This paper will demonstrate how using the typical project management life cycle of ideation, initiation, preparation, implementation, and transition can lead to successful planning and implementation of a digital marketing strategy within the framework of Approach, Audience, Activities, and Analysis created by Ian Dodson. Utilizing a project management approach to the launch of a digital marketing campaign will be a beneficial way to put achievable parameters on a project that may seem overwhelming.
Launching a digital marketing campaign can be a very daunting task for an organization. There are a multitude of options available for digital marketing, a whole language of terms and goals, and ever-changing interfaces. As Ian Dodson notes in his book The Digital Marketing Playbook: The Definitive Guide to Creating Strategic, Targeted, and Measurable Online Campaigns, “Given the sheer volume of information available on digital marketing, just finding where to start can be challenging. And even when you get started, how do you proceed in a way that ensures you are not wasting your time effort or budget?” (Dodson, 2016 pg. 1). Utilizing a project management approach to the launch of a digital marketing campaign will be a beneficial way to put achievable parameters on a project that may seem overwhelming. This paper will show how using the typical project management life cycle of ideation, initiation, preparation, implementation, and transition can lead to successful planning and implementation of a digital marketing strategy within the framework of approach, audience, activities, and analysis suggested by Dodson.
The first step in choosing an implementation strategy is deciding on the best approach. This can be determined during the ideation and initiation phases. A key factor in the ideation phase is aligning your project with the overall organizational strategy. This applies well to launching a digital marketing campaign as the first step is determining how to get the right people to interact with your website and social media. This takes some time to really think about what makes your organization stand out and how it adds value to the marketplace. In the book Digital Marketing Management: A Handbook for the Current (or Future) CEO, Debra Zahay notes that before deciding on an approach, organizations must first determine their core competencies, how they create value, and their positioning strategy (Zahay 2015 pg. 19). An organization cannot begin the process of improving search engine optimization (SEO) or garnering more website traffic without having a clear and organic mission statement. Once this has been established then the approach can be determined that will lead to the initiation and preparation phases of the project.
In the initiation phase, it is time to look closely at what the organization hopes to accomplish using the knowledge domains. The crucial domains for this project will be integration management, cost management, scope management, schedule management, resource management and stakeholder management. For a project such as this one, the schedule management will take on a non-traditional format. The process is somewhat of a trial-and-error, and therefore the schedule will need to be highly fluid. There are many factors affecting the budget estimation such as cost per click advertising, whether an outside consultant or firm will need to be utilized for website building and advertising monitoring, and if the organization will be using an automated system for social media posting. Before creating the business case and project charter, the organization should determine the overall campaign scope and goals including what the expected outcomes are for SEO improvement, which Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) will be the most indicative of success, what the threshold for success with cost per click advertising will be, and how the return on investment (ROI) will be determined. The resources for this project are largely people and knowledge. Utilizing people who already possess the necessary technical knowledge as well as training those who do not will be a key factor in the success of the launch project. There are a multitude of online resources that will assist in actual content and posting as well as analytics. Finally, as will be discussed in the audience section, engaging the stakeholders will be crucial for this project to be successful. Digital marketing is interactive so audience preferences and engagement must be monitored closely.
As the project enters into the planning phase it is time to start gathering information about the audience the organization is hoping to reach as well as the competition. According to Dodson, “In order to craft an effective digital marketing plan, you have to get to know every aspect of your audience members…Once you have reached their core you can start to think about what your target audience’s online behaviors entail “(Dodson, 2016 pg. 340). This research will help you determine your “sweet spot” customer as well as the best way to reach them. Now that the organization has determined the habits and needs of their ideal target customers, they can fine tune the scope by looking at which facets of digital marketing will be optimal to pursue and plan for the implementation process.
The specific activities that will be undertaken in the digital marketing launch will be determined during the preparation phase. The organization has already completed the first step in the activities process, determining the value proposition and what makes the organization unique, during the ideation phase. Determining how they are viewed and searched for by customers will set the stage for the rest of the preparation and the implementation. “We need to understand how we are being looked for in search and we need to convey our uniqueness to the customer so they can find us through the search process” (Zahay, 2015 pg. 19-20). Now, in the preparation phase the organization will set the specific targets that are reasonable and achievable and meet the objectives determined by the team. A key factor that should not be overlooked is the importance of the content being shared on the various digital platforms. “The content you publish through your website or through social media must engage your audience immediately and over time” (Dodson, 2016 pg. 351). It is imperative that the organization stay consistent with the style and frequency of the content on the website and social media outlets. This is where the organization may choose to implement an automated system for posting, however the actual creation must be held consistent. Once the organization has created a detailed plan of activities the implementation phase can begin.
The implementation phase will go through a number of trial-and-error periods. A time frame should be set upon each iteration of the campaign with detailed notes about what was implemented. After each iteration of the campaign has run through the time frame, then changes can be made and documented until a successful strategy has been established. “Analysis is an ongoing element of digital marketing campaign that allows you to keep track of and maximize your online activities while learning what your audience wants from what it does” (Dodson, 2016 pg. 353). Analysis will continue to assist in determining what strategies are working and what need to be changed throughout the implementation process. As the organization becomes more comfortable and successful with the campaign, they can begin to build upon the strategies that produced positive results. The project can be deemed successful if the ROI reaches the threshold determined during the ideation phase and the KPIs have reached the expected levels.
As the digital marketing campaign launch moves toward the transition and conclusion phase, it is time for the organization to reflect on what the next steps should be. The final stages of the project should include a plan for continuing to create and post content going forward, monitoring of analytics, and continuing education in changes and updates made to digital platforms. The organization may decide to create another phase for the project and incorporate more sophisticated forms of digital marketing, or it may be determined that sustaining the ROI achieved through this launch project will be sufficient.
Using the project management life cycle and processes such as the charter and knowledge domains will be extremely beneficial in keeping a nebulous project such as this one on track. Without a clear process in place, it will be difficult to keep the many aspects of the approach, audience, activities and analysis framework in line. Therefore, utilizing the skills and strategies of project management will help to ensure the successful launch of a digital marketing campaign.
Rachel Jobe graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Elementary Education and English. After teaching second grade for 17 years, she decided to switch careers and is currently pursuing an MBA with a concentration in digital marketing from Montclair State University.
Dodson, I. (2016). The Art of Digital Marketing: The Definitive Guide to Creating Strategic, Targeted, and Measurable Online Campaigns. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Wu, T. (2020). Optimizing Project Management. CRC Press
Zahay, Debra (2015). Digital Marketing Management: A Handbook for the Current (or Future) CEO. Business Expert Press