re good to go.

Social media presence

Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter — these are the four most popular social networks in the world. There are plenty of others: depending on where you live and what your audience likes you may want to tap into Reddit, Pinterest, Snapchat or Vkontakte. Do you have to be present in all of them? Of course not. Social media presence strategy answers this very question: which channels are you going to appear? What is the character of your presence? Remember: on Facebook, most people look for entertainment or treat it as a customer service channel. Your all-serious content does not always belong there.

Paid advertising, PPC

Your first customers will not appear out of thin air. But inviting your Facebook friends to your fan page is not a good strategy either. People who like your fan page should be the ones who are going to buy from you, not your relatives. Thus, you need paid advertising. There are plenty of choices: Google AdWords, Facebook ads, sponsored posts on Instagram, directed content on LinkedIn… It is important to know what you are going to achieve (set goals and KPIs, define conversions) and measure the results. Without measuring you’ll end up throwing the money away.

Lead nurturing

Paid ads and social media presence brought a user to your website, she signed up for your newsletter, and she’s potentially interested in buying from you. What can you do to increase your chances? No, we’re not talking about giving away discounts (you can do that but it’s not the only method). This is a job for your content strategy! Good thing we’ve prepared it in advance. But, this is also a job for your creativity. Just remember: a user must come across the brand’s message 4-7 times before she trusts you enough to buy.

Think: what can you give to your users so that they remember you? You have the knowledge, exceptional materials, or perhaps you can… make them laugh? Don’t underestimate the power of emotions in lead nurturing!

Marketing automation

In the previous paragraph, we were wondering what to give to your consumers for them to remember you. An equally important question is how to deliver it so that you don’t spend too much time or money doing it. Here’s where marketing automation tools come in handy. Some of them allow you to send automated emails (I recommend GetResponse or MailChimp for that) others enable your visitors to talk to you on your website (check out LiveChat or UserEngage).

Remember though: marketing automation is not about the tools. Plan your marketing knowing that there’s a real person on the other side of the communication channel. Plan not only the transfer of knowledge but also the transfer of emotions!

Video marketing

Your users spend more and more time consuming video. I even heard the saying “live stories are the new wall”. If the attention of your users is drifting in that direction, you have to be there, too. I would consider three basic video formats:

  • Classic video — shot and edited, shared via YouTube, embedded on your website, posted on Facebook. My advice? Avoid “music videos”. It’s what I call these movie clips shot at conferences and events — they last three minutes, there’s music in the background and… nobody needs them. Tell a story instead!
  • Live — shot live, contain interactions with your audience and gain popularity fast. You can re-purpose them and use them as classic videos afterward.
  • Ephemeral (like Instagram Stories) — short clips that disappear after 24 hours. You can use them in totally different context than classic videos — you can give your audience secret codes that are valid only throughout a certain day.

Analytics

Designing a strategy can be compared to planning a trip. You want to get from where you are to where you want to be using the means available to you at the moment. But even the best trip plan will fail if you… don’t know whether you’re moving in the right direction. That’s why you need analytics.

The bad news is in digital marketing you can measure everything. So marketers either drown in the data and decide they won’t be measuring anything or choose the wrong KPIs to measure. What good is the crowd of people on your fan page if nobody is buying from you?

When you have designed the important goals for your business, make friends with a Googe Analytics or a Google Data Studio expert.

Sales tools, sales funnels

The sales process itself, realizing orders on time, answering your emails, and sending the offers — all those are the elements of your strategy, too. What good are the perfect ads that bring people to your perfect website if they get no answer after they’ve sent you an inquiry by email? Get a CRM and use it from the day one: PipeDrive, HubSpot or ZOHO — choose the one that suits your needs.

Pirate metrics

The other element of the puzzle is called “the pirate metrics”. Why that name? The first letters of the metrics (acquisition, activation, retention, revenue, and recommendation) make an AARRR!

When measuring your business, you should be thinking about four measurements categories:

  • qualitative — observing your users, their behaviors on small samples, deeper analysis, searching for problems;
  • quantitative — simple tests of certain behaviors on large samples (or representative samples);
  • comparisons — all kinds of A/B testing (different email headers, different layouts of landing pages);
  • benchmarks — is comparing yourself to your competition (who has more Facebook likes, how big is their email database).

Pirate metrics are applied to simple things: quantitative measurements and comparisons. Here’s how we stack them:

Acquisition — how do users find you

You can measure your website traffic here, different ways of acquiring that traffic, the effectiveness of paid campaigns or the effectiveness of your landing pages (how many people who started reading dropped off after a couple of seconds).

Activation — how do you engage your audience?

We’ve said that people will not buy from you during their first visit. So what else can they do? You measure the number of newsletter signups, Facebook comments (if you can turn them into further engagement), likes… You check how many decided to create an account (if you offer online services).

Retention — how good are you in bringing them back?

I told you that your user has to see your message 4-7 times before she’s ready to buy, remember? Throw here all the metrics on the returning users. How many returning users do you have on your website? How many clicks do the links in your newsletters generate? How many returned to fill in their profile after signing up? If your first contact was to send an offer — how many replies did you get?

Revenue — how do you make them pay you?

These are the metrics crucial to the health of your business. What percentage of those who created free accounts became paying customers? How many buy after receiving a discount coupon? How many of those with whom you’re negotiating decided to hire you? What is the average cost of a customer acquisition? What percentage of your customers brings you profit?

Referral — do your customers recommend you?

From simple KPIs such as NPS (Net Promoter Score) through measuring the satisfaction levels in different stages of the sales cycle. How many of those who received a recommendation coupons passed them to their friends?

Digital Strategy Matrix

Imagine a great table. Columns are marked with different elements of the digital strategy skeleton — you have a “website” column, an “email” column and so on.

Rows are marked with pirate metrics: there’s an “acquisition” row, an “activation” row — you understand, don’t you? The matrix you’ve just created is one of the most effective tools when creating a digital promotion strategy. Each field contains a set of ideas to implement and to optimize. Imagine the field “acquisition/video” — it naturally generates questions: how to get more people to my webinars, how to drive traffic to my YouTube channel? Or think of the “activation/email” field: these are ideas for increasing the number of clicks or replies to the messages you send.

You can place this table on one of the walls in your office. Fill it with color post-it notes and assign them as tasks to the members of your team. And if you don’t want to clutter the wall, you can use an online tool such as Trello.