How to build an effective online marketing strategy?

Published on 19/04/2022 by Sukanya Awasthi and Quirine Storm van Leeuwen

In this article, we will look at a 10-step plan which SMEs can use to build an effective online marketing strategy for their business. Through this article, we will also try to understand why an online marketing strategy is essential and how to pick the right one for your business.

An online marketing strategy is important to create brand awareness

If you are a manager or run a business, you will undoubtedly have realised how fundamental having a digital presence is. Nowadays, it is not only important to “be on the internet”, but it is also about the quality of your online positioning. 

Online marketing makes it possible to achieve unthinkable goals until a few decades ago. The web provides us with numerous tools to ensure that our online communication has value and enables us to achieve our most ambitious goals. 

To do this,  you need to be familiar with the marketing analytics software and establish a long-term, tailor-made strategy. 

What do we mean by internet marketing and why is an online marketing strategy important? 

Before you can understand the basic steps needed to build an effective online marketing strategy, you need to look at what is meant by internet marketing and why it is so important for your business. 

By online marketing, we mean the set of digital tools used to promote brands, products or services via the Internet, to gain exposure, attract new customers and generate revenue.

The tools we are talking about range from the careful use of social media to having a responsive  website with a company blog, from direct email marketing to the creation of industry podcasts, etc. Although the channels you can use to your advantage are virtually endless, that doesn’t mean they’re all equally good for your business. We’ll see why later.

The importance of online marketing, therefore, comes down to being able to intercept potential customers, knowing how to communicate your company values and managing to positively influence customers’ decisions, leading them towards conversion

By using various types of marketing analytics software, it is possible to accurately identify your potential customers. Targeting is one of digital marketing’s most effective and powerful tools. It ensures that your communication is only aimed at a target group that has been profiled according to interests and behavior, who may therefore already be interested in your company. 

The advantage of internet marketing campaigns is that they are measurable. It is possible to track the results of your strategy, optimise actions and maximise profits. 

What is an online marketing strategy and what is it for?

 Let’s start with a definition: 

An online marketing strategy is a set of online actions aimed at achieving certain objectives outlined upstream by the company. A good strategy is organised in phases and uses different channels depending on the goal.

What might these goals be? Here are some examples: To understand where to start, it is advisable to divide the business goals into short-term and medium-term goals. 

  • to make your brand known or increase awareness of your brand
  • to stimulate purchase consideration
  • to acquire new contacts
  • to sell a product or service
  • to offer a channel to receive help or information

It’s evident that when your business is still in the early stages, you need to prioritise your brand awareness above selling your products. If nobody knows you, how can they buy your product? 

How do you create a successful online marketing strategy? A 10-step plan 

Here are all the steps you need to follow to build a successful strategy: 

1. SWOT analysis 

Performing a SWOT analysis (an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) is the first step in creating an online marketing strategy. 

It is a strategic planning tool designed to highlight the characteristics of your company in relation to the context in which it operates. A SWOT analysis provides a very useful reference overview for understanding how to implement the stages of a strategy. 

To make a SWOT analysis, it is necessary to consider your company’s opportunities, threats, strengths, and weaknesses. 

To achieve the stated goals, it is essential to be aware of both internal and external factors. Internal factors are verifiable because they are part of the company structure and are divided into strengths and weaknesses. The latter, on the other hand, are uncontrollable and are divided into opportunities and threats. 

SWOT analysis enables you to use your strengths, correct weaknesses, take advantage of opportunities that may arise and prepare for possible threats. The success of the analysis depends on your ability to identify all the factors involved by cross-referencing. 

After this examination, you will have a complete overview of the context in which your business operates, and you will understand how to achieve the business goals you have set for yourself. 

2. Establishing S.M.A.R.T. goals 

S.M.A.R.T. objectives are a valuable guide for your brand. American entrepreneur Paul J. Meyer first described this in his book “Attitude Is Everything: If You Want to Succeed Above and Beyond”. 

S.M.A.R.T. stands for the five fundamental qualities that a goal must possess, namely: 

  • Specific:  A goal is Specific when it is defined in detail and clear, even from the outside.
  • Measurable: A goal is Measurable when its achievement is an objective fact. For the goal to be measurable, it must answer questions such as, “How much do I need to achieve?” and “How will I know when it is achieved?
  • Achievable: A goal is achievable when it is realistic. It is realistic to say, “I want to reach B1 level of Spanish by the end of the year”, while “I want to master the Spanish language by the end of the week” is not.
  • Relevant: A goal is relevant when it is important to you. A goal is worthwhile when you are willing to analyse the costs and benefits of achieving it and devote time, resources and money to it
  • Time-based:   A goal is time-based when there is a deadline to achieve it.

