The Ultimate 10-Step Digital Marketing Strategy Playbook

In the ever-evolving landscape of online commerce, crafting a seamless digital marketing strategy isn't just a choice—it's a necessity for small and medium businesses (SMB) and their agency partners seeking success in the digital realm.

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This guide serves as for marketers, leading you through the core tools and essential principles on how to do digital marketing. Our mission is to empower business owners and marketers by enhancing their online visibility and fostering genuine engagement with audiences. In this blog, we explore the intricacies of understanding customer personas and unravel the complexities of vital digital marketing tools, including reputation management, social media marketing, SEO, websites, content creation, digital advertising, and more.

What is a digital marketing strategy?

A digital marketing strategy is a comprehensive plan that outlines how a business will achieve its marketing goals via online channels like search, social media, and email. It involves understanding your target audience, setting clear objectives, and implementing effective digital marketing tactics to reach and engage your audience.

It’s helpful to think of your strategy more like a digital marketing roadmap or action plan for expanding your online reach and establishing your place on the internet. And there’s no doubt about it: the internet is valuable real estate.

It also bears repeating that every business and website is different. The best digital marketing strategies take this into account and are designed with specific goals in mind that can be accomplished, tracked, and refined using particular tools and channels.

Tools and tactics for creating a digital marketing strategy

Without further delay, let’s embark on this comprehensive journey, enriching your understanding of the core facets of a digital marketing strategy so that you, your partners or your clients win online and be the envy of local economies.

For a quick overview of how to do digital marketing, we’ll be exploring nine essential tools, along with a 10-step overview will help bring the pieces together, akin to mastering a plumber's toolkit and learning the art of application.

How to do digital marketing in just 10 steps (overview)

By following these steps, you'll be on your way to creating and executing a successful digital marketing strategy:

  1. Create a customer persona: Craft detailed buyer personas based on preferences, behaviors, and pain points.
  2. Identify your goals: Set clear, measurable goals tailored to your business objectives with tools like Google Analytics and CRM platforms for accurate measurement.
  3. Focus on content: Develop a consistent blogging schedule with engaging content; consider professional blog writing services if resources are limited.
  4. Evaluate existing digital marketing channels: Analyze your current channels and refine successful elements. Explore innovative approaches for underperforming areas.
  5. Explore and implement automations: Utilize marketing automation platforms to automate activities like content marketing and lead generation.
  6. Nail mobile optimization: Prioritize mobile responsiveness, swift loading, and user-friendly interfaces for compatibility with various devices.
  7. Make it easy for customers to reach you: Audit landing pages and optimize CTAs for visibility and clarity.
  8. Use the right technology: Invest in tools like sales CRM systems, advanced marketing automation software, and AI technologies to save time and automate tasks while maintaining a human touch.
  9. Confirm your differentiators: Identify and reinforce your unique selling proposition (USP) in your messaging and marketing strategy.
  10. Track your process and progress: Establish a system for constant monitoring and improvement, and foster a culture of learning and adaptation.

9 important tools to execute a digital marketing strategy (overview)

In today's digital landscape, mastering the core tools of digital marketing is essential for thriving online. These tools play a pivotal role in enhancing brand visibility and engagement. Let's explore these essential digital marketing tools:

  1. Websites: Your online foundation, requiring continuous optimization for enhanced visibility and user experience.
  2. Online reviews: Build trust and gain valuable feedback, a critical aspect often overlooked.
  3. Social media marketing: Cultivate communities and engagement, leveraging the influence of platforms like Facebook.
  4. Listings Management: Expand your presence across various directories, optimizing with visuals and keywords.
  5. Content Marketing: Crafting valuable and unique content is key, as exemplified by Parabol's success.
  6. Email Marketing: Forge personalized connections and drive conversions through segmented and targeted campaigns.
  7. SEO (Search Engine Optimization): Master the art of SEO to maximize organic traffic and improve search rankings.
  8. Digital Advertising: Targeted ads with compelling content drive traffic, leads, and conversions.
  9. AI (Artificial Intelligence): Embrace AI for content creation, data analysis, and efficient marketing strategies.

