Before we jump into how to build a digital marketing plan for ecommerce brands that are looking to scale, I’d encourage you to read two previous articles on building a marketing strategy and creating a basic ecommerce marketing plan.
These two articles will help you build the foundation that will allow you to scale. You’ll learn what a marketing strategy is and how to create one for your ecommerce business. Next, you’ll learn how to build a market plan, set goals (and KPIs), and use the data you collect to grow.
After reading and applying the ideas covered in these pieces, you’ll see that you market your ecommerce brand more effectively and have a strong foundation for growth, a topic we’ll cover in this article.
Scaling your ecommerce brand involves understanding how to market more effectively. Let’s look at how to create a digital marketing plan for ecommerce brands that will allow you to scale, quickly.
Every Good Digital Marketing Plan Starts With Strategy
Marketing strategy is the foundational plan. Without one, you’ll struggle to scale. Plus, you’re likely to invest time, effort, and money in marketing tactics that don’t work.
If you read my post on marketing strategy, you’ll know that you need to answer four questions:
- What do you offer
- Who you’re trying to reach
- Where they are
- What channels you’ll use
These four questions will help you devise your basic digital marketing strategy. I know they seem very simplistic questions, but you’d be surprised how many business owners can’t answer these in detail.
So how can you properly answer these questions? Sounds silly, but with research and deep thought.
What do you offer
Let’s start with the basic question of your product offering. You want to answer this in detail.
Don’t say: we sell car parts, it’s too broad.
Instead, say: we sell new after-market car parts for Fords, Nissans, and Vauxhalls.
The second is much more niche and easier to identify who you’ll target and how.
Who you’re trying to reach
To scale your ecommerce brand, you need to become more focused on who you serve. You can’t help everyone. However, you can choose to focus on profitable customers.
If you haven’t reviewed your ideal customer profile (ICP) in a few months or years, it’s worth taking the time to study who is your target customer in detail.
Recently, I helped a new client gain better clarity on this using a simple tip. Imagine you’re in a coffee shop full of a range of people, and can only speak to a single person. Who would you go up and introduce yourself to?
If you understand who you’re trying to target, you can easily grab someone from the crowd and get to speak to the right person every time.
I’d look for a woman in her mid-40s to late 50s, who was in smart casual dress, on her phone tracking sales/social media, and has a business magazine on the table. She’d likely be drinking a cappuccino.
Rather than picking any old person or someone who looked like a business owner, I would use my checklist to pick someone who fits my ICP.
Where they are
If you know who you’re targeting, finding where they spend their time is easier. For example, if you’re trying to reach more business owners, you could go to more local business networking events.
If your ICP spends hours looking at properties online, you could advertise in property magazines, TV shows related to DIY, and on Instagram. You wouldn’t pay for a feature on Forbes.
Having clarity on who you target, allows you to know exactly where they spend time.
What channels to use
You need to know what tactics you’ll try and what to avoid. At this stage, you don’t need to cover them in a ton of detail. But you should show awareness of what your marketing mix will look like.
Will you invest more time, effort, and money into Paid channels? Owned media? or Earned channels? Again, this should be a high-level discussion.
Putting it all together
As you can now answer these 4 vital questions, you can build a comprehensive digital marketing strategy that will act as the overarching plan that guides you.
AJS Digital Group offers a range of digital marketing services and coaching for ecommerce brands with turnovers in the $500k to $3m range. We work with busy founders and their marketing teams in the USA, UK, EU, and Canada.
Using paid search, paid and organic social, SEO, and a referral network, we reach our target clients and build long-lasting relationships.
Hopefully, you can see from our marketing strategy, that’s yours should be simple, to the point, and act as the overarching plan.
What Does Success Looks Like?
With a clear strategy in place, you can now define what success looks like. Many ecommerce owners I speak to have a vague idea of what their desired outcome is or looks like. Sadly, it’s not good enough to kind of know. You need clarity.
But here’s the thing. It’s easy to say your goal is purely financial. We want to do $1m in sales next year. Great! How much time do you want to spend working? What amount of profit do you expect to make? How many people do you want to work with you?