By following these guidelines, you will have a plan to follow for your online marketing strategy. 

3. Identify the target group: Buyer Persona 

In online marketing, identifying your target audience is an important step. Before you create a marketing strategy,  it is important to understand who your potential customers are and to know something about their behaviour, culture and demographics. 

You need to ask yourself: Who is my ideal customer? What are their interests? How do they behave online? These imaginary representations are called buyer persona. If you can understand who your buyer personas are, you can anticipate their behaviour, their needs and their purchasing choices. 

How do you define buyer personas? 

There are many methods for building buyer personas. Among the most common are customer interviews, focus groups and ethnographic research.

Of great importance is the data you can get from your website itself, i.e. all the objective data that can be found, for example, in the analyses of your website and social media, in the personalised surveys and the analysis of your marketing automation program

Also crucial is your CRM software, where customer data and behaviour are already classified. 

After defining your target group, it will be much easier to build a successful marketing strategy. It is especially helpful for creating a content marketing plan, increasing the results of your email marketing activities, designing your social media strategy and much more. 

4. Analyse competitors 

An integral part of a good online marketing strategy is competitor analysis, also known as benchmarking

Competitor analysis is an effective plan to study what products or services the competition offers, their ideal target group, what kind of communication they do, and what tools they use. 

If your competitors already have an online marketing strategy, they most likely already have a content marketing plan. In that case, you can use software for SEO monitoring and analysis of their online content to understand if their digital positioning is appropriate. 

It is also useful to understand what kind of social communication they do, if they have active advertising campaigns, and if they have an editorial plan for newsletters and email marketing. 

The more detailed your analysis is, the better you will understand which path to follow to differentiate yourself. 

5. Create a solid content base: a content strategy 

If you have followed the previous steps, you will be able to confidently create a content strategy. Now it is time to plan all the content to be distributed via your channels. 

At this stage, you not only decide what you want to publish but also where, when and especially why. 

6. Get started with SEO as soon as possible 

One of the most common mistakes you can make when building an online marketing strategy is to focus exclusively on social media and not pay attention to your website. 

Imagine your website as your own home and social media as a free space in a public library. That space is useful to you, of course, but it is not yours. The council that gives you the space can close the library at any time. Your website, on the other hand, is your own space, and this is where you need to bring together all the users who come into contact with your business. 

So how do you attract users to your website

This is where SEO (an acronym for Search Engine Optimisation) comes into play, that is, all the techniques aimed at increasing the visibility of a website by improving its position in a search engine’s organic results. 

An example may help. Suppose you want to go on holiday and your destination is London. It’s your first time, and you have no idea what the city’s most important museums are. Open Google and search “London’s important museums”. 

Articles in the top positions on Google are relevant to your search, have quality and are useful. These articles have excellent SEO because they can answer your question. 

If you want to attract users to your website, you need to give them the answers they are looking for online by using quality texts. 

Do you sell hiking boots? Then why not write an article with 10 tips for choosing hiking boots? People searching for this topic on search engines will certainly be hunting for hiking boots. A great way to get your name out there, don’t you think? 

Writing a search engine optimised article is not easy. The text has to meet certain requirements and the use of specialised tools is essential. In fact, the most important steps for writing an SEO-friendly article are studying competitors, defining your objectives and searching for keywords and their search volume.

7. Social Media Marketing 

Many companies still think that in order to achieve their goals, it is enough to update their social media pages from time to time and maybe repost the same content. They are dead wrong! 

If you have read this article carefully, you will understand that analysis and planning are essential for this branch of online marketing as well. 

What is social media marketing for? 

Social media marketing (SMM) is a marketing strategy that uses the features of social media to create value, strengthen a brand’s online reputation and manage relationships with current and potential customers.

To use social media to your advantage, it is essential to establish a daily relationship with your users and to continuously work on your brand’s reputation, using appropriate language that reflects the company’s values. 

In a digital world where we constantly receive thousands of messages and inputs per day, it is difficult to stand out. Therefore, it is important to follow some key steps in order to build your own SMM strategy: 

  1. Study the market and the relevant sector
  2. Competitive analysis
  3. Defining your goals
  4. Analysis of the most appropriate social channels to best convey your  message
  5. Identification of tone of voice
  6. Drawing up a strategy and editorial plan
  7. Content production
  8. Monitoring results and customer service

8. Explore paid advertising channels: online ads 

An effective online marketing strategy should also include advertising on digital channels.

Unlike traditional advertising, this type of advertising has a great advantage in that it can be tracked and measured, so you can calculate its ROI (return on investment). 

