How to build a digital marketing strategy from scratch

How to build a digital marketing strategy from scratch

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We live in a digital culture. And if you want to build a successful brand, you need a digital marketing strategy that helps spread everything from brand awareness to acquisition.

But if you’re just launching your brand (or you’re new to the digital space), you might not know how, exactly, to develop that digital marketing strategy.

In the article below, we will answer the core questions about why a digital marketing strategy is important, and how to build one from scratch.

Why building a digital marketing strategy is important

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Before we jump into how to build a digital marketing strategy from scratch, let’s quickly cover why a digital marketing strategy is so important, to begin with.

A digital marketing strategy is a must in today’s landscape because:

  • Your customers are online, and that’s where you need to meet them. One of the first rules of marketing is to target your customers where they are. And in today’s digital world, it doesn’t matter what kind of business you’re in chances are, at least some of your customers are online.“Even if the majority of a company's revenue is directly attributable to off-line channels or word-of-mouth, its potential customers are still influenced by what they see and hear on digital channels every day,” says Kirsten Pickworth, Director of Client Services, Portent, Inc.(opens in a new tab or window) “Having a web address and a strategy that promotes it more important than a phone number for many businesses.”
  • Digital marketing offers a variety of ways to reach your customers. There are so many ways to speak to your customers through a digital marketing strategy, from ads to content marketing, to SEO, to branded CTV channels(opens in a new tab or window). The more strategies you use to reach your customers, the more customers you’ll connect with—and the more customers you connect with, the more successful your brand and business will be.
  • Strategy = direction. With so many ways to target your customers, if you want your digital marketing to be successful, you need a direction—and that’s why having a well-thought-out strategy is so important. “Strategy"helps you consider important issues such as your audience, their needs and interests, your competition and how you want to position yourself against them, the appropriate communication channels and messaging to use and how you will measure success,” says Linda Pophal, a marketing communications consultant(opens in a new tab or window) specializing in digital and content marketing. “Without a strategy, you're likely to spend a great deal of time and effort ‘doing things’ with very little confidence or evidence that the things you choose to do are the ‘right’ things.”
  • Digital marketing offers a great return on investment. When you do it right, digital marketing can be significantly more cost-effective than other marketing strategies—and will give you the most value. “The ability to test, learn and refine messaging and approaches more quickly and cost-effectively through digital media channels equates to valuable customer insight faster and sometimes with less expense,” says Pickworth.

With the right digital marketing strategy, brands can experience a host of benefits, including increased brand awareness, higher customer conversions, and a treasure trove of invaluable data on their customers and how to effectively reach them.

In a nutshell, developing a digital marketing strategy is an absolute must if you want to be successful in 2020 (and beyond). But if you’re starting from scratch, how do you build a digital marketing strategy from the ground up?

How to build a digital marketing strategy from scratch

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So now that you know that rolling out a digital marketing strategy for your business is a must, let’s go over the step-by-step process for making that happen:

Assemble your team

Before you start building your digital marketing strategy, you need to assemble the right team to build it. The people you need to loop into your digital marketing strategy from the beginning can include:


Your marketing team is going to need to be involved in developing your digital marketing strategy. But what’s maybe not so obvious? That you need your entire marketing team looped in on the process—regardless of whether they’re responsible for traditional channels, digital channels, or a combination of the two.

“Everyone on a marketing team should be aware of a digital strategy, why it's in place, and the effect it might have on their team,” says Pickworth. “Even if team members aren't directly involved in charting the strategy, they should know the primary goals, campaign timelines, key messages being promoted through digital channels, and most importantly the role they each need to play in connecting the dots in a customer's journey.”

Before you start building out your digital marketing strategy, make sure to schedule a sit down with your entire marketing team to get everyone on the same page.


No matter what kind of digital marketing strategy you roll out, you’re going to need design assets to support it. Your designer and/or design team should be involved in the process from the beginning; not only can they help develop the necessary assets to support your digital marketing strategy, but they can also help lead design decisions and make sure everything stays on brand. “Designers and development teams carry the responsibility for visually representing a campaign well,” says Pickworth. “Bringing them on board earlier to fuel creativity and poke holes in an approach can lead to a smoother implementation of a campaign concept.”


