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Liz Murphy

By Liz Murphy

Oct 14, 2019


Marketing Strategy Content and Inbound Marketing 101
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Marketing Strategy  |   Content and Inbound Marketing 101

How to create a digital marketing strategy (+ examples)

Liz Murphy

By Liz Murphy

Oct 14, 2019

How to create a digital marketing strategy (+ examples)

Who is this article for?

  1. You're a new digital marketer who has been tasked with creating a digital marketing strategy (usually content or inbound marketing-based) for the first time, and you don't know where to start, OR
  2. You're a seasoned marketing leader who knows something needs to change. Your current strategy isn't bringing in the results leadership and sales want to see, and you're looking for a proven approach that will increase traffic, leads, and sales.

Important note: Whether you call it digital marketing, content marketing, or inbound marketing, you're in the right place.

What will this article teach you?

You know what really grinds my gears? Articles that promise to teach you how to do something big, but then ends up being fluffy search engine-bait that isn't detailed enough for you to take action in any sort of meaningful way. 

So, my promise to you is that I won't do that.

In fact, based on the principles of They Ask, You Answer, here is exactly what you'll know how to do by the end of this article:

  1. How to assess your current digital marketing strategy.
  2. How to gain buy-in from sales and leadership and get everyone excited about participating in your strategy, since a lack thereof is the #1 killer of digital marketing success.
  3. How to create a content strategy that targets the topics that are guaranteed to not only increase website traffic, but also generate more qualified leads that, ultimately, translate into more sales.
  4. Why video is critical to your digital marketing success, and how to create a video strategy around the top marketing and sales video types that get results.
  5. How to integrate your content into the sales process as part of your digital marketing strategy — we call this "assignment selling."
  6. The seven essential ways you need to update your company website so it becomes your top sales team member.
  7. How to showcase and highlight wins, as a part of your digital marketing strategy.

🔎 Related: What is They Ask, You Answer?

What this article is not

If you're looking for a simple, turnkey digital marketing strategy here, you're not going to find it. Don't worry, I'm going to give you everything you need to create an effective digital marketing strategy for your company, outlined in detail, step-by-step.

But you're going to have to do some heavy-lifting. Because, if you want to crush your most aggressive sales and marketing goals, you can't approach the creation of your digital marketing strategy with any degree with passivity.

So, this is your last warning that this article is not for the faint of heart.

It's dense. It's meaty. It's my attempt to give you everything you need to absolutely kill it in 2020, because I believe all marketers deserve a chance to be the hero at their company. 

Ready? Let's do this. 🔥

1. Assess the effectiveness your current digital marketing strategy (100% optional step)

It's virtually impossible to determine what (if anything) should change with your digital marketing strategy if you don't know where you stand right now. That's what this step is all about.

As a digital sales and marketing company that's spent the past 10 years helping hundreds of companies from around the world (from all industries, B2B and B2C), we've seen what works and what doesn't, up close and personal. 

So, earlier this year, we released our totally free Digital Sales and Marketing Scorecard: 


This scorecard quite literally scores your current digital marketing strategy by evaluating the six components of your business that are proven to have the most impact on your success:

  1. How well your company is aligned around your approach to digital marketing.
  2. The scope of your content strategy, based on data we've collected over 10 years of what topics drive the most revenue.
  3. Your current marketing technology stack — because if you don't have the right tech to measure the ROI of your digital marketing, you'll never be able to prove the efficacy of your strategy.
  4. How much your sales team is (or isn't) involved in your efforts — time and again, we've seen digital marketing strategies soar (or crash and burn), based on sales engagement in the process.
  5. Your use of video as part of your digital marketing strategy. (Video is proven to shorten the sales cycle and build trust faster than any other type of content.)
  6. Finally, we help you assess your company website for the six core features of what we call the Perfect Inbound Website.

In addition to receiving a numerical score, we'll tell you how well you stack up against other world-class companies who have seen remarkable digital sales and marketing results, and provide you with the exact Inbound Success Playbooks you need to focus on first, based on where you are currently.

(Fun fact: All of our Inbound Success Playbooks are ungated and do not require an email address to access them.) 

