Write an e-marketing plan

1 Overview
2 E-marketing: the benefits
3 E-marketing and customer relationships
4 E-marketing plan: executive summary
5 E-marketing plan: situation analysis
6 E-marketing plan: objectives and strategy
7 E-marketing plan: tactics
8 E-marketing plan: budget
9 E-marketing plan: legal issues

1. Overview

E-marketing means using digital technologies such as websites, mobile devices and social networking to help reach your customers, create awareness of your brand and sell your goods or services. The basics of marketing remain the same - creating a strategy to deliver the right messages to the right people.

This guide describes the benefits of e-marketing, what the stages are for developing an e-marketing plan and also outlines some of legal issues that you will need to consider.

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2. E-marketing: the benefits

Benefits of e-marketing include:

  • Global reach - a website allows you to find new markets and trade globally for only a small investment.
  • Lower cost - a well-planned e-marketing campaign can reach the right customers at a much lower cost than traditional marketing methods.
  • Trackable, measurable results - web analytics and other online metric tools make it easier to establish how effective your campaign has been. You can get detailed information about how customers use your website or respond to your advertising.
  • Personalisation - if your customer database is linked to your website, then whenever someone visits the site, you can greet them with targeted offers. The more they buy from you, the more you can refine your customer profile and market effectively to them.
  • Openness - by having a social media presence and managing it carefully, you can build customer loyalty and create a reputation for being easy to engage with.
  • Social currency - e-marketing lets you create campaigns using different types of rich media. On the internet these campaigns can gain social currency - being passed from user to user and becoming viral.
  • Improved conversion rates - if you have a website, then your customers are only ever a few clicks away from completing a purchase.

3. E-marketing and customer relationships

A website can be a useful way of collecting customer information for e-marketing purposes and for building successful relationships with them.

Provide engaging content

It's important you think of meeting your customers' needs on your website, rather than use it as a place to put company information your customers may not need. Think about what you can add to your website that will benefit your customers and add value, eg online discounts to the products or services that you provide. A blog can be another way of providing more engaging content for your customers.

Answering frequently asked questions

Having a frequently asked questions section on your website shows you're ready to help. It may also save you time and money by reducing the number of phone queries.

Provide an email facility for queries and customer feedback. Respond to queries promptly and let people know their comments are appreciated. Provide full contact details, particularly phone numbers, for people in need of an immediate answer or they may look elsewhere.

If you use social media, such as Facebook, you will need to be quick to deal with queries from customers. If you are prompt in dealing with negative feedback, it can benefit your business because it shows you care about your customers.

Asking visitors to register

Many businesses ask first-time visitors to their site to register. Although this can be useful for gathering statistics and email addresses, it may put them off. For example, if you sell products from your site, it may stop customers from completing the sale.

Most people will not sign up unless there is an incentive for doing so, such as an e-newsletter, special offer or access to further information that is not available to non-subscribers. Ask for the minimum details possible.

Customer relationship management

Many businesses invest in a customer relationship management (CRM) system to improve their customer services. The CRM system brings information like customer data, sales patterns, marketing data and future trends together with the aim of identifying new sales opportunities, delivering improved customer service, or offering personalised services and deals. If your website uses a content management system it may be possible to integrate it with your CRM - to provide more targeted marketing to your customers online.

4. E-marketing plan: executive summary

The executive summary of your e-marketing plan should provide a short synopsis of your entire e-marketing strategy. It should include highlights from each section of the rest of the document.

The executive summary should provide enough detail to interest senior executives and encourage them to buy in to the e-marketing plan and how it can benefit the business.

It should be concise - ideally a page in length - and easy to understand. You should write this section of your plan after you have completed the rest.

The summary should outline the following:

  • your business environment
  • the key issues that have emerged from your situation analysis
  • the key objectives of your e-marketing plan
  • the strategies and tactics to be used
  • the projected outcomes and expected return on investment

5. E-marketing plan: situation analysis

The situation analysis section of your e-marketing plan should include an analysis of your business' internal (micro) and external (macro) environments.

