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‘Strategy’ is a word that we tend to use casually in our day-to-day business, but it is often misinterpreted. Therefore, it is important that we start off with an accurate understanding of what we mean when we talk about ‘strategy’.
Digital strategies govern how digital is used to achieve commercial goals. A key foundation of digital strategy, that you will learn, is that it is primarily about understanding your audience, their behaviors and how you might craft new behavior that involves your brand, product, or services online. Strategy can regularly be mistaken for tactics. Short-term, generally more imminent, specific goals fit under the ‘tactics’ moniker, whereas strategy is about your long-term digital objectives and operates across all of the digital channels your customer utilizes.
In short, digital strategies are plans that operate across all digital channels used by your organization or client to target audiences with creative formats working together to drive towards a single objective or set of objectives. Digital can be how you are using content on any of your online channels. Digital can also be how you use paid advertising to reach people. Digital can be how your customer connects with your brand; for example, by buying online, clicking like on Facebook, or tweeting about your brand. True digital practitioners utilize all three to get results.
A digital strategy involves a mix of setting goals, executing tactics and attempting to achieve high level business results. It is also a blueprint for your use of digital. From the start, everyone should be aware of, and committed to, a clear purpose and clearly identified success outcomes. So from the very start, what we have to be aware of is that we have to be committed to a really clear purpose and really clearly identified success outcomes. Because if you don't know why you're doing it and what the end goal needs to be then actually, what are you chasing as a result of using digital?
Before we really dive deeper into strategy, you first need to understand the core elements of digital strategy development, and there's five of them:
Objectives is about setting the goals and outcomes you are trying to achieve with your plan overall and from the individual elements that make up the plan.
Objectives usually fall into three main categories:
These are the types of behaviors that can be most effectively influenced by digital channels.
Firstly, we need to identify the awareness levels of our product or brand. We can do this by doing some keyword research using our brand name or product name in tools like the Google Keyword Planner or Google Trends as well as our own knowledge of the market. If levels are low, we will have to make people aware of the existence and benefits of the product to them in order to drive sales or conversions down the line. Banners and outbound display and video on websites and social media are good approaches to drive awareness.
If there is some awareness of our product but the market is cluttered or our product needs differentiation, we can use reach and frequency of messaging to drive recall of the USPs (unique selling propositions) or ESPs (emotional selling propositions) of our product to encourage consideration in the decision-making process of our consumers. Again, outbound display and social, as well as wider organic and paid search, can help drive consideration.
Ultimately, we will want to drive sales or conversions for our brand or product. These can be online or offline and will build on the awareness and consideration-based activities from the previous two stages to encourage people to take action and buy or convert. We can use search channels to drive this type of objective.
Finally, for retention – keeping previous customers engaged to encourage brand advocacy or repeat purchases – it is generally accepted that it is easier to drive sales from people who have already bought from you than to attract new customers so the retention objective should be considered high value.
Many multi-channel digital marketing campaigns will include elements of each objective to help customers along the sales journey. When setting objectives for your digital strategy, it’s important to identify what the priority of the objectives is to focus resources, time, and budget on delivering the most important goal for the campaign. The choice and priority of the objectives will influence the channels you choose as part of your channel strategy.
The channel strategy is understanding how you're going to use all of the different digital platforms that are available to you. It is about understanding what's possible with the channel, what formats you're going to use, and how you're going to use the features of that channel – how to be used most effectively and how you're going to target the audience engaging with it.
Channels are all the different digital platforms and locations that you might utilize. A channel strategy is an understanding of what is possible with channels but choosing to utilize either a specific channel or a feature of a channel because you know it is pertinent to your target audience.
The content strategy is what you're going to put in those channels. So this strategy is informed by your overarching digital strategy.
The content can be:
That is all content and it's important to recognize that content doesn't just mean it's a video or an image. Content can be a top five things that you should do on an article on your site, or the content can also be the image on the header of your site. So it's just important to recognize that content encapsulates everything that's there, not just the things that you make.
The media strategy is often overlooked by smaller brands because it's a complex area to understand. Also, bigger brands often overlook the investment required within digital to be successful. So the media strategy is how you're utilizing your paid activity. How are you reaching people with ads? How are you making sure that you're reaching the right people using the targeting that's available to you and the formats that are available?
Tactics are the individual executions that are a part of making up your strategy. It's important to recognize that quite often when somebody says, "Our strategy is to do this," they could be, in fact, talking about tactics.
So if I said to you that our strategy is to increase our brand awareness via Twitter, the tactic here is to tweet, whereas the strategy is to use Twitter to communicate more positively with your customers. That is an example of a clear strategy. There's a clear purpose, there's a long-term goal and that is how a digital strategy becomes more effective.
In summary, the purpose of your digital marketing strategy is to use your available resources (channels, tools, and people) to deliver on an agreed objective while meeting expectations. Creating a strategy to deliver on your objective can be achieved by understanding available resources, setting timelines and budgets, looking at current and past activity, and assigning ownership of activities and KPIs to team members or stakeholders.
There is a three-pronged approach to understanding the outputs of a digital marketing strategy:
All advertising can be digital, but not all digital can be advertising. Digital represents the medium through which you are communicating, or the channels your audience are consuming information through. How this can be achieved is by understanding that there are a number of philosophies of digital strategy.
In this regard, simply engaging with your customer on social channels for customer service or emailing useful blog content to your customer with the sole purpose of driving goodwill and awareness falls outside the realm of advertising as you are not necessarily delivering a message about a brand or product to encourage them to take action but you are adding value to their lives by helping them out. As a result of good engagement, your brand equity and value will increase in the eyes of the audience which is of significant value to the brand and was part-achieved through non-advertising methods using digital engagement.Back to Top
Please note that the module slides are designed to work in collaboration with the module transcript document. It is recommended that you use both resources simultaneously.
Jessica is a consultant with experience in marketing and an in-depth knowledge of the latest marketing techniques. Her previous roles have included working in a marketing agency and numerous customer-service-facing positions that have given her exposure to a wide range of customers and clients.
The following pieces of content from the Digital Marketing Institute's Membership Library have been chosen to offer additional material that you might find interesting or insightful. While relevant to this module, you will not be assessed on this content.
You can find more information and content like this on the Digital Marketing Institute's Membership Library
ABOUT THIS DIGITAL MARKETING MODULE
This module identifies the core components of an effective digital marketing strategy and explains how to develop an effective budget plan and measure the ROI for digital activities. It covers how to set clear and actionable objectives and measurable KPIs as well as the key research activities to undertake to guide channel selection and messaging. It also explains how to develop a creative strategy based on campaign research to engage an audience and deliver on campaign goals. The module concludes by explaining how to execute a digital marketing strategy supported by a channel plan, a paid media plan, a campaign action plan, and succinct strategy documentation.