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As digital communication becomes an increasingly dominant way for people exchange and share information, a digital marketing plan becomes an essential tool for financial advisors.

Your digital marketing plan should be a part of your overall marketing plan, says Richard Heft, president of Ext. Marketing Inc. in Toronto. And it should have its own budget.

As with your business plan, your digital marketing plan should include clear goals and tactical measures to achieve them. It should be built on an assessment of your current position in the digital space; where you would like to be at some defined point in the future; and how you plan to get there. You also should put measures in place to track the results of your digital initiatives.

Heft offers the following five steps to creating your digital marketing plan:

1. Know your operating environment
A good place to start is with an assessment of the digital space in which you are operating. Get answers to questions such as:
What are my competitors doing?
What digital platforms are most effective with my clients?
What am I doing now that gives me a competitive advantage, or what can I do to get such advantage?

The answers to these questions can be found in a variety of available research on trends in digital marketing. You can also use metrics from your current digital initiatives to determine which ones are generating the best results in areas such as lead generation, client acquisition and response rates.

2. Know your audience
You must have an intimate knowledge of your audience, including variables such as age, sex, net worth and social media preferences.

“Ask them for the relevant information as part of your engagement strategy,” Heft says.

Next, group your audience into specific segments based on their characteristics. This segmentation will allow you to communicate with each category on a more personal level, instead of sending them mass messages that might not be relevant to their needs.

3. Choose your platforms
Based on your research on what digital strategies are most effective — whether it is LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blogs, emails or some other strategy — choose the platforms that are most appropriate to your strategy.

You could have a multi-platform strategy, which would give you a broader reach. But be sure that the platforms you choose are most relevant to your marketing objectives, and simply the most popular. Your social media strategy must be cohesive in order to be effective, Heft says.

4. Plan your content
Create an editorial calendar so you will “know ahead of time what you are going to write about,” Heft says. This requires careful planning, taking into consideration different content for different categories of your audience.

Heft recommends that you give preference to editorial content rather than product-related content. Your editorial calendar is not “set in stone,” Heft says, so you can switch gears at any time if you decide to address a current event that may affect your clients. Heft also recommends that you establish a schedule for content delivery, as your audience will expect new content at specified times.

5. Measure your results
Determine specific metrics you want to track to measure the effectiveness of your digital strategy. For example, you might track page views, “likes,” followers, leads and conversions, or other measures. Use the metrics to help you determine where you should focus your digital marketing efforts.

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