How to create a digital marketing communications framework

Having a successful digital marketing strategy framework to follow is essential to ensure the success of your planned communications and more importantly ensuring your team & business provides you the buy-in to support your vision. It also offers a system that is easy to understand in its positioning  as well as assigning specific metrics to monitor, manage and measure the performance of the campaign, whether the strategy has fulfilled the specific digital marketing objectives set such as creating an acquisition strategy or retention strategy.

This article refers to the digital marketing communications framework devised by Chris Fill, principal lecturer in marketing and strategic management at the university of Portsmouth. The purpose of this analysis is to understand the key market drivers to influence a brand and identifying issues which may help or restrict its progress in meeting the objectives of the plan (Fill, 2009) and this  framework can be categorised into 4 key areas being: 1- Organisation Health Check, 2 -Barriers, 3 –Creative idea and 4 –Engagement Strategy.

1)    Organisation Health Check

There are 4 key areas to focus on: customer, business, internal & external contexts:

Customer Context:

This is defined by highlighting specific segments of customers who interact with your business whether through acquisition or communication; What the level of awareness, perception and attitude is of your target customer base e.g. is your business benefiting from a growing reputation (e.g. growth in brand search, are your social media metrics providing a positive sentiment? Has email database been increasing in sign-ups?)

It’s also important to think about the external business environment you operation and the Types of Perceived Risk which are encountered. E.g. what is the level of competition your business operates in within this sector? Are there a number of competitors and what are they doing to attract market share (and more importantly your customer base?). For example within the digital sports retail market, a number of established ‘bricks and mortar’ sports retailers (JD Sports, Sports Direct) have begun to bring their product offering online carving out their own USP’s to attract a new audience away from more established online sports retailers. Sports Direct for example look to “reduce the price of replica football shirts in the market place by treating the products as loss leaders” and  look to use the products to drive footfall into high street stores.

Business Context:

What is you Corporate & marketing strategy? In other words, how do you differentiate your business from the competition? Understanding and evaluating your Brand analysis will also provide you with an external view on how your business is perceived by customers and competitors.

Importantly, how are you perceived by your suppliers? And are you a trust worthy organisation to partner with? Think about any existing partnerships that are in operation?

Organisation Identity

If you are an online retailer, it benefits from commanding a strong domain name, use tools such as SEOmoz software, which can provide you with an insight into the value or trust-worthiness of your website online.


External Context:

As highlighted earlier, think about your external environment and list out who your key stakeholders are such as your consumers (look to create a persona on the types of consumers you attract); media (what media channels is your brand available through or can offer interaction with the end user?) affiliates (do you provide alternative routes for your product offering, brand to interact with customers?)

Other tools which can provide a good evaluation to your business within an external environment are a SWOT & PEST analyses

Internal Context:

As you have completed with the external context, look to critically evaluate the business with an internal focus. Key indicators worth considering and recording are any Financial constraints you need to be aware of. e.g. If you are looking to create a new product marketing strategy for a new range of footwear, what, realistically is the marketing budget available and are you being realistic with your overall strategy? What is the Culture, Values and beliefs? has the business created an excellence in customer service for example or despatch and delivery of products? Also think about the marketing expertise within the organisation – do you have the necessary skill set, staff and resource to support your framework? Previously I blogged about creating a digital marketing framework for your business.



So from completing your context analysis, a series of issues, barriers and opportunities should now have been identified and documented. Below are some suggested barriers and opportunities you may consider if you are creating a communications framework for an online retailer:

Retail Competitors – Level of competition within the market place, identify and list out each competitor and their USP’s, level of differentiation from your offering.

Brands Influence – Level of influence your brand has – what domain level of trust? % of brand/non-brand search terms a month? Relationship your brand has with your direct product suppliers, customers (repeat purchase rates?)

Price Influenced – Within the current economic climate, understand how your and what your level of price-point is should be considered – where does your business sit?

Strategic Partnerships – Has your business developed a level of partnerships with other strategic clients? Have you managed to create an affiliate marketing strategy and is your online proposition encouraging affiliates to buy in to your vision to sell your products?


