Regardless of industry or tech platform, there is one universal truth in marketing online. Digital marketing tactics are easy, but digital marketing strategy can be tough. Any intern can send a tweet or write a blog, but building a comprehensive digital marketing strategy that can both accurately represent your brand and help drive business results requires someone with a working knowledge of everything from writing and art production to data analysis and business development.

This leaves you with three choices: You can spend your time trying to find someone with a strong enough background to lead your digital marketing strategy, you could hire an agency to do it, or you could try to put together the framework of a strategy together yourself. While the third option is the most difficult and doesn’t help you execute on the strategy at all, it is possible.

Whether you’re hiring someone else to build your strategy or you want to do it yourself, here’s what you should see in any successful digital marketing strategy:

What a Digital Marketing Strategy Should Look Like

If a digital marketing strategy looks too designed or not designed enough, beware. The format of a digital marketing strategy can be as telling as the content. While every digital marketing strategy is different, there are a few key elements that should be present. If you don’t see the following elements, run for the hills:

  • Data on the current state of your digital properties: This can be as robust as you want to go, but if they don’t have at least some data on your current digital marketing, proceed with caution. There is no one size fits all solution to digital marketing, and anyone who claims they know what your strategy should be without first explaining where you’re at today is probably selling snake oil.
  • A list of key objectives: Too many marketers jump straight into tactics without first listing out what they want to achieve. Any digital marketing strategy needs to detail what it wants to achieve. Not all of these goals need to be quantifiable, but at least a few should have metrics that you can hold yourself accountable to.
  • A content calendar: This doesn’t need to be concrete or permanent, but it should give a rough idea of what kind of content will be released, when it will be released, and how it will be deployed.

If your digital marketing strategy doesn’t have these elements plus a healthy dose of creative detail, you should push back and insist that they have a more robust strategy put in place before you move forward.

What a Digital Marketing Strategy Should Accomplish

If you’re investing in digital marketing, it’s not enough to just “have a presence on Twitter,” you need to accomplish something with your marketing efforts. Here is a brief list of common objectives for digital marketing campaigns:

  • Grow email subscriber list by 15%
  • Grow social media following by 20%
  • Increase sales of online merchandise by 10%
  • Reach an audience of 100,000 people on social media
  • Increase web traffic by 25%
  • Increase organic search traffic by 50%
  • Increase email open rates by 10%
  • Increase email click through rates by 20%

Once you have a few metrics put in place, your team will have greater focus and direction, as well as metrics to help measure their success.

How to Measure the Success of Your Digital Marketing Strategy

So how do you know if your digital marketing campaign was successful? There are three things I look at to judge my success any time I’m executing on a digital marketing strategy.

  1. How did our results compare to our goals? Did we meet or exceed every goal we set? If so, why? What was successful? If not, why not? What could we do to improve the next campaign?
  2. What positive externalities did we incur because of this campaign? In economics, an “externality” is a cost or benefit that you didn’t choose to incur, so this is another way of saying “What positive things happened that we didn’t expect?” Did we generate business that we weren’t anticipating? Did we see substantial growth in some area that we didn’t plan for?
  3. What negative externalities did we incur because of this campaign? Similarly, what negative things happened that we weren’t expecting? Did we receive some negative publicity or lose email subscribers? Did traffic numbers dip because we were diverting social posts to something else.

If you’re able to effectively answer those three questions, you’ll have a better understanding of your digital success than the vast majority of companies who focus on digital marketing.