Because I hate fake-outs, here is an important note about our Digital Sales and Marketing Scorecard

Yes, you need to provide your email address in order to see your Digital Sales and Marketing Scorecard results.

However, while I am highlighting the scorecard as the first step to creating your strategy, it is 100% optional to complete it. Not filling out the scorecard will in no way prevent you from completing any of the steps that follow for creating your digital marketing strategy.

I actually considered writing this article without including this step. But, ultimately, I felt like I was going out of my way to exclude it, since it can be a powerful evaluation tool for companies, should they choose to take advantage of it.

So, just know that I am only including the scorecard for genuinely "pure of heart" reasons. (And everything else I will link to below as an additional resource is completely ungated and ready for your use.)

2. Get sales and leadership buy-in for your digital marketing strategy

I've been kicking around the digital marketing world for almost six years — in the good ol' days, I had to walk uphill (both ways) in the snow if I needed to smash the publish button on an article.

But while a lot has changed since I defected from publishing to join the marketing industry, there are two things that haven't:

  1. Marketing is often viewed by sales and leadership as an expense, rather than a profit center; and that's only become even more true, with the rise of content and inbound marketing — which feels like homework with very little payoff. 
  2. Unfortunately, #1 is, more often than not, the kiss of death for marketers. Because if you don't have buy-in from sales and leadership, your digital marketing strategy will fail, plain and simple. Or, at the very least, you'll never be able to realize the full growth potential of your traffic, leads, and sales, were your whole team bought in on what you're doing.

That's why earning the buy-in of your sales and leadership teams is a critical initial step in achieving success with your digital marketing strategy.

In short, you need to initiate a cultural revolution within your own company. 

Facilitate an inbound culture workshop to create alignment and build excitement

Creating a company culture wherein your sales, leadership, subject matter experts, and so forth are all on-board with your digital marketing strategy isn't something you can accomplish with an email or a short announcement at an all hands meeting. 

Moreover, if you've already been dabbling with inbound or content marketing, you can't expect to get your sales reps, subject matter experts, or anyone else at your company excited about creating content without bringing everyone to discover the why behind becoming the most trusted voice in your space, and how you're going to do it. 

So, in this step, you will bring everyone together for something we call an Inbound Culture Workshop.

Why do we recommend an Inbound Culture Workshop? And what should you cover in your own Inbound Culture Workshop?

In this video interview, IMPACT Director of Inbound Strategy and Video Training Zach Basner answers both of those questions in detail:

(If you're short on time, here's a handy-dandy "Cliff's Notes" version of this conversation.)

This is a workshop we facilitate for companies as an unbiased third party — which can sometimes be a smart move — but there are also distinct advantages to facilitating the workshop on your own, as the digital marketing owner or leader at your company. 

🔎 Related: What should be covered in an Inbound Culture Workshop?

It doesn't matter how you choose to facilitate your workshop, so long as you have one. Trust me when I say making this a priority will determine how successful you are going forward through the rest of this process. 

3. Create a content strategy laser-focused around topics guaranteed to drive revenue

OK, now it's time to get down to business. The goal of the content you create for your digital marketing strategy is simple — to establish your company as the most trusted voice in your space by answering all of the questions of your potential buyers as honestly and transparently as possible

So, if you have a topic that doesn't do exactly that, you need to cut it from your editorial content calendar. It's useless fluff.

What should you be creating content about?

As IMPACT's content director, I know more than anyone how much of a struggle it can be to build editorial content calendars for a digital marketing strategy. 

How do you know what content you should be creating?

And which content topics should be prioritized over others?

We've found that there are five very specific topic categories of buyer questions that are proven across all industries (B2B and B2C) to move the revenue needle for companies. 

We call these topics The Big 5, and they are:

  1. Pricing and cost (How to create a perfect cost article)
  2. Comparisons (Comparison article best practices)
  3. Problems (How to create a perfect problems article)
  4. Reviews (How to write about your competitors on your website)
  5. "Best of" ("Best of" article example)

Why these topics? We, as consumers, are obsessed with finding answers to the questions that fall into those five categories, more than any other.

Think about the last few purchases you've made as a consumer, large and small. 

