Every business knows it needs to invest in digital marketing and branding in order to be competitive today, but very few take the necessary time to strategize prior to implementation. This can create serious flaws that are not apparent until much later.
Why Strategy Matters
One way to define strategy is “a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim.” Some business owners and marketing specialists presume they can feel their way through marketing, but a failure to plan is usually a plan for failure.
Without a strategy, it’s unclear what the “major or overall aim” is. The situation’s even hazier with regard to the plan of action.
The strategy isn’t just a buzzword that people use to make others think they have everything under control. It’s the very lifeblood that fuels a digital marketing operation and ensures a proper connection between execution and results.
When it comes to digital marketing, the shallowness of many brands is clear by their lack of strategy. It’s as if they have it all figured out.
And though a digital marketing strategy won’t insulate your business completely from risk, it can certainly offer some clarity on what can be an unpredictable marketplace. As MIT principal research scientist Jeanne W. Ross explains:
“A great digital strategy provides direction, enabling executives to lead digital initiatives, gauge their progress, and then redirect those efforts as needed.”
How Businesses Can be More Strategic
Let’s make this issue a bit more personal. How can your business create some movement around this idea and begin to put solid strategy back into digital marketing? Every situation is unique, but the following should help get you on track.
1) Focus on the Who, What, Why, and How
“Lately, we’ve noticed a significant trend in the industry where more clients know they need to improve their web presence, but rather than just jump straight in and redevelop their website, they want to start with strategy. The who, what, why, and how. And we absolutely encourage this,” says Ruth Gallagher of Bliss Media, an agency that works with clients to help them develop strong digital presences.
Whether you’re talking about web design, social media, content marketing, or SEO, your operation needs to be focused on the who, what, why, and how. This is the only way to develop a strategy that’s based on reality (rather than perception).
2) Research Your Audience
The “who” is arguably the most important facet of a digital strategy. The sooner you research your audience and come up with their profile, the better you’ll be able to focus your efforts. Concentrate on being as precise as possible with your profiles, and you’ll extract a lot more value from them.
“This mostly applies to conducting interviews where you can ask for specific personal details. However, it’s important to always be aware of whether your research is representative of your whole audience or else just a particular section.” digital strategist Harriet Cummings writes. “For more lightweight content pieces, a small section might be okay. But for large-scale, expensive content projects, you’ll need to be confident you have a good idea of your audience at large.”
3) Formulate Concrete Goals
Once you’ve zeroed in on your audience, you can begin to shift your focus toward what you want to accomplish. This is the goal-setting stage.
As with audience profiling, the more precise and concrete you can make your goals, the more effective they’ll be. Instead of vague statements like, “We want to increase online sales this year,” develop specific objectives, such as: “We want to see a 9 percent increase in e-commerce sales by the end of Q3.”
4) Connect Your Efforts
Too many businesses fail to be consistent in their digital marketing efforts, which means a lack of organization and a confusing message that may be received different ways by different people. One of the best things you can do is to create continuity across all outlets and forums, whether social media, blogs, PPC advertisements, web design, or anything else.
Take Charge of Your Digital Marketing
Without a strategy, you’re essentially at the mercy of outside forces. You may enjoy moments where everything works out and you benefit from flexibility, but more often than not, a lack of planning will come back to hurt you. Place a greater emphasis on strategy this year, and you can expect to see better results.