This is the last of our series on creating a digital marketing strategy. The first segment of the series we discussed how strategy is a process–not the management of your website and social channels. We also covered customer segments, ideation and messages to those segments in the second part of the strategy series. In this segment, we will discuss the preparation for implementing the digital marketing strategy and we will be walking a fine line between strategy and tactics. We have found that implementing the actual strategy can be the hardest part.
Planning the strategy is very important. Take an inventory of the current channels, staff, content, web site(s) and current digital advertising campaigns. Highlight the items that will help you reach your strategy’s goals and mark off the items that will not. When you have the list complete, define what the holes are. Make a list, but this time categorize them A) for the must haves B) for items that are good to have C) for those items you can do without (bottom of the bucket). Keep in mind, you don’t need everything right away; you can implement them over time and many items you may only partially implement. Yes, this level of planning is fairly tactical; however, it is critical to begin the process of implementing your strategy.
Next, scheduling and budgets need to be defined. What is your real budget? Not only dollars but also consider time, resources and opportunity costs. The schedule and budget should show the “real” cost of the digital strategy. Plan for third party resources like consultants, freelancers, agencies and software that can free internal resources while keeping costs low. When scheduling and budgeting, try not to come up with a number or time frame and then shoe horn the strategy into it. At this point the cost is the cost and it will take as long as it will take. When the strategy is ready, you can work through any budget and scheduling conflicts. Remember to A-B-C all the items, reassuring nothing will be cut that could hinder the success of your digital strategy.
Testing, never stop
Now, you have your strategy. You and your peers believe it’s solid, but is it really? Any strategy will have points to test and validate. Think like a scientist, define tests that will prove or disprove your strategy. Define the hypothesis of your strategy, set benchmarks for success, failure and more importantly what needs to change. Each hypothesis should have several tests, eliminating the chance of having a false positive or negative. Your hypothesis and tests should be part of your strategy for a few reasons: it will force you to think, allow you to sell the strategy internally and evolve the process rather than a straight forward success or failure scenario. Test and retest after the strategy has been launched. Never stop testing, never stop tweaking.
Execution of the strategy
You’ve thought, planned, budgeted and tested, now it’s time to implement. Even though you’ve tested and planned there will be “gotchas”. Your strategy after it’s executed will need to be adjusted and tweaked. Stay on track and justify any changes. Think long term and create milestones to ensure the strategy is working for your business. This is the time when strategies fail. They are too ridged and the people involved take it personal when they begin to fail or not go as expected.
Driving Point: Planning and testing should be part of your strategy. Create a hypothesis for testing your strategy then modify it while you execute. Divorce yourself from ownership and think objectively.