In an age where the constant flow of pings, alerts, and tweets capture the better part of our lives, companies and marketers often forget to take a pause and ask themselves "What is our company's Digital Strategy? Do I need one to begin with? I have a Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram account. Isn't that my digital strategy?"
I will start by prefacing that the intended audience for this article is the small to medium businesses or startups whose core business may not be in the realm of technology. Although, thinking of your business as a "non-digital" business can be a big mistake. When the business is in the initial stages of growth, it is very easy to pile up different digital channels. However, once you start getting away from establishing your digital strategy, you will end up with a jumbled and confusing digital presence that can deteriorate your competitive advantage. And we all know how fast companies can meet their demise in today's day and age. Well, the good news is that you can follow some basic guiding principles that can help build a digital strategy even when you are in a high-growth environment. I will break down this into two basic parts.
- External Digital Strategy - For the consumers/members outside the organization
- Internal Digital Strategy - For processes internal to the organization that enables the external digital strategy
External Digital Strategy
Have you heard the phrase "there's an app for that". Personally, I hate that phrase, because there should be a business model before there's an app. This is one of the biggest misconceptions that we come across frequently. Here at Oshyn, we have helped a number of clients build mobile apps, however we constantly work to distill the need and the business case for an app. And if there is no need for it, you don't need an app. This in turn summarizes the approach to the External digital strategy. Take a long and hard look at all the digital offerings that you are planning to offer for an external audience. Pick and choose the ones with the most impact, so you can focus on optimizing them.
Step 1 - List all current and potential digital offerings
Make a list of all your digital touchpoints like website, mobile apps, digital advertising, email outreach, social media, chat-bots, etc. These channels are not all created equal. Your business should have a good view of what channels matter more than others.
And ask yourself, where is the strongest business case? Are we spending enough on the channels that bring us the most business?
Step 2 - Measure
Once you get started on thinking about what each channel means to your business, you should measure the impact that every channel has. One of the popular web analytics tools is Google Analytics, but if you have content management system like Sitecore, it comes with built-in tools that not only measure the basic analytics but also lets you create more specific profiles and targeting of the audience.
Step 3 - Optimize and Personalize
Now that you know which channels are your superstars, it's time to optimize and personalize them. Let's say your marketing website brings in a majority of the revenue, and you also see that only 3% of the visitors actually complete the main goal of the website (whether it is buying, registering, sign up etc). This is the time to consider A/B testing to iteratively experiment and try new features that may increase that 3% conversion rate. Let's say you increased the size of a button on homepage for half of your audience and saw a significant increase in the conversion of this audience. You may roll out that feature to everyone and congratulate yourself for a great A/B test. A series of successful tests will help your company create a better customer experience. Adobe and Sitecore are both marketing friendly solutions that let's the marketers run and measure such experiments without the continuing help from IT counterparts.
Internal Digital Strategy
Legacy systems and multiple separate databases are awesome.....if this was 2005. But today, if you have a fragmented infrastructure, you are hampering the growth for your company and creating frustration for everyone. The solutions that you use, especially the ones that power your customer experience, should not only be easily scalable but also should have an upgrade path for future support. Here are some basic steps to guide you through the process.
Step 1 - Single source of truth
Look at all the places where critical information is being collected. Are there multiple databases with the same or similar information ? Is there discrepancy in the information? I bet there is. One of the prime ways to keep your information consistent is to use a single source of truth that connects to all the different channels. Make sure that the data reflected on different channels remain consistent.
Step 2 - Establish Roadmaps for system upgrades
One of the clients that I worked with recently was using SharePoint to power their marketing website. They wanted to add a lot of features to their site like A/B testing and personalization. They spent over six months and thousands of dollars to realize that these capabilities were not feasible. To top it off, Microsoft released a statement that they're phasing out the public website support for SharePoint. This client scrambled to find a new solution and realized that their top priority was "a solution with reliable upgrade roadmap", along with the marketing features that they couldn't support with SharePoint. They ended up with Sitecore.
The point being, if you are not looking at the long term and changing landscape of technology, you may get left behind and every project can become crisis management.
Step 3 - Establish Your Center of Digital Excellence
This can be a dedicated group or a committee consisting of members of several departments. There should be clear accountability for this group to continually evaluate the digital footprint of the organization. They should establish the processes and best practices within the company to keep everyone from being complacent and getting too comfortable. You don't want to be the company that still hasn't upgraded from mainframes in 2019.
In conclusion, be proactive and deliberate about your digital strategy. Digital disruption is in fashion and you will never know when it hits your business. The best bet for your business is staying aware and taking steps to stay ahead of disruption while using the best tools available.