Why creating a digital strategy before you jump online makes all the difference
Oftentimes, a company will call me because they are looking for someone to manage their social media feeds. There’s an assumption that simply jumping on Facebook or Instagram and slapping up a blog post or two will magically transform their brand and generate tons of success.
If only that were the case! We’d all be so wealthy… (personally I’d buy an island.)
But reality being the tough place it is, simply jumping on social media
– or email, or hosting an event, or revamping your website, or any marketing tactic you can name –
is not going to do much of anything, unless you put some thought behind it and think about what success looks like for your company, and how it can be measured.
This, ladies & gentlemen, is your strategy; and if you implement a digital program without a strategy, you are wasting your money.
How serious am I?
If you have 50k to burn on digital marketing and don’t believe in strategies, then I’d advise you to actually burn it, because Canada is a very cold country and then, at least, it might warm someone’s hands for four minutes, and that’s about as much ROI as you’re going to get from that money.
Let’s break it down to the three most compelling reasons you need a digital strategy BEFORE you begin digital marketing:
1. To streamline your activities/budget
Don’t you just love brainstorming sessions? The free flow of ideas – each one an activity that carries the sincere hope of success. The excitement when one person shares an outlandish concept only to collaboratively map a way to make it happen… It’s so much fun.
Of course, at the end of a session, you are left with a long list of ‘brilliant ideas’ that, on their own, really are cool, but will they succeed? It’s a tough question to answer when you’re not quite sure what success means to your marketing/company.
The first thing a strategy defines is your goal, then the objectives that support that goal.
These objectives must be measurable because they will define the success or failure of a program. This means that those goals must be aligned with your company’s goals (i.e. your business plan goals.)
This is critical, because if your marketing program is not aligned with whatever your company needs to be successful, it’ll fail the business.
For example, let’s say you live or die by the amount of in-person consultations you do, yet you’re marketing your (un-related) speaking engagements. Unless your speaking gigs are the main driver of in-person consultations, you’re wasting your time/money.
A strategy ensures that the actions you take are going to support your business and eliminates those activities that won’t bolster the bottom line. This protects you from the pitfall of investing in a program that looks cool, but does nothing (a common issue in digital marketing.)
2. To keep your staff sane
Streamlining activities has two major impacts: It reduces/targets your budget (as per above) but, more importantly, it helps keep your staff sane.
(Anyone who doesn’t think this is more important is not yet familiar with the cost of replacing and training valuable team members!)
Chaos creates burnout.
Digital marketing has a lot of moving parts; web, email, social, SEO, blogs… This equals a LOT of content generation and monitoring each month, week, day, to make it work.
I can speak from almost a decade of experience when I tell you that, to create this much content, then to post, monitor and report back on it, without a game plan, will burn out your staff within eight weeks. Four if they are unexperienced.
If ‘staff’ really refers to you, because you’re an owner-operator, then believe me when I say “IT’S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.” I give you four weeks before you’re crying in the corner, gripping your favourite bottle of whisky and cursing Mark Zuckerberg and his pals for ruining your business/life.
The reality is that, if your team members care about the quality of work they do, and you don’t have a plan to streamline or measure their efforts, they will burn out. It’s inevitable.
Even if they miraculously manage to keep it going, if the there’s no rhyme or reason behind the plan, at some point, you, as a decision maker, will question why you’re paying for it at all. You will wonder aloud if any of its working, and your poor exhausted staff will feel utterly dejected and probably start polishing their CV. And really, do you blame them?
We must recognize that digital marketing takes time, skill and consistent effort. If your staff are managing more than one responsibility, give them the gift of a strategically streamlined program that provides benchmarks to inform their performance, and allows them to take pride in the program’s – and therefore the company’s – success.
3. Measurable results
Speaking of success…
With digital marketing, it’s entirely possible to be super successful on the internet without any of that success impacting your business.
Will 400 likes on a facebook post help your business? On the surface, you might say ‘yes’, but what if you sell medical devices for seniors in Arizona and the likes came from older teens in Brazil?
Will 3000 hits to your website mean 3000 downloads of your new app? It’s certainly a nice traffic number to present to a client, but hits are only meaningful if your website is functional, and if those 3000 people are in your target demographic.
When you work with companies that are tactically focused i.e. A website builder, an SEO company, a copywriting feelancer, they are only able to give you those superficial metrics, but at no point can they link those metrics to your bottom line in a hard-numbers way.
It’s not their fault, and it actually sucks for them, because they might do an amazing job as per what you asked them to do, but if it doesn’t impact the bottom line, guess who takes the brunt of the blame nonetheless?
But when you work with a digital strategist first, it’s so much better, because you can figure out the benchmarks ahead of time, and present those to your tacticians who have the expertise to implement a program that will get you there. ‘There’ is defined. Now everyone is on the same page…
When you have a strategy, the numbers look more like this:
Goal: Get 100 sales in 2018
Research: We know that 4000 website hits = 200 downloads (5% average micro conversion rate). 200 Downloads at 50% conversion rate to paid version = 100 sales.
Objective: Increase traffic to website among 35 year old female gamers to 4000 hits by X date
Now we know how much traffic we need to generate (4000 hits) and who we need to get those hits from (35-year-old female gamers). The latter informs where and how we generate those hits as we develop the strategy.
Warning: Exclamation Marks Ahead
So now your staff/vendors know what they must do (*relief*), and the rest of the plan is going to outline exactly how to go about it. The success is clearly defined!
Each quarter, the digital marketer will not only pull out the general metrics, but will compare those numbers to what is outlined in the digital strategy. This action is what connects your program to your business results!
The best part of this is that, when success doesn’t happen, you can immediately reverse engineer to find out the source of the problem (lower micro conversions that expected, perhaps? Either the quality of the traffic or the functionality of the site is to blame) and course correct so that your budget and your staff’s sanity is always leveraged!
Sitting down to develop a strategy is not as sexy or fun as a free-for-all brainstorming session, but figuring out a measurable game plan that meets your goals while respecting your budget and resources is a smart decision, and the only way to run a successful marketing program over the long term.