Understanding The PROPEL Model For Digital Marketing
This article focuses on the PROPEL model, a model to help you put together all the content we have reviewed in this section to create a digital marketing strategy. PROPEL stands for Plan, Research, Objectives, Prepare, Execute and Learn.
We have seen some of these in detail already, but keeping in mind the order in which these are presented can be helpful when getting started.
As you can see this is a closed cycle as the PROPEL model works with the idea of perpetual optimization allowed by the digital era. Additionally, it is important to respect that order as each stage feeds into the next and sets up the base for critically thinking about the strategy. This model brings you from the initial thinking point to the endpoint of evaluating performance and defining potential learnings.
#1 Plan as part of the PROPEL model for Digital Marketing
The first phase of the PROPEL model is Planning. We have already talked extensively about planning, but here you can see how it speaks to the rest of your strategy. The planning phase of the PROPEL model is an analysis of the current situation even before making any decisions about the potential direction of the strategy.
The planning phase’s purpose is to create your foundation. This is the stage where you can map your resources and how much of the existing resources you can allocate to this strategy. Before even thinking about the strategy and the goals, do you have the resources to put a new strategy together? Once you have mapped the resources such as budget and employees, you can then think in-depth about why you want to put this strategy together.
If you are planning, most likely there is something to be accomplished. With the resources that you have in mind, now you need to set your product and value proposition. You know you have the resources to create a new campaign, but what actually can you bring to the market? Is investing in this new strategy worth it at this point in time? Is your competitive advantage strong enough? Is the market ready for your product?
Now, you know you have the resources, you know your product is valuable to the market, but what will the ideal timeframe for this strategy be? You need to know if the employee who owns the project will have the time and bandwidth. Is the budget already in or do you need to wait? Is there another priority that will come first and that the budget allocated to this strategy will depend on?
This stage can and should be influenced by your past experiences. If the last campaign you ran you were short on time or budget, maybe you can adapt the current planning to come over these obstacles and prevent failure.
#2 Research as part of the PROPEL model for Digital Marketing
The second stage of the PROPEL model is the Research stage. The research stage should help marketers narrow down their audience and segment them into different groups, making them as specific as possible, ensuring their strategy resonates with each segment. Defining the audience will inform the digital marketer on the best way to position the product, where to advertise, the type of content to develop, the correct keywords to target, and the imagery and words to use that will appeal to different audience segments.
During the research phase, the digital marketer has multiple marketing tools to map and visualize the findings. A good example is using a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) so the marketer can add elements under each of the columns of the model and pinpoint the obstacles and limitations the product will face in the market from an external perceptive. In a similar manner, they can list the selling point of the product and what market trends or usage are in the product’s favour.
Another good example for defining the positioning and analyzing the differentiation factor of the current position is using perceptual mappings. It consists of making a chart with two axes, X and Y, each corresponding to traits that your brand and competition carry. Then positioning yourself and competition on the map to get a visual appreciation of the part of the market you are covering. The mapping is usually used with price and quality (but can be used with whatever variations you like). You can find an example of this in the link below.
At the end of the research stage, you should be able to answer all questions about your audience, market, trends and how your product is using or tacking potential obstacles. It should be clear in the marketer’s mind where they stand and eventually, where they want to go according to the current audience and market study.
#3 Objective as part of PROPEL model for Digital Marketing
Once the digital marketing team identifies the resources needed for setting up a new strategy, who they need to talk to, how to talk to them and how to position their product in the market, they can define precise objectives. This is the objective stage of the PROPEL model.
With this information, the marketer knows how they want to evolve within the market. They can start crafting objectives based on this external information and internal business objectives. The key in creating objectives is to make them clear enough to be shared, measured, reported on and make sure that they measure the correct data that will resonate with the broader business organization goals and demand.
The main purpose of this stage is to establish clear objectives for a digital marketing strategy and establish clear KPIs that can be reported on.
#4 Prepare as part of PROPEL model for Digital Marketing
With objectives set, resources available and research to back up decisions, you are ready to start shaping the strategy. The 4th stage in the PROPEL model is the Prepare phase.
In the Prepare phase, marketers focus on the tactical part of the strategy, i.e. content, concepts, media, duration, etc. The purpose of this stage is to gather together all assets, resources and material to actually put the strategy into action. It is during this stage that the team will mostly work with external stakeholders such as media vendors, creative agencies, and social media to set the price and timeframe for the planned effort.
All the material that will be created and media booked should be validated against the objectives. Do they actually solve this objective and how? Keeping the objective in mind will prevent losing time and money on actions that do not deliver. During the Prepare stage, digital marketers should plan by the day, divide up ownership of activities and agree on a performance review frequency.
This stage can additionally be the time for internal communication and making other teams aware of what is being launched and how they can participate, use the material, help, test or review content if necessary.
#5 Execute as part of PROPEL model for Digital Marketing
Once all the assets are ready, it’s time to kick start the strategy. The Execute stage of the PROPEL model is focused on implementing the strategy.
Each stakeholder owning the project will implement, publish, distribute and send the content developed in the Prepare phase.
They will monitor the success and failure of the different assets and media, and adapt the strategy as it goes by switching creatives, sharing content, tweaking the targeting of the advertising campaign on social, search, etc. In order for this stage of the model to be efficient, the assets need to be ready to ship at the end of the prepared model and have been tested, preventing back and forth between the two stages if some assets do not properly fit their intended use.
For example, an agency develops some visuals to accompany social media campaigns. They are already at the end of the Prepare stage, but once in the execute stage the marketer realizes that the format is too big and thus the image doesn’t show on the social media posts. This means that the digital marketing team will have to go back to the agency to change it, which will delay the campaign for a few days and may have cost implications.
It is important to test before executing, but also while executing. Some execution will naturally require testing such as A/B testing or simply developing multiple assets that will be switched based on performance. Testing allows the digital marketer to reach the highest success rate in order to achieve their goals. The digital marketing industry gives this flexibility as media and content is changeable by a simple click.
While in the execution phase, the different stakeholders can benefit from regular meetings to assess the success of each tactic and decide changes together but also simply keep informed. During this stage, the digital marketing team could work closely with sales to ensure that all generated and qualified leads get proper attention. Also ensuring leads are properly nurtured and picked up by the correct team to be moved through the buyers’ journey.
The Learn stage evaluates the success and failure of the strategy as a whole. The aim is to consistently develop content, improve performance and gain insights for the benefit of future strategies.
During this stage, each stakeholder will gather the appropriate data, analyze it and pin down what was successful – according to the initial set objectives and target. You should also be able to point out why it was successful and identify other parts of the execution that didn’t deliver as expected. This stage is about analyzing the reasons behind successes and assessing the actual gain based on the point of departure.
A report should be put together to present the general results and performances of the strategy. Compare it against the marketing objectives and see how they align with the business objectives. This will help show the value of the strategy at an organizational level. It can be helpful for future reference and buying to capitalize on the former success and collect appropriate data on how segments of the audience responded differently to the campaign set.
At the end of this stage, the strategy is over until the next one, but all the learnings and reports will be used on the next digital marketing effort as a starting point and a reference throughout the next campaign or project.
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