The following is a guest post by Tom Jager from A-Writer

Digital marketing strategy is an integral part of growth for many companies because it outlines the tasks and actions needed to ensure that marketing goals are met. Some people are often intimidated by the word “strategy,” but designing it can actually be relatively easy.

The secret to developing an effective digital marketing strategy for the next year is preparation and consideration of the latest trends that will dominate in 2017. To help you create a digital marketing strategy for your business, we’re providing you with a 10 step guideline that involves both fundamentals and innovations.

Let’s begin.

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Step 1: define your customer in a new way

Previously, digital marketers collected qualitative and quantitative information about the target audience that included age, gender, occupation, interests, and location. The definition of the potential customer has been taken to another level recently, with buyer personas taking over. Now, the most effective marketing strategies are incomplete without them.

Buyer personas are a term used to describe the ideal customer that can be defined by surveying and contacting the pre-defined target group. To define your own buyer persona, you can make use of online tools like MakeMyPersona and Persona Creator.

Step 2: identify goals and tools

Every professional marketer knows how important this stage is. Without goals, the strategy simply will not work, so defining them is your main task. To make sure that the goals you developed are suitable, and make them measurable.

Example of a weak marketing goal:

Increase the conversions on the website next year and create two promotional offers.

What is wrong with this goal? Right, it is non-measurable! How one can measure the progress using this goal, right?

Here is how it should have been formulated:

Increase the conversions on the website by 20 percent in the first quarter of 2017, and create two promotional offers: free marketing report and a marketing book. Have them online by February and March respectively.

There, measuring the progress becomes possible now.

Step 3: focus on blogging

Blogging will be important for online marketing in 2017 and far beyond. This key aspect of the strategy performs some critical functions, including bringing more traffic to your website, reinforcing social media presence, positioning against other companies and ranking all those long-tail search queries and keywords.

If you have a regularly updated blog that the visitors find useful, it means that your website will be easily found through the search engines and can be used as a platform for your marketing campaign.

Step 4: evaluate digital marketing channels

Analyze the digital assets and channels that you are already using, including website, blog content, social media account, word-of-mouth, native advertising, Google Adwords, paid advertising and so on. Ask yourself: how effective were they and how they can be used in 2017?

It is okay if your future digital marketing strategy does not incorporate all of these elements, but it sure should use those that were the most effective in 2016. For example, if a landing page you recently created has been effective in generating leads, use it again but improve it as much as possible. The same applies to other assets and channels.

Step 5: Automate marketing

The report of digital marketing trends from SmartInsights states that marketing automation will be a huge thing in 2017. In fact, it has been in the top 3 for the last 5 years in terms of trends and many businesses still have not improved their automation.

If your company is among them, make sure you add marketing automation to your strategy before 2017 arrives!

Step 6: make mobile marketing work

According to the aforementioned report from SmartInsights, mobile marketing has been on the rise in the recent years. However, there are still many opportunities for growing in the area of smartphone conversions, as these rates were very low in 2016 (SmartInsights). Desktop and tablet were the most widely used tools for this task so far, so if you are looking for opportunities in mobile marketing, here is your chance.

Review your mobile responsive design and email templates to ensure that you are using the latest methods and provide only relevant and latest data.

Step 7: make it easy for customers to reach you

Online business is all about connecting with potential customers, so traffic on your website should be high to ensure positive outcomes. Your digital marketing strategy therefore should ensure that your leads and visitors are not exerting unnecessary effort to connect with you. Engaging with your customers is invaluable for your business.

“There’s a lot to be learned from your audience online. You’ll get honest feedback on campaigns and messaging, for one. Incorporating your fans’ interpretation and opinion of your brand can get you both fresh content and loyal fans."Adam Fridman

To eliminate the unnecessary effort, you should ensure that landing page does not ask for irrelevant data. Make call-to-actions clearly visible on the landing page and other pages on the website.

Step 8: use the right technology

A marketing effort is wasted if an ineffective or inappropriate technology is used. For example, email marketing should not be done manually but rather by tools like Vendasta that advance it by providing sophisticated functions.

Step 9: confirm your differentiators

If your company is not different from your competitors, you should not expect high profits in 2017. Make sure you change (or reinforce) your difference from the others by talking to your customers and asking them why they selected your company. Then, fix your existing differentiators if needed.

Step 10: track your progress

Constant monitoring should be provided to ensure that the strategy is working effectively. This is done by assigning teams that would deliver this task. Remember to learn from the mistakes and always find improvement opportunities!

There is a lot of work involved in designing a digital marketing strategy, but an effective and well thought-out plan will make it much easier. Now get out there and conquer the new year!