SECTION 3: Marketing Communications Objectives 

From outlining your barriers and opportunities this will help form what your objectives will be for the  report. To do this it is important to create SMART objectives which refer to: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-specific. Below are a few examples based on a campaign with the objective to: Increase brand alignment for a product launch and has a secondary objective of sales related:

  • Objective 1- Brand: Increase brand visibility in the UK market within age bracket of 18-35 by 20% for Product X from April 2013 through to June 2013 and measured through Google analytics
  • Objective 2- Sales: To achieve a 10% increase in sales of Product X based on previous year (April – June 2012)

Both objectives should have measurement criteria in place to assess how both objectives will be met:



The creative idea should be developed taking into account consideration of what your objectives are. In this example report the main objective is to increase brand visibility and an uplift in product sales.

From Section 1, this should also help to provide an insight into how your creative idea can differentiate your campaign from the competition, so look to reference your findings from the first section too.

The creative element is a brief overview on “what you plan to do and to create a storyboard or guide on how you plan to meet your objectives”. Look to include what the headline offer will be and will there be a supporting campaign/promotion too? Look to bring this section to life by including a visual of the idea or product launch and look to embed a strapline for the campaign which can be crucial to ensure the promotion stands out during the campaign and acts as a sign-post to potential new and existing customers.  And remember to justify your creative idea.



This section should provide an overview on the specific tactics to be used, justifications, audience profile and how this is all to be managed, measured and monitored

Target audience and justification

What market research has been recorded and analysed for this? e.g. MOSAIC profiling would provide customer demographics for the campaign and trend behaviours of demographics looking to target

Range of tactics to be used –

This should include both online and offline mix of tactics you are planning to use for the campaign. All previous sections should now funnel into what tactics you plan to deploy that will support your creative idea and meet your objectives. Online tactics of your mix to meet the 2 objectives could be:

Affiliate marketing – This channel is a low cost route to drive additional sales due to only paying a commission on sales generated Communicate with all active affiliates on your program with timescales of launch and duration of the campaign, highlight commission levels to affiliates and look to run a series of competitions to generate and incentivise interest within your affiliate base.

Partnerships– Communicate campaign with key online partner websites e.g. price comparison, voucher incentive sites.

Email – provides a platform to interact with existing and new customers in changing the messaging and incentives.

SEO – Creation of an SEO strategy to support the campaign. SEO is a cost effective channel to drive your relevant keywords for your campaign. Rather than introducing a pay-per click campaign. The strategy should include tactics including keyword research, link building.

Social Media – Branded profiles set up with social media platforms that interact with your target customer base – Your social media plan should be reflected on how your target audience are attracted to the brand.

Website – Set up a promotional landing page for the campaign. Landing pages offer the user and the campaign a more professional image for the campaign and assists to show that the company is trustworthy. Monitoring performance of the campaign should also include specific tags in place that can be measured through necessary analytics.



Finally, It is important to ensure that the objectives are met for this campaign by integrating a Measure, monitor and manage strategy for both objectives. For example:

  • Objective 1- Brand: Increase brand visibility in the UK market within age bracket of 18-35 by 20% for Product X from April 2013 through to June 2013 and measured through Google analytics

-Measure – number of brand searches through Google analytics, survey results, social media metrics such as likes and retweets of the brand. Magazines and Direct mail will include specific promotional urls so to measure effective performance of these tactics

-Monitor – Would be monitored on a weekly basis throughout the three month campaign

-Manage – Internally by marketing team


  • Objective 2- Sales: To achieve a 10% increase in sales of Product X based on previous year (April – June 2012)

-Measure – Uplift in product sales associated throughout the three months and relate figure form previous year performance to ensure an uplift of 10% is achieved. To analyse conversion rate per online marcomms tactic to assess the most cost effective channel in delivering the most effective ROI.

-Monitor – To be monitored on a daily basis to ensure there is necessary inventory and stock levels to support demand for the product and to ensure all sizes of shirts are available to order through the website

-Manage – Internally by stock management team














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