Developing a digital marketing strategy in the real world

Developing a digital marketing strategy in the real world

It’s been a few weeks since I have blogged here. Sometimes you are just too busy to find the time to commit your thoughts to paper (well you know what I mean). Sometimes you are formulating your thoughts so you actually can commit them to paper. Developing a digital marketing strategy is a bit like that.

You rarely have the luxury of starting at the beginning. All of the things that have gone before and the complexity that the real world brings help define the starting point and the challenge you face.  In terms of the particular digital strategy I am working on now that includes the following;

  • A marketing strategy that has evolved over time and defines the right but fairly top line starting point.
  • A complex set of stakeholders with an equally complex set of requirements.
  • An organisation that comes from a traditional campaigns led heritage and one that in many respects is struggling to get to grips with the new marketing environment in which it operates.
  • Digital marketing is managed across three different teams who often approach things somewhat differently and have a different set of priorities.
  • There are three key marketing agencies, each with their own particular view and set of skills, that need to work together effectively to develop and deliver integrated marketing activity across online and offline channels.
  • A significant reduction in resources – financial, people, time and mouse clicks.

Sound familiar? So where do you begin? The SOSTAC® planning system provides one useful framework through which you can start looking at each of the following;

  1. Situation Analysis – Where are we now?
  2. Objectives – Where do we want to be?
  3. Strategy – How do we get there?
  4. Tactics – How exactly do we get there?
  5. Actions – Who does what and when?
  6. Control – How do we monitor performance?

In this particular case the word ‘framework’ is an important one.  Defining answers to the first three questions provides a mechanism for pulling together the different stakeholders and teams I have already mentioned and helping define a direction of travel for the organisation. One that everyone in the organisation can sign up to. One that helps the individual marketing agencies involved work together on their specific areas to define the fourth question ‘How exactly do we get there’?.

My job is often about breaking things down into their component parts, simplifying them and finding a solution that works once you put it all back together again. In terms of developing digital marketing strategy and helping define the answer to the question ‘How do we get there?’ you can break things down into four key areas that between them form some of the cornerstones of digital marketing.

1. Content

When someone said ‘Content is King’ they weren’t kidding. What content is required for what purpose at what point on the customer journey for which customer? You need to think about who is responsible for that content and how it is going to be created and managed.  Don’t forget about the network of content creators that exist around your particular product or service – from within your organisation, other organisations and your customers. Figure out how to make that network work for your benefit.

2. Distribution

The 3D media landscape – owner media, earned media and bought media. These are content distribution channels. Where does the responsibility for each lie, how are things changing and what are the consequences for your organisation? What defines your strategy in each? Think integrated and figure out how they work to support each across increasingly complex and messy customer journeys.  Remember multi-channel is best.

3. Platforms

This includes your own digital marketing platforms – your website, your blog and your email. You also need to think about third party, social and other brand platforms.  There are an ever increasing number of them.  Multiple platforms need to be set up and managed in such a way that they support each other, your brand and your specific marketing objectives.

4. People

Every business is a people business. Be clear about who your customers are, what they think and what they do. Use customer personas and customer journey planning to help drive the insights you need. Pay as much attention to those involved in delivering the marketing programme – it’s got to work for them too. Which teams and agencies are responsible for which bits and how does it work across the piece?

Manage today and plan for tomorrow

Get real.  Unless you are starting with a completely clean sheet of paper those four things are probably not going to fit together perfectly. There will be compromise.  Furthermore, you and your agency team are likely to be dealing with ‘now’ so you need to create a framework and environment where you can manage today and plan for tomorrow.

Over time you can improve things, implement change and drive better performance. Think about what changes you need to make and over what timescales you can realistically achieve them.  Give those involved the headspace they need to think about the future as well as the time to deal with today.