It’s the time of the year when most of us are planning out the year’s marketing campaigns. Along with budgets, there are many things that marketers have to consider when planning integrated marketing campaigns in this omni-channel environment. Budgets seem to be shrinking, yet mobile and digital, along with heavy segmentation of customers, are challenging marketers to be in more and more places. Smartphones and tablets, which have become the center of consumers’ multiplatform lives, disrupt their path to purchase—meaning the result of traditional marketing messages will often be that your customers engage with you digitally.

As a marketer, how can you maximize the ROI from digital and offline campaigns? In a study conducted by Stanford University, 75% of users indicated they make judgments about a company’s credibility based on their website experience. And that means a good place to start is to focus your energy on revamping your web efforts.

Successfully delivering your web experience requires work, skill and experience. Let’s be honest—most websites fall short of delivering truly a great user experience. But a website that’s designed to drive customer acquisition in a user-centric way can be a boom to your online and offline marketing campaigns. Follow this step-by-step approach and you’ll be well on your way to building the right foundation for success.

Step 1 – Evaluate your website and make necessary updates

Sounds simple, right? But this is actually overlooked more often than you might expect. Even if you’ve just completed a website redesign, you’d do well not to skip this step. Take a good, hard look at your website, then check out a few competitor sites. Choose some other websites whose experience you find engaging and use them as benchmarks—it doesn’t matter what industry they’re in (in fact, it might be most beneficial to look at other industries). Compare your site to your competitors’ and your benchmarks. Your customers don’t just compare you to your competition—they compare your experience to every other experience they’ve been a part of.
Here’s a checklist to guide you through this evaluation:

  1. Does your website meet expectations for the customer of 2014? Take a good look at design, navigation, and how the content is laid out within your website. Compare it to your competition. Then look at how it stacks up to benchmarks like Bank of America or Zappo’s. What can you do to be better than your competition? What can you learn from your benchmarks? Write these ideas down.
  2. Is your mobile experience up to par? Are you delivering a truly exceptional mobile experience? How does your mobile experience compare to your competition’s? Don’t stop at “my website is mobile friendly.” It’s more than that—grab your smartphone or tablet and go to your website. Spend time with it. Evaluate it. I know you’re busy, but it’s imperative that all leaders experience what the customer is experiencing. Compare your own mobile experience to, let’s say, L’Oreal and Mashable. Write down what you’ll need to improve to beat your competition in your mobile experience.
  3. Does your website meet the needs of your customer? Successful companies excel at this. But for most of us this is the hardest step. This is where you must truly put yourself into the mind of your customer. Visit your site. Forget about what you want to tell the visitor about yourself. Instead, focus on what you would need to know as a prospective customer. What are the burning questions to which you need to find answers? If you have created personas for your customers, review them. Is it easy for you to find the answers you’re looking for? Does it feel easy to do what you came to do on the site? Are primary actions clear and prominent? Or is it difficult, confusing, or downright frustrating to figure out what to do? Compare your site to your competition. What do you need to do to at least beat your competition?

At this point, you should have a list of items that you need to focus on to improve your website experience. Take your observations and make an actionable list. Work through the list and measure your success before you go any further.

Speaking of measuring our success, we’re doing that by looking at only a few analytics. We’re not going to dig deep into any other analytics yet. Believe me, you’ll see the impact of your changes with the following measures.

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A couple of things to note here. For some, the changes you’ll need to make will be small. Some of you may need to do more work. Recognize the need to take steps to address this now. Your success depends on it.

If you’re ready to go a little deeper, read on. But don’t be tempted to move on to the next step if you haven’t resolved the shortfalls you identified above.

Step 2 – Launch/review your email marketing strategy

Now you’re probably thinking, “Why email next?” I’ll tell you a secret. Email is still a credible and profitable marketing channel for most businesses. In fact, it’s one of your best tools.

As long as you adhere to a permission-based email marketing strategy, you’re bound to reach and engage your customers—and propel them down the path to becoming brand advocates. About 91% of your customers check their email every day. If you are reaching them with the right content, with their permission, your email will be a welcome message to your customer.

Follow this checklist to maximize your email marketing strategy:

  1. Does your email support mobile devices? When evaluating or launching your email campaign, make sure you design your emails for all devices. This is imperative today—about 44% of all emails are opened on a mobile device, and 64% of decision makers read their email via mobile. Does your competition do email marketing? How can you beat them here?
  2. How well does your email content match the needs of your customer segments? This step can be challenging—and it may require big changes. Look at your emails and take a look at your customer segments. Does the content really appeal to all of your customers? Or could you benefit from segmenting your emails for specific types of customers? Consider some examples. If you’re a clothing retailer, you might find that young women would find greater benefit in being notified of sales on skinny jeans than workboots. If you’re a healthcare provider, you’d probably want to send different preventive health messaging to 29-year-old men than you would 55-year-old females. See how your content can be customized to the reader? That’s what segmenting your email messaging can do. It takes effort, but imagine the benefits of providing a stunning customer experience with specific, relevant, customized messaging.
  3. Does your email drive the intended customer behavior—and acquisition? What is the intended outcome of your email marketing strategy? What is the action you want your reader to take? What is the business outcome of these actions? Make sure that you evaluate your email content and calls to action to direct customers towards a business outcome. Think beyond the email. Think about the landing pages you drive your readers to, the calls to action on those pages, and where they should go beyond the landing page. And don’t forget to consider other ways the customers may behave. Maybe they’ll respond by calling you. Maybe they’ll send an email. You’re probably on some email lists, so evaluate what you’ve been getting (better yet if it’s your competition). See how they have modeled customer acquisition from their email. How does your process compare?

