Implementing a digital strategy

by Barry on September 10, 2010

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Too many brands are developing a Facebook page only because their CMO read in a trade magazine that they should be on Facebook but they have no idea of why. The end result is that some marketing manager deep within the organization creates a Facebook page, posts one or two promotional videos, or perhaps a copy of their television ad, but it is completely disconnected from their brands and from their campaigns that are in-market. The result is lost opportunity and brand confusion in the marketplace. This all could have been avoiding by having a proper digital strategy.

When developing your digital strategy, your strategy needs to be integrated with your overall marketing strategy so that you have a cohesive brand and user experience. You want customers to experience the same brand and campaign traits regardless if they are in one of your stores, talking to one of your reps on the phone, reading an email from your company, visiting your web site, viewing banner ads, or posting updates to your Facebook wall.

The first step is to define your digital strategy, followed by executing on the strategy, and then testing and optimizing your strategy, as described below.

Phase 1 – Define your digital strategy
Defining your digital strategy is crucial to ensuring that it is on-market, and that it is integrated with your overall marketing objectives and your off-line campaigns. The steps to developing your digital strategy are:

  1. Define your marketing objectives. What are the measurable goals that you want to accomplish? For example, are you building brand awareness or driving customer acquisitions?
  2. Define your target audience. Understand your customers’ demographics (market size, age, income, education, location), ethnographics (common values and traits, hobbies, likes, dislikes, needs), and psychographics (values, attitudes and lifestyles).
  3. Understand best practices. You need to have a handle on the latest best practices and on what your competitors are doing. This data informs your decision on what needs to be included. You can gleam best practices from the leading research firms such as Forrester Research (including Jupiter), Gartner, and Yankee Group, and from performing a competitive review. However do not fall into the trap thinking that you must include every best practice or feature from a competitor. This gives you a starting point for your decisions.
  4. Define your KPIs. Understand how you will measure success. Select the key measures that will let you know how you are doing. Include a mix of five to eight indicators, including both leading and lagging indicators.
  5. Define your digital platform. The platform defines which mediums you will be using however as the campaigns are not yet developed, this is a preliminary list of how digital will be used. As the team develops concepts during the execution phase, this platform list will evolve.

Below is a list of digital platforms. It should also be noted that this list is constantly evolving as new technologies and platforms are introduced:

  • Sites: Landing pages, microsites, websites, white-labeled sites, SEO, blogs, CRM, games
  • Social media: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube
  • Affiliates: WOM, bloggers, sponsorships, advertorials, forums and interest groups
  • Outbound communications: Email, Newsletters, RSS feeds
  • Mobile: applications (iOS, Android OS, Blackberry OS), SMS
  • Promotions: Coupons
  • Paid media: display ads, text ads, pop-ups, integrated video ads, interstitial ads, page take-overs, SEM, game placement, interactive television

Phase 2 – Execute on the strategy
Many people believe that strategy ends once it is defined however this is really only the beginning. The next step is to execute on the strategy.

Every agency has their own process for execution however they are all based on the same basic process albeit sometimes with slightly different names, as follows.

Concepting. Concepting starts with the development of the creative brief, which is typically developed by the account team and approved by the client. Once the creative brief is approved, the next step is to conduct a kickoff meeting with the creative team where the creative brief is presented and the creative team brainstorms ideas. The results of the brainstorm are evaluated by the Creative Director, who will determine which concepts are worthy of continued exploration. The creative team fully develops those concepts and presents them to the account team, who reviews them, and may cull them down even further. Finally the concepts are presented to the client for review and selection. Agencies typically present three to five concepts, from which the client will select one or two to execute. The concepts include a graphical treatment and copy points, and demonstrate how the executions will be used across the different platforms.

Design. Using the client-selected concepts, the creative team will finish designing the executions. The actual work varies greatly depending on the executions. For example, the process for executing a web site is much different from developing flash display ads or a Facebook site.

Simultaneously the technology/production team develops the functional specification and technical specification (if required).

Develop. Once design wraps up and is approved by the client, the technology/production team codes and tests the work. Again, the process varies greatly depending on the executions but the phases generally includes coding, testing, and client approval.

Deploy. Once the client has reviewed and approved the work, it is released. Web sites are pushed to web servers by working with the client’s technology team or ISP, paid advertising is trafficked to the media partner, Facebook content is loaded onto Facebook, and so forth.

Phase 3 – Test and optimize your strategy
Optimization is critical to the success of your digital strategy. Most campaigns either skip optimization, or they minimize it, mostly due to cost concerns. Agencies need to become better at selling optimization to clients, and clients need to understand how critical this phase really is.

Two common testing techniques are A/B testing and multivariate testing. A/B testing allows you to test two items, such as two landing pages or two banner executions to see which performs better. Multivariate testing is a bit more complex as it allow you to test multiple variables at a time, and can have an endless amount of possible combinations.

During optimization, you measure the results and make changes as required. The optimization can include changes to the creative, copy points, technology, and paid media. For example, in managing SEM keywords, you may find that fine-tuning the keyword purchase or better targeted segments may increase conversions.

Further discussion
This article only touches the high-level points. You can dive into any of these areas pretty much as deep as you desire. For example, more and more companies are realizing the value of optimization and analytics, which experts are in high demand right now.

For further information on developing your strategy, there are many excellent resources that you can use. One of my favorites is the book On Competition by Michael Porter.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

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