Understanding the different kinds of analysis available to you when creating a digital marketing strategy is important. In order to create an informed and effective strategy you must consider many factors that affect both your business and your competition’s business.
In the modern marketplace you will encounter more competition than you ever have, no matter what business you're in. Globalisation and the internet give people access to a wider range of products. Social media and other low-cost entry marketing messages are both a huge help and hindrance to a brand attempting to establish itself today.
A top-notch marketing strategy is key to success in this environment - it’s simply not enough to have a great product or service. We see time and time again that a better marketing campaign can beat a better product. The following types of analysis may be tried and tested, but they remain as core to any marketing strategy as they ever were:
- S – Strengths
- W – Weaknesses
- O – Opportunities
- T – Threats
SWOT analysis is one of the first things any business or marketing student learns and should be something every business owner is familiar with. This is a less detailed and more broad analysis than any of the others mentioned in this article. SWOT is a good starting point, especially when considering a new direction, plan or staff. It’s also a great thing to ask a new hire or outside source to conduct as it’s simple and often returns different results based on who’s conducting it. Here are some examples:
SWOT comprises ‘Inside’ and ‘Outside’ factors. Strengths and Weaknesses are the ‘Inside’ factors, the things you can directly control and take action on immediately.
Opportunities and Threats are the ‘Outside’ factors - these same factors will probably be effecting your competitors too.
Defining the scope of a Digital Marketing SWOT can sometimes be difficult; you can’t simply focus only on ‘internet’ factors as these do not exist in a vacuum, but equally if you allow the scope to be too wide you’re simply completing a general marketing SWOT. Consider all of your channels and how your digital marketing affects or requires them, for instance the ability of a customer to contact you via phone call or whether you’re using direct mail to reach a typically ‘offline’ audience to encourage them to visit your website.
A SWOT Analysis should not be a one-time thing, instead it should be a regular occurrence - especially around new products/services, seasonal changes or when significant market deformation happens. Secondly, a SWOT Analysis should be the start of your process, not your whole process. This is a useful tool to get an overview, it is unlikely to provide you with the kind of depth of information you need to construct a multi-faceted digital marketing plan:
- P – Political
- E – Economic
- S – Social
- T – Technological
- L – Legal
- E – Environmental
PESTLE Analysis is another ‘Overview’ level analysis. By focusing on external factors which influence your business it allows you to create a reliable strategy that is informed of real-world context. It’s important to consider a wide range of factors when thinking about your digital marketing, and PESTLE forces you to think of areas you may not consider in your day to day marketing efforts. Many of the issues you consider will overlap between a few of the focus areas so don’t worry if you find the same things coming up over and over, the important thing is that you’re considering their implications for each focus area.
Political factors can act as a barrier to many areas of a businesses marketing. Being aware of the Political climate in the areas you’re operating is hugely important, especially if you’re operating in multiple nations or areas with significantly different political climates. For instance, in the UK we are in the middle of a number of heated political issues, from anti-competitive practices by other nations affecting our national industries to EU membership.
Ensuring you are up-to-date with the political climate helps prevent any faux-pas that could impact your brand. For instance - any advertising that leans heavily on a message of ‘Being British’ may be seen as your brand taking a side on the EU Referendum at present; despite any particular intention or lack thereof on your business's part.
This is a very self-explanatory focus area. Things like inflation rates, wage law and purchasing power all have direct impacts on your ability to market yourself effectively. High inflation rates will make it hard to attract investment, and fluctuating exchange rates not only impact your costs but also your ability to market competitively overseas. Differing economic situations require different marketing strategies, and the same product may be served best by being marketed as ‘reliable, well-known and high quality’ in a good economy and ‘reliable, british made and great value for money’ in an economy that isn’t doing so well.