How to do digital marketing in just 10 steps

Now that you know a little about the latest digital marketing tools and some trends involved in how these are being used, it’s time to learn the basics on how to create a digital marketing strategy of your own⁠—even if you’re just a beginner.

From personas to the right tools, there are plenty of things that can help or hinder the success of your digital marketing strategy. These 10 steps, including our favorite tools and software, are the foundational work you need to make sure your strategy works well.

1. Create a customer persona

In the ever-evolving landscape of digital marketing, understanding your audience goes beyond basic demographics. The emergence of buyer personas or ideal customer profiles (ICPs) signifies a paradigm shift. These meticulously crafted representations of your ideal customers are now the cornerstone of any comprehensive digital marketing strategy.

Buyer personas are more than abstract concepts; they're detailed characterizations rooted in diverse data points and meaningful insights. Defining your unique buyer personas involves a deep dive into preferences, behaviors, and pain points. By utilizing a variety of methods and online templates, you can meticulously identify these personas, ensuring a laser-focused approach to your marketing endeavors.

Your action items:

  1. Invest time in identifying your ideal customers—dive into their preferences, behaviors, and challenges.
  2. Craft your strategy to deeply resonate with this specific audience, laying the foundation for meaningful and impactful engagement.

2. Identify your goals

Defining precise and measurable goals is the foundation of any effective digital marketing strategy. Avoid vague objectives and embrace specific, attainable targets.

For instance, rather than a generic goal like "Increase conversions," be specific: "Optimize website and enhance SEO content within 30 days, aiming for a 20% increase in traffic and a 10% boost in conversions by the end of the quarter."

Your action items:

  1. Formulate clear, measurable goals tailored to your business objectives.
  2. Use tools like Google Analytics, social media insights, and CRM platforms to measure progress accurately.

3. Focus on content

Blogging remains a potent tool in digital marketing, fostering brand authority and online presence. Regular, high-quality blog posts drive website traffic, fortify social media engagement, and improve search engine rankings.

Additionally, creating valuable content positions your business as an industry leader, answering customer queries and addressing their pain points.

Your action items:

  1. Develop a consistent blogging schedule with an editorial calendar. Focus on informative, engaging content that resonates with your audience.
  2. If in-house resources are limited, consider professional blog writing services for expert support.

4.  Evaluate existing 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 Ads, paid advertising, and so on. Ask yourself: how effective were they and how can they be used next year? Which online advertising strategies can be refined or dropped?

It is okay if your future digital marketing strategy process does not incorporate all of these elements, but it sure should use those that were the most effective in the previous year. 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.

Your action items:

  1. Analyze and assess each channel's performance metrics.
  2. Optimize successful elements, refine strategies, and explore innovative approaches for underperforming areas.

5. Explore and implement automations

Marketing automation is huge, and it’s only getting better with the new technology and software being incorporated into the latest digital marketing strategies. Today’s leading marketing automation platforms can do wonders for your digital marketing strategy, making it easy for you to automate activities such as content marketing, email marketing, lead generation, and more.

Plus, it’s easy to find marketing automation platforms that are integrated with your company’s sales CRM, which improves the entire sales process.

If your company is still not on board with automated lead generation, make sure you add it to your digital marketing strategy this year.

Your action item:

  1. Explore marketing automation platforms. Platforms such as Vendasta allow businesses to implement automated workflows for email marketing, content distribution, and lead nurturing.

6. Nail mobile optimization

In the mobile-first era, ensuring seamless experiences for smartphone and tablet users is paramount. Mobile optimization involves responsive design, swift page loading, and user-friendly interfaces.

Prioritize mobile search optimization and review your site's responsiveness. Crafting mobile-friendly email templates and ensuring relevant, up-to-date content enhances the user experience.

