8 simple yet powerful steps to maximise your digital marketing
Irene Lee

8 simple yet powerful steps to maximise your digital marketing



The author with members of Canva's Product Growth team

The author (right) with members of Canva’s Product Growth team

A popular statistic thrown around the industry is that an average person is served around 5,000 ads every single day. But in fact, this figure comes from a report dated years ago. The total number is now closer to 10,000 ads.

We’re at a stage where getting cut through is increasingly difficult, with digital platforms and algorithms constantly changing. Yesterday, Google AdWords (now Google Ads) was the place to be, today it’s Facebook and Instagram ads, tomorrow chatbots and influencer marketing. So as marketers, how do we ensure messaging cut through and recall? More importantly, how do we achieve the holy grail of turning cut through into action?

The global digital marketing spend is fast set to reach $100 billion, the need to respond quickly to market dynamics is not only imperative to reach your target audience - but having a sound digital marketing strategy is also good for the bottom line. However the reality is that having a huge budget to experiment with can only bring you so far. The key to maximizing your digital marketing spend is a sound ability to understand your audience - the whos, whats, wheres, whens and hows - culminating into an actionable strategy to influence behaviours and motivations (Audience x Channel x Time x Product x Message). I’ll delve more into this later.

Our performance at Canva

Let’s take our work at Canva as an example. We have a focused set of goals when it comes to digital marketing:

  1. Create meaningful targeted touch points across channels
  2. Demonstrate the value of Canva’s paid products
  3. Globally scale our efforts effectively and efficiently

With a lot of audience research and experimentation, we were able to:

  • Profitably scale paid media by 550% in the first 4 months
  • Globally scale mobile user acquisition by 295%, while lowering cost per acquisition by 50%
  • Increase the quality of acquired users by 59%

In this blog, I’ll share how we achieved these figures by following 8 simple yet powerful steps.

Step 1 - Understand your audience (WHO)

Ask yourself the following questions of your audience - Who are they? What are their goals? What problems are they trying to solve? What are their frustrations?

Know who you’ll be talking to, because this will be the basis of how you’ll engage with them. Know your top 3 audiences and create personas for them.



A sample persona

A sample persona

Step 2 - Understand the channel you’re advertising in (WHERE)


The Canva app on a mobile phone

Now that you know WHO you’ll be engaging with, the next question to ask about your audience is - WHERE is their attention? And then understand the channel in which they are spending most of their time in.

For example, if they spend most of their time on Facebook, what are they doing there? Are they there just to connect with friends, or are they very involved in particular groups and communities? Do they get a large amount of their news and/or entertainment content from Facebook?

If it’s Instagram, what are they doing there? Linking back to step #1 - If they are a teenager, are they there to impress their friends? To connect with their friends? To chat? If your audience are entrepreneurs, are they there to build a following? To share tips/insights? To provide edu-tainment?

Step 3 - Understand your product/service (WHAT)

Now that you have a solid understanding of your audience/s and where they spend their time, we need to link this back to the product or service you are looking to promote. Therefore you need to understand your unique selling proposition, and learn more about your value in the eyes of your users by seeking out qualitative and quantitative data. This step cannot be underestimated, as your audiences’ behaviour can tell you a lot about why they use your product or service.

Step 4 - Find the right message (WHY)


People wearing designer clothes

Why do people spend 10x more over a Gucci logo shirt, over a non-branded one which serves the same purpose? This is where we start looking into motivations behind human decisions, and threading steps 1, 2 and 3 together by developing the message that will connect and resonate with your audience. It is also important that you now consider the channel you’re communicating in, and the product/service you’re trying to sell.

To do this, we need to understand that as humans we buy for one of 3 reasons:

  1. People buy their way out of problems. This means that many people are buying something to solve a problem. E.g. people don’t want to buy a drill… they want a hole in their wall. They don’t really even want the hole, maybe they want to put up a shelf. Why do they want the shelf? And so on. So when it comes to your product or service, what are the fundamental problems you are solving for your audience segment?
  2. Stories. They make what you’re selling more compelling, rather than just talking about the “facts or features”. Stories allow people to connect to your message at a deeper level. They can reinforce a belief (making it relatable) or reflect something they want in the future. So how can you add a story that aligns your product with your audience?
  3. People buy because of emotions and use logic to justify it. This is because they usually have to justify their purchase to someone else. e.g. partner or parent - at times even themselves! What’s your emotional pull in your messaging?

Knowing this, you can begin to identify the ingredients to craft the right message of WHY your audience should care.

Step 5 - When are they active and seeking your solution? (WHEN)

This 5th step is easily overlooked, but ignoring the “when” can lead to a CPA (cost per acquisition) up to 20 times more expensive than your competitors. Let’s expand on this with the example of teenagers; they are most likely school students, so knowing this we ask ourselves, when are they on their phone and/or laptop? Before school? During lunch? End of school? On public transport to and from home? Are they on-the-go? Are they actively seeking your product out, or do they need to be convinced? Do they have high or low intent? Ensure your marketing efforts are present at the height of WHEN they are active and/or seeking a solution to their problem.

Step 6 - Combine all 5 steps

Now that we have a comprehensive understanding of the above, this is what it looks like when we put it all together!

A conversion happens when you deliver an ad to:

  • the right PERSON (audience, personal/professional)
  • at the right PLACE (ad channel, device)
  • at the right TIME (delivery, budget)
  • with the right PRODUCT/SERVICE
  • with the right MESSAGE (intent level, offer, landing page)

These are your major levers. As you build upon each, it has a compounding impact on the effectiveness of your campaigns.

Step 7 - Experiment, experiment, experiment!!!

After lots and lots of experimentation with these levers, you will begin to see how the varied permutations of Audience x Channel x Time x Product x Message come to interact with one another, and how that impacts your desired performance results. Over time you will begin to identify the recipe for success, but there is no silver bullet as the levers will constantly evolve.



Audience x Channel x Time x Product x Message

Step 8 - What gets measured, improves!

Set goals before every campaign and experiment with an understanding of what your expectations are, then measure and track your results.

Something I see many marketers forget to do is reflect on the results. It’s as simple as asking the following questions:

  • What did we learn?
  • What didn’t we learn?
  • Is this what we expected?
  • Why did it do better or worse?
  • What is the next experiment we can design based on these learnings?

As you exercise reflection more and more, you will develop your marketing skills to the point where you can say with high accuracy what will, and will not work. As new ad channels become available, or you have a new product to sell, this new found “intuition” will give you a significant head start when the time comes to launching that first campaign.

Final thoughts

Even though the focus of this post has been on paid channels, these principles are also applicable to owned channels such as content marketing, email and messaging. Therefore it’s critical to note that users do not experience your brand in isolation of other channels. Depending on the size of your growth or marketing team, the need to ensure a cohesive user experience becomes more important the larger your organisation is. If you feel like you’re starting to create a disjointed user experience, get alignment with other teams, because you should all be working together for a common mission.

I’d love to hear what stood out for you from what I’ve shared, and if this article has changed your approach to digital marketing.


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