Similar to Political but with wider and less time-sensitive implications. While most people will have created Buyer Personas or at least have a demographic profile of their customers many neglect to consider wider social implications, namely that it’s not only their customers that will see their ads. Big companies can afford diverse focus groups but that’s beyond the reach of most of us which means we must intelligently try to assess Social factors to the best of our ability.
Once again this is especially important for businesses operating across multiple nations and demographics. There are countless articles on the internet of even big brands making huge marketing faux-pas.
Digital marketing is perhaps the quickest changing landscape when talking about marketing and advertising. In the space of just a year, perhaps two, entire new avenues pop up that should be exploited. Changes to social media, mobile devices and data tracking capabilities appear nearly overnight. Future-proofing is a term that is often used. It’s impossible to completely future proof your marketing, but every effort should be made to keep your marketing flexible because you know how quickly things can change.
It’s not as simple as just jumping on every new technology. Better to be good at 3 of 6 new developments than simply ‘be doing’ all 6. Knowing what is a fad and what will stick is difficult and requires knowledge as well as the ability to stay abreast of new developments.
As self-explanatory as Economic. Ensuring your marketing efforts remain legal is vital not only for your credibility but also for your bottom line. Laws and regulatory standards do change so remainig up-to-date with such changes is highly important. Equally, being forward-thinking and avoiding dubious practices that may later become illegal can help avoid serious consequences further down the line.
Intertwined closely with Social and Political, your business area will affect how important this last consideration is. Corporate social responsibility increasingly includes environmental responsibility and so, signalling your acknowledgement and engagement with this is often a good thing. Concerns such as weather, natural disasters and appetite for ‘green’ solutions could all have an impact on the effectiveness of your marketing.
Where a SWOT analysis considers outside threats in general a competitor analysis explicitly compares your business with that of your competitors. Analysing the relative strengths and weaknesses of each of your closest competitors and comparing them to your own gives you clear directions to move forward.
A full digital marketing competitor analysis should be a comprehensive document that encompasses all areas of digital marketing, including:
- Search Rankings
- Paid Search
- Online Presence
- Online Reputation
- Site Analytics Capability
- Organic and Paid Search Strategy
Where you find a competitor doing something significantly better than you are you may choose to emulate their strategy. If you notice weaknesses you may wish to focus efforts in these areas to easily take advantage of an ‘easy win’.
Competitor Analysis forms a key part of digital marketing strategy as it’s highly reactive and often offers simple answers. It’s by no means a simple process but once you can map what is and isn’t working across your industry as opposed to just for you, there is often a much clearer path of action.
Internet Business Analysis
An Internet Business Analysis takes a slightly different form to the previous 3 techniques. Here we utilise more direct questioning to tease out answers and considerations that may have been missed in exercises where you are simply trying to grasp all the factors that could affect you. For instance:
- What is currently driving the most sales?
- What does success look like in 3 months and in 12 months?
- What are you doing to grow your network and reach new customers?
- How are you using your existing network to inform future marketing efforts?
- What are the key descriptors real customers use when they think of your brand?
- What is the lifetime value of a typical customer?
By putting the findings of all of these different types of Analysis together we gather a complete picture of your business, your goals, your abilities and your position in the market. This allows for a holistic, realistic and thoroughly informed digital marketing strategy to be pulled together.
Simple, but effective
Whilst there are a variety of tools and techniques at your displosal, at the heart of devising a winning digital marketing strategy is taking some time to observe what the competition is doing, benchmark your current performance against theirs, and revise your strategy accordingly.
Obviously implementation is critial to success, but with a strategy built on the above strong foundations, you're much more likely to succeed.
About Rob Thomas
Rob lives and breathes Digital Marketing, Marketing Automation, Social Selling, Mobile Marketing and Reputation Management. Rob is a professional speaker who regularly speaks in North America and across the EMEA Region., an author (Digital Minds: 12 Things Every Business Needs to Know About Digital Marketing) and regular contributor to MyCustomer and the UK Marketing Network.
Video of Rob shot at our most recent Digital Summit in the UK