By clearly defining what success looks like to you (not your wife/neighbor/hater), you have a precise target. It can also help to define what success isn’t.
Money alone shouldn’t be your goal. You don’t want to be the richest person in the grave. So, look at success holistically.
Here are some questions to consider to help you define success:
- How much profit do you need to live comfortably and reinvest in the business?
- What margins do you need to maintain to hit this level of profit?
- How much revenue do you need each month/week/day?
- Average number of sales to hit each day/week/month?
- How many hours per week do you want to work?
- What’s the ideal headcount for your business?
- How much would you like to give to local causes?
Again defining what success looks like is critical to you reaching your goals. Your idea of the outcome you want will be completely different from others. That’s great. You do you!
Picking the right ecommerce platform
From there you want to pick a ecommerce platform that will allow you to reach your goals. For small stores, WooCommerce will be fine as it’s quite limited but easy to customize. Plus as an add-on to WordPress there’s an unlimited pool of designers to pick from.
If you’re looking to scale consider Shopify as it’s built for ecommerce brands who aren’t techy but need flexibility. If you’re a web designer, Shopify is easy to understand how to program and make changes to the code.
For those with the budget to hire an in-house ecommerce team and external designers, Magento is a serious option. It’s not easy to customize, hence the need for dedicated staff, but does offer a highly flexible CMS that’s built for ecommerce.
Regardless of your ecommerce platform, your marketing strategy, plan, and budget will need be robust and continually tweaked so you can exceed your goals.
Your Digital Marketing Budget
If you understand margins, you’ll know you have a certain amount to spend on marketing while still making a profit. Yes, business 101, but you’d be surprised how many ecommerce founders don’t have a clue about their numbers. Don’t let that be you!
If your goal is to do $1m in sales and $250,000 profit, you can spend $225,000 on marketing, so long as you maintain a 2.5 x margin and keep all other costs in check.
And while $225,000 sounds like a ton of cash to spend. It’ll quickly go. So, you’ll need to plan carefully how you’ll spend your $18,750 monthly marketing budget.
Don’t worry, we’ll cover how this breaks down later in this article. But at this stage, it’s worth understanding your numbers and what you can spend on products, marketing, office supplies, etc.
Do We Need More KPIs?
If you’ve been following the last few articles, you’ll know I’m a massive fan of KPIs. These data points should act as a health check for your business.
I like to pick 2 or 3 KPIs. Usually, these are around revenue, website traffic, and % of keywords in the top 3 positions.
As you’re hoping to scale your business, you might be tempted to create a bunch of KPIs and end up drowning in reports that have little use other than ticking boxes.
I recommend setting 2 or 3 high-level marketing KPIs that you monitor daily. These could be revenue, website traffic, and average margin. For example:
- Daily revenue of $2,740
- Daily traffic of 18,000.
From there, I’d set 2 or 3 KPIs per marketing channel that you measure weekly.
For SEO, your KPIs could be:
- 50% of keywords in the top 3 positions
- 25% of revenue driven by SEO
- 3 minutes average time on site.
Another example is email marketing, you could set KPIs:
- 60% open rate
- 20% CTR (click-through-rate)
- $5,000 revenue from each email.
You get the idea. KPIs should define what success looks like for that channel. It should be the benchmark you aspire to exceed.
Pick your metrics carefully as you want data that helps you make better decisions and not spend hours wondering if that number matters or not. It’s far easier to pick 2 or 3 things overall and ignore the rest so long as you have a good reason for doing this.
Simplifying The Marketing Mix
To scale your business, you need to simplify. While this might seem counter-intuitive and hard to grasp at the start, it’s the one golden nugget that stops ecommerce brands from scaling as quickly as they could.
If you can’t get email marketing to work for your brand, but TikTok does, stop sending so many emails and spend your cash creating content for the social platforms.
Many founders fail to realize that trying to be active on every platform is harming growth. You don’t need to be active on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, email, PPC, remarketing, SEO, retargeting, and handing out T-shirts on your local high street!
Instead, pick 3 or 4 channels that you can dominate and win. Go where your target market lives. Remember, good marketing strategy is picking the game you want to play and defining how you’ll win. It is not being everything to everyone and failing.
