How to develop a Digital Strategy
The Internet has connected people and businesses across time and space. The digital era has dissolved our borders and made our world “small”. However, too many companies have yet to take advantage of its possibilities or even understand the consequences of not keeping up with the digital evolution. With all of these opportunities at hand, how do we identify the right initiatives for our organization? And how do we succeed with digital strategy?
What is a digital strategy?
In the last years, marketers have used the term quite frequently, but what exactly is it? For one, digital strategy is not about investing heavily in an online media budget. Digital should not be thought of as an isolated activity - it’s about establishing and constantly developing a fundamental aspect of the business.
But where do you start?
You could start out by identifying the various opportunities you have in your external and internal environment and then think of the outcome of each opportunity. Don’t just jump into website- or app development, if it doesn’t make sense for your business. Even though you’re talking about making the business more agile or responding to specific customer needs, you need to be very specific when it comes to what you want to achieve. And this is where the “Strategy” part of “Digital Strategy” comes in.
A strategy allows us to navigate in the landscape of different digital opportunities, and without it, we cannot stay in business. Start off by creating a vision: Where would you like to be and what would you like to have accomplished digitally within a period of time? The vision is expressed in strategy.
Looking at processes and opportunities
Afterward, have a look at your current business processes and think holistically:
Internally: Are the processes working optimally in terms of your vision? Do you have the right competencies in-house or do you need to educate or recruit to evolve?
Externally: Are you able to meet the needs of your customers and business partners?What is your industry doing? Are there any current trends that make sense for you?
Then you need to look into the business case. You want to make well-informed decisions about your digital investment based on data – not based on assumptions. When going through the numbers, what initiatives will give you the highest value for the lowest investment?
With this approach, you will only work on initiatives that stand to make a chance going forward – and this is how you create true business development.
Apply your way of thinking into your marketing efforts
As for your marketing, I would argue that four central elements are relevant for your digital strategy:
Who is your audience? And what are they essentially interested in hearing from you?
What content must you then provide to fulfill their needs?
Which channels can you use to communicate it?
How can you measure and react to the content’s performance in real-time?
As for implementation, following these 4 steps will not give you results overnight. But with patience, consistency and many small steps over a longer period, you will see change.
An essential question when working with your audience is: Who is currently talking about your brand online? These people – call them your ambassadors if you will – are probably more inclined to spread your messages, for instance on social media. Most companies don’t leverage this opportunity to activate people, who can access networks that are far beyond the reach of the company.
And how do you find them?
Other than the built-in metrics tools on social media, you could look into social listening tools, such as Netbase, that will give you a more specific indication on your brand sentiment and who is your key ambassadors on social.
Talking about ambassadors, don’t forget your employees. They make up an equally vital part of your brand – especially online – so you can go far by looking into an employee advocacy initiative. More about that here.
You then need to match your audience’s key challenges and aspirations with your content marketing. How is your audience currently engaging with your content?
To figure it out, you normally start by looking at what content you have out there today. You might have a lot of great content (ranging from articles, business cases to videos), but the harsh truth is that you cannot always be equally relevant to your audience. It might be that you share mandatory company news to satisfy internal stakeholders or similar, but it will harm your external relevance. To focus your efforts, I can recommend these 3 lead-generating strategies for your content marketing. Furthermore, a smart tip is to always ask yourself: “Why is this relevant to my audience?” before clicking the launch button.
The key to figuring out what content your audience engages with, however, is not to look at your long-term strategy or even a more hands-on editorial calendar. You instead need to find the tools that allow you to look at data, so you can adjust the content in real-time based on its performance. Real-time marketing tools include social automation platforms (Hootsuite or BuzzSumo) or customer analytic tools (Mixpanel).
Another relevant step in digital strategy development is to look at how people consume content in different channels and start to build a holistic, digital ecosystem from paid, owned and earned channels. Again, a great basis for strategic thinking is analysis: How is the audience interacting with your content on that particular channel? If people view your content on a mobile device – and you can assume that a large part is, since up to 50% consume most content on their phone – then they might consume content in smaller chunks than on a laptop.
Get more leanings by trying out different things and adjust your methodology accordingly.
Everybody talks about data, but do you actually have the tools to collect the data that matters? A common tendency is to apply old business models – ROI for instance – into the digital space. It is by no means wrong to look into the return on your investment of digital initiatives, but you need to be careful, as you might not get the right things out of your data. Think about taking an analytics approach to measurement. With before mentioned tools, you can access real-time data and in the long run, you should find ways to automate processes.
I hope you found this post relevant. If you want to read more similar content, try out 8 Google tools that will inform your marketing decisions, Top 5 web design trends in 2019 or the reflective post on Marketing in the Network Society.