An Introduction to Digital Strategy

Dallas McMillan Branding

One of the main reasons people fail when they try to use online tools like social media to attract client, build a brand or grow their influence is that they lack a strategy. As a result, they end up engaging in “Random Acts of Marketing”

Building your digital influence requires a strategic approach – you need to start by identifying the most valuable outcome that you can acheive, then make a plan about how to get there, then identify what tools, resources and relationships you will need to implement along the way, then actually put your plan into action, and finally to assess and measure your success, refine your approach and repeat as required.

Let’s review these in detail

  1. Discovery
    • Before you embark on any marketing or brand development process, you need to begin by indentifying opportunities, challenges, and resources available to you. A great way to do this is to start with a SWOT analysis of your business, product, brand and market.
    • A great approach to this is to analyse your past successful client case studies looking for common denominators that correlate with success and performance – such as industry, pain points, products/services used and results delivered (At Influential Digital, we use this process in our Brand Value Promise process)
    • Our goal here is to identify a beach-head market – this is our starting market (the term derives from military strategy (when invading enemy territory, it’s advantageous to concentrate your efforts on winning a small area which can be gained, defended, and serve as a base from which you can advance further).
    • Your beach-head is most promising market which you can:
    • Win
    • Defend
    • Expand from (or scale)
    • Having won your beachhead, you can consolidate there, or expand laterally (sell the same products and services to different markets) or vertically (sell different products and services to the same market) – this is part of your subsequent strategy
  2. Strategy
    • Having identified your focus, you need to create a strategy to reach and profit in the that market. Depending on your stage of business development, a useful tool to implement here is a business model canvas. Having a clear business model helps inform your digital strategy. This is critical when taking your first steps online or into a new market, because what works welloffline (or in a different market) may fail in the new market, or with customers who don’t already know your brand, products or services.
    • Once we’ve got a plan, we need to set specific objectives that will move us toward our eventual desired outcome. Using SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Acheivable, Realistic and Timely) makes it easy to track our progress toward acheiving these goals.
    • From there we can select specific tools, platforms, and strategies which can help us acheive these objectives.
    • Remember that one of the most effective ways to use online assets and resources is to incorporate offline marketing or direct outreach in conjunction – many businesses make the mistake of forgetting to follow up in person, or on the phone or email, as a powerful adjunct to their online marketing. Planning this into your approach from the start helps make the process more efficient and effective.
  3. Preparation
    • Having planned your strategy, it’s time to prepare your existing and required people, assets and resources. New tools and systems need to be purchased, configured, integrated and tested.
    • Taking stocktake of existing assets like content, software, subscription services etc at this time is important to prevent duplication or redundancy. Outdated content or tools should be archived or decommissioned. A content audit, and capabilities audit help identify what content you have and what human resources you have available within the organisation.
  4. Implementation
    • Once you’ve identified your focus, planned a strategy and prepared, you are ready to implement. Congratulations – most people skip these first few steps then wonder why they fail online.
    • In this stage we start designing, building, publishing and marketing. This is when we start to get a feel for how well our planning and preparation have gone.
    • An important part of this step is testing and feedback to determine what’s working according to plan, and what needs to be adjusted or updated.
  5. Measurement
    1. Strategy is only ever as good as the outcomes – therefore we need to review our performance. If we’ve set SMART goals it will be much easier to measure our performance, and learn from what we’ve done to optimise or redesign our approach to deliver improved performance in the future.
    2. One of the major benefits of digital media over traditional media is the potential for highly targetted and measurable marketing – measurement is our way of listening to our market and learning from past success and failure.

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