Digital Strategy. Good God, What Is It Good For?
Saving Money, Time, and Jobs. Among Other Things
But there’s a right way (decision-oriented and connected to the outcome) and a wrong way (powerpoint powerpoint powerpoint + 6 months) to create digital strategy.
Technology is getting more approachable. Web services are increasingly easy to engage with and they all seem to promise instant success. From websites that let you build websites to integrated marketing platforms, these services are getting better, more robust, and oriented toward the non-technical or mildly technical marketer.
What does this mean for your digital initiatives? Simply put, you have more options than ever, and also more chances to get it wrong. Having so many options can make decision-making tricky, and integrating multiple services into a seamless experience can be a daunting task.
This ultimately leads to a host of questions when building a digital experience:
- What am I really trying to solve here, and for who?
- How do I know which services work together?
- Which services, platforms and tools are most appropriate for my business objectives?
- How do I future-proof this decision so I don’t have to do this again next year?
Answering those questions is digital strategy. And all of these questions should be answered before an implementation project begins. But you don’t have to – and really shouldn’t – do it alone. A good brand marketing agency partner is not just an execution vendor, but a guide through the landscape that the agency is more familiar with than most client-side leaders. Just as you know your business and landscape – a good agency should know theirs. Leveraging that knowledge to help consult, prioritize decisions and advise on best practices is the true starting point of an engagement.
Starting with a digital strategy that proactively analyzes the current technical landscape, industry trends, and user expectations saves time, money, and sometimes a job or two.
Not Doing Digital Strategy is Expensive.
Before Discovery - Digital Strategy
A digital strategy can be ecosystem wide, or tactical and project oriented. The best (and proven) design thinking methods focus on solving problems through the act of doing—not in long-term abstract planning. So lean towards the strategy project that can activate the fastest. In fact, some of our most valuable pre-discovery strategy projects have been under a month in duration, but orient multiple follow-up projects in the right direction. To get to that kind of rapid value, look for a digital strategy team that has a broad knowledge base and a fairly robust toolbox. And can take on multiple personas in their consultation with you:
- Researcher. Looks for data and new tools to enhance understanding of the problem and potential solutions
- Futurist. Scans the horizon to spot industry trends and stay one step ahead of the competition.
- Architect. Knows how to integrate a network of disparate “best of breed” services into a seamless system, but also when to build something new for your specific needs.
- Translator. Speaks the language(s) of developers, marketers, and designers.
How a rapid digital strategy sets you up for success
There’s often a pressure to see something a competitor has done, and replicate the functionality to catch up. Fast follow, as it were. This invariably leads to a project to mimic it. But mimicry isn’t differentiation. And unfortunately, it’s not always as simple or appropriate to business objectives to just tell a team to “make it like this.”
To counteract thatvery understandablepressure, a digital strategy starts by pinpointing the need that the desired functionality is supposed to fulfill (Then looking for metrics that support that this is an actual problem that needs to be solved in the first place, and qualitative input from teams and stakeholders of the internal and customer experience). Only then can a strategy serve both business stakeholders, technical team members, and end users in finding a solution that meets timing and budgetary requirements.
Remember, there’s no single answer to any of this. A successful digital experience project understands exactly what is trying to be solved, and often blends multiple tools together into a seamless customer experience.
After a strategy is in place and an implementation project is in full swing, it’s important for the strategy team to continue working hand-in-hand with the UX, design, and development teams to ensure it is properly expressed in the final deployment. As a project progresses, decisions are made, plans are amended, and designs are revised. It’s important to re-evaluate regularly to ensure that these incremental decisions don’t have a negative impact on the overall strategic implementation.
So what should I get?
A digital strategy should be building and sharing the following types of deliverables:
- Heuristic Analysis (user experience/UI). Reviews your current interface and compares it against best practices. The result of this analysis is a list of potential usability issues.
- User Flows. Illustrates a user’s path through your experience to a desired result. (read: conversion path) (read: dollars)
- Analytics strategy. Defines the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for the deliverables and the strategy required to properly measure success.
- Platform recommendations. Looks at platforms that fulfill the project requirements along with pros and cons for each.
Wrap it up already
A strategy project should be connected to what that strategy creates. But that means you do the strategy work first, and keep it focused. In most cases – it should be a small engagement. Before picking a design pattern, a platform, any specific solution – engage your agency partner to consult with you. In the broader scope of the implementation, it will enhance the impact of the outcome, and may even save you money. Or at least make your money go farther for your customer.
Because that’s what it’s all about. Customers don’t come to you because you have an amazing strategy. They come to you for the experience you deliver. And to deliver the right experience, take a moment up front to create the guiding strategy to get there.
This blog was written by Mark Quayle and was originally published here by XO Agency. If you enjoyed it, then good news because XO Agency will be exhibiting and hosting a seminar session at The B2B Marketing Expo California- take a look!