Launching a Digital Marketing Strategy? The Truth About Setting Realistic Expectations

by Sarah Hayes on June 12, 2017

digital marketing strategy.png

“We guarantee a viral hit!”
“You’ll have 10,000 likes in 12 hours.”
“You’ll be the top Google hit in a week.”
“We’re going to break the Internet!”

Ever heard someone make an outlandish digital marketing strategy promise before? Unless you’re teaming up with one of the Kardashians, reputable digital strategists know that no matter how much we want to guarantee a viral hit or social media success, digital marketing just doesn’t work that way. Yes, we can follow industry best practices and glean insights from successful marketing campaigns we’ve managed in the past. But even when we do everything “right” we sometimes can’t deliver a viral smash every time– and that’s okay.

Don’t get me wrong: digital marketers strive to build successful inbound marketing campaigns and are thrilled when content explodes on social media. But we also know that 100 white paper downloads may actually be better than 1,000 Facebook likes, especially if those downloads are from highly qualified prospects. That’s because we take a long-term view. Fundamentally, content marketing and social media campaigns are about building brand affinity for the long haul, not a short viral pop. That’s why it’s so important to set realistic expectations with all stakeholders throughout the process.

How do we define digital marketing success?

We’ve been conditioned to assess success based on obvious metrics like social media likes and shares. That’s only natural: these metrics are readily available and on the surface seem like a good indication of how popular a piece of content truly is. The thinking goes something like this: the more people who share or “like” a piece of content, the more successful it is. But reality is a bit more complicated. A 2016 study found that 6 out of 10 people will share a link based on the title alone and never even read the article. “Viral” content may be widely shared but not widely read. This willingness to share without reading means a piece of content may go viral for a day, but make virtually no lasting impact on the people who share it.

If the expectation is that content needs to go viral to be successful or quickly garner as many likes and shares as possible in a short period of time, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. Likes and shares should be just one factor in determining a campaign’s overall success. Engagement and response KPIs are far more important.

Focus on long-term goals, not short-term gains.

Rather than promising a specific, short-term outcome tied to your marketing content, focus on the role of your content in achieving long-term goals. How can you tie your KPIs into customer lifetime value metrics and marketing-assisted sales? If you want to get management on board with your digital marketing strategy, then you must prove value. This starts with a clear understanding of what marketing content is delivering clicks, page views and conversions. What content keeps your audience engaged and coming back for more? Which pieces are positively impacting your audience’s perception of your brand? You must be able to answer these questions to prove value and tie your content into long-term goals.

How to Set Realistic Expectations for Your Digital Marketing Strategy

Getting ready to launch a big digital marketing strategy and worried about how to manage internal company expectations? Here’s your cheat sheet:

  1. Keep it real. Don’t promise your boss that you’ll deliver viral success. Be realistic about your expected engagement metrics and clearly explain which metrics are more valuable indicators than others.
  2. Debunk the “viral” mystique. If your boss is still caught up on creating the next viral video, explain why a focus on short-term gains is shortsighted. Reiterate the company’s long-term goals and how this digital marketing campaign will drive these goals over a 6-month or 12 month period.

    How to Set Realistic Expectations for Your Inbound Marketing Campaign

    Getting ready to launch a big digital marketing campaign and worried about how to manage internal company expectations? Here’s your cheat sheet:

    1. Keep it real. Don’t promise your boss that you’ll deliver viral success. Be realistic about your expected engagement metrics and clearly explain which metrics are more valuable indicators than others.
    2. Debunk the “viral” mystique. If your boss is still caught up on creating the next viral video, explain why a focus on short-term gains is shortsighted. Reiterate the company’s long-term goals and how this digital marketing campaign will drive these goals over a 6-month or 12 month period.
    3. Tie content into the customer lifecycle. Break down the customer lifecycle by audience segment. How does your content drive relationships through alignment with the sales cycle (awareness, evaluation and decision making) as well as the post-customer relationship (retention and evangelism)? Quantify how your content supports customer lifetime value metrics and (ideally) marketing-assisted sales.

New Call-to-action

Sarah Hayes

Project Manager at 21 Handshake, a strategic marketing company, driven to grow relationship-driven businesses. A self described life long learner that thrives on detail, I love bringing these skills to the table to help others succeed.

Find me on: