Since I’m the new Digital Strategist at Mass Media I thought it would be a worthwhile to solidify my thoughts on what digital strategy is, how it should be approached and how it helps our clients with their digital activity. I’d love this to be a conversation so if you agree, disagree, have questions, whatever hit me up!
Digital strategy gives us a framework for activity. More important than the initial strategy is how you structure ongoing activity to continually learn, revise and optimise the various facets of your digital presence.
At the broadest level strategy is the answer to a question, “how can I most effectively allocate my resources to get the maximum business return?” The breadth of insights, tools, technologies, devices, channels and customer segments available for us to choose from make answering this question more daunting every day.
Up until the last 10 – 15 years a marketing plan was relatively straight-forward. You bought as many eye-balls as you could, uncovered a compelling insight (sometimes) about your “consumers” and then produced a creative marvel (sometimes) that “cut through the clutter”.
The fragmented media landscape, ease of communication scale and sense of customer empowerment mean that the most successful modern communications have surpassed their analogue one-way predecessors and:
- Built business strategies based on customer decisions
- Created new markets through community building and product innovation
- Re-invented customer support while galvanising staff and customers
- Re-built our cities into interactive playgrounds of discovery
The possibilities to re-invent, revolutionise and create actual value are now infinite – it’s more important now than ever to have a framework, a strategy, to structure how you navigate through endless choices whilst getting the most out of your activity.
Reaching an Answer
Unlike the bulls-eye creative campaigns of yesteryear, a digital strategy won’t give you the final ‘answer’, nor should it. Digital is immediate and fluid, unlike previous mediums it gives us realtime feedback on how customers are interacting with us.
The answer to ground-breaking digital is to continuously test, learn, revise, optimise and learn:
- Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg quote: “move fast and break things”
- Zynga (Farmville, Cityville etc… just IPO’d at $7 bn) founder Mark Pincus on testing being his most important business lesson
- Twitter was an audio-blog until they figured audio-blogging wasn’t really going anywhere
- Groupon was The Point, a site to help you campaign until they discovered they could merge crowd-sourcing and coupons into one giant mess of commercialism
These companies, all digital juggernauts, all accept one thing, they don’t have all the answers. They compensate this fact by constantly refining their products to better serve their customers while staying true to their core strategies (most of the time). If we want to build successful digital properties we would be well advised to take a leaf out of their books (e-readers?) and follow suit. The lesson learned is more important than the work produced, it helps test our thinking and helps move us towards a better set of solutions.
A strategy should never be static. It should never be a 300 page powerpoint deck that sits in a drawer and is never read. It should be a framework that is flexible, organic and evolves over time – just like natural selection. I find the best way to constantly think about the strategic framework is by breaking up thinking in three layers. A strategic onion if you will.
Primary: The first layer focuses on optimising your activity. What are we doing? How do we do it better. It is analytics heavy and uses A/B and multivalent testing to continually refine and optimise.
Secondary: The second layer looks at identifying successful activity and introducing them into new untested channels. We’ve got a great booking engine, let’s build an application for it that can live on other sites. Out blog is successful, let’s extend our community into a new channel. Our sales process rocks, let’s optimise it and reduce resource outlay.
Tertiary: The final layer (my personal favourite) looks at broader trends and our place in the market. What could potentially threaten our position in the market? What broader opportunities are there for us? Are we in danger of loosing relevance? How can we innovate? This layer looks to stare the Innovator’s Dilemma square in the face and overcome it.
Throughout the strategic process the most important factor is… our client! I think it’s impossible to create a powerful digital strategy without close collaboration with the business owner and expert. More on that in another post