Your action items:

  1. Perform mobile responsiveness tests, focusing on page speed and design.
  2. Update email templates to ensure compatibility with various devices.

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.

To eliminate unnecessary effort, you should ensure that landing pages do not ask for irrelevant data. Make CTAs clearly visible on the landing page and other pages on the website.


  1. Audit landing pages, ensuring they request only essential information.
  2. Optimize CTAs for visibility and clarity.
  3. Explore chatbots and AI-powered customer support for immediate responses.

8. Use the right technology

Strategic implementation of cutting-edge technology is pivotal in knowing how to do digital marketing. Select tools that align seamlessly with your objectives, ranging from robust marketing automation software to insightful sales intelligence platforms such as Vendasta's Snapshot Report. These resources empower you to pinpoint objectives, monitor visitor sources, and evaluate the impact of your campaigns.

Additionally, integrating AI technologies into your business operations is crucial. For instance, ChatGPT can streamline content creation and editing processes, enhancing efficiency. Vendasta’s Reputation Management and Social Marketing tools leverage AI to facilitate seamless responses to reviews and automate content posting across platforms like Facebook.

Your action items:

  1. Dive into thorough research to identify and invest in tools like sales CRM systems, data analytics platforms, and advanced marketing automation software.
  2. Stay abreast of the latest innovations in marketing technology to ensure your strategies remain on the cutting edge.
  3. Leverage AI technologies to help save time and automate repetitive tasks. For content creation purposes, learn how to balance AI usage with maintaining a human element in your copy and brand voice.

9. Confirm your differentiators

Identify and reinforce your unique selling proposition (USP). Engage with customers to understand why they chose your business. Emphasize your differentiators in your digital marketing campaigns.

Research competitors, differentiating your offerings based on customer preferences and other digital marketing trends. Incorporate your USP into your messaging and marketing roadmap.

Your action items:

  1. Conduct customer surveys and interviews to discover your unique value.
  2. Refine your messaging to highlight your USP, ensuring it permeates all digital marketing communications.

10. Track your process and progress

Constant monitoring should be provided to ensure that your digital marketing strategy is working. Establish a system for constant monitoring and improvement. Designate teams to oversee metrics, identify areas of enhancement, and learn from past mistakes. Embrace a culture of continuous improvement, staying agile and adaptive. Regularly analyze data, implement feedback loops, and seek innovative approaches to refine your strategy.

Your action items:

  1. Create dedicated teams for monitoring and analysis.
  2. Foster a culture of learning from successes and failures.
  3. Continuously iterate your digital marketing strategy, ensuring it evolves with changing market dynamics and customer preferences.

9 important tools to execute a digital marketing strategy

In the ever-expansive digital landscape, mastering the core tools of digital marketing is pivotal for businesses who want to thrive online. From compelling websites and impactful online reviews to strategic social media marketing and precise SEO tactics, each tool plays a unique role in enhancing brand visibility and engagement. Together, they all form an essential part of a cohesive digital marketing strategy.

Let's delve into the essence of these tools, unveiling their practical applications along with examples of how they’re empowering businesses to connect authentically with their audience, boost online presence, and foster lasting relationships.

1. Websites: The foundation of a digital marketing strategy

We know that in 2023, websites stand as the foundation of every online endeavor, functioning as virtual storefronts.

While 71% of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have embraced this vital tool, the focus extends beyond mere presence to meticulous optimization, presenting a challenge in today's competitive arena. As highlighted by Forbes:

  • 21% of businesses grapple with low website traffic, emphasizing the need for enhanced visibility.
  • With the average click-through rate at 4.23%, there's immense potential for increased website conversions, particularly in the realm of e-commerce.
  • A remarkable 93% of global traffic funnels through Google, emphasizing the pivotal role of SEO and paid advertising in online visibility.
  • The repercussions of slow-loading websites are significant, costing retailers $2.6 billion annually; even a 2-3 second delay leads to substantial revenue loss.
  • Despite 51.2% of web traffic originating from mobile devices, the absence of mobile-friendly designs hampers user experience.

