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Your business is a functioning machine. Think of your strategy as its blueprint. Creating a digital marketing strategy requires understanding the pieces that hold it all together. Knowing your sales funnel, mapping your customer’s journey, using your budget wisely – these will enable you to create a well-oiled machine.

Developed from real experience, this in an outline for those trying to build and execute their own strategy – all while not having control over the budget.

1. Sales Funnel

Whether you call it a funnel, cycle, pipeline, or process, you have one. It’s the route a prospect takes in becoming a customer, and is critical in building a successful strategy. Optimize your sales funnel, and you optimize your customer’s journey. Developing your best sales funnel begins with understanding your current one. Sales funnels are often broken up into three stages: cold, warm, and hot. For each of these stages, consider how your site or social media channels work together to push a prospect toward the next action. Step by step, they are ideally walking the path you’ve paved toward becoming your customer.

Let’s look at these stages of the funnel and what they mean:

You see this person around and you think they’re cute. Why not introduce yourself?

“Cold” prospects are people who may not even know who you are or what you do. Efforts to grab their attention are usually driven by Facebook ads, Google Adwords, organic search traffic, word of mouth, and other channels.

You’ve gone on your first date, which went well. What next?

A “warm” prospect has heard of you – and you have piqued their interest. So, what next? Answer a few questions about them. What actions do they take when they visit your website? Do those actions signal interest in taking further steps? If you’re a retailer, this might mean that prospect signs up for your monthly coupon via text. If you’re a B2B, it could mean they’re downloading a white paper or toolkit. Your prospect has heard the question and raised their hand to say, “Yes, I’m interested!”

Things are getting serious. You’re ready to pop the question. At this stage, we know we’re close. This prospect is informed, engaged, and hungry for more. How do we convert them into a customer or client? Common methods include email marketing drips, retargeting with Facebook ads, and even snail mail. This is the final stage of the funnel.

2. Personas and Content Buckets

Most digital marketing strategies are driven by content in one way, shape or form. Personas are your different “types” of potential customers. By putting your content into a series of categories (or “buckets”), you’ll be able to develop a strategy based on which content type works best for which persona.

Step One: Personas

Some of your prospects are cat people while others are dog lovers. Some think with the left side of their brain, and others are right brain thinkers. Come up with a minimum of two groups that we can divide our prospects into. Example: Are you looking for a customer who wants one bouquet of flowers AND someone who’s supplying for a wedding florist? Those are two different customer types, two different personas. Many organizations will have three, four, or even five groups, but two is a great start.

Step Two: Content Buckets

The cat lovers are going to be naturally drawn to different content than the dog lovers. Start by making a list of all the content you currently have – photos, videos, and other assets. From there, research your audience on- and offline to develop a list of content opportunities. Start broad (e.g. videos) then get specific (e.g. 10-second funny cat videos that work well on Instagram).

3. Constraints

Consider how much staff time you can commit to digital marketing. Is someone doing this part time or full time? Do you have on person or many people that will be contributing to execution? Simply put, take a hard look at your real numbers. Don’t bother with hypotheticals: plot out the actual amount of time on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis to dedicate to digital marketing.

No-brainer, right? In addition to time, it’s critical to take budget into consideration. Do you have $5 to spend or $5,000? Find the right tools for your budget and use them wisely. By focusing on what you can afford, you’ll do the most you possibly can with your current budget. (This will also enable you to ask for more marketing funds when next year’s budget is being planned.)

Your strategy will no doubt further develop and grow as you move forward. Your vision will sharpen and you’ll adjust your digital marketing strategy with more specific campaigns and exciting plans.

Just remember to track your progress – and bring it to the budget meeting.

In 2017, digital ad spending surpassed traditional television ad spending for the first time ever. Marketers, business owners and consumers should absolutely be ready for that gap in ad spends to continue to widen.

This significant shift has been a long time coming. Digital marketing has grown up and is a legitimate response to traditional advertising channels like television and print—and for good reason: Marketers can use digital campaigns to target potential customers with more precision and heightened relevance than ever before.

