START Planning Steps To Develop Your Digital Marketing Success Plan

By admin Jul11,2024

This excerpt is from The Digital Marketing Success Plan, the new book from SEJ VIP Contributor Corey Morris.

In what is the most distracted and disrupted era in digital marketing–especially SEO–history, we’re testing and trying things out faster than ever. While change is coming at us fast, it is critically important to still have a documented, actionable, and accountable plan for your digital marketing efforts.

In his new book, Corey Morris, details a five-step START Planning process to help brands arrive at their own digital marketing success plans to ensure ROI and business outcomes are at the heart of every effort while allowing plenty of room and agility for the rapid changes we’re experiencing in digital and search marketing.

Search Engine Journal has an exclusive feature of the first step in the START Planning process–”S for Strategy”–unpacking the four steps in this first and most critical phase.

Chapter 3: S For Strategy

The Strategy Phase is the most comprehensive part of the START planning process. The subsequent phases are all dependent on the work done and defined in this phase.

Strategy works through profiling, auditing, research, and goal setting. Knowing what marketing has been done in the past, where things stand currently, and—most importantly—where you want to go is critical at this juncture and overall for any digital marketing success plan.

The strategy phase has four steps, the first of which is profile. This could be considered a simple step, as we’re just gathering information and definitions.

However, it could also be misinterpreted, and it is challenging because it requires an expert to ask the right questions. That includes detailing the team involved in the effort and defining the product (services) we must sell, the brand, and the target audiences.

In short, we’re putting the details on the table about who we are, our resources, and our capabilities. We are identifying what we’re selling, what value it has, how we deliver it, and the pricing model. We also must know what our brand is in terms of positioning, differentiation, and equity that it holds.

And, as important as anything, we must know who our target audience personas are, their customer behaviors, and the funnels or journeys they take to buy.

Anyone can ramble off some demographics or targets. But, as companies grow, having a mutually agreed understanding of what the business sells, who it sells to, and the money it costs to do so is extremely hard.

I say all of this in hopes that you don’t get stuck here on some of the hard details, and also knowing that if it is easy, you might want to challenge some things and see if you can go deeper and ensure that you truly have the agreement and buy-in that you seem to.

The second step in the strategy phase is audit. We need to know what we’ve done in the past and are currently doing so we have a full picture of what has worked, what hasn’t, and why. Audits are important at this juncture, and this step might be one of the most time-consuming in the entire digital marketing success plan development journey.

As you obtain or create documentation of historical activities, you’ll need access to all the past and present networks and platforms. Then, you can deep dive into audits, including technical paid search, technical SEO, content SEO, web systems, email marketing systems, and more, based on what has been done in the past and what is available for you at this juncture.

The third step in the strategy phase is research. So far, the focus has been on who we are and what we’ve done leading up to where we currently stand with our efforts. This phase is where we get perspectives beyond our own data and understanding.

This is where we seek out internal perspectives from marketing, sales, ops, product, and other relevant teams and stakeholders—as well as from our customers or clients. Additionally, we’re doing external research to learn new insights or validate what we think when it comes to competitors, target audiences, and what the future opportunity forecasts or models out for us.

The final step in strategy is goals. With a thorough picture of who we are, where we stand, and what opportunities are out there for us, we can workshop to arrive at a realistic set of goals. Maybe we came into the process with our own goals, or maybe at this point, we’re starting from scratch.

Regardless, this step is critical to the rest of the process and arriving at a plan that can drive success. This is where we look at business goals and how marketing can affect them and ensure we set proper expectations before we move the strategy from ideas to action.

“WE HAVE A PROBLEM” Premium Roofing Manufacturer Story

A high-end roofing manufacturing company came to us with a unique problem. Marcy, their marketing manager, had a lot of past success with SEO, their website and email marketing, and extensive campaigns driving traffic to their websites for homeowners and contractors alike–fueling their sales operations.

Marcy had gone through several different agencies over the past few years. She had varying experiences with them, had a great one for a while, and then had a couple that didn’t value or know as much about SEO. She didn’t realize that, at the time, it was a line item to some of those agencies. It was getting done, and rankings and traffic were fine. Nothing was sticking out of the ordinary.

One day, Marcy noticed a problem in Google Analytics. Traffic is starting to drop overall. She dives in and, as she is very familiar with the reports and channels and diagnoses this as an SEO problem within a minute. SEO traffic is dropping, but she can’t tell why.

The agency says everything looks good on their end. Marcy can’t find any errors on the site. However, there’s this mysterious drop where she can see they’re not where they used to be in the Google rankings. Subsequent drops in traffic, conversions, and form submissions going through to their sales team validate it.

