Skip to main content.

Planning for the uncharted: How to approach your 2021 media strategy

Media strategy in 2021

Having an effective and strategic marketing and advertising plan is key to the success of any organization in the 21st century. It’s nearly impossible to exist and grow without finding ways to get your name out there. Visible storefronts in heavily trafficked areas and client/customer referrals can only get you so far.

Your marketing and advertising is essentially a megaphone for customer acquisition. Your message is the voice, and amplification is the advertising. Clever, huh? Especially because this metaphor showcases why you can’t have one without the other. A megaphone with no voice, or no amplification, doesn’t do anyone any good.

But we get it, the media landscape is vast, complex, and ever-changing. You’ve got your tried-and-true traditional media channels like print, broadcast, direct mail, phone, and outdoor billboards. Then there’s this whole other world of digital media. Digital media encompasses a list of channels that seem to change on a daily basis: social media, native, display, paid search, and streaming TV and radio.

How the heck are you to determine what channels and tactics to use? Not to mention, how much money to put into them, how to set it all up, and make sense of the results? Fortunately, you don’t have to do it on your own. You can partner with a firm like ddm that employs integrated media planning + buying experts

To hear from our media experts directly, watch our webinar: Media planning in 2021: Overcoming 2020's volatility.

ddm media buying process

However, if you have an internal team in place, or are eager to build your own media strategy, we want to equip you with the essentials and set you on the path to success. We’re going to walk you through the steps we take, the questions we ask, how we structure campaigns, and additional advice as you navigate the world of media.

Reference your overall marketing strategy

When you begin the process of developing your organization’s media strategy, it’s important to have your overall marketing strategy handy. Or at least know a few key elements about your business and target audience. Your media strategy should be aligned with your other marketing initiatives so there is consistent messaging, creative, and timing across all channels.

What audiences see and read on your website and organic social media should have the same look and feel as what they see in your ads. You want to build that omni-channel megaphone that amplifies a coherent story.

Business goals

Your overall marketing strategy should include the goals your organization has. Maybe you want to increase sales of a particular product, grow your client base, or increase brand awareness. Whatever those goals are, your media strategy should help accomplish those, too.

business goals

That doesn’t mean that individual media campaigns won’t have their own particular metrics for success, because they will. But you wouldn’t be running a media campaign at all if you didn’t think it would lead to more sales, more clients, or more awareness.

The competition

Do you know where and how your competitors are advertising? Do you know what channels they use, what their ads look like, or what messaging they use? Knowing the answers to those questions can help inform your own strategy.

Even if you’re the market leader, you can learn something from your competitors. And if you’re not, make it a point to find out what the market leaders are doing well. If your competitors are running ads all over Facebook, there might be a good reason why. If they are using video content far more than static images, it might be because audiences resonate more with that.

Target audience

The discussion of audience is a critical one that impacts all aspects of your media strategy. You must know the demographics of who you want to attract before you can launch any campaign. Different audiences require distinctly different channels, messaging, and creative.

target audience

Some audiences spend more time on social media, others spend more time on news sites. Just because you love Instagram and spend a lot of time scrolling and engaging with brands there doesn’t mean your target audience does. That’s why knowing who they are and where they spend their time is so important.

Audience motivations

It’s just as important to know what sort of messaging motivates your audience. Younger generations might love the fact that your company is sustainable and donates a percentage of profits to environmental causes. Older generations might be motivated by a sale or limited time discount.

Whatever it is that drives your audience to click, view, download, buy, or visit your website should be reflected in your advertising.

Know your buyer’s journey

If you’re really lucky, you have one of those dynamite products and services that people buy or sign-up for sight unseen. No three-month sales process. No six months to get executive buy-in. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Unfortunately, most of the time it’s a process to nurture audiences. Which is why it’s aptly a called a buyer’s journey. It’s often a marathon, not a sprint. Below is an example of a generic buyer’s journey we created. It’s filled with twists and turns, loops, and plateaus.

ddm buyer

A lot of buyer’s journeys are like that. They’re just not as linear as they used to be. If you can nail down that curvy path people take to find, select, and ultimately choose you, you can better reach them along the way through media. We have considerable experience building buyer journeys for clients, and even for ourselves. If this isn’t something you’ve done before, we can help.