Read the full article on…

The power couple of the year award goes to public relations and digital marketing. In today’s technology and internet-driven age, these two disciplines drive each other.

Digital activity largely relies on Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Basically, if you want your website to be visible to your intended audience, you have to have an understanding of what search engines like Google are looking for when they give users search results.

Sure, keywords and working links help with SEO, but recently Google has implemented algorithms that look for much more than that. This means that brands can no longer throw in keywords to show up in search results. Ultimately, Google is looking for quality content to offer users.

It’s no surprise that quality content is king. Creating that content is not only time-consuming but it can be a challenge to stay on top of “quality” and produce relevant information. That’s where PR comes in.

Through press releases, sponsorship, events, and more, PR can create the kind of content that provides credible links and keywords on top of real stories, all of which contribute to the digital activity on a company’s website. Also, PR content can even be about digital activity. Stories trend about digital ad spend surpassing TV ad spend, for example.

Google values a third party source sharing information and content about your brand over you sharing information about your own brand. PR can help with those third party connections and help develop relevant story lines that are interesting to an audience outside of your own team. The value of links and sources developed through PR is amplified through smart digital strategy.

That’s why PR + Digital = Love.

Amanda Rogalski is the Principal at Rogo Marketing & Communications. She has been building brands and driving sales through marketing and communications planning for over 10 years.

Every day we drive down the highway and see dozens of local brands spending thousands of dollars a month on billboards. Although we strongly believe in the power of traditional marketing (billboards, radio, and so forth) and integrated marketing (digital marketing that intentionally intertwines with traditional marketing), we question local brands that are spending money exclusively on traditional.

In a world where 72% of adults are on Facebook, does it really make sense to spend 100 percent of your marketing budget on a shotgun-style approach? Simply put, we believe that smaller brands who fail to shift marketing dollars to digital will (with a few exceptions) fail to compete in a world where we can target so precisely with an inexpensive digital ad.

From the Grand Rapids Business Journal, December 22, 2017.

Digital advertising spending surpassed television ad spending this year.

According to Magna, a global research outlet for media firm IPG Mediabrands, digital ad sales grew to $209 billion, up from $178 billion last year.

Television, which enjoyed relative success last year due to the Olympics, U.S. presidential election and other events, brought in $186 billion in 2016. This year, television ad sales only brought in $178 billion. Traditional (radio, television and print) advertising sales declined 3 percent to $300 billion this year, which was the heaviest decline recorded.

Print and radio advertisement sales decreased by 11 percent and 1 percent, respectively, this year.

A “more dynamic ad market” in China, Brazil and Russia contributed to Magna’s decision to update its global ad forecast from June, but the U.S. remained mostly unchanged, said Vincent Letang, executive vice president and director of global forecasting at Magna.

In total, Magna predicts the U.S. ad revenue will grow by 3.9 percent for the year.

Read the rest on the Grand Rapids Business Journal website. 

I’m new to the agency side of this industry, but I’ve held various marketing positions over the last several years as the world of new media has grown up around me. In fact, I have vivid memories of starting the first Facebook page for my non-profit employer and taking the steps to work with Facebook to claim our (trademarked) organizational URL from a personal page connected to a similarly-named organization. That was my first foray into what evolved into today’s digital marketing climate. A lot has changed!

Back then, there were only vague pronouncements about the importance of organizations having a social media presence. Today, social media has grown from platforms for personal use to an essential part of brand and organizational identity, as well as an important tool to generate leads and drive conversions. It’s now crucial for an organization to have their digital goals built into every single piece of their marketing plan.

Neglecting a digital marketing strategy means you aren’t meeting your audience where they are. The average person spends more than two hours a day on social media, but less than twenty minutes reading! Social media spending is projected to reach $36 billion globally this year, so treating digital marketing as an afterthought is no longer an option for your organization. (Source.)

Here are a few problems I ran into during previous marketing positions, and a few comments about solutions – either how we worked it out, or how we could have worked it out!