When you’ve completed this evaluation, you should have an actionable to-do list for your email marketing campaign. Implement these and, again, measure the success of your changes. A good place to start with measurement is with “open rates” and “click-through rates.” Industry benchmarks are great to compare to, but you should always measure your success against your own benchmarks and history.

During implementation, you should also be sure to create trackable campaign URLs for all links that are in your emails. You need to be able to track beyond the email-specific analytics in order to truly measure success here.

Add the following web analytics to ensure you are looking at customer behavior and acquisition beyond the email.

  • Email bounce rate. Some recipients will click through, visit the landing page, then take action and visit areas beyond the landing page (good). Others will visit the landing page and leave (not so good). This is your bounce rate—people who click through, then leave. Calculate bounce rate percentage by dividing the number of one-page visits by the total number of one-page and multi-page visits from the campaign.
  • Macro conversion rate. Conversion, simply put, is when a recipient responds to your call to action, usually by clicking a link you provided. There should be one main goal for each email that’s tied to your campaign’s business objective. Calculate this by dividing the number of visitors who took that action by the total number of campaign emails.
  • Micro conversion rate. You’ll usually have additional actions within the email, like “Follow us on Facebook” or other social actions. Calculate it here by dividing the number of visitors who took additional actions by the total number of campaign emails.

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It may seem like a lot—it kind of is—but this will help you achieve optimal results from your email marketing campaigns. And don’t just make this a one-time thing. Continue to analyze and optimize to improve your results.

Step 3 – Evaluate branded search and other digital/display ads

Now that you’ve improved your digital experience, it’s a great time to capture customers and expand your reach to relevant new audiences with paid search campaigns, display ads, native ads, and other digital marketing efforts.

  1. Review your brand’s search visibility. Search for your company name, products, and services on major search engines. How do you appear in the results? Do you appear at all? Gather and group a list of relevant, branded keyword phrases for which you could place paid search ads. Tie a specific conversion goal to each group of the keywords you’ve selected. Consider integrating with offline advertisements with these campaigns.
  2. Review/create a brand-focused digital marketing and display advertising strategy. Create a strategy to target new relevant audiences based on sites they’ve visited, what they’ve read, their demographic and psychographic signals, and much more. Be careful not to focus heavily on display ads here—just focus on your brand, products, and services. Consider integrating with offline messaging here as well. And, of course, analyze, learn, and get better. Don’t run campaigns without a plan to optimize on a regular basis.
  3. Plan for acquisition and customer behavior beyond the click-through. For the paid channels you’ve selected, give your customers a great experience when they get where you’re sending them (see Step 1 above). What is the primary action you’d like them to take? How does this support your business objective?

And I’ll say it again. Continued monitoring, optimization, looking for new opportunities, and avoiding waste is extremely important to the success of digital advertising campaigns. Taking advantage of remarketing and other targeting methods will optimize your results, too. This is a benefit of digital campaigns. Take advantage of it.

Here are some metrics you can use to monitor and optimize your digital and display advertising:

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It’s important to look at the above analytics by source. Knowing how a referral source performs will not only allow you to optimize your spend, but will also help you understand your customers a bit better.

As with other steps, you can also enhance your results by updating your landing pages. You may also be able to use A/B testing to further optimize your success.

Step 4 – Create a content strategy that targets category/industry

Content is king, right? So why did I wait this long to mention it? The above steps will help you build a great brand experience online. The experience you provide and what you learn from getting the above paid and owned channels into full swing will arm you with knowledge—you’ll better understand your customers and their intentions. And that will help you create content that appeals to them.

This is a cross-functional exercise. You’ll need to work with sales, customer support, and many other departments to create content that will be genuinely useful throughout the customer journey.

  1. Understand the unique needs of your customers. From the work you did getting your email campaign going, you should have a good start on understanding the needs of your customer segments. Does your web content address the needs of those specific customer groups? What are you writing and for whom? Does the content you’re planning to add appeal to this audience? Is it genuinely useful? Look at the content your competition is creating. Is your content more compelling than your competition’s?
  2. Commit to consistently creating content that’s genuinely useful. With a clear understanding of the needs of your audience, make a plan to consistently provide that kind of content to them. This takes commitment. Starting a blog that languishes for years with a handful of out-of-date posts only serves to discredit you. The goal with content marketing is to build trust with your audience by providing plenty of useful information. And that’s the second key—useful. This isn’t so much about selling or enhancing search results. It’s about giving your audience something they care about and can put to use. That’s the kind of content that makes customers raving fans—and it just so happens that it boosts sales and search results in the process.
  3. Evaluate your content distribution strategy. Look at how you’re distributing the content you own. How are you using social media to distribute this content? How successful is it? Are people finding you when they search? Are you using your paid search, display, and social advertising to distribute this content? What is your competition doing?

If you’re distributing content with a blog, you can measure your success by page visits, duration of visit, and subscribers. Combined with a coordinated email campaign, you’ll look at open rates and click-through rates, along with page analytics. If people stop opening the emails that distribute your blog or newsletter, there’s a good chance you’re not providing relevant content.

Creating digital campaigns will work best when they’re unified. When you distribute content via paid and owned channels—and measure your success—just remember that digital channels work in combination. If your digital strategy is a chessboard, your pawns should be advancing together.

When you evaluate and analyze customer behavior through these various digital channels, you’ll begin to understand your customers’ experience throughout their path to purchase. And you’ll be able to find the right channel for the right type of messaging to optimize your results.

Think Big Picture in 2014
As you plan for the future, don’t leave your online marketing for last. It’s an integral part of the big picture, and you’ll do well to think about it from the outset. Take some time to enhance your website, address email marketing, ramp up your digital advertising, and commit to relevant content, and you’ll find you’re in a great position to surge ahead of your competition.

This post originally appeared at Imaginasium Leader of the Brand blog.