You likely researched your potential purchase online first because you want to know how much something will cost before you buy it. You want to compare your options before making a decision. You don't want to be surprised with problems down the road, so you research them in advance. You want to know what other people think about an item or service you're considering, so you know you're making a good choice. And, finally, you want to know what's really the "best" product, service, strategy, and so forth.

I'll be honest with you — some of these topics are going to make you feel downright uncomfortable. You don't want to talk about pricing. You don't want to breathe a word about your competitors. And you certainly don't want to talk about potential problems with your products. 

But if you don't, you won't be controlling the conversation — someone else will be, and that "someone" will likely be your competitor. 

More than that, you will see the results you want with this content strategy. So, trust me when I say your discomfort is a good thing. Or, if you don't trust me, trust these companies who embraced The Big 5 and saw huge returns from it.

And yes, The Big 5 can fit into your pillar content strategy easily.

🔎 Related: The ultimate blogging tips guide for digital marketing teams

Priority and pacing for your content

If you're just starting out with a content-based digital marketing strategy, we recommend that you do the following:

  1. Make a list of the products and/or services that have the most influence over your bottom line. Focus your content efforts on these first.
  2. For those products and/or services, brainstorm topics with your team that fall under The Big 5. (Sales should be involved.)
  3. Next, focus your content creation efforts on topics that are toward the bottom of the funnel, such as cost topics. 
  4. Plan to produce between two and three pieces of content at minimum per week.

Honestly, even if you've been doing content or inbound marketing for awhile, I'd recommend you follow some version of that process I just outlined. You'll likely have some content gaps you'll need to fill in, and those should be prioritized by your most important products and services. 

🔎 Related: Free content calendar template (+ getting started tips)

4. Create marketing and sales videos that are proven to get results

Research shows that video is the most trusted resource for consumers at each stage in the buying process. Not only that, our buyers are spending a vast majority of their time online watching videos. Bottom line, video is powerful.

Video will build trust and captivate your audience more than any other type of content. Not only that, the strategic use of video during your sales process will compel people to take action and shorten your sales cycle:

How much of your website is currently video-based?

We’d wager the answer is probably somewhere between 0 and 10%.

The good news is that your competitors are likely in the same boat. That means there is no better time than right now to fully embrace video as a sales initiative through visual selling. In fact, the mindset we teach all our clients at IMPACT — which consistently yields the greatest results (traffic, leads, and sales) — is:

We are all media companies, whether we like it or not.

When done correctly, video will be a powerful addition to your toolbox, proven to not only establish trust more quickly with your buyers but also shorten your sales cycle.

Here are the 7 types of videos you need to be creating

The Selling 7 are seven types of sales and marketing videos that — like The Big 5 — have proven time and again to move the revenue needle for B2B and B2C companies. 

80% videos

80% videos are those that answer the most common questions all your prospects ask about your products and services — and probably proactively answer a few they haven’t thought of.

🔎 Related: How to make amazing 80% videos (+ examples)

Employee bio videos

These are short videos where your team speaks directly to the camera and introduces themselves, which allows your prospects to see, hear, and know your team before they even meet.

🔎 Related: How to make amazing employee bio videos (+ examples)

Product and service page videos

These videos significantly reduce the burden placed on your buyers to take the time to understand how your product/service will help them, while also breaking through the “noise” of all the words on your site.

🔎 Related: Example of a service page video

Landing page videos

Every landing page with a form on it needs a video that builds trust by addressing any questions or doubts someone might have — “Should I complete this form? Are they going to be spamming me after I fill it out?”

🔎 Related: 3 examples of great landing page videos that convert

“Bad fit” videos

When you’re honest about who you shouldn’t work with (and explain why), you not only become dramatically more attractive to your good-fit prospects, you show you’re transparent and trustworthy.

🔎 Related: Why you need to talk about who you're not right for (+ examples)

Customer journey videos

In this video, your customer will share the problem they were looking to address, the journey they took to fix that problem (with your company), and where they are today because of that journey.

🔎 Related: Examples of customer journey videos

“Claims we make” Videos

How many claims do you make that your competitors also make? For example, “Our people are the best.” Back up those claims by showing them with video, because words are not enough.

🔎 Related: 6 examples of "claims we make" videos we love

5. Integrate your content into the sales process with 'assignment selling' 

Assignment selling is the act of purposefully sharing written, video, and audio content that is educational about your products and/or service with the express goal of addressing any pressing concerns and questions your prospects may have. 

