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Digital Communications Planning

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Digital Marketing - Study Notes:

Digital communications planning

The first fundamental rule, whether it be in traditional marketing or that of digital communications, is that you must do everything with having your customer at the heart of everything that you do. Peter Drucker is one of the forefathers of modern-day marketing and he talks about the importance of knowing and understanding your customer so well that your product and service fits him, and sells itself.
This is as true within a marketing or digital marketing spectrum, that we need to truly understand what your customers are looking for to be able to deliver it for them. Whether that’s the type of digital communications that appeal to them, whether it’s the creative mix that fits within that digital communication, whether it’s the way in which your product is actually distributed in a digital way. So everything that we do needs to encompass or have a customer centric approach at the heart of it.

Using data

How do we get to that understanding? The first thing to understand is that digital enables us to have a much richer and unprecedented understanding of your customers, and the way that we do that is because of the level of tracking and analysis that we can do at the backend to understand how your customers are responding to the various communications that you’re delivering through the digital means.

So, for instance, using data:

  • We can understand the interactions that your customers are currently having with your digital communications.
  • We can then start to determine what their preferences be through a number of different tracking tools that we will come onto as part of this module.
  • We can understand their behaviors. What are they doing in a distinct way?

And through testing mechanisms, we can optimize their journey to be able to then truly give them the best way to get to the final outcome that they’re trying to drive for.

The customer lifecycle

An important concept to think about is that of the customer life cycle.

The life cycle has a number of stages:

  • It begins when the customers are thinking about the type of product and service that you may offer.
  • The customers decide to purchase that particular product.
  • You continually engage them and get them coming back for more, which also leads to them becoming a great advocate of that product.
  • There are points in time or the bottlenecks when they may think about leaving you, and then you need to do some sort of interaction in a digitally-orientated way that makes them stay.

So if we think about digital, or what the additional data aspects that we can get from digital to understand our customers better through the life cycle, we can then optimize each aspect of this life cycle to actually have better outcomes both from a customer perspective as well as a commercial perspective. We will go through a variety of tools and techniques that we can use to understand your customers better in this new digital environment and then be able to understand how we can resource to be able to optimize the approaches that we take at each aspect of this customer life cycle.

The digital communications planning process, and in essence it’s not too dissimilar from what the traditional communication planning process looks like. It’s perhaps just more digitally-oriented and perhaps an enhancement of what we’re currently used to.

Stage 1: Goal setting and tracking

Without understanding the goal or benchmark that we’re trying to achieve, it’s very difficult for us to then be able to determine whether we have actually been successful in the communications plan that we’re about to deploy. So it’s essential that the first stage is all around goal setting. As part of a subsection of goal setting, it’s also really important to then track exactly what we are going to be measuring.

The reason why we do this at the outset is because if we don’t have the proper tracking mechanisms in place to determine if the goal is achieved, it’s very hard to retrospectively track the certain outcomes to determine if we’ve hit our goal or not. So putting those various tracking mechanisms in place at the outset, to determine if you have achieved your goal, is essential in the digital communications planning process.

When thinking about the tracking mechanisms you can use, you should think about these in two dimensions:

  • Qualitative
  • Quantitative dimension


Think about some of the key in-depth understandings that you can gain by asking your customers for some sort of feedback on the journey that they’ve just had through your digital communications. So, for instance, doing an in-depth survey, which perhaps comes at the end of the digital journey, gives you a good understanding of actually how the process has worked.

Two good examples of this is that of Dominos. They would send you an SMS at the end of the pizza delivery process to understand how they can optimize the journey moving forward. The second one is British Airways. So British Airways, after you’ve done your buyer journey or bought your airline ticket, send you some qualitative questions to see how well you’ve enjoyed and how well they’ve delighted you as they’ve gone through this process.


This uses a range of digital tracking tools to understand exactly how your user has gone through the journey. So for example, open rates, click-through rates, dwell time, are classic indicators to understand how well optimized your journey is. At what point in time did somebody leave the journey in a digital perspective, is another really good way to understand how you can optimize your journey moving forward. So putting those things in place are essential to track whether you’ve achieved your goal.

