If you own a small or medium business, you understand that you can’t just operate without a plan. In order to grow your business at some point you sat down and figured out the best way to do things, whether it is manufacturing your product, advertising your services, or just serving your customers as best you can. These are essential components to business and you wouldn’t be successful without having developed those strategies.
When you develop a strategy, it is only part of the picture. A strategy exists to achieve objectives and must be implemented using tactics. The follow diagram lays out how a strategy is designed – and it is generally followed whether you are doing it consciously or not.
In today’s day and age, it is even more imperative to develop a digital strategy to assist your business. You need to reflect your brand and identity online just as much as you do in the real world. So knowing this we can expand that thought to state that a digital strategy needs to be defined to meet objectives such as the following:
- Help our customers understand our corporate values, whether they be something like “providing the best value” for a service such as yours or projecting an “impeccable reputation for reliability”.
- Accurately reflect our brand and identity in the online world, through social media, our website, and other content on the web.
- Provide ease of access to services and information that we provide to our customers
- Increase awareness of the services or products we provide
- Interact with customers online in a reliable and secure manner
- Use online advertising methods and defined sales funnels to increase sales
If you have been paying attention, you will notice that the objectives listed above are not all marketing objectives. In my opinion, it is important to include other non-marketing objectives in your strategy. Objectives such as information security, reliability, and efficiency. If you are in the online world (and since this is 2017, you should be) you need to reassure your customers and business partners that you are doing so in a manner that they can trust. People and business are more inclined to do business with you if they know you are keeping their information safe. This is why I believe that things such as network security and platform stability need to be considered when defining your strategy.
Since the reason you are online is to increase awareness and reach to your customers then naturally the sales and marketing aspect of your online presence needs to be considered when defining the strategy as well. Your objectives may be different depending on whether you are doing Business-to-business or Business-to-Consumer. You need to understand and define those objectives before you define the strategy.
The importance of a strategy is to define what I call “commander’s intent”. The commander needs to be able to communicate to their people the direction they want to take the company or project. It works to let the people understand what their activities are trying to achieve. They see that the steps they take (tactics) as part of the intent (strategy) is going to achieve (objectives). If the people executing the tactics understand the commander’s intent, they are more able to adjust the tactic or make decisions when there are questions with confidence.
So to summarize, a digital strategy is a plan developed to achieve a certain set of objectives. Those objectives include marketing objectives as well as objectives that are critical to your business and fall into the digital space, but are not marketing related. Once objectives are defined, then a plan can be developed which is the core of the digital strategy. Execution of the strategy is done using tactics which are steps that can be taken to achieve the objectives. In order to compete in the online world of business we find ourselves in today, it is imperative to create a digital strategy for your business.