Some of the largest global brands struggle with their digital strategy, so it’s okay if you don’t have one in place. Digital strategy is different for every company, because it is based on varying goals and conversions which can be reached using a wide range of tactics. If you haven’t created a digital strategy for your business, you are probably not achieving the results you want out of your online marketing and advertising. Without a digital strategy you are blindly wasting energy and money on campaigns hoping to catch a break. Stop doing this. It doesn’t feel good, I know. Instead, let’s step back and think about why you are choosing the campaigns, placements and platforms you are. Let’s base it on something tangible and set goals to improve your business. You’ll feel invigorated. You may want to start by Asking The Right Questions About Your Digital Strategy. This should give you a better sense of what digital strategy is and what it means to your organization.
Digital strategy is an ongoing process that has four major phases: planning, execution, analysis and optimization. The first step is coming up with a plan for your digital efforts. Keep in mind, however, that all of the strategy in the world is worthless if you aren’t analyzing and optimizing your campaigns to get the most return on your investment. Most digital strategy blogs I’ve read try to include every possible facet of the topic in one article, leaving the reader with an general overview but no direction. I will do the opposite. I promise to keep this article simple and only focus on the steps to get started, as I believe this is the most productive approach.
The most important bit of advice I can give you is: start now. Seriously, get out a piece of paper, Google Doc, a text editor, or whatever you use, and brainstorm as you read along. The hardest part of breaking into any new project is often finding a way to overcome the initial fear of entering an unfamiliar space with a blank slate in front of you. But, it’s also very exciting! You’re courageously stepping into the digital space, with all of its platforms and networks, and you’re going to come out victorious. Besides, how else are you going to grow your business online and keep up with the competition? You won’t increase web traffic and sales without a little elbow grease and persistence.
Planning Your Digital Strategy - It’s All About Knowing Your Customer and Establishing Goals
Let’s start by identifying your target customer(s) based on demographics. You may have two or three different customer types who all have dramatically different interests and behaviors (you can even draw it out if you’re a visual thinker). You need to think about how you are going to reach all of them. Once you’ve identified your target customers, answer the following questions for each:
Which products/services match customer needs?
What are they searching for, and how are they searching?
How will they find you?
What tools, platforms or networks are they using most in the digital space?
Answering these questions is the first step in choosing the right content and channels for your digital marketing.
Next in planning your digital strategy, you’ll want to write down your top level goals relating to digital. Examples:
“I want to increase my ecommerce sales.”
“I want more quality leads coming through my website.”
“I want more people to know and talk about my brand.”
“I want to increase my email newsletter opt-ins.”
You can also list needs or problems that you have that can be solved with digital solutions. Examples:
“People are browsing, but not buying.”
“Visitors are bouncing from the home page.”
“The wrong leads are contacting us.”
“My customers are confused about what we do.”
“My customers need expert advice before they decide to buy.”
Now you should prioritize. Choose a few that are most important to you. You should now have a breakdown of your customer(s) and your digital strategy goals. It’s time to think about the best channels to reach and engage your customers and achieve the goals you’ve established.
Channels, Platforms, and Initiatives
Now that you’ve analyzed your customer(s) and established goals, it’s time to form a list of possible ways to reach them. There are new social networks and web-based platforms popping up every day, and each one promises new fans and followers if you invest the time to set up an account and learn how to use it. The truth is, just because Instagram, Tumblr and Pinterest are popular right now, it doesn’t mean your customers are using them. Even if some of your customers are, that doesn’t mean it’s the right channel for you to connect with them. Remember, the channels you choose must help you accomplish the specific goals you’ve established. For example, if your top priority is brand awareness and conversation, Twitter might deserve some serious consideration (but only if your customers use it). Pretty common sense stuff, right? So, at this point you might be asking, “what are my options”? Sorry- I’m not here to list them all, but the following links may be useful when developing your strategy.
Social - Top 15 social sites right now and 7 hot social networks for 2013
Video - Top 10 Video Ad Platforms
Linkbuilding - Top 15 Linkbuilding Tools
Email Marketing - 5 Best Tools for Email Marketing
Analytics - 10 Smartest Web Analytics Tools
As a final step in the planning process, attach a KPI (Key Performance Indicator) to each initiative that relates back to your original goals. For example, if your primary goal is brand engagement and your channel is Twitter, a KPI might be the average number of follower retweets for every one of your tweets. This will tell you if your followers are interested in the content you are putting out, and as you grow your following, it will ensure that you are still connecting with your followers and not just increasing your numbers without substance.
The next step in developing your digital strategy is planning your content and executing your campaigns. Continue reading... Digital Strategy Step 2: Content and Execution.