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August 11th, 2017  /  Strategy

How to Plan for a Digital Strategy

When you set out to craft the perfect digital strategy, there are roughly 106,442 things you need to think about (OK, not really, but it can feel that way). From your organization’s website to your lead generation efforts, and your company social media profiles to your content marketing strategy, it can be overwhelming to even get the ball rolling on making your strategy. Heck, knowing where to start is half the battle.

To create your digital strategy, you essentially need to create a plan, first. That’s right, I’m talking about creating a strategy for your strategy. Stay with me.

What is a Digital Strategy, Anyway?

Before we dive in to the the how-to portion of this post, I want to set the framework so we’re on the same page.

A digital strategy identifies the goals of your organization, and provides the overarching approach and methodology needed to achieve those goals through digital means.

(Write that down.)

Most strategies will include detailed information on your organization’s goals — what you are trying to accomplish, how to measure them, etc — audience, and tactics. In general, you can think of your digital strategy as a blueprint for everything you do online, including email newsletters, social media posts, PPC advertising, blogging, marketing automation, and everything else under the digital sun.

Practically speaking, the strategy should be a PDF or a slide deck that any stakeholders in your organization should have access to. It’s transparent, detailed, and goal-oriented.

Same page? Awesome, let’s keep going.


How to Plan for a Digital Strategy

In order to make the perfect strategy for your organization, there’s a list of things you’ll be needing. These include (in no particular order):

  • Goals
  • Data
  • Input
  • Technology
  • Timeline
  • Budget

Once you have gathered all of these things, you’ll be ready to start building out your strategy. Until then, let’s explore each of these below.

1) Organizational & Marketing Goals

Before you do anything else, you should write down what your top-level goals are as an organization (I’m serious, grab some pen and paper).

What is your business/NPO trying to do? For most organizations, this comes back to more revenue/sales/leads, but it can be completely unique to you. Once you’ve identified your primary goals, circle back with other stakeholders (business owner, C-Suite, management team, etc.) to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

Tip: Your goals should be specific, realistic, and measurable: i.e. “Grow revenue by 50% over 3 years” is way better than “Make more money,” right?

2) Data, Data, and More Data

Prepping yourself for a digital strategy involves getting access to any and all data that you can. Ideally, this includes Google Analytics (assuming you have that on your website), your CRM (if applicable), and any social media platforms your organization is on.

When you actually build the strategy (or your awesome agency partners help out), you’ll be relying on this data to learn about your audience and how people interact with your brand online. Having accurate data on the pages people visit on your website, how they engage with different online elements, and even how their decision making process works is really important.

Ultimately, you’ll be benchmarking some of this data once you know the areas you need to improve in order to achieve your goals, i.e. grow organic traffic to sell more product, benchmark current performance.

Tip: In Google analytics, set your time parameters to be between 18 months and 1 year, and track from there. This will give you a healthy dose of relevant data to get started with.


3) Input From the Right People

Tying back to #1, the best digital strategies take input and feedback from your stakeholders into consideration. This includes everything from discussing marketing goals to uncovering insights on your customers/patients/users/etc.

Before you make your strategy, create a shortlist of stakeholders to discuss the strategy with (i.e. CEO, VP Sales, Director of Customer Service, etc.). By identifying these people/roles *before* you start the strategy, you set expectations of who is involved in the process and what level of input they have in the finished product.

Another aspect of this to consider is identifying the right people to talk to when it comes to getting audience insights. Make a list of the people who know your customer/audience the best and plan on reaching out to them with a series of questions, like these.

Do you have a customer service team in place? A sales team? A group of admissions reps? Front desk assistants? Or, do you have some really great customers that you feel comfortable interviewing? Write their names down, too.

Tip: You’ll use the audience insight information to create personas. You can read all about those in this free eBook.

4) Technology & Tools

A builder is only as good as his hammer.” – Said someone, probably.

The same idea kind of applies to a marketer; you can have a great strategy and even the technical know-how to get results, but if you don’t have the right tools and technology in place to help you get there, things often won’t work out.

For this step of the planning, make a list of the platforms you/your team currently leverage for digital marketing purposes. Do you use Google AdWords? Do you have a marketing automation tool of choice? How are you scheduling your social media content?

As you make this list, you may find that you don’t have all the tools you need in order to be successful, and that’s OK. Part of what I do personally, as a digital strategist, is make a list of recommended tools for our clients to use to execute their marketing. Tools can vary in cost, but finding the right ones for you is imperative to hitting those goals.

Tip: Check out some of our favorite social media marketing tools in this blog post.

5) Deadlines & Project Timelines

Tying this back into the ‘Goals’ section again, you should always have at least a general idea of timeline for your efforts. We’re talking a timeline for your goals to be met, and, a timeline for your strategy to be done. If you are taking the next twelve months to craft a digital strategy, you’re making a big mistake (unless you are Apple or Starbucks).

As an agency, we always try to set realistic expectations for goals when it comes to timing. Take SEO, for example: when you first launch an SEO strategy, it can take weeks, if not months, for your website to really start seeing the fruit of your labor, and that’s OK, since search engine marketing is more of a long-term strategy.

Compare that example against your PPC efforts, where results are going to be more immediate. Need an additional 25% free trials of your software in the next month? The right AdWords and Facebook campaigns could help you deliver on that goal.

Tip: Timing is all about perspective. Set realistic deadlines and be open to adjusting them as you get your hands dirty.

6) Your Marketing Budget

“Budget” is the word that often plays the role of the preverbal ‘elephant in the room’ for many organizations, but it doesn’t have to be. After all, your budget is there to be spent (that’s kind of the point).

When creating your digital strategy, you/your agency will need to have an accurate idea of your organization’s marketing budget, and how you plan on allocating those funds to different tactics and resources.

For example, say you have a $100,000 marketing budget for 2018. You’ll need to find a way to allocate the appropriate amount for a new website, a set of digital marketing tools, PPC advertising, strategic partners, and a variety of small opportunities that pop-up along the way.

Tip: Here’s our Marketing Director’s take on budgeting for a new website. And, here’s his take on creating the perfect PPC budget.

Next Steps

Once you’ve gathered all of the above information, you’re ready to develop your strategy (the crowd goes wild!). We’re currently developing a comprehensive Guide to Digital Strategy that we’d love to share with you, so sign up below if you want to get your hands on it when it comes out!

In the meantime, here are some other resources you should check out!

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About Bryce Mikkelson

Bryce Mikkelson

I'm the Digital Strategist here at Regal, which basically means I help cast the vision for all things web and digital marketing. Sometimes, I write about my experiences doing just that.

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Bryce Mikkelson
Bryce Mikkelson

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