She remembered her work with me a few years prior at a different agency and reached out. She thought of me as someone she could trust to fix any SEO problem, which I take as high praise. I was at a conference in Silicon Valley, getting ready to take the stage to speak about SEO troubleshooting.

And so that was the ironic part of it to me. I gave my speech and immediately after had a longer conversation with Marcy over the phone. I could dive in and see the same things she saw, and I knew that we needed to do a full audit very quickly and understand what was going on.

I brought the rest of my team back home into the challenge. Within two days, we had diagnosed two very acute issues that were hidden and that most people wouldn’t see. We wouldn’t have found them unless we had gone through our analysis auditing process to get that deep.

We presented those findings to Marcy and her CEO, who both knew how big of a negative impact this would have on their business if they didn’t get this corrected.

We presented three options. One was to fix the issues technically within their current site. Still, being forward-thinking and ROI-driven, we didn’t want just to offer to patch the holes and wait for the next problem to come. So, we presented two other plans. They included a midrange plan and a long-range plan to build a new website and not only fix the issues but also strategically amplify some other things.

They opted to invest in the new website, and that turned into an ongoing relationship with us to monitor and amplify their SEO and take it to new heights, not just reclaiming what they had lost but making new ground. And I’m excited that we saw that all the way through. It played out exactly as we had projected and was validated by growth for them.

The company eventually sold for a record amount and won awards from our peers for that work. The moral of the story is not just to accept the status quo but to realize that not all professionals who have SEO in their title have an equal set of skills. Auditing is an important tool in getting to the root cause, not just for fixing an immediate problem but even more critically for long-term success.

“WE HAVE TO GET THIS RIGHT” Continuing Care Retirement Community Story

Jamaal found us through Google. He was the director of admissions and marketing for a high-end retirement facility that serves as a continuing care community. They had everything: independent living, dining in chef-inspired restaurants, activities, a pub, and anything that active senior living would want through the continuum of care, including assisted living and skilled nursing.

They have an excellent reputation in their city and are well known; however, that’s with the community at large. They needed help to reach their target audience, who could be potential residents or adult child influencers in their lives—the next generation down.

When something happens, and it’s time to look for this type of living situation, the people at that important step are less aware and less prepared for the conversations they must have with their loved ones in a critical phase of life. These people were supposed to be moving into research and action toward admission.

Also, while it was a wealthy, high-end property, it was nonprofit, very benevolent, and gave back so much. The margins were tight, and there wasn’t a large marketing budget, but they knew they needed to do something.

Jamaal’s challenge when he came to us was, “I know you can do everything. I know I probably need all the things under the digital marketing umbrella. I even need a new website, but I don’t have the budget.”

We said, “That’s not a problem. We start small with many of our clients and find the areas where we can have the greatest ROI and impact. Then, we build from there and create budgets, opening up dollars for investment in other opportunities.”

So, we came into the situation, and we analyzed their audience. They had a wealth of data. They knew their business inside and out, and it was fantastic for us to see that. Still, they needed help understanding digital marketing and couldn’t connect the dots.

They had talked to three or four other providers who gave them high-ticket products or service offerings and didn’t want to work with them to find the right solution or where they should get the most bang for their buck.

We returned to them and recommended, “You should start with SEO.”

Jamaal laughed because he said that was the opposite recommendation that several of the other agencies had made. They had said, “No, you should start with $100,000 a month in Google Ads.”

I said, “You should start on SEO at a fraction of that,” even though we knew the challenges were there with being unable to build a new website. We’d have to navigate their antiquated website and optimize what they had.

We knew that telling the story, getting the content right, and even optimizing a lousy website would get us further along in the long-term journey of driving new leads to the website. We knew we only needed a handful of people to find the site to understand what they did at the right moment, get the right story, and come through the doors and experience this wonderful place.

After building momentum, one lead at a time, we could start talking about a new website, activate additional marketing channels, and layer in aspects of the digital marketing success plan to see success in the long term.

Ultimately, they grew as a business and their marketing investment grew respectively. Eventually, they were acquired by a large hospital system, where everyone could flourish and get the mission and the word out.

The moral of the story is it’s always better to do something rather than nothing.

But if you’re on a limited budget, understand that the obvious answers or the expensive ones aren’t necessarily the best ones. Be willing to dig into the data, do the hard work, and see the opportunity to create new budgets.

By seeing small successes, one at a time, you can build toward bigger things.


To learn more about why digital marketing planning is so important, Corey’s START Planning process, and how to implement which he details in the full book (including more real stories and “how to” sections for each phase of the process), download the book now on Amazon.

For a limited time through July 17, the Kindle version is only 99 cents.

You can also find out more information and free resources at https://thedmsp.com


More resources:


Featured Image: nuruddean/Shutterstock

By admin

Related Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *