Having so many options in digital strategy and execution often means we falsely confuse the richness of a program or campaign with complexity, and in doing so lose the focus that will help us move our business goals forward. Simple in most things is usually better, and digital strategy is no exception. There is no badge of honor for including a ridiculous number of tactical elements nor does it make a program more effective. A highly fragmented digital strategy can make it more difficult to track, more expensive to maintain, more time consuming to optimize, and complicated to extract actionable insights. The rule of three is a good one in this instance. If a digital element does not satisfy one (or more) of these three primary goals then you should strongly question why it is included in your plan.
No. 1: Selling
Every brand or business is hoping to build toward a sale with their marketing or online marketing. Some just have faster and more direct routes. E-commerce businesses get minute-to-minute feedback and can use their digital campaigns and programs for many kinds of critical testing against a singular sales objective. Does this tweak create more revenue within my cost and profit parameters? Site conversion optimization, message testing, offer testing, landing page testing - the list is endless. The sales feedback for a consumer-packaged goods (CPG) brand is delayed and obscured, but with deliberate planning can be just as important in meeting healthy sales goals. Business to business efforts may have longer sales cycles and different issues but they are building toward a sale as well. Depending on the vertical and the decision and buying process, the road to a sale might include stops for branding or awareness efforts, educational commitments, trial offers, or many other defined events. You can't narrowly define sales as just the end point of the actual purchase. If your plans are moving your qualified audience toward a sale in a timely and cost-efficient manner then that is a good investment.
No. 2: Building
If you can't convert the user immediately you need to concentrate on extending the thread of that contact into future opportunities - at least until you can determine they are no longer a prospect. If you do successfully motivate a conversion you still want to gain permissions for future contacts while you deliver a positive experience and capture whatever you can about that user or transaction that will make future contacts more productive for you and more relevant and comfortable for the user. Remarketing platforms like email lists and social communities give you permission and opportunity to continue the conversation. This creates future chances to convert, upsell, get a referral, or to learn something. Scale is important here as some opportunities only become such when they reach a certain depth of user base or data collection. If your email list is only a few hundred people you are not going to invest deeply in it, nor would the return be there if you did except under very unusual, niche situations. Social platforms also give you the added goal of moving consumers along an entirely different continuum culminating ideally in a brand or product advocate or evangelist that takes up your marketing for you. If your programs progressively deliver a better and more relevant experience for users then this is a good use of budget.
No. 3: Learning
Sometimes the best use of budget or resources is to learn something that helps you hone your approach or program for better results. Setting learning objectives should be as much a part of your planning process as any other goal. This requires a deliberate and funded effort and may require a change in corporate culture and process as very few organizations place the appropriate importance on learning activities. Think broadly about the questions you would love to have answered, prioritize them based on their potential impact on the business, and set aside the time and dollars to get your answers. Schedule your learning activities and manage them just like any other important effort so that they return timely and actionable insights that help move your business forward. If your programs get smarter over time and you have institutionalized the need for critical insights then you have invested wisely.
Have you overcomplicated your digital strategy?
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Robin is the CEO and cofounder of NetPlus Marketing Inc., a top 50 interactive agency established in 1996 to focus exclusively on online marketing and advertising best practices. Robin brings innovative strategy and a depth and breadth of marketing experience to the agency's practice and management. As one of the industry's pioneers, she is a driving force behind NetPlus Marketing's ongoing success with a diverse and discerning client base that considers online results critical to their business success.
Robin is a frequent speaker at national industry events, including ClickZ, internet.com, OMMA, Ad:Tech, SES, Online Marketing Summit, and Thunder Lizard conferences and is a sought-after resource for industry and business publications for her insight and advice on such topics as digital strategy, social media marketing, and behavioral targeting.
March 19, 2014