In the ever-evolving digital landscape, businesses can't afford a "set and forget" approach to their websites. A visually appealing site is just the beginning; it must yield tangible results; adaptability and continuous improvement are the keys to a thriving online presence.

For a robust digital marketing strategy, SMBs and their partners must prioritize ongoing updates, optimization, high-quality content publication, and even entire website redesigns. These efforts are essential to enhance engagement, increase conversions, and secure a prominent position on search engine result pages (SERPs).

Example: Nearly Real Florals boosts conversions by 87% with multistep forms

Nearly Real Florals, an e-commerce site specializing in handcrafted artificial floral arrangements, increased their conversion rate by an impressive 87% by enhancing its website and ordering experience. These enhancements included:

  • Breaking down complex order forms into manageable steps, reducing decision fatigue for users.
  • Incorporating vibrant product images that captivated visitors and highlighted the quality of their floral arrangements.
  • Utilizing white spaces strategically, creating an inviting and aesthetically pleasing atmosphere on the website.

This example demonstrates that businesses must continuously refine their online presence to support their marketing and growth goals.
Nearly Real Florals
Source: Grow Form/Nearly Real Florals

2. Online reviews: Protecting reputation and cultivating trust

Online reviews wield immense influence, shaping perceptions and purchasing decisions—and yet they remain an underappreciated part of digital marketing strategy discussions.

Various surveys consistently affirm that a significant majority of consumers rely on online reviews when making purchasing decisions or choosing where to dine or shop. Some widely known benefits of online reviews include:

  • Building trust and instilling confidence among prospects in the awareness or decision stages of their buyer journey.
  • Providing businesses with valuable feedback based on the contents of reviews.
  • The opportunity to foster a positive online community and brand. A happy customer is likely to leave a positive review and follow a business on social media, all contributing to brand amplification.

Example: Nike elevates service and protects reputation with a dedicated handle

In the vast world of big brands, managing customer complaints can be overwhelming. Nike tackles this challenge head-on by dedicating separate social handles to customer support.

This strategic move ensures that every concern is heard, reinforcing their commitment to customer satisfaction.
Nike Service
Source: Clutch/Nike

3. Social media marketing: Cultivating community and engagement

While some of us debate the role of social media in our daily lives, what’s undeniable is just how influential these digital behemoths are, even in 2023.

Facebook alone boasts over 3 billion monthly active users, as per Meta's recent quarterly report. When considering Meta's entire app family, encompassing WhatsApp, Instagram, Messenger, and now Threads, the total monthly active users reach an astounding 3.88 billion. This staggering number accounts for nearly half of the world's population!

For SMBs, the need to have a social media and content marketing plan is a must in the context of a digital marketing strategy. The challenge is to make that presence effective with regular content and visuals that are engaging and compelling.

Example: Apple's #ShotOniPhone campaign

Apple's #ShotOniPhone campaign in 2022 exemplified the art of demonstrative marketing. The campaign:

  • Focused on showcasing the extraordinary macrophotography capabilities of iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max.
  • Invited users to participate by sharing their best macro photos on social media platforms using the #ShotOniPhone and #iPhoneMacroChallenge hashtags.

This ingenious campaign not only engaged users but also effectively demonstrated the remarkable camera prowess of the new iPhones. By harnessing the power of user-generated content, Apple amassed over 26 million posts on Instagram alone, transforming satisfied customers into brand advocates.
Source: Adobe/Apple

4. Listings management: Navigating the digital directory

Many businesses recognize the importance of having a presence on Google, but what might be underestimated is the rapid expansion of competing and alternative listings and online review platforms.

We've recently curated a list of 40 impactful review sites to boost business growth to name some worthy listings for businesses to consider in addition to Google.

