Over the last few years, the digital marketing landscape has drastically changed the way that people make decisions and appointments. The reality is that the average adult spends twice as much time online as they did 13 years ago (about 20 hours a week to be exact).
Digital marketing is no longer an optional element of your brand's marketing strategy - it oftentimes is your marketing strategy. When done right, it can be one of the most effective and inexpensive ways to get more clients and patients in your door.
Understanding how marketing works in the digital world can get wildly complicated and incredibly overwhelming.
There are many variables that influence the success of your marketing campaigns that can change dramatically from business to business. Campaigns that work for some companies are a complete flop for others.
However, there are a handful of elements that remain at the core of the success of your digital marketing, changing very little, if at all.
One of these elements is the digital marketing cycle itself. Understanding the digital marketing cycle and stages is key to successfully launching campaigns and improving them over time.
What is the Digital Marketing Cycle, anyway?
The digital marketing cycle stems from the idea that every digital campaign experiences five stages of 'life': setup & strategy, implementation & traction, conversion, expansion and viral growth.
When done correctly, these five stages should convert your hard work into customer actions that fulfill your campaign objectives. For example, social media campaigns with the objective of generating an increase in patient appointments through your website.
So, let's break down the five different stages in a bit more detail.
The 5 Stages of the Digital Marketing Cycle:
1. Setup & Strategy
During the campaign Setup & Strategy stage, you will establish your baseline stats and your digital media infrastructure. The goal of this period is to:
1. Gain an understanding of your audience challenges & goals
2. Establish how your channels are currently performing
3. Define success and set realistic goals
These three steps will lay the groundwork for achieving the final, ideal conversion point. Once you've done this, you’ll develop a content strategy to appeal to your audience and establish consistent and valuable touch points with your audience(s) and prospective customers.
“Marketers need to build digital relationships and reputation before closing a sale.” – Chris Brogan, Chief Executive Officer of Owner Media Group
2. Implementation & Traction
Once you've completed the Setup & Strategy stage, you’ll move into the Traction phase. This is often the phase that business dive right into, skipping Setup & Strategy. As a result, campaigns can often fall flat. With campaigns backed with strategy and specific goals, you're already in a better position to succeed. During the Traction stage of the digital marketing cycle, your goal is to gain momentum with your campaigns. Depending on your goal, this could be increasing awareness, generating leads for sales or increasing direct appointment requests or purchases.
You want to create a virtual relationship with your audience and prospects during this stage, transforming points of engagement into curiosity and conversations.
You won't necessarily make any big changes to your campaigns during this time, but instead begin collecting data to determine how to best optimize your campaign and maximize your marketing spend.
Are you putting in too much time trying to gain traction? Learn how to generate more patients with your existing website here.
As your campaign begins to gain traction, it will move into the Conversion stage. At this point, your conversation points should become points of conversion. While there may be some conversions in Stage two, this is the period where you’ll really start to see results. Depending on what you are trying to accomplish, increased patient requests, increased revenue, and improved health & wellness brand loyalty are examples of goals during the Conversion phase.
During this stage you want to be paying close attention to marketing spend and previously identified metrics of success. Monitor key marketing stats such as lead acquisition cost (by channel), customer acquisition cost, brand mention increases, etc.
With a sophisticated digital marketing strategy under your belt, your campaign will move into the Expansion stage. During this period your campaign will continue to increase impact and conversions. When done right, brands will often start to see themselves recognized as thought leaders in their industry during this stage.
At this point in time, you may start to see trends that warrant a tweak to your campaign. Things that are working well that should get more resources, and things that aren't gaining traction and can be adjusted or scrapped.
5. Viral Growth
Oh, this is a beautiful stage. Not all campaigns will reach this point, but when they do it's quite rewarding! When your campaigns are rooted in delivering value to your ideal audience, you increase your chances of reaching this stage. Viral growth is often organic and incredibly powerful in that it's generated by the individual in your audience, rather than ad spend. In this stage you can clearly see what resonates with your audience, what's sparking an emotional connection and what is driving the most conversions. You can use this data to further enhance your campaign, and more successfully build out future campaigns.
Review a marketing campaign you have in the works currently. Is it following these stages of the digital marketing cycle? Are there stages you skipped? Nothing in the works now? Start your next campaign with these five stages in mind, and let us know how it goes!
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Originally published December 12, 2018 - Updated August 20, 2019