Unravelling the meaning of digital strategy
Like so many other terms, the phrase “digital strategy” has become overused, ill-defined and misunderstood.
Digital strategy has a vague, tech-savvy and a slightly modernistic-hipster blend of associations, meaning different things to different people.
The hype surrounding digital is not unlike other generic catch-all phrases used by agencies and marketing professionals alike. Terms such as “omni-channel marketing”, “social media presence”, “big data” and technology “in the cloud” as well as digital, dominate professional dialogue, yet the functional nuts and bolts understanding of these terms is in short supply.
The meaning of the phrase digital strategy has been watered down, by inexperience, excitement and good intentions. Digital strategy is a concept that has already been consumed, regurgitated and reshaped by the industry, so much so that the fundamentals are often missed.
What is digital strategy?
Digital strategy is an all-encompassing term. Yes, digital is a website, yes, digital is email marketing, and yes, digital is search engine optimisation, social media strategy, content, graphics and analytics. Yes, digital is king, in the game of business, of course it is. But digital strategy is also about design and development. It is about business strategy and process automation. It is about communication and relationship management.
Why is all of this digital strategy might you ask? Because it is all about the relationship between an audience and the technologies they use. And note the specific language here, audience doesn’t just mean customer. Audience could mean your internal team or the general public. This multifaceted definition is what makes digital strategy so hard to pin down and particularly easy to subvert.
Yet beyond the buzzwords, what is often missing in the digital landscape is value. You can have a million visitors on your website, but it does not mean anything if they are not valuable to your business. Alternatively, you could have one visitor to your website that is worth more than those million if they are the right visitor. Whilst some data metrics might look great to a CEO initially, as the dollars add up over time, senior managers can often become unimpressed with the results. Lots of noise, but not a lot of substance.
What does value look like in a digital strategy?For one, it will not look the same between two different businesses. Value is discovered through a conversation. What are the goals of the business? How does the company operate? How does your company generate sales? Are there official processes in place, which define these day-to-day activities? What tools does the business use to deliver in the digital arena?
However, even though the results will be different, the way to build a digital strategy will follow tried and true methodologies. In broad strokes, the development of a strategy will be threefold. Insight, scope and framework.
Obtaining an insight into an organisation
What is the demographic of their audience, what are the features of their products, how their brand is positioned, what is their vision as an organisation, what channels are they using to connect their product with their audiences and what business practices are being used to drive those outcomes.
Defining the scope of delivery
Crystallising the insights in the first phase between audience, channel, media, method, purpose, brand and product. Developing examples for what the strategy will deliver and how to optimise existing pathways, defining what obsolete mechanisms should be discarded, and outlining how true value will be measured.
Building the framework for extracting value
Delineating the people, roles, tools and processes to be used to implement the scope of delivery. The delivery of branded digital assets that resonate with an audience, which are measured, and build real tangible value to the organisation and those audiences consuming the media.
In conclusionMost important to remember is that digital strategy is a feedback loop. Insight illuminates scope, which illuminates a framework, which is fed back into your insights. Measure and modify, measure and modify. Do not just measure for the sake of impressive sounding data metrics, measure for the sake of value, for the organisation and its audience.
If there is any take away from all of this, it is that we can make use of a digital strategy to do what traditional strategy cannot do, which is listen. If we listen correctly, we will hear ‘what’ our audience wants and often, ‘why’ they want it. With this knowledge we can adapt accordingly.
The creative solutions arrived at within this format of thinking is what it means in a modern business context to build a digital strategy.