Building out plans for each marketing channel
After selecting 3 or 4 marketing channels you are confident you can win at, you need to create a plan for each. You don’t need to write an essay. In fact, I’d suggest you need a single page or two at most for each channel.
Your plan should cover:
- What success looks like for that channel
- The budget(day/week/month/year)
- What activities need to be completed (daily/weekly/monthly)
- How you’ll measure if your plan works or not.
Simple right?! Thank goodness!
Let’s take PPC, for example. You might define success using two data points: return on ad spend (ROAS) and cost per acquisition (CPA). Your goal could be to maintain a ROAS of 5 and a CPA of $2.
With success defined, we can look at the action steps we need to take on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. The first week of a new campaign will include spending a lot of time and effort getting everything set up.
If your daily budget is $200, you’ll need to explain how you’ll spend that and if that amount is consistent over the year or should you be spending more during certain seasons?
Once your PPC campaign is running, you might spend an hour each day analyzing and tweaking it. Every week, you’ll spend time writing new copy and creating new graphics (or at least working with a designer).
Finally, you need to state how you’ll measure if you’re successful or not. As we started with clear KPIs, it’s easy to track them weekly and refine the plan based on the insights you gather. You also might like to include a quarterly review, where you look at what’s worked and what hasn’t.
If you keep your tactical plan down to a page or two, you’re more likely to follow them and they are easier to update or adapt using real-world data to create a better plan.
Creating Basic Weekly Reports
I’m a big believer in keeping things simple and actionable. Start with a simple spreadsheet. Write your KPIs along the top and the days of the month down the side. Having this uber-simple report will help you track your process and keep you focused on the metrics that matter.
Many founders I speak to either hate reports or believe they should be an academic exercise designed to appease those higher up the chain of command. They think traditional reports have little value. Hence why I suggest keeping things super simple and easy to use.
Over time as you develop your marketing plan and understand based on real-world experience, you can create more in-depth reports or tailor them to each channel. Review your reporting systems twice a year and see if you can simplify them.
Integrating Experimentation Into Your Marketing Mix
Now I know what I’m about to say might seem to contradict my previous advice of sticking to 3 or 4 marketing channels and dominating them. However, you should feel free to spend around 5% of your marketing budget on experimentation.
You could test different software, a new social channel, print media, or event sponsorship. There are plenty of marketing tactics you could try.
By experimenting, you can gather data that helps you build stronger existing campaigns and spot movements in the market before they become trends.
Creating Better Marketing Systems To Replace Yourself
Part of learning how to market your business better is realizing you have to create systems (checklist, templates, and SOPs) that allow you to hand off parts of your business to employees. The same is true for them as you begin to scale.
Many clients I deal with daily don’t appreciate that having most things documented frees up mental space, reduces chaos, and allows them to outsource tasks while getting 80/90% of the results and their precious time back.
What stops most founders and CMOs from creating systems, templates, and processes is knowing where to start. There is a simple, foolproof way.
If you’re doing a repetitive task, stop. Write down the steps you follow to complete the task. It doesn’t need to be fancy or covered in minute detail. Even the most basic checklist is far better than not having one.
From there, give the checklist to another team member or hire someone on Fiverr. Ask them to follow the checklist and film them doing it. You’ll soon be able to see if your documentation is good or needs tweaking.
After a few attempts, you’ll get better at writing down all the steps in the process, and be able to have the documentation to start outsourcing.
To scale your ecommerce business, you need to document processes, create easy-to-complete reports, and start building templates to speed up execution. It’s that simple.
Creating A Digital Marketing Plan For Ecommerce Brands
By now, you’ll have a clearer idea of why having a digital marketing plan for your ecommerce brand matters and how to build one from the ground up. Remember your plan should be short, action-oriented, define what success looks like, and how you’ll measure it.
Don’t waste time creating a digital marketing plan that’s a useless and long essay that takes you years to write and a month to read. Such plans help no one and are likely to end up filed away, never to be seen again.
With your marketing plan, keep rereading it and tweaking it based on the data you gather. Don’t let it stand still or gather dust!
You can have all of the marketing tactics in the world. But without the right ecommerce marketing strategy, you won't get the results you deserve.
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