A huge part of building a successful digital marketing strategy is having the technology in place to support it. That’s why it’s so important to loop in your IT department.

“In the digital environment there is a wide arrange of tech options available and they're changing all the time; you absolutely need to have a very close relationship with your IT staff [as you build your digital marketing strategy],” says Pophal.

Not only can your tech/IT team set you up for success (for example, by finding the right analytics tools or marketing software), but they can also help you anticipate any potential tech roadblocks—and address them before you get too far into your strategy.

Some digimarketing data can be obtained only when browsing from that country, like the actual pricing, geoblocked data and so on. A vpn tool such as VPNPro(opens in a new tab or window) and Perimeter 81(opens in a new tab or window)can easily solve these issues and keep you running safely online without hiccups


Another team you’re definitely going to want involved in building your digital marketing strategy? Sales. “These are the people that will know your audience and products/services best,” says Pophal. “[Your sales team] can provide you with the background information needed to both select appropriate channels and create appropriate messages.”


You want to protect yourself and your business—so before you build or roll out your digital marketing strategy, it’s important to consult with your legal team or outside legal counsel. “This is particularly critical in regulated industries ([like] financial services or health care), but any business using digital marketing will face certain risks that legal advisors can help to identify [and] minimize,” says Pophal.

When you bring together different team members to build your digital marketing strategy from scratch, chances are, there’s going to be a lot of brainstorming. Keep your team’s ideas organized with one of Canva’s brainstorming graphic organizer templates, like the Green Palm Leaves Brainstorming Graphic Organizer(opens in a new tab or window) or the Blue White and Orange Simple Brainstorming Graphic Organizer(opens in a new tab or window).

If you’re a solopreneur or working with a lean team, no worries! You can just as easily build a digital marketing strategy; just make sure you take all of these elements (marketing, design, tech, sales, and legal) into account as you’re developing your strategy.

Do your research

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Before you start building your digital marketing strategy, you need to arm yourself with as much information as possible—and that’s where the research comes in.

“Research is an important part of any marketing strategy, but especially digital strategy because effective use of budget and marketing channels requires an understanding of who your target customer is and how they are engaging with your brand and your competitors,” says Pickworth.

There’s a lot of research you need to get done before you start developing your strategy, including:

  • Competitor research. While you never want to copy your competitors, researching their digital marketing strategies can give you insights into what’s working with your ideal audience—and, just as importantly, what’s not working.
  • Customer research. Who are your customers? What digital channels are they using? How are they engaging with brands in the digital space? Getting to know the ins and outs of your customers from the get-go, like using a questionnaire(opens in a new tab or window) or writing up a short case study(opens in a new tab or window) will help you develop a digital marketing strategy tailored to your audience.

There’s no denying that effectively researching your competitors and customers before you develop your digital marketing strategy is an investment—but it’s an investment that pays off in the long run. “Customer and competitor research can help save time and money in the long run by informing a channel strategy, identifying target audiences and understanding the top, middle, and bottom of funnel customer actions,” says Pickworth.

Once you’ve done all your research, you’re going to want to share the data with your team. Present your research data in a visually interesting and attention-grabbing way with one of Canva’s infographic templates, like the Simple Red Infographic(opens in a new tab or window) or the Blue Minimalist Branding Infographic(opens in a new tab or window).

Choose your channels

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Once your research is done, it’s time to start actually building your digital marketing strategy. The first step? Choosing your channels.

There are a lot of different channels you can incorporate into your digital marketing strategy. But if you want to be successful, you need to figure out which channels are going to connect most with your audience—and then focus on those.

“Selecting channels that align with your goals, budget, and target audience can save you time and money,” says Pickworth. “You want to have a presence and build trust through the channels your potential customers are using in their purchase journey and where you can gain insight into their interactions with your content.”

