Companies often tell me that they already have enough strategies and plans, and that they are rarely referred to; that putting their strategy down in writing will create problems of integration and ownership; that digital plans are not useful, as technologies and marketing approaches change so fast; and that they simply do not have the resources or time to create one.
But I am also sure that they would benefit from writing down their approach.
Here are five reasons why:
1. A written strategy gives you direction and focus
Companies that have not written down their approach may have a general sense of what they want to do online and what their tactics are, but are unlikely to have properly defined some of the essential elements.
For example, they may know that they want to get more visits to their website, but can they say how many? They may want to gain more customers, but can they pinpoint by what percentage, or through which channels?
Without specific targets based on creating conversion funnel-based forecasts, it’s harder to know exactly what you need to do online, and later to measure how successful you are.
Creating a written strategy forces companies to tackle these crucial questions, as well as formulate a powerful online value proposition, narrowly define the target audience, and carefully consider all the other building blocks for an effective digital program.
Another challenge with digital marketing is that there are so many activities you could be working on, that you may spread yourself too thin, or miss key activities. A strategy helps you choose focus on priority strategic initiatives
2. It ensures everyone is on board – and on the same page
Ensuring that there is broad support for your digital activity within your company can be difficult.
This is much easier to obtain if you have a written plan that spells out what you are aiming to accomplish, how it fits in with the company’s other marketing priorities, and gives you a way of measuring whether it’s working or not. Suddenly you have a digital programme that can be promoted and defended, rather than just “something some of us dabble in”.
Moreover, it ensures that there is a vision and method that everyone has to sign up to. Without a written strategy, every manager and director is free to project their own aims and priorities on the online activity, and all too often, the result is that everyone is working at cross-purposes without ever realizing it. Clarity is essential!
3. You’ll be better resourced
If you’re working without a strategy, it will be harder to work out in advance what budget your digital programme needs in order to succeed, and what kind of skills your staff need to execute it.
Sure, you can apply for more funding and hire staff as and when the need arises, but you’ll always be on the back foot. Surely it would be more efficient – and easier to successfully make the case – if you were able to present a long-term plan for budget and staff members?
4. It will limit duplication and wastage
Even if you do have sufficient resources, these may be wasted without a strategy in place to use them efficiently.
Let’s take targeting as an example. Many larger businesses will invest in paid media via agencies for prospecting and re-targeting, but they sometimes don’t put sufficient controls on media spend so that they can get the most ‘bang for their buck’. In my experience, often smaller business are more savvy since they reduce digital media wastage by specifying media exclusions, for example:
- Age groups which may not be a good fit for your product, e.g. young vs old
- Geographies such as Non-core markets
- Negative keywords and brand within AdWords
- Increasing spend in some dayparts and reducing spend in others, e.g. B2B spend in the evening
- Cap impressions and re-target cookie pool to increase your Effective Reach
- Including or excluding previous purchasers or non-purchasers and using lookalike or in-market targeting to make budget go further
Another case of wastage you also see in larger companies is where different parts of the marketing organisation purchasing different tools or software or using different agencies for performing similar online marketing tasks. A written strategy, in this case, is about getting better organised so there are a common set of insight and marketing technology to support life cycle marketing.
5. It will help you optimize and stay ahead
Every company with a website will have analytics, but many senior managers don’t ensure that their teams make or have the time to review and act on them.
An integrated strategy will build testing into your programme, ensuring that continuous improvement is possible.
A strategy will also help you optimize. A good strategy will benchmark your activity against competitors to show where you are behind the curve and clearly set out what goals you need to hit online, enabling you to measure what’s working and what isn’t, and make the necessary changes. Again, regular reviews will be built into the system, as long as you have a document to refer back to.
Writing a strategy does not need to be complicated. Start off with one or two pages describing your goals, tactics and KPIs. A simple table aligning these for each part of the marketing funnel is all you need to get started.