In case you haven’t noticed, everyone is focused on digital nowadays. It is essential to understand how digital relates to your business. However, without a clear strategy, you risk creating tactics that achieve very little. With a well thought out strategy, the results and the return on investment can be significant.

Let’s face it, the world continues to evolve and at quite a rapid pace. The way that businesses now communicate, both internally and externally, has also evolved. Digital gives businesses the option of communicating rapidly and effectively to a targeted audience.


No matter the size of your business, you need to be thinking about how to best utilise digital mediums effectively.

Consider this an elementary guide to digital strategy and the steps you need to follow.

So what is a digital strategy?

It may sound intimidating, but it is relatively straight forward once you understand the elements. Effectively a digital strategy will help to outline how your organisation will handle the different aspects of digital technology. This will include all elements of digital media such as website, mobile, email, social media and digital marketing.

Some companies assume that a digital strategy is limited to only a website – and even then may resent the investment that requires.  In recent years, I have watched in disbelief as a CFO refused to allow any budget for the new website for a growing global business!

A truly effective digital strategy will include many online engagement methods, such as social media, apps, search engine optimisation and content generators.

Why is a digital strategy important?

Most modern organisations will have some elements of digital media already in place. For example, regardless of the size of the organisation, most businesses do have some sort of website.

In today’s world, it would also be unusual if you didn’t utilise email as part of your approach to communication. Although amazingly enough, I recently heard from a young (and impressive) entrepreneur about a senior manager who refused to use email – his assistant instead would print the emails out for him to read. Hopefully that is the exception and not the norm!

Other forms of digital media will have varying levels of return on investment, depending upon your business. However, if you can incorporate a strategy that has a diverse mix of digital platforms, then you are more likely to achieve good results.

There are a number of solid reasons why you need to invest time and funds into a digital strategy:

1.     Creating sales opportunities

An effective digital strategy can help you to generate more leads and ultimately, greater sales revenue. You can utilise particular digital platforms to target a specific audience and create brand awareness. Different audiences will have different preferences in media such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

2.     Creating cohesion around corporate goals

If you have clarity around your organisation’s goals, your digital strategy will help you to clarify those goals both internally and externally and provide updates on your progress. Everyone will be much clearer on where you are going and how the journey is progressing.

3.     Adapting to changes

If you utilise the data and analytics that you will glean from implementing a digital strategy, you will be able to anticipate market changes and respond more quickly. This will make sure that your marketing efforts are more targeted and nimble and it will keep you ahead of your competitors.

Where do you start?

Before contemplating your approach to digital, it is important to first take a step back and ensure that you have absolute clarity on two elements:

·        business objectives

·        target audience.

Once you are clear on the business objectives and target audience, you need to spend some time prioritising each of these. Without this level of clarity at the beginning, it is very difficult to resolve the inevitable conflicts that will arise!  This will also help you to put together a preliminary road map for your digital strategy.

You will need to achieve clarity on the priorities before you get started. Prioritised objectives are very helpful when the team start to get pulled in different directions, due to “urgent” other pieces of work.

Who does what?

Digital strategies will give the IT and Marketing teams an opportunity to work together and potentially create something truly amazing. However, without clarity up front about who is doing what, progress will stall. Put simply, IT should not make decisions on design – and Marketing shouldn’t really make decisions on the hosting environment!

I have been fortunate enough to work with both brilliant IT and Marketing Teams, and they worked through these challenges well – and the results were outstanding. It helps to have excellent leaders in those functions, who have the ability to work well with other teams. Collaboration and respect are critical.

Also do your homework up front if you are planning to partner with an external body or outsource any portions of your digital strategy. Make sure that you seek clarity around exactly what they will do and the expected deliverables and timeframes.

Policies

I know that policies can sound a little boring and pedestrian to those who are creative! However, the policies will help to create a framework for the digital strategy both during the creation and then during the ongoing maintenance.

The absolute no brainers are a clear social media policy and website policy. It should be very clear who is responsible for posting content and approving content and how often that content should be reviewed and updated.

Ensure that your staff also understand the social media policy. There are real dangers associated with posting up images of your organisation and the use of hashtags. I have seen many breaches of social media “etiquette” until the staff were provided with more clarity! It goes without saying (or it should) that senior managers should understand and adhere to the social media policy.

Decision Making Framework and Costs

Digital is very fast paced and will continue to evolve. It is difficult to create a strategy with a lengthy time frame, as it is likely that the technology will have moved faster than your strategy. This also makes budgeting and investment a little tricky.

To ensure that your strategy evolves with the pace of technology, a decision making framework is very helpful.

Rather than having a fixed budget, try to move toward a “program of ongoing development”. This means that it will be an ongoing and evolving investment – which better suits the pace of change and allows you more flexibility and creativity to respond to market changes. In other words, your investment is never finished, as it will continue to evolve.

To ensure that everyone feels comfortable with this concept, it is very important to utilise analytics to show the positive impact and the return on investment of a digital strategy.

Summary

In my view, creating and defining an effective digital strategy requires creativity, clear objectives, prioritisation and decision making frameworks. It also requires a long term commitment and the ability to adapt to technology that continues to change.

This is exciting work and can absolutely position your business much more effectively than traditional methods!  Think of your digital strategy as a long term commitment, with short term tactics. Embrace the digital options in front of you, as the results can be very powerful.