Stage 2: Campaign insight

This involves understanding what your customers want from the digital communications journey that you’re about to give them. You can use a variety of similar techniques that you used in the previous version on the previous things we talked about, to be able to get to the heart of understanding what your customers are looking for. So this will require qualitative and quantitative analysis to be able to truly do this. But if you’re able to do this in a compelling way, it, basically, means that when you put your customers through the journey, they will be delighted.

Stage 3: Segmenting and targeting

Segmentation is all about taking groups of customers with similar needs and wants and then, basically, putting them all together in a bucket. This enables you to be able to target them in a similar way, to be able to optimize the journey for that particular group of individuals. Now, remember you can have a number of different segments, which we will come onto in the following slides, and treat those different segments differently. So, for instance, you may take a group of younger customers or treat them very differently from the way you may treat older customers. Or you may take customers that are behaving in a similar way and group them together and treat them as one segment versus customers that are behaving in a similar fashion, in a different way, for example.

Now, targeting, on the other hand, is all about how do you then meet the needs of those customers with similar needs and wants? This, essentially, means you can tailor the approach of how you reach out to them as well as the messaging that you have for them and perhaps even the product or service that you offer them.

Stage 4: Offer and message development

This is all about how do you message up the creative approach to be able to appeal to these different segments that you’ve just identified? So for instance, you may want to tailor the message that you have for the different audiences. This could come in a small tweak to the wording or tone of voice that you may use or alternatively, you may choose to completely change the creative direction to meet the needs of those different segments.

So for instance, if you have a younger based segment, you may want to tailor the message to fit into an optimized channel approach which may be mobile, for example; while, for an older segment of customer, you may want to tailor your message for say, a TV commercial.

Now, those are sort of polar opposite examples. Actually, there’s a meshing of the channels. So it’s not just about having a one approach for one segment and another for the other. In fact, you may want to actually have a variety of different approaches for that same segment. This, for example, could mean that a younger generation audience may view the communication on mobile, on their tablet, laptop, and may also be very excited about watching X-Factor on a Saturday night, which then sinks in very nicely to the different communications that they’ve just experienced on the various other channels that you’ve used.

At the heart of it, it’s called an omni-channel strategy. Now, digital plays a fundamental role in the delivery of this omni-channel strategy. Now, remember that it’s not just about online. It’s also about meshing both the online and the offline journey. It’s about integrating your mobile strategy with what perhaps a customer sees when they go in store. You want everything to have a completely seamless approach. More about that later in the module.

Stage 5: Budgeting and digital media mix

You must budget appropriately to ensure you’ve got the right channel mix, the creative mix, that enables you to reach out to your target audience. If you got the budgeting process wrong, for example, you can have an amazing creative, however, no one would see it because you’re not able to put it in places where your target audience currently are. So you need to budget stringently to be able to make sure that your communication is in the right places that your target audience will be.

Stage 6: Integration into overall media plan

And finally, what you need to think about is this overall integration piece of the media plan, making sure it all hangs together in a really seamless way. If your digital assets are disjointed, for example, you may have a campaign on social media which doesn’t ring true when someone views it on mobile. Consumers today are going to get confused and they’re more likely to switch off.

Another major technique when thinking about the overall digital integration is that of storytelling. Now, often what we have today, is a lot of the time people are viewing across multiple devices and often campaigns are built in such a way that it tells a story across these multiple devices. It builds up to something meaningful. And that’s really important for a consumer engagement perspective because as we learn is one of the key trends is consumers’ mindsets today are becoming increasingly difficult to kind of keep entertained. So one of the techniques that we use is that of storytelling to try and overcome that challenge.

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Richie Mehta

Ritchie Mehta has had an eight-year corporate career with a number of leading organizations such as HSBC, RBS, and Direct Line Group. He then went on setting up a number of businesses.

Data protection regulations affect almost all aspects of digital marketing. Therefore, DMI has produced a short course on GDPR for all of our students. If you wish to learn more about GDPR, you can do so here:

DMI Short Course: GDPR

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Digital Communications
Richie Mehta
Skills Expert

This module begins by covering the benefits and challenges associated with digital communications and the importance of researching and selecting the most appropriate digital channels to reach and engage with your target audience. It covers the tools and digital PR activities you can use to extend your reach on social media, content management, the factors to consider when creating a budget for a digital campaign, resourcing a digital team, and the importance of aligning digital metrics with customer service metrics to review the performance of a digital campaign.