For example, if you’re a lifestyle brand targeting millennials, focusing your digital marketing strategy on social media makes complete sense—but it might make less sense if you’re an architectural firm going after B2B customers.

If you’re trying to drive traffic to your insurance company website, Google AdWords could be a great marketing channel—but that might not be as effective if you’re going after an audience that primarily uses social media.

You also want to make sure you have a cohesive strategy across all the channels you choose. “Keep in mind that digital channels shouldn't be considered in a silo; they work together and data from one channel can improve remarketing efforts, refined messaging and targeting in another,” says Pickworth.

The point is, there are a lot of digital marketing channels out there. But the best digital marketers figure out which are going to be the most effective and impactful for their specific business—and then focus their efforts there.

If you decide to incorporate social media channels into your digital marketing strategy, you’re going to need compelling graphics. Get started with one of Canva’s social graphics templates, like the Colorful Marble Countdown Instagram Post(opens in a new tab or window) or the Exploring Horizons Instagram Post(opens in a new tab or window).

Outline your strategy

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Once you’ve done your research and figured out which channels you’re going to pursue, it’s time to outline your digital marketing strategy.

This includes:

  • Setting goals, KPIs, and budgets. In order for your digital marketing strategy to be successful, you need to:Know what your goals are, know how you’re going to measure those goals, and clearly define how much budget you have on hand to make those goals happen.
  • Setting up analytics. Analytics will give you invaluable insights on everything from campaign performance to where to focus your efforts on what’s not working and needs to be adjusting—which is why you need to have them in place from the start.“Identifying opportunity gaps from analytics can uncover channels to start with and expand or pivot from,” says Pickworth.
  • Defining campaigns and channels. The most important part of outlining your digital marketing strategy is…well, outlining what your digital marketing strategy actually is. What channels are you focusing on? What campaigns are you running on those channels? What creative do you need to develop for those campaigns? What’s your timeline to hit your KPIs?
  • Developing your creative. Once you know what channels and campaigns you’re rolling out, it’s time to develop the creative for those channels and campaigns. This includes ad copy, social media images, email marketing templates...whatever you need to get your digital marketing campaign off the ground.

Once your strategy is outlined and in place, you can move to the next stage of your digital marketing strategy:Implementation (also known as the stage where you start seeing results).

Is email marketing a part of your outlined digital marketing strategy? Design killer emails that convert with one of Canva’s email newsletter templates, like theLight Green Fashion Email Newsletter(opens in a new tab or window) or the Teal and Grey Laptop Email Newsletter(opens in a new tab or window).

Split testing

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Once you’ve implemented your digital marketing strategy, you might be tempted to to pat yourself on the back, sit back, and relax. But if you want the most successful implementation (and for your digital marketing strategy to drive as many sales, email opt-ins, and new customers as possible), the best thing you can do? Split test your creative.

Split testing is a great way to increase your conversions and make sure your creative is the best it can possibly be.

“Everything from a keyword in a headline to the color of a button could affect audience engagement or confusion on a landing page or when seeing an ad,” says Pickworth. “Planning to review and test these components allows marketers to pinpoint and refine what elements to keep and what to change to move more customers toward a conversion.”

Here’s how split testing works:

  • Create an asset (let’s call it asset A), whether that’s a social media graphic or a Facebook ad.
  • Create another asset (let’s call it asset B) that’s identical to asset A except for one key element (so, for example, if you were creating two Facebook ads, you might run them with a different image or a different headline).
  • Implement both assets and see which performs better.
  • Review the analytics and then take the better performing asset and repeat the entire process until you have creative that’s converting.

Split testing definitely takes some time and effort, but it’s the best way to make sure your digital marketing strategy is driving the most conversions possible—which makes it more than worth the time and effort you’ll put in on the back end.

You want to split test all of your creative. But if you’re putting a lot of money into digital advertising, it’s especially important to split test your ads. Get started created ads that convert with one of Canva’s web ad templates, like the Parisian Chic Facebook Ad(opens in a new tab or window) or the Sydney Skyline Facebook Ad(opens in a new tab or window).

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