1.    Problem: My Company Acts like Print Is Still King

Print media is still an important channel for most companies and organizations to reach their audiences, and it will always have some relevance to most audiences. However, failing to integrate print campaigns with your digital efforts leaves your audience without important information, and makes your organization look distant and disconnected.

Put your print piece online. Is a print piece (like an annual catalog) still front and center in your marketing plan? It’s imperative that a digital link is not an afterthought. Many printing companies or designers will supply online hosting for your catalog or print piece. (Avoid creating a simple PDF. Instead, provide your audience with a fully interactive version of your piece, with clickable links and page-turning capabilities!) A quick internet search will reveal several other hosting options if you want to upload it yourself. Make sure a working link to the piece is front and center on your website, shared frequently on your social media channels, and included in your email newsletters.

Ask for email addresses upfront. By gating the content behind a sign-up form, you can collect valuable information about your audience and even learn what content they find most valuable.

Track your readers. You may have some demographic info about your print audience, but you don’t really know who is picking up your piece, what content they love, or even why were drawn to it in the first place. Correctly deploying a digital marketing strategy can help you figure out the future of your print pieces!

2.   Problem: My Content Isn’t Pretty, and My Budget is Small!

Creating visually appealing pieces is just as important in the digital sphere as it is for print pieces. Don’t let digital design fall through the cracks! Some of my previous experiences were so dedicated to choosing the cheapest path that they overlooked the opportunities that had a financial cost associated with them.

Invest in quality. Just as you wouldn’t want an unlicensed contractor to build your house, you shouldn’t expect the free photographer or on-the-side designer to be able to present high-level work worthy of a marketing campaign or ad buy that costs tens of thousands of dollars. Design still matters, and as the digital marketing field gets more crowded, good design becomes more valuable than ever before. It cost someone their valuable time to learn how to create! Be mindful that good work isn’t free, and sometimes the cost is even greater to notemploy the professional.

3.   Problem: I went to a conference – now I want to take the next step.

Education and progress don’t happen in a vacuum. If you send your staff members to a conference, be sure to then give them the time and opportunity to implement new tools and shape the next steps. Top-down leadership can impede organizational growth if your staff is only halfway empowered to achieve progress or not given time to focus and implement what they have learned.

Make the time. After spending money and time attending training courses through a former employer, I returned to work just to plunge into a busy season. Stacks of notes and new ideas were pushed aside until the “time was right.” Of course, that time was never right! Achieving growth needs a buy-in from everyone involved, and sometimes it needs to be driven by lots of baby steps. Plan these steps out and work with your team to implement them.

4.   Problem: We don’t know what to do with the data we dohave

Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, the Facebook Pixel? While working for a small organization with a small budget, we didn’t have a depth of knowledge to handle all the data that was flowing in or the time to learn how to execute the lessons from the data.

Consider your outsourcing options. We wanted to find out where our leads were coming from, and what impact our digital marketing efforts were having on our growth, but we didn’t do more than skim Facebook’s weekly statistics updates.

Instead of getting by with basic data that didn’t show the full picture or drowning in complicated CSV files, another option was left untapped. Our organization outsourced web development, IT, and other services to partners who did have digital experts on staff. We could have leaned on their expertise and learned how to tweak our digital marketing strategy to maximize impact. By reaching out to these providers (even at an additional cost for their time or expertise!), we could have leveraged their knowledge to answer questions or develop focused strategy for employing digital marketing growth.

There is a lot of data out there, and it’s not necessary to use every piece of it for successful marketing. Your partners and vendors are a key piece of the puzzle and a great resource for most organizations! It can be overwhelming to learn how to strategically deploy number-heavy data, so figure out the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) that would be most beneficial to you, and ask your partners to help you mine the data for the right information. Learn how to run the reports that have your data, and move your strategy forward with confidence.

These lessons and much more were foundational in my winding career path to a full-fledged digital marketer. (I’m happy to share the things I’ve learned about fetching coffee, walking dogs, and the Haitian police, but we can talk about that another time!) Finally, some of the most endearing lessons I’ve learned on this road aren’t digital at all, but they are the most important: be kind, be thorough, and learn everything you can along the way.