The challenge for the directors and managers is how to tell the good from the bad.
While digital strategies vary in scope, quality and origin, here are the key reasons for having them:
To ensure all areas of the business are efficiently using digital channels and, in particular, to align IT and marketing team objectives.
- To avoid duplication of expensive technology solutions and resources.
- To leverage opportunities presented by the ever-changing behaviour of consumers and the ever-increasing range of channels they use.
- To present the brand in a consistent manner for consumers and ensure all issues or engagements with consumers are effectively resolved.
Based on this, there are five essential questions to ask of any digital strategy:
- What is the scope of the strategy?
A good digital strategy spans a wide variety of digital touchpoints, but still has clear boundaries and intersection points with other business documents.
It should clearly address all digital external touchpoints with stakeholders, including the media, job applicants and shareholders, but it shouldn’t cover off internal activities – for example, extranets, enterprise resource planning or document-management systems.
Leave internal workflow or process stuff to your IT strategy. IT strategies tend to have one point of ownership and don’t need the complexities involved with external-facing digital strategies.
- Does your strategy clearly connect to the customer’s use of digital?
Many digital strategies are developed with a strong focus on IT solutions and business needs, clearly laying out what these are.
But ultimately it will be how the customer interacts with your digital communications and offerings that will determine their success.
The development of a good strategy must involve input from, or an understanding of, the key user audience.
For example, while businesses are often keen for customers to self-serve so they can reduce costs, customers will only play that game if it suits their needs and desires.
Ensure the customer voice is clearly represented in the strategy.
- Is your strategy based on strategic principles, rather than specific technologies and platforms?
Having a Facebook page is not a strategy, it’s an execution. A digital strategy should be articulated based around the key areas of functionality, content and engagement required, and how this connects to business objectives.
Once these are outlined, they can then be executed based on the appropriate channel or platform of the moment.
Launching a new customer relationship management platform or mobile app may be the right thing to do, but without grounding your actions in strategic rationale, your business won’t be nimble enough to adapt if your digital environment changes. And it can change pretty quickly!
- Do the digital executions clearly align with the business objectives and have the key performance indicators for both been connected?
Most elements of digital execution are really easy to measure – number of likes, visitors to a website or open rate on an email.
However, connecting these metrics to tangible business outcomes like sales, increased share of wallet or reduced churn can be difficult and, therefore, are often only referenced in vague or relational terms.
A clear strategy will link these measurables back to the business objectives.
This is essential to ensuring your digital spend remains relevant to the business and doesn’t blow out.
- Does your strategy cover an ongoing approach with clear “test and learn” elements?
Digital is for life, not just for Christmas, and if your strategy ends with a silver bullet like “launch the new website”, it’s likely to fail.
The most effective digital strategies have the concepts of test-and-learn and “incremental improvement” baked in, as well as a roll-out plan that starts with the minimum viable product and progresses from there based on learnings and insights from the field.
If the digital strategy you are presented with stands up to being asked these five questions, it’s likely that the more prosaic elements – such as technology selection, channel plans and content alignment to audience – will be well thought through and that the strategy will be effective in driving the business forward.