There are several channels that you can use to advertise online. Let’s briefly review the most important ones: 

  • Display Advertising: the most common model is the display ad, which appears on websites or blogs via a banner to which the advertiser’s link is attached. The purpose of this ad is to drive traffic to the website/landing page.
  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM = SEA + SEO): The goal is to drive traffic to your website, but the medium is different. Instead of a banner, you use search engines. The advertiser’s website is displayed as one of the first results by search engines when the user searches on certain keywords.
  • Social Media Advertising: These are ads within social media with a variety of objectives: from brand visibility to driving traffic to your website to e-commerce. The power of this type of advertising is enormous, as advertisements can be shown to a highly profiled audience based on specific parameters (age, gender, interests, geographical location, behaviour, etc.).
  • Email Marketing: the advertising message is delivered via newsletters and emails that are collected in a database of users. It is used to send direct commercial proposals, build customer loyalty or acquire new customers. It is a very powerful tool that we will examine in more detail in the next section. 

9. Using email marketing segmentation and automation 

Email marketing is an essential part of an online marketing strategy. Sending emails to your contacts is a very effective way to get your message across. 

Nowadays, however, people are increasingly busy. They do not have time to open generic and anonymous emails. People who sign up for emails and newsletters want to receive valuable content that has been designed especially for them. They want to feel special. 

This is where user segmentation of your database comes into play. 

By segmentation, we mean the set of activities by which you divide your contact database into different groups with common characteristics. By segmenting your contacts, you can send personalised and tailored messages. But how do you segment your mailing list?

For a start, simply divide your contacts into four macro groups: user type, interests, geographical location and online behaviour. The more specific you are, the more valuable your emails will be. 

To save time, you can use specific software that is useful for both segmenting your contacts and automating emails. 

Using these tools, you can also analyse valuable information such as the number of people who opened the email, how many clicks it received, etc. 

10. Analyse and review your strategy 

If you have managed to set S.M.A.R.T. goals, you certainly need to set a deadline to reach them. Do not be discouraged if you have not been able to achieve them immediately; it is perfectly normal! The phases we have talked about in this article require perseverance and commitment. 

It is important to monitor the results of your strategy and make any necessary changes, even during the process. One of the final phases of an online marketing strategy is, therefore, one that is linked to reporting. 

It is not only necessary to have a plan of attack but also to analyse its performance. It is sometimes a difficult step for beginners, but it can be made easier by using specific tools that can analyse the data collected. 

3 tips for choosing the right online marketing software 

Whether you are a digital or online marketing professional or a beginner, many software packages can help you in your work. How do you know which one to choose? Here are three tips: 

1. Identify the stage of your strategy 

First, take the time to analyse where your marketing strategy stands. If you are just starting out, it is advisable to choose software that can help you in the initial phase of your work, i.e. a tool that can help you analyse marketing data. 

On the other hand, if your strategy is consolidated and focused on content marketing, focus on types of software with analysis, monitoring and keyword audit tools that can help you optimise your web content for search engines. 

2. Consider the type of strategy you have chosen 

If you have already determined the type of content you need to produce to achieve your goals and the type of channels you are going to use, we recommend software that can quickly make your work easier. 

For example, if your strategy is based on email marketing, invest in software that will save you time on user segmentation and email planning. On the other hand, if you want to invest in advertising campaigns on social media, use tools that allow you to monitor the results. 

3. Consider the skill level of your staff 

Often, small and medium enterprises do not have the opportunity to employ staff dedicated to online marketing. In fact, it’s very common to dedicate just one person to the entire marketing operation.

Unless you have found an all-round professional, it will be very difficult for one person to manage all digital marketing activities within a short period of time. 

If this is the case, we recommend you provide your employee with the best online marketing software. Ask them what they find to be the most difficult marketing areas and choose the best solution together. 

Your company will thank you!

Looking for online marketing tools? Check out our catalogue!   


This article may refer to products, programs or services that are not available in your country, or that may be restricted under the laws or regulations of your country. We suggest that you consult the software provider directly for information regarding product availability and compliance with local laws.

About the authors

Content Analyst for the UK market. Committed to offering insights on technology, emerging trends, and software suggestions to SMBs. Plant lady, café hopper, and dog mom.

Content Analyst for the UK market. Committed to offering insights on technology, emerging trends, and software suggestions to SMBs. Plant lady, café hopper, and dog mom.

As a Content Analyst at Capterra, Quirine highlights the technological possibilities for improvement in SMEs. She focuses on digitization, software and technological trends.

As a Content Analyst at Capterra, Quirine highlights the technological possibilities for improvement in SMEs. She focuses on digitization, software and technological trends.


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