Planning for a new year

If you haven’t already started working on your digital marketing strategy and budget for 2018, it’s time to get cracking! With only a few weeks left of 2017, the year is quickly drawing to a close and time to research and design a comprehensive strategy is running out.

In this post, I’ll share some of our team’s tips on how to determine what digital marketing efforts you need to focus on in 2018 to grow your business.

In short, our process works as follows: Set marketing goals and objectives for the new year, audit the client’s competitors, audit the client’s activities, determine what worked and what didn’t and then based on your findings and the marketing budget, design a digital marketing strategy, content strategy and implementation calendar.

While this process may seem daunting and like a lot of work, I suggest you break it up into smaller, daily tasks over the next few weeks. Spend an hour or two every day to analyze, do research and build your digital marketing strategy.

Competitor research and its role in your digital marketing strategy

So, while you may be aware of who your competitors are and what they offer, it’s important to get up to speed with their digital marketing efforts and what approaches they’ve used the past few months.

I always suggest that clients follow their competitors on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc – subscribe to their newsletters, blog, set Google Alerts for their brand name, etc. This way, you can stay up to date with what they’re doing throughout the year and make notes along the way of tactics being used, successful marketing campaigns and so forth – which will help you when you get to the planning stage of your digital marketing strategy.

Do not let the word ‘competitor analysis’ or ‘SWOT analysis’ scare you. To keep things simple, I suggest you select three to five of your main competitors and analyze their website, social media channels, newsletters and any other marketing tactics they utilize. For the digital marketing strategy, we only focus on digital channels and tactics but if your competitor is doing offline marketing that is worth noting (print advertising in i.e. your local newspaper), then list that down too.

Tips for compiling a competitor audit

On your competitor’s website, you want to pay attention to things like calls-to-action (CTAs), the tone of their website copy, what pages they have listed, the flow of their website’s content (when using the website as a visitor), their blog (if they have one) and then also how frequently they update their blog and what type of content they focus on.

As for their social media activity, you want to determine which channels they are active on and then also note their fan and follower counts for each, how often each channel is updated, what type of content they publish and so forth.

For their newsletter, see if you can determine monthly themes, specific CTAs, what subject lines are they using?

Be as detailed as possible for each marketing channel or tactic that they utilize – the more information you have, the easier it will be to determine what worked for your competitors and what you could possibly incorporate in your digital marketing strategy.

Once you are done with your competitor analysis, it’s time to move onto your own channels and tactics. Your advantage at this stage? You have Google Analytics data to give you concrete direction.

Firstly, start with listing all the promotional tactics, marketing tactics and channels that you used in the past year. For instance:

  • New, optimized blog post published every week on our blog
  • 5 updates per week published on Facebook
  • 8 updates per week published on Twitter
  • Monthly newsletter
  • And so forth

You should have ROI data available for each tactic – for instance:

  • Blog content: Website is now ranking for X amount of new keywords (which in return increases the traffic to the website)
  • Social media updates: Drove X amount of traffic back to the website, resulted in X% increase in engagement across platforms, etc
  • Monthly newsletter: Database increased by X number of subscribers, X number of leads were generated through the newsletter, open rate improved by X%, click through rate improved by X%, etc

While it’s impossible to touch on every single channel and tactic in this post, you’ll need to cover everything you’ve done in 2017 to ensure you make an informed decision when deciding what to do in 2018.

Also focus on:

  • What CTAs on your website, in your social media updates, in newsletters, etc worked and resulted in leads being generated?
  • What specials or promotions did you utilize that worked?
  • What newsletters received the most engagement (open rate and click-throughs) and why?
  • For your social media content, any trends that you can pick up with content that performed well?

Using this information, start working on your strategy for 2018. Be sure to be very clear upfront with the goals you want to achieve in the new year, and break them down into actionable marketing objectives. Then, detail what tactics you’re going to use to reach those objectives.

Once your digital marketing strategy is created, you’ll need to move on to your content strategy and calendar.

For the content strategy, we like to work with monthly themes for blog posts and newsletters. We then try to tie in some of the social media updates to relate to this theme, however – a good mix of content is needed and you should include other types of updates too. Once we have the themes detailed and we know how many social media updates we need, how many blog posts need to be written, what new pages need to be added to the website, etc we start working on the content calendar.

Your content calendar will detail what is due when, and who is responsible for it. We have a process that looks like this for a blog post:

  • We will get a detailed brief from a client
  • The brief goes to our copywriter, and she will do additional research if needed, and create a first draft
  • Our editor will proofread the first draft
  • The blog post is then quality checked by the project manager before it’s sent to the client
  • The client gives feedback and we implement their requests
  • The updated version of the post is sent to the client for approval
  • Once signed off, our content manager will upload the post to the client’s blog

While this is a slightly longer process (your internal process may be shorter), we need to allow time in our content calendar for each step. Our copywriter will need 2 to 3 days to research and write a post. The editor needs one day for proofreading, and so forth. Plan you calendar out so that the timeline is realistic and everyone is aware of their responsibilities and deadlines.


I trust this post has given you a starting point for planning your 2018 digital marketing strategy – or at least gave you a few ideas on how to proceed. If you have any specific questions or tips for other readers, please share them in the comments. We’d love to hear from you! 🙂