Considering a Your Digital Strategy?

Start by appraising your business strategy and operations

There are plenty of books and guides to digital strategy which explore the benefits of disruptive technologies, virtual reality or the impact of digital technology in the spheres of entertainment, science, medicine or the arts. These academic studies are fascinating but they often lack the practical advice that people are looking for. Just as your business strategy provides direction and a kind of leadership, your digital strategy should do the same. They both need to focus on making your current business model successful and securing long-term results in line with your ambitions for your future developments. 

Setting an effective digital strategy will ensure you in the best position to support your organisation and its leaders as they drive forward to achieve their targets. This frequently refers to your ability to reach target audiences and deliver sales but you might have different measures of success, depending on your sector. Regardless of who you need to reach, your leadership team needs to be engaged in the process and you must establish a customer-focused culture. This should go beyond mere lip service as businesses and consumers increasingly expect personalised communications and want to feel a connection with those they transact with.

Consider how your pre sales and post sales processes could be changed in order to create even better results. Have you seen tactics used by other companies that might work for your audiences? Do you already have people with the right skills working in your company already? If not, how can we grow their knowledge and skills – what resources, training courses or role models do they need into order to achieve. To achieve an effective return on your investment, you should leverage digital tactics in your business processes and empower your teams to convert prospects. The trick is to provide them with the right digital tools for the job.

Even with suitable software and processes in place, what guidance and support will your teams need? Your aim is to ensure your customers are delighted by the experience of working with your business. The fact is that you need to offer positive experiences that meet your customers’ expectations from first contact, through their first transaction, fulfilment and review and then continue into advocacy and ongoing business.

Sometimes circumstances, or leadership teams, impose budget constraints so you need to make gradual changes. Nevertheless, it’s important to define what success will look and create a vision or a series of milestones for everyone to work towards. The truth is that using the wrong techniques could attract audiences that are a poor fit or lead to people managing relationships badly. Whether the audience is a poor fit or your teams need support, if your products or service fall short of customer expectations it quickly creates stress and dissatisfaction for everyone concerned.

Review the digital tactics available

When you’re considering your options, you should begin with a brief review of the plethora of digital techniques available but never lose focus on your business context and the goals. This goes beyond simply reciting a list of tactics without considering how each one needs to be used to extract value. It certainly isn’t a case of saying “Our clients are every X in the county/country/continent/world.” so we can reach them online!

Once we have defined an outline approach and methods that are suited to your goals, it is valuable to review your competitors and your market. I also like to explore activity outside your market to see if there are lessons we can learn from other sectors.

Review your market

You might already know many of your offline competitors but you still need to be aware of your online competition. Best practice, wherever it is found, stimulates ideas and solutions, creates benchmarks for the market and helps us explore opportunities to leverage digital techniques to promote your business. This context frames your investment decisions.

You might already have a review of your competitors based on offline metrics, customer feedback or insights from market research. Do you know what they are doing online? Do you know whose business is expanding and where you sit in relation to them across all platforms? We will learn a great deal from interrogating our digital tools to uncover details of trends in web traffic sources, social media campaigns or PPC and other paid techniques in your sector. You will gain a new perspective on the market growth trends and audience demographics. During the research stage we can explore details around keywords and backlinks but we can also gather insights into the way the market as a whole reaches audiences.

You can review this information and together we can consider whether or not the best strategy is to emulate your competitors or take a disruptive approach. This might even lead us to the golden bullet you are seeking! Once we have understood other people’s strategies, we can formulate your response, reevaluate our coarse filter on the digital tactics available to us and then you can frame your investment in this context.

Relationships before Sales

However you attract your audiences and wherever they find you, you need more than great content to build a sustainable sales pipeline. You need to build relationships with your customers and clients. The nature of the relationship, the longevity of the relationship and the value of the relationship will vary but you need to remember the law when it comes to personal data and always meet GDPR requirements.

When nurturing relationships, some tactics work for everyone, like proving your relevance and amplifying your influence by appearing to speak their language; or being in the right place at the right time. The digital strategy you establish should encompass the tools that sustain all phases of your sale and your customer relationship. The fact is there is no single “right” answer that delivers this. You need to think holistically, in the true sense of the word.

Will you build relationships with influencers or develop affiliate networks? Do you need to expand your presence on social media and support it with paid campaigns? Are there natural thought leaders who can build influence either as individuals or through an organisational voice? How will you harvest and nurture those who respond to your awareness building campaigns? Will audiences require information to support their decision-making pre or post sales? Does your organisation need to demonstrate thought leadership or showcase their latest technology innovation to a technical audience? Does your copywriting and navigation funnel people through a conversion process effectively? When we look for improvements in all steps, we can begin to target opportunities for growth.

At this stage we should review the tactics and begin to map the relationships between them. For example, a technology business which wants to establish itself as a market leader might decide to run technical webinars. This tactic will need to be supported pre and post event through email marketing, social media posting and advertising, digital PR, chatbots, pop ups, downloadable guides or white papers with lead capture forms and appropriate lead nurturing email sequences. In another sector, an ecommerce site will benefit from a number of the same tactics (email, social media, advertising, digital PR, pop ups, chat bots and abandoned cart email sequences) but the way each tactic is applied and the relationship between the tactics will affect the outcomes.

However you plan to capture leads, you need a way to manage them. The CRM you choose must comply with the law in the countries where you operate and it’s useful to make your choice in the context of the tactics you plan to use in nurturing relationships. A simple transactional relationship, involving product promotion and limited personalisation might be sufficient but a tool that allows you to make recommendations based on past behaviour will be infinitely more powerful. It’s more or less a given that organisations which build rich relationships with individuals over extended periods of time, during key stages in their lives or people in different roles in another business will require a far more sophisticated tool for customer relationship management.

Whether someone is looking to make a successful purchase of a specific item or seeking an education, your strategic aim is to get to know them, make them feel a sense of connection with them and problem solve more effectively for your market, than your competition.

Analysing Success and Managing your risks

Delivering an effective digital marketing strategy is impossible without leadership support and it relies on collaboration across all areas of the business. From sales to technical to operations, internal and external teams work together to achieve success with support from a range of digital media. Once you know what you are going to do and what you want it to achieve, you need to decide on the amount of money you invest. This can feel like a leap into the unknown and it’s the reason I prefer to work with trusted partners when it comes to delivering the tactics we are deploying. You don’t need to be cognisant of every aspect of each activity but you need a reliable expert who can act as a teacher to explain their process and a geek when it comes to implementation! Your partners should understand your definition of success and how that breaks down into your goals. They should work with you to set key performance indicators (KPIs) which are meaningful to you and your leadership team without creating a burdensome reporting process. You want to invest in their delivery skills rather than tying them to reporting regimes that eat into your budget.

However good your teams, using custom reports in Google Analytics – or making the most of Google Data Studio templates – can help you cross-reference your data and be prepared for any questions the leadership team might throw at you.

What now?

Even if you already have a strategy in place, it is still valuable to review and refresh it. The truth is that writing digital strategies can be a challenge on your own. That’s probably why you’ve kept on reading for so long! If you like the sound of my approach and you would like to talk to me about helping you develop or evolve your digital strategy, just send me an email or give me a call on 07974 193176.