Practical Advice on Building a Successful Digital Marketing Program

By Vishal Korlipara | June 10, 2019

Vishal is currently Senior Manager, Mobile Marketing Strategy at Intuit. He started his career in the world of finance. After realizing that finance wasn’t his passion, Vishal transitioned into the digital agency space, eventually starting his own agency in Atlanta. He later moved to the Bay Area to pursue his passion for tech startups, where he landed a role at Credit Karma as a Growth Marketing Manager.

Learn more from his Mobile Hero profile.

So you just landed the job of your dreams. You will be leading the digital marketing program for a company or product you are passionate about. There is great product market fit and users are eager to get the product in their hands as soon as they hear about it. Should be a breeze, right? Think again.

Setting your digital marketing program up for success can be incredibly nuanced and extremely costly if not done right. Many people think the first step is to find channels to spend money on. But this could be dangerous for your budgets if not planned well.

In this article, I will outline what I consider the keys to success for starting your digital marketing program for any new company or vertical.

Figure out your success metrics

Before you do anything, you need to define what success looks like. Many companies call this a KPI (key performance indicator). KPIs will vary greatly from company to company. This metric needs to be aligned with overall business goals and it must be achievable from a digital marketing perspective.

For instance, if you are in the e-commerce vertical, you will immediately think that Return On Ad Spend (ROAS) is your success metric. This isn’t, however, always going to be the best strategy for your brand new marketing program.

If you have a marketplace for a product that has a long consideration cycle, you might be better off optimizing for a higher funnel metric such as CPA (cost per acquisition) and relying on retention strategies to move the consumer through the consideration cycle. By optimizing towards ROAS in this case, your revenue will have a time lag before it can be attributed to your spend, thus making it hard to optimize towards ROAS.

Although a long consideration purchase cycle might lead to a different KPI for your strategy, often times the simpler solution is best and should be the guiding light. If bidding towards a CPA leads to long term negative ROAS, then you aren’t setting yourself up for success. As a rule of thumb, always choose a KPI as deep in your funnel as possible, yet one that can also be impacted by digital marketing efforts.

Understand how to measure your metric

Now you have your awesome new product and KPI you will use to measure success. What’s next? You now have to ensure that you can actually measure your selected KPI. This is mission critical before you spend your first marketing dollar. Accurately measuring against your KPI also usually requires cross department help to get in place, unless you have some coding skills . We will break this down into two parts: native (apps) and web.

Native: For native measurement, you are going to want to install a mobile MMP to measure aggregated performance across all of your native channels. There are quite a few players in this space but I recommend Appsflyer or Branch as the leaders in the space. Setting up an MMP requires heavy collaboration with engineers to integrate the platform SDK with your app. The technical specs of SDK integration is outside the scope of this article, but the end result is the ability to attribute app installs and app events to your marketing spend. This is a critical step in unlocking the ability to do native marketing.

Web: For both desktop and mobile web, the best practice is implementing a small snippet of code on the header of your site, also commonly referred to as a tracking pixel. This pixel will fire anytime a user visits a part of the site where this piece of code lives. You can then make load rules which inform your marketing platform when to count a conversion. Often times on an eCommerce site the load rule contains some portion of the URL on the sale confirmation page such as “/confirmation” or “/thankyou”.

In this case, your marketing spend will get attributed to a conversion when someone reaches a page that contains “/confirmation” or “/thankyou”. If you had the pixel fire every time the user was on a page that had the pixel, you would have way too many conversions and wouldn’t allow for any clear optimizations.

You want to do your best to make this conversion pixel match your predefined KPI at a minimum, but you can also make load rules for other metrics; just ensure that you are only counting relevant metrics towards your marketing spend. Common uses of pixel placement tracking are for your main web advertising solutions such as Google, Facebook, and Bing.

Deciding on the right marketing channel mix

Now we get to the fun part – picking your channel mix. I have outlined the major action steps and best practices in no specific order:

  • Most common starting channels due to scale potential and broad reach: Google Ads, Facebook (and Instagram), Bing, Native DSP (highly recommend Liftoff for managed services).
  • More specific channels based off of need: Quora, Twitter, Reddit, Pinterest, Nextdoor, LinkedIn, Snapchat.
  • Understand where to reach your customers as this will help increase clickthrough rates and conversion rates.
  • Pick channels that intersect your customer persona and have potential for scale.
  • Figure out if these channels have the ability to track your defined KPI. For instance, Twitter has begun allowing for Cost per Acquisition bidding whereas previously they only offered Cost per Install tracking.
  • Go where the competition isn’t. If your competitors are spending all of their budget on Facebook and not Snapchat, this could be a good source of inexpensive traffic.

This is a super high level approach to launching any digital marketing program and what I consider the keys to success for starting your digital marketing program for any new company or vertical.