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6 steps to building a long-term digital strategy to support business goals

In spite of the ever-changing nature of the digital world, every organization needs a sustainable strategy that supports business goals. Here’s how to effectively implement one.

“Let’s make an app,” too often seems to be the magic solution to any marketing and business challenge these days. We’ve all been there in one way or another – making decisions regarding digital on impulse on a hunch, or merely because we were afraid of falling behind the pack.

Don’t get me wrong. In many cases an app might be the answer. When it comes to digital however, we do need to start taking on more future-oriented thinking and look beyond the world of short-term buzz, traffic, and views.

Maybe you are thinking digital technology is advancing too rapidly for any of us to accurately plan for the years ahead. My belief is that, in order for digital to make a real difference to any business, you need a plan.

Making the case for digital marketing

Getting buy-in from the top should be the start of any digital strategy. Here are three ways marketers can convince their senior executives of digital’s true value:

  1. Reintroduce the consumer to your C-suite.
  2. Measure and report what matters.
  3. Break digital marketing out of the marketing department.

My previous column on how to make a business case for digital marketing explains this in more detail, but this step-by-step toolkit further elaborates on how to effectively build strategic roadmaps in order to get the most out of digital as possible.

The digital planning process

The long-term digital planning process is split into two basic phases:

  • Understand
  • Build

In turn, these phases consist of several building blocks:

Phase one: understand

This phase is all about auditing and assessing business objectives, consumer behaviors, competitors, and existing digital assets.

1. Know your business objectives

Make sure you have a clear picture of your organization’s business goals:

  • Where is the company heading?
  • What will be the key drivers of future business growth?

2. Know your audience

Get a more holistic understanding of your target audience, including their digital behaviors. This starts by understanding integrated consumer insights generation methodology.

3. Study the competition

Create a digital scorecard system that helps you to not only review your competitor’s activities, but also to compare their overall digital performance with your current assets. Depending on the nature of the project, I would usually evaluate quantitative elements linked to a brand’s digital footprint as well as qualitative aspects, such as content quality or overall website experience.

Phase two: build

1. Digital vision

The digital vision is a future-oriented statement of intent for how digital channels and technologies will be used to drive business. This statement also functions as a skeleton for evaluating opportunity spaces within any given year.

Writing a good vision statement usually takes time and often multiple iterations. It helps to get key decision makers from within the company as well as from agency side into a collaborative workshop setting to brainstorm, assessing initial directions and aligning on a final territory. The actual crafting of the statement can then be tackled within a smaller working team.

Remember to be ambitious, while maintaining a healthy level of realism.

2. Digital priorities

Once you are aligned on a vision statement, reexamine your company’s business goals and priorities for the coming years through a digital lens. Ask yourself this question: “How can digital help me achieve each goal?”

After you have the answers, assign one digital focus area to each year you are planning for. Here’s an example of what this could look like:

  • Year One: Fix the basics of existing assets
  • Year Two: Deepen customer engagement

For a more structured approach on deciding what type of digital solutions should be implemented within each of the focus areas, it helps to develop a framework, like the ABCD palette of digital solutions.

Based on your focus areas, the split of these four solution fields will vary for each year of your long-term strategy. Of course, the above framework is just an example and should be tailor-made to your company’s specific needs.

3. Digital creative platforms

A digital creative platform is an original thought with the purpose of determining a voice for how your brand interacts with consumers online. It must be inspiring and grounded in your brand’s overall positioning.

4. Tactics

These are the actual digital executions that are directly informed by your digital priorities, while also bringing the spirit of your creative platform to life. Over time, the assembly of these strategically guided tactics will eventually help you turn your digital vision into reality.

5. Metrics

Every long-term roadmap also needs to feature a metrics framework that answers the question: “How will I measure performance and success?”

Similar to the prioritization framework, this should be cascaded from a specific perspective on the business, in order to avoid a misguided or, even worse, a random accumulation of data.

6. Responsibilities

Last but not least, to make sure your plan is actually implemented, it’s crucial to have a clear, shared understanding of who is responsible and accountable for what. Some clear guidelines or a responsibility assignment matrix can save each party involved a lot of frustration.

In conclusion

The bottom line is that digital has become an integral part of all of our lives. When we look for information or when we want to buy, we increasingly turn to digital. Who wouldn’t agree that in a world like this, long-term thinking with a strategic plan is a must?

What are your thoughts? Feel free to leave your comments below.

by Andreas Krasser