That way your prospects are much, much, much more prepared for any sales appointments they have with your team. And the conversations become much more focused around their specific challenges and goals, and how you can hep them, rather than wasting time answering the questions every single prospect has, regardless of their situation.

🔎 Related: How to implement assignment selling (+ examples)

6. Evaluate your website for the 7 key elements of the 'Perfect Inbound Website'

What works and what doesn't on company websites is always changing as trends, aesthetic preferences, and technology are constantly evolving.

We've found, however, there are seven fundamental elements that, when executed correctly, transform a company's website from a static digital billboard to its #1 sales rep. And they are:

  1. Homepage design and messaging
  2. Self-selection and configuration tools
  3. Obsess over honest education
  4. Premium education
  5. Textual and visual content mix
  6. Social proof
  7. Site speed

To be honest, evaluating and updating your website so it is the Perfect Inbound Website is a complex and comprehensive process unto itself.

So, to help you, we've created this comprehensive (ungated) playbook about building the Perfect Inbound Website.

It reviews each of the above items in detail, including what you should be looking for, how to evaluate your current site for those items, and the strategic steps you need to take to get your website where it needs to be. 

7. Recognize content wins in visible ways to the rest of the company on a regular basis

One of the best ways to keep your team motivated and excited about participating in creating written and visual content for your digital marketing strategy is to spotlight what we call "content wins" with your company on a regular basis. 

For example, at IMPACT, we have a weekly, company-wide "all hands" meeting. During that meeting, IMPACT Head of Editorial Content Ramona Sukhraj and I have a dedicated time in the agenda to share:

  1. The top five new articles (by views) from the previous week. We include their photo and the title of the article on their slide.
  2. A closed deal highlight, where we walk through all of the content a contact (or contacts) consumed before their deal closed. (A recent deal from a few weeks back featured a contact who consumed 250+ pieces of content!) 
  3. How much influenced revenue can be attributed to our pillar content strategy. (We're at $850,000+ and climbing.) 

That way we're making team members feel valued and proud of the work they're creating, and we're constantly reinforcing the value of our strategy by tying those efforts directly to bottom-line gains.

How you implement this at your company will likely look different, based on what opportunities you have at your disposal. That said, you should consider this step and indispensable part of your digital marketing strategy, as recognition of your colleagues will keep the spark of excitement for your digital marketing strategy alive.

Finally, here is what companies that see the most digital marketing success all have in common

Whew — that was a lot, wasn't it?

Still, you can't expect big results from your digital marketing strategy if you aren't willing to put in the effort. But before I send you on your way to digital sales and marketing glory, I want to leave you with some insight that will inspire you going into 2020.

Over the past 10 years, in working with hundreds of companies around the world, we’ve discovered there are seven characteristics companies that see the most success with their digital marketing strategies all share.

They understand that buyer expectations have changed

They know the “old school ways” of advertising no longer work. Now, potential buyers turn to the internet for every single question they want answered.

They are the absolute best teachers in their space

All employees embrace a mindset of: “I want to be viewed as the best teacher and most trusted resource in our industry. I want people, when they have a problem, to think of our company.”

They create the content that drives traffic, leads, and sales

They understand buyers are obsessed with finding answers online to questions about pricing, problems, comparisons, reviews, and “best of” lists, when making a purchasing decision. (These are The Big 5 we talked about earlier.)

They have a dedicated content manager

They get that unless someone is the designated “owner” of their inbound and content efforts, those efforts will be deprioritized and nothing will get done.

They understand the power of video

They understand video is a win for both sales and marketing — it builds trust with your audience faster and more effectively than any other type of content, and it shortens the sales cycle.

They've invested in the right technology

They know if they can’t generate revenue with inbound, it’s not worth the investment. But they also know they need to right technology in order to prove the financial ROI of their efforts. (We're a big fan of HubSpot for driving digital success in this arena.)

They've built the 'Perfect Inbound Website'

They have a fast, data-driven website with a clear homepage design, compelling messaging, self-selection tools, premium education content, textual and visual content, and social proof.

Now, it's your turn to write your own digital marketing success story.

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