The executive’s guide to Digital Marketing – #1: Getting started

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Guide to digital marketing

Digital marketing is not the future. It’s the now. If your business isn’t profiting from its website, the organisation is probably missing out on an important revenue stream. But it isn’t surprising that many executives and business owners see digital marketing as complex and daunting. It’s time for a guide to digital marketing that is specifically designed for senior management and business owners. 

Are you committed to digital marketing?

As a former executive at large media organisations, I understand what it’s like to be time-starved and responsible for countless tasks. So I’m creating a succinct, blunt, no-nonsense guide to digital marketing (aka online marketing) that makes it easy for owners, CEOs and senior managers to hit the ground running. We’ll be skipping a lot of the theory and detail that tends to make the subject difficult to absorb. Instead we’ll focus on actionable steps to get your business’ digital channels rolling.

This first article is for organisations that are not currently committed to digital marketing. If any of the following statements are true, this article is for you.

  • You don’t have a website
  • You have little or no knowledge of your website’s traffic
  • You have no in-house staff devoted to digital marketing
  • You’ve never considered your website to be an important source of revenue

You don’t have a website

Just get one. If you don’t want a website, you may as well stop reading because this will be the end of your digital marketing journey. With the exception of social media, all channels will be closed.

Do not let a developer make a custom website from scratch. Just use WordPress. It’s dumb to use anything else. You will still need a developer for styling, security and maintenance, but they must use an existing template. I’m not going to explain why. I’m just telling you it’s the best way to do it. If you try to build your own website in-house, God have mercy on your soul.

If you don’t have a website, you should stop reading and get yourself a website developer who knows how to work with WordPress. Until you launch your website, everything else is pointless.

You have little or no knowledge of your website’s traffic

Get a Google Analytics account

Everything you do in digital marketing is measurable. Without measurements there are no ambitions or targets. Without ambition there is no point running a business.

The most important tool we use for analysis is free. If you do not have a Google Analytics (GA) account, you can stop reading this article and walk straight to whoever is responsible for the website to inform them that they have 48 hours to get you a GA account or they will be sacked. If you are the boss, or an executive, make sure anyone relying on the website (marketing, sales, IT etc.) has a Google Analytics account.

Once the right people have access, nominate someone for the important task of weekly and monthly reporting. This person must become an analysis expert. They must create a short report each week (in the body of an email will do), and a more detailed report each month (PDF).

If you’re starting analysis from scratch, you’ll simply want to know the answer to these questions:

  • How many users
  • How many pages are they viewing
  • How long do they stay
  • Where are they coming from
  • What are the most popular pages
  • What is the bounce (exit) percentage
  • How have each of the above metrics changed since the last report (%)

If you don’t have someone generating weekly and monthly reports, get started now. The whole business must get into the habit of caring about the website’s performance.

You have no in-house staff devoted to digital marketing

It’s time to make someone accountable. It should be a senior member of staff. They may not be hands-on but they need to manage the people who will transform the site into a profit-making machine. This ‘product owner’ has to drive change.

In my experience, this is probably going to be a marketing manager. Due to motivating factors, it’s definitely not going to be a job for I.T. Marketing executives are driven by results. It takes a certain type of person to thrive in this role – someone who will live or die by the numbers.

Once in place, the person responsible for the website’s success will build the team they need by using existing or potential revenue to justify investment. Head counts, advertising spend, infrastructure etc. all need to be justified. From there, you start to establish budgets.

If you don’t have a person in your organisation who is very excited or nervous about website traffic reports, stop reading this article and nominate the most appropriate person for the role.

You’ve never considered your website to be an import source of revenue

I don’t support any investment that does not have a measurable outcome. Digital should always be profitable, so let’s set some targets.

If you have low traffic, pick a number of users per month to aim for. Then start using percentages (weekly growth, monthly growth, year on year). Then you can focus on each niche. For example, focus on social media until it performs well. Each time you focus on a niche, make sure it’s sustainable before you focus on a different area.

Most importantly, determine what conversion looks like. It might be engagement, subscription, a lead or a sale. How are you going to make it measurable? Give the website an opportunity to prove itself profitable, and to justify further investment.

As a boss, you shouldn’t be expected to know digital marketing in minute detail, but you should be passionate about the outcomes. The enthusiasm or apathy of a company’s leader infects all staff.

Commitment, transparency, accountability and passion

Those are the four prerequisites for digital marketing. Depending on how advanced your organisation is, hitting the four targets could be a minor readjustment or a huge leap, but it’s the attitudinal change that is important. The technical work is yet to come. Luckily the more intricate and laborious work will be made easier by having the basics in place.

But that’s the subject of our next instalment.


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