Specialized industry websites are experiencing substantial traffic growth, offering detailed insights about businesses that often go beyond what's visible on Google reviews. As such, having multiple listings becomes essential, allowing customers to cross-reference reviews from various platforms and access the specific information they seek.

Being present on multiple directories aside, optimizing listings with compelling visuals, relevant keywords, and accurate business details remains as important as ever in a digital marketing strategy.

Example: Comic store leverages multiple listings to strengthen digital presence

In the Canadian city of Saskatoon, Amazing Stories is a local comic store that embraced online listings management with success. A winning Google Maps SEO strategy led local customers to their door, while Facebook connected them with enthusiasts and Instagram showcased their rare finds globally.

Positive reviews and engaging posts not only expanded their reach but also fostered community. Their online visibility skyrocketed, transforming Amazing Stories into a global hub for comic enthusiasts, all thanks to strategic listings.
Amazing Stories
Source: Amazing Stories

5. Content marketing: Crafting compelling narratives

While crafting this article, the author delved into the origin of the popular saying: "Content is King." Surprisingly, it was software developer-turned-billionaire Bill Gates who coined this phrase after publishing an article with that very title in 1996, and its premise remains at the heart of any digital marketing strategy today.

Content marketing encompasses diverse formats, including blogs, videos, podcasts, webinars, infographics, guides, whitepapers, and courses.

The challenge in today's landscape is to ensure that valuable content not only resonates with audiences but also stands out from similar information, is strategically distributed across platforms, and is optimized for maximum SEO impact.

Example: Parabol scales to 150,000+ monthly pageviews

In the relentless battleground of tech tools, where giants like Atlassian and Miro loom large, Parabol, a nimble online meeting tool, faced a triple threat: a discerning audience, heavyweight competitors, and a shoestring budget. To thrive in this arena, Parabol needed a unique approach.

Enter content journalism: This innovative fusion of content marketing and brand journalism became their secret weapon, propelling Parabol's blog to over 150k monthly visits. By veering away from generic content and delving deep into the agile community's nuances, they carved a niche.
Source: Animalz

6. Email marketing: Forging personalized connections and conversions

Email marketing remains crucial for SMBs, with 90 percent of respondents from a Constant Contact survey affirming its importance to their company's success. It stands as one of the most effective marketing channels, ranking in the top 3 for 79 percent of marketers.

Yet, in the competitive landscape, where over 350 billion emails are exchanged daily, standing out is key.

Emails in the context of an effective digital marketing strategy need to go deeper—sending messages to a broad list of customers will no longer cut it. Segmentation and targeted campaigns enhance relevance, while compelling visuals, concise copy, and clear calls to action boost conversion rates.

Automation ensures personalized, timely interactions, and through newsletters, promotions, and updates, email marketing fosters relationships, driving customer engagement and loyalty.

Example: Grammarly leverages emails for B2B upselling

The following email marketing campaign by Grammarly exemplifies effective B2B upsell strategies. The email persuaded free users to transition to a premium subscription with the use of clever tactics including:

  • Prominently displaying the “$75” in the banner, immediately enticing eyeballs to note the value of the offer.
  • Focused and concise copy, coupled with a straightforward design, to make it effortless for recipients to recognize the advantages of upgrading.
  • The inclusion of a limited-time offer to add urgency.

Source: Omnisend/Grammarly

7. Search engine optimization (SEO): The key ingredient for maximizing online effectiveness

Navigating the complex realm of SEO poses a significant challenge for busy business owners. Techniques like strategic keyword usage, aligning content with user intent, cultivating quality backlinks, and optimizing website architecture and speed all shape a business's position on search engine results pages (SERPs).

SEO is the key to organic traffic, maximizing exposure and attracting potential customers. Effective keyword research and on-page optimization, coupled with quality backlinks, propel website page rankings and contribute to a successful digital marketing strategy overall.

Businesses face the task of delving deeper into SEO knowledge or partnering with experts. Continuous website and content optimization are essential, ensuring every aspect of the online presence is finely tuned for optimal performance.