Internal considerations include your:

  • customers
  • market
  • current online proposition
  • competitors

External considerations could be:

  • social - how changing consumer attitudes could affect your approach
  • legal - ie complying with e-marketing laws, such as data protection
  • environmental - eg making sure your approach is ethical and sustainable
  • political - how local or national government could impact on your plan
  • technological - how advances in technology could affect your marketplace

6. E-marketing plan: objectives and strategy

The objectives you decide on for your e-marketing need to be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely).

You should think about how they will align with your overall business' goals and your key performance indicators.

You should also consider what the return on your investment will be - this is likely to be financial, but could also include, for example:

  • an improved conversion rate
  • greater brand awareness
  • an increase in visits to your website
  • a greater market share

Your plan needs to look at the whole customer journey - ie how a customer will become aware of your brand, why they will then want to visit your website and how easily will they be able to make a purchase or register once on your site.

Strategy

Once you have defined your objectives, you should provide a summary of your strategy, showing how you are going to use e-marketing to meet your goals. This should summarise the 'big picture' and lead into the next section of your plan, in which you will define the tactics that you want to use.

7. E-marketing plan: tactics

The tactics section of your e-marketing plan will describe how you will implement your strategy, and defines the channels and tools that you will use.

Your tactics should include:

  • a summary of your digital marketing mix - what channels will you use?
  • the reasons why you have chosen each channel and details of implementation
  • the customer segmentation that you will use and how each channel will be targeted
  • a summary of the metrics that you will use to measure performance for each channel
  • what key performance indicators you will use to assess performance

There are several digital marketing channels that you can use.

Email

Email marketing allows you to create more targeted and personalised messages. Tis helps you to build more meaningful relationships with your customers while improving response rates to your direct marketing campaigns.

It can also be a more effective alternative to traditional marketing because e-newsletters are cheap - or free - to produce.

Short messaging service (SMS)

SMS (text messages) allow information to be sent to groups of people quickly and conveniently like emails.

Websites

Websites offer a flexible option to meet any marketing need. However, with so many other websites, you need a strategy for getting yours noticed and used. For more information, see our guide on search engine optimisation.

Text marketing

Targeting customers using mobile phone messages can be a very powerful marketing tool when used appropriately.

Social networking

Social networking websites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn can be excellent tools for interacting with your existing customers and making new business contacts.

Blogs

If you're an expert in your field, think about sharing that expertise online. Offering advice or opinions on your own internet blog can help you promote yourself and your business.

Blogs also tend to get high rankings from search engines, so having one can make it easier for potential customers to find out information about your business.

8. E-marketing plan: budget

The final section of your e-marketing plan will outline your budget for achieving your objectives. This should be a single spreadsheet that lists:

  • what you plan to spend overall
  • how this will be broken down across tactics over a fixed period
  • any financial key performance indicators or milestones that need to be met
  • potential return on investment across channels
  • a summary of projected benefits - which can be used in the executive summary

The summary of projected benefits should include estimates of how much traffic will be generated from each tactic and the number of prospects that will likely go on to convert.

You should also include an analysis of projected sales for each tactic and the profit that each will generate. This will help you quantify the net profit from your overall e-marketing plan.

9. E-marketing plan: legal issues

There are a number of regulations that relate specifically to e-marketing.

Email and SMS marketing - regulations

There are rules covering marketing emails and SMS messages to individuals.

You are legally obligated to use an opt-in consent procedure for commercial emails - which means you can only target people who have agreed to be contacted.

The rules only apply to new customers. You can continue marketing to existing customers provided they can opt-out of future messages and the marketing messages cover similar products and services.

You must also clearly mark your emails with your contact details and include a valid return email address.

Your website

All websites should carry your company's registered address and company (or charity) registration number.

Using cookies

Cookies are text files that are stored on a user's computer when they visit a website that uses them. Thereafter, the cookie sends information back to the website and can be used to monitor browsing preferences of users, eg types of goods searched for, pages visited and length of dwell time on each page.

You must tell visitors to their website that you use cookies and obtain their consent. You must also tell your site users how you use cookies.

If you have further questions about marketing regulations, call us on 0845 609 6611.

Contact your local Business Gateway office.

Your local adviser will be able to answer your questions on this or any other business subject. 

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