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You were just brought in to solve all the digital marketing challenges of an existing company. You’re excited, nervous and thinking about where to start. Questions are racing through your head.

What’s the first thing you should do? Will people be receptive to your recommendations? What if you offend someone with your questions? How do you know what’s already working? Is there a good lunch spot nearby to meet with my partners and vendors? (I might have projected myself on that last one.)

It’s going to be tough to step into this role. Expectations are high. It’s often political. You feel like you have a lot to prove, and with modern digital projects, your boss will be looking for a demonstrable return on marketing dollars. The following five tips will help you prepare your digital marketing project for success.

Step 1: Get your brand (and brand assets) in order.

First thing’s first — determine if what you really need is a full-service branding project to get to know your audience and position in the market. Assuming your project isn’t a branding project, any agency is going to love to build a brand you’ve already established.

Only a quarter of our clients come to us with their brand’s guidelines already identified. We often have to work with them on a digital style guide as the first step to creating brand consistency in their online presence.

Step 2: Access your data.

Most successful marketing executives that I’ve worked with have been extremely analytical. They can never have enough data. They base their decisions on that data, backed up by their own experiences and a ton of intuition.

In any company, there’s a wealth of data ready for you to analyze. Instead of starting from zero, connect to the resources the company already has available. Research all you can. Meet with the management team to learn how they track information and which tools they use.

Once you have access to these tools, use the knowledge to build a picture. Look at the sales reports, website analytics and customer profiles, but don’t stop there. All of the information you’re able to collect will shape the direction of your project.

Step 3: Know your products and what makes them unique.

Ask yourself why someone would choose to buy from your company instead of the competition. Getting different perspectives from within the company will help you find the answer. Sit in with each department to get a lay of the land. The people who know the company inside and out will be your best sources of information, so learn what each of them does and talk to them about the products.

Start with the sales team. They’ll help you find which approach works best for selling your product. A strong knowledge of the product will set the groundwork for a successful marketing project.

Step 4: Identify clear goals and expectations from your team.

You can’t accomplish a goal without understanding the expectations. Just the other day, my 8-year-old daughter set up a family bike race. She lined up our bikes and explained the rules. “When I say ‘go-go-go,’ not ‘go,’ not ‘bananas,’ not ‘goblin,’ you go. Whoever gets back here first wins.” We waited (far too long) as she said six words that weren’t “go-go-go,” before shouting the words we begged to hear. We all raced down the driveway and went in different directions. She was very clear about the goal: Get back to the starting line first. But she didn’t clear up the expectations about where we were to travel before we came back. Don’t let this be you.

Your boss might be telling you to increase traffic to the website, but what they’re really asking is for more leads or sales through the site. Peel this back. Ask a lot of questions. Don’t turn left out of the driveway. Trust me, it ends with your 5-year-old crying, thinking he won despite only going to the end of the driveway and back. Meanwhile, you did three laps around the neighborhood faster than everyone else and still get no love.

Step 5: Formulate a plan and budget.

I once had a client send me a marketing plan spreadsheet. She told me it would explain a lot of what she was trying to do. I was skeptical at first. I mean, I’ve seen everything. One time, a client shared a picture of a sitemap on a napkin with the comment, “This should be everything you need.” I was expecting something similar here. Instead, what I received was the most elaborate marketing plan I’d ever seen. This document was color-coded by marketing medium and organized by audience and buying cycle. It was glorious! Not only did this show me that she was serious about their marketing, it also gave us a lot to discuss with the client regarding their own thoughts about their outreach, who they were targeting and where they might allocate their spend.

Demonstrating how the digital marketing project fits into your overall game plan will allow you to maximize your additional efforts. For example, with that client, we were able to make sure the mailers they sent out had calls to action (CTAs) to relevant pages on the website, specific to each campaign and audience.

Frankly, I’ve never been in the marketing director or CMO role. What makes me so qualified to write this post? The outside perspective. From my point of view as the founder and CEO of a digital marketing agency, I’ve worked with you more times than I can count. I’ve answered thousands of questions. I’ve also been the shoulder to cry on, offering words of encouragement on how someone like yourself can solve the challenges that lie ahead.

I’m willing to bet that any digital agency you hire to take on your project will appreciate this level of pre-planning. We certainly would and have seen it result in better results.

[“Source-forbes”]