The Basic Pillars of a Digital StrategyMonday, December 21, 2009 8:07
The most difficult part of formulating your Digital Strategy is staring at that blank screen and blinking cursor, trying to figure out where to start. What helps is starting with a “Cheat Sheet.” The basics that need to be flushed out before you can even call it a Digital Strategy. I’ve put together several Digital Strategies for various different brands. Through lots of trial and error, Google searches, and standing on the shoulders of giants, I’ve finally put together a basic template I use when I start. It consists of six headings with the questions I have to have answered before I can even claim to have a basic strategy.
When this Digital Strategy is completed and executed successfully, what will be the outcome? What are you trying to achieve? Increased brand awareness? A 5% reduction in calls to the call centre? A 2% increase in sales in your North East market? Or as simple as getting 10,000 followers on Twitter? Perhaps it’s a better connection with your audience by answering 100 questions per month via online channels? You have to know why you are putting together the strategy and how you will know if you’ve executed is successfully.
Another part of the objectives is the constraints. As much as we’d all love to hear, “Take as much time and money you need to reach the objectives,” chances are you have constraints. This is where you also lay out the timelines and budget as you understand them, as well as any assumptions you are making in the rest of the strategy
Who is your audience? What are their demographics? Are they even digital people? If so, where do they congregate? Are they primarily email users only? Do they read blogs, or do they only read “real” news sites like CNN or New York Times? Are they actively engaged in social media sites? Are they Facebook / Twitter users? Would they actually subscribe to Fan Pages? You have to have a very good idea of where your audience is, how they interact in the digital world, and what they would find relevant and engaging.
OK, so now you know where your audience is and what you want to achieve. Where are you starting? Start with an audit of the digital assets you already have on hand. Domain names, logos, videos, websites (active and old “cobweb-sites”), social media profiles, etc. What are your building blocks?
Next phase of the audit is to understand how your brand is already perceived and being talked about in the digital world. Start with Google searches on your brand names, your product or service sphere and your competitors’. Set up Google Alerts to notify you when you are mentioned. Look at your existing web properties and analyse the incoming links. Where are your visitors coming from? Monitor your search engine logs to see what they’re looking for. Consider using a free or paid social media monitoring tool to dig even deeper. I’ve used Trendrr and YackTrack on the free side with varying degrees of success, though your mileage may vary. On the paid side, you could look at VoxTrot, BuzzMetrics or Cymfony.
Now is also a great time to do a competitive audit. What are you competitors doing? What’s working for them? What sort of commitment are they putting into their Digital Strategy? Do all of the above for your competitors and gauge where you stack up in your market.
The $1,000,000 question. Now that you know what you hope to achieve, what’s already out there, what assets you have on hand, and what your audience wants, what are you going to do? In your audit, you may have found some low hanging fruit. Quick executions to start building some momentum with low cost and quick wins to put the wind in everyone’s sails.
First, look at your existing websites. Are they relevant? Do they even provide the basics? Do they speak to your targetted audience? Or to your shareholders? Or to new recruits? Maybe you want to look at a complete overhaul in one fell swoop, but often time, the existing brand sites may benefit from a phased execution. Do you need special sites targetted to special segments of your audience or specific campaigns (also know as micro-sites). Is the content on your sites current? Are they optimized for Search Engines?
Second, look at your audience profile to help determine if and how you want to engage your audience. Does the CEO need a blog? Or the heads of various business or product units? What information will you share? Who will write the blogs? Your PR or Marketing group? Or the person in charge? What Legal sign-offs are required? How often will the blogs be updated? Do you need a support forum? Do you have Frequently Asked Questions that could be found in an FAQ on your site? What about connecting via Social Media platforms? Is your audience active there? Do you want to have one (or many) Twitter accounts? What about front-line employees? How engaged do you want them to be in your connections with your audience? These are just a few of the questions that come from the audience profile.
Third, look outside your own assets. Should you be getting engaged on other sites? Sites that specialize in your product or service area. Will you monitor the forums and respond to questions about topics about your product or brand? Will you comment on other blogs about topics in your area? In short, how engaged will you be in the so-called blogosphere?
And the final question… what can you accomplish in the time and budget you have, and what part of the roadmap is for future consideration for the elusive Phase II.
(I will write further about the execution of the strategy when I post about 2MCE)
Wouldn’t it be nice if you put together a plan, executed it, and then were done? Sadly, it’s just the beginning. The Digital Strategy needs to outline what the ongoing commitment to the strategy will entail. If you are relaunching your main sites, who’s responsible for making sure that content is fresh, updated and relevant? Who’s responsible for answering email queries about products and services? Who is responsible for monitoring the web and tracking mentions of your company, your brand and your key people? What will they do with that information? Who will be monitoring the blogs for mentions of your sphere and be able to answer questions, complaint and concerns in the comments in a professional manner? Who will monitor your own Social Media properties and put a human, social “face” behind your brand? This is an on-going operational cost, not a project cost. If you can’t get a commitment on the commitment, it’s time to rethink your Digital Strategy.
How will you know if you succeded? There is a post coming soon about how to measure ROI on the web, but suffice for now to say that it’s not easy to find quanititive measures. What are your measures of success? Is it site visitors? Press mentions? Blog mentions? Followers on Twitter? Fans on your Facebook page? Or something more subtle such as level of engagement by your evangelistic base? Blog mentions vs. your baseline? Google PageRank? Revenue in the North East territory? Call volumes? Go back to your Objectives and bring it full circle by showing how what you measure will prove (or disprove) your success against your objectives.
There you have it. The 6 basic pillars of a Digital Strategy. Of course, you could have more (lots more), and in the coming weeks and months, I’ll elaborate on the Digital Strategy and discuss other pillars to a strong Strategy. But if you think through these basics, you’ll be well on your way to online success!