Top funnel and bottom funnel tactics

If you take a typical buyer’s journey from awareness to consideration to decision and finally to loyalty, there’s a point where you can split it in half. The left side encompasses ‘top of the funnel’ tactics, and the right side encompasses ‘bottom of the funnel’ tactics. And for kicks, sometimes we even squeeze in ‘middle of the funnel’ tactics.

You might be thinking, “What are these funnel tactics you speak of and why does it matter?” It matters because different tactics will get you different results. If your goal is brand awareness—which is at the top of the funnel—then you might use advertising tactics like native ads, TV spots, and paid search. If your goal is sales, you might use email, re-marketing, and digital ads with clear calls to action.

Take a look at this article that breaks down the B2B content marketing funnel. This gives you an idea of type of content to showcase or point to in your ads depending on what part(s) of the buyer journey you choose to address.

Have you considered using native advertising as a tactic?

How to create a successful native ad

Maximize your advertising channels

Once you’ve laid out your goals, identified the target audience, and know what stage(s) of the buyer journey you’re focusing on, as well as what channels are optimal for that stage or stages, it’s time to maximize your efforts on those channels.

Metrics that matter

Success on one channel may look different from success on another. Whether it’s click thru rate, engagement, impressions, or reach, having a clear understanding of the metrics you’re measuring matters. Paying attention to the wrong ones, or not paying attention to them at all, could mean the difference between a poor campaign and an exceptional one.

metrics and analytics

Your media strategy should clearly document the metrics you plan to measure, and if you can, the very specific goal you have for each metric.

Reach and frequency

Two key metrics we look at to determine how successful a campaign is are reach and frequency. Many media buying software and tools enable you to calculate these numbers.

Reach: Simply stated, your campaign needs to reach enough people before it will be successful. This is because many people in your target market are not be in the market for your product right now. To find the ones who are, we need to reach a large percentage of potential consumers. We suggest a minimum reach of 70% for a successful campaign. A 70% reach can lead to increased brand awareness, which is important for potential customers in the future when those customers come back into the buying cycle.

Frequency: We know that consumers are busy and there is a lot of competition for their attention. Historically, research has shown that a consumer will need to see your ad a minimum of three times before understanding it. As consumers continue to spend more time with media and consume more content, we see that the most successful campaigns have a frequency even higher than 3x, and certain media types or campaign types may even need a frequency of 7-8x or higher to be successful.

Be prepared to shift budget and focus

If 2020 taught us anything, it was the importance of organizations’ ability to pivot. And also, our collective distain of the word pivot. Whether you’re “team pivot” or “team shift”, we expect there will be more of both in 2021.

Think about whether or not your current media plan, if you have one, allows for flexibility. If you’re locked into long-term, inflexible contracts, it might be time to renegotiate. If you’ve always booked media buys on an annual basis, it might be time to start booking quarterly. If you’ve always booked on quarterly basis, try booking monthly. 2021 will not be a rinse-and-repeat kind of year. Shortcuts will be limited. You want to be able to adjust budgets, messaging, and tactics on a dime if necessary.

Monitor closely

Understanding when and where to adjust requires constant monitoring. It also requires careful and thoughtful analysis of what you’re monitoring. And monitoring isn’t just something you do at the end of a campaign, it’s something you look at every day.

What you see might lead to pausing efforts that aren’t delivering and doubling down on efforts that are. If you are A/B testing different ads and find one is outperforming another, you may want to shift your budget to achieve better ROI.

Find a partner to guide you

If you’ve made it all the way here, kudos to you! Hopefully we’ve given you clear direction, suggestions, advice, and insights. If it seems a bit overwhelming, we hear you and we’re here for you.

We can walk beside you and guide you through the entire process of developing, documenting, and executing your media strategy. Our media experts have decades of combined experience in media strategy, planning, and buying for both digital and traditional tactics.

Interested in research about digital marketing trends in 2021?

Find it here