Etsy's Content Mastery: Elevating SEO and Customer Retention

Etsy, the global marketplace for handmade products, stands as a beacon of content excellence in the digital landscape. Their content strategy, emphasizing inspiring merchant stories and showcasing unique products, not only enhances SEO but also fosters customer loyalty.

By putting their users in the spotlight and employing engaging hooks, Etsy ensures not just organic visibility but also a strong bond with their audience. This user-focused approach exemplifies the synergy between compelling content, SEO success, and long-term customer retention, making Etsy a standout example in the realm of SEO strategies.
Source: Etsy/Pepper Content

8. Digital Advertising: Targeted reach and conversion

Digital advertising encompasses diverse forms, from pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns to display and video ads. Targeted ads based on demographics, interests, and behaviors reach specific audiences.

Compelling ad copy, engaging visuals, and strategic placements maximize click-through rates. Performance analytics enable data-driven optimizations, ensuring efficient spending and high return on investment. Digital advertising drives targeted traffic, generating leads and conversions.

Example: BetterHelp's succeeds in PPC with relatable video content

BetterHelp's PPC campaign stands out for its effective use of video content. By incorporating a genuine and relatable message about mental health services, the ad not only captures attention but also establishes a personal connection with the audience. The inclusion of closed captions enhances accessibility, making it inclusive for all viewers.

Additionally, the ad follows the PAS (Problem, Agitate, Solution) model, addressing common issues, agitating the pain points, and providing a clear solution. This thoughtful approach ensures that the ad resonates deeply, making it a standout example of a successful PPC campaign.
Source: BetterHelp/Hawk SEM

9. Artificial Intelligence (AI): Now a core part of any digital marketing strategy

AI stands at the forefront of a marketing revolution, reshaping digital marketing strategies with its transformative influence on content creation and beyond. From crafting compelling narratives to generating engaging visuals, AI technologies like ChatGPT and OpusClip are pivotal in making marketing more efficient and effective.

These innovations streamline content creation, editing, and image generation processes, ensuring efficiency and precision. For businesses they can also help save time and money by automating tasks such as responses to online reviews and social media posts.

Furthermore, AI's impact on digital marketing extends beyond content creation, reaching into customer data analysis. Machine learning algorithms delve deep into data, unveiling patterns and preferences that refine marketing agency strategies.

In the coming years—if not already—AI will be the driving force behind immersive customer experiences and strategic marketing excellence, shaping the future of digital engagement.

Example: Local restaurant benefits leverages AI for sales and advocacy

Earlier this year, Montaha’s, a Lebanese restaurant located in Swift Current, Canada, harnessed the power of Vendasta’s AI and automation tools. They effortlessly curated and scheduled content to promote their Valentine’s Day 2023 seafood chowder special across various social media platforms with just a single click.

This innovative campaign not only resulted in record sales for the restaurant but also garnered unforeseen leads, as evidenced in the screenshot below. These leads translated into new followers and customers, enhancing the restaurant's SEO and social presence. What's more, the business owner utilized AI to craft responses, effectively saving valuable time and resources.
Local Restaurant


In the dynamic realm of online commerce, developing a robust digital marketing strategy is not merely an option; it's an imperative.

Through the comprehensive lens of a thoughtfully constructed digital marketing strategy and its myriad tools, businesses can amplify their online presence, forge authentic bonds with their audience, and achieve significant outcomes. Amidst the ever-changing business landscape, a meticulously executed digital marketing strategy stands as the guiding light, steering companies toward enduring success in today's fiercely competitive online arena and beyond.

About the Author

Domenica Martinello is a Content Marketing Specialist at Vendasta and her diverse career has revolved around an appreciation for storytelling, education, mentorship, and facilitation. She has taught English Literature to college students, published a book, worked in EdTech, and cut her teeth at an inbound marketing agency. Off hours, you can find her reading, writing poems, and playing with makeup (not all at once).

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