Solving the digital strategy puzzle

by Bernie Johnson
01 Jul 2011
8 min read
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Solving the digital strategy puzzle

My best friend growing up as a kid was Billy Fish. He wasn’t exactly a full-blooded nerd, but Billy was super smart and had a penchant for problem solving - he was the first kid I knew who could complete a Rubik’s cube without peeling the coloured stickers off. By far however, the pièce de résistance of Billy’s childhood was one Christmas day when he put together a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle in under 3 hours. The guy was a freak.

What stuck with me though was the way Billy approached this particular problem. Before he even began laying the jigsaw pieces out on the floor, looking for the corner tiles to start, he stood staring at the picture on the box for a good 2 minutes. It was a bit weird. When I asked him what he was doing, he simply said –

“You’ve gotta get a good picture in your head of what the end looks like before you start.”

So what the hell has this got to do with Digital Strategy? Well, everything.

As Australian advertisers and marketers, we have so many digital channels at our disposal these days; each offering multiple levers for us to pull. Take a look just at SEM. We have paid search, contextual search, affiliate marketing, standard display, rich media, behavioural targeting, retargeting, attribution ...and the list goes on. Add to that considerations around cost-per-clicks, cost-per-mille, cost-per-acquisition, demand side platforms & real-time bidding and it can all be a little mind boggling.

In order to create the maximum impact – and realise the highest ROI – from any digital activity, we must first have an overarching strategic vision to start from. The simplest way to look at this is to focus on what the marketing objectives are for your brand – is it to sell more products, to generate leads, to improve customer satisfaction or to build greater brand advocacy? At the core you need to be answering the question “what customer problem are we trying to solve here?”

This strategic vision will then help you choose which specific activities you should implement to solve your Digital Strategy puzzle.

Website Strategy:

Your website is front-and-centre. It’s the place your customers come to research more about your products, services and brand; but ultimately it’s the place where conversions happen. The irony of so many digital campaigns is that millions are spent on paid search, driving traffic to a website, but people have such a horrible time when they reach the landing pages, that they leave immediately. This is where all the talk about website usability, emotive language and good creative design come into play. Your website needs to be aligned with your overarching strategic vision – what customer problem are you trying to solve?

Email Strategy:

It’s the old, ugly cousin of social media and mobile, but email still delivers the highest ROI amongst all digital channels. The beauty of email marketing these days is that we can get very smart with segmentation and personalisation to ensure messaging is completely tailored for the recipient. Again, starting with your strategic vision in mind, develop an email contact strategy which creates personalised touch points for your customers and multiple opportunities for them to interact with your brand. Send them a thankyou when they order, but follow up with an email a few weeks later asking about their experience with your brand. Find out what’s important to them and keep the conversation personal.

Social Media Strategy:

This is where it gets really important to have your strategic vision in mind, well before you stick up your Facebook page. First define the objectives of what you’re trying to do socially (sell more products, generate leads, improve customer satisfaction, build greater brand advocacy etc) and then decide the KPIs you will use to measure success, such as exposure and brand sentiment. It’s imperative you also have content guidelines in place before you jump head-first into social, outlining the channels you will be active in and the tone of voice and personality for each (keep in mind that Facebook is a very different beast to Twitter). Once you have built a social base you can implement strategies for activation.

Mobile Strategy:

There will be a time in the not-too-distant future where mobile content consumption (people viewing your website or app through a mobile device) will be greater than desktop consumption. So future-proofing needs to start now. One of the great debates underway is the value that an app will deliver over a mobile-site. Currently apps are much more functional and deliver a better user experience, but this could very well change with the impending transition to HTML 5.

SEM and SEO Strategy:

Whether you are happy to pay for traffic to your site or you prefer to focus your efforts on optimisation and higher rankings in Google, the alignment with your overarching strategic vision needs to be there. It’s wasted effort if search traffic isn’t qualified and this is compounded by poorly designed landing pages. The smarts of attribution now give us the ability to track profit across SEM and SEO spend for each media source, campaign and individual ad, further emphasising the importance of search and display in the digital value chain.

So, the big challenge we face as advertisers & marketers is achieving brand and message consistency throughout all of our digital activities. With so much fragmentation and so many options to choose from, it’s imperative we start by first visualising the bigger picture we are working towards. You might not be as quick as Billy Fish and solve your digital strategy puzzle in 3 hours, but you’ll be well on your way.

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