I’ve been working on some new innovations for 7 Pillars, that give guidance on how to utilize the framework effectively. There is certainly a lot of ground to cover, and one individual will be hard-pressed to master each Pillar. However, I do encourage all comers to continually improve their macro perspective on the digital marketing field, in order to get a better sense of how different strategies interrelate. With the holistic view or big picture in mind, individuals or teams can approach campaigns and respective tasks with confidence.
So let’s look at the 7 key stages in the overall digital marketing process. Each stage is a process of its own that is relevant to all Pillars, while also connecting beyond digital, to the overall marketing campaign. The 7 Pillars framework covers all of these bases, by explaining what typically happens and what the key actions and decisions are required at each stage, for each Pillar. Here are the 7 Stages of Digital Marketing:
- Brainstorming & Research
- Budgeting & Goal Setting
- Teams & People
- Tools & Tech
- Audit & Optimization
We could probably have boiled this down to 3 Stages – 1) Strategy, 2) Execution and 3) Analysis – but I find that to be too broad, and often leading to mixed definitions of what Strategy is, for example. After going through each one, it should make more sense as to why we are breaking it out to 7 – and yes, I do love that number, for a lot of reasons that we can talk about another time. For now, the Stages explained in more depth are outlined below:
- Brainstorming & Research: This is the ideation, assessment and discovery phase of any marketing campaign or project. Anything goes in this stage, as specific budgets and decisions are not set yet. Whatever existing data or resources are in place is analyzed in this phase, including formal audits and assessments (ie. SEO Rankings, existing customer base, SWOT, etc) This is when you do your research, read industry news from various sources, explore the history and case studies associated with the Pillar, and gather your key information. Like most of the following phases, once this process starts, it never really stops.
- Budgeting & Goal Setting: Here is where you answer questions like ‘How much can we spend? What do we need to make? How long will it take? Essentially, your ROI goal setting and planning take shape in this stage.
- Strategy Planning: A formal strategy can be put together once the first two stages are done. The campaign is potentially on at this point. Ideas are more well-formed and organized. More focused research is being done on specific tactics. Here is where specific tactical strategies, say for Pillar 3 (Organic Search), tie in with the overall marketing strategy, including traditional and digital elements. Domain (industry) knowledge becomes more important here. Segmentation is critical as well. The following two stages can also be seen as sub-sections of Strategy, as can the Budgeting phase; but each of these stages has distinct elements, skill sets and decisions associated with them, which is why they’re considered separately.
- Teams & People: With budgets and strategy in place, the next question is who can execute the work? What is the right mix of people by skill level, location, etc? How do people and team dynamics impact timelines and ROI? Should you work with an agency or do this work in-house? This is where those decisions are made.
- Tools & Tech: Everyone likes to use tools and platforms that they’re familiar with. Developing knowledge and expertise in technology takes time. So with the project staff selected, the next key decisions revolve around which tools can be used to organize, manage and analyze the campaigns. At another time, we will review what some of the best tools and technologies are for all the Pillars, and the hundreds of sub-tactics that exist within them.
- Execution: With all that setup in place, it is time to get the actual work done! In reality, the prior 5 phases all require some type of work to be done; however, that is all considered as planning or pre-production. Execution is the stage where the curtain is lifted and the show is officially on.
- Audit & Optimization: Once execution begins, especially in the digital marketing realm, analysis and campaign optimization come into play. Analyzing results, and generating recommendations to improve things, such as Conversion Optimization on website landing pages, are of great importance. While the audit process connects to all stages, full campaign audits are centered in this phase.
So it looks like we all have a lot of work cut out for us! At some level, whether you are consciously planning in this manner or not, your marketing team is already going through all of these stages as part of its marketing process. The question is – how well is this being done? Is it being done for each Pillar?
Look out for more depth on the 7 Stages x 7 Pillars in the weeks to come. There is so much to learn – and teach – which is why we decided to start sharing our collective knowledge, accumulated over the past 10+ years on hundreds of digital marketing campaigns. Blogs, webinars and the upcoming 7 Pillars of Digital Academy (Launching in September 2011) are our key KS (Knowledge Sharing) tools, which can help you keep that Digital IQ sharp!