Why have a strategy?
Many organisations have a business strategy, maybe even a marketing plan, but do not have a specific plan for their digital presence. In a time which is increasingly driven by online activity, social media and 24/7 access, it is really important to plan your digital activities and have a clear idea of how you want to control your brand online. Users expect their online interactions with your brand to be positive and instantaneous (or at least quick). Having a strategic plan of how you act and communicate in this context can help you to avoid some of the pitfalls other brands have fallen into and prevent negative perceptions of your brand.
Metaphorically speaking, without a strategy, you are throwing a bunch of things at a wall, hoping that something sticks. Without a strategy, there is no focus, no guide, no reasoning behind what you are trying to achieve and no measurement for continuing to invest time in your digital presence.
With a strategy, you can understand your competitors, your audience, your messaging and when to promote versus when to listen, so your digital presence works hard to deliver everything it can for your organisation and more importantly, so you can build a relationship with your target audience.
A strategy should add value to wider organisational objectives
By directly linking your digital goals to your organisation's objectives, you can add tangible value into your organisation and help to boost sales or conversions, raise awareness and connect with existing and potential customers. Without aligning with your organisation's objectives you might attach meaningless numbers to digital platforms without reason. Why do you want 1,000 followers on Instagram or 5,000 web page views per week? What does that actually mean for your business? Are these statistics hitting any of the needs of the organisation?
For example, an objective to raise awareness of your work in specific sectors, aligns well with a goal to create and share appropriate content and engage with the right people rather than having large numbers of unknown people following your account. Having foresight will allow you to plan content accordingly, build trust with your audience and have a consistent and useful stream of communications going to them in a format and at a time that appeals directly to them. It will also allow you to focus on the platforms that work for you, making the best use of your team's time and creating the most impact. If you are a smaller business, you might not have a marketing person or team and maybe doing this all by yourself. In this instance, it is even more important that your digital presence works really hard and that you are not wasting time on doing things just for the sake of it.
A strategy helps you to remain authentic and faithful to your own brand. Yes, other companies (including your competitors) have a presence on every single platform going, are regularly doing live streams/stories, Q&A's, free giveaways, ads, sponsored posts and more but, is this really the right fit for your organisation? If you spend a huge amount of time and money on your online activity without meeting your basic business objectives, then you’ll just achieve a poor return on investment in a bid to keep up to date with the latest trends.
Planning is paramount
Once you have a strategy and a clear view of what you want to achieve over the next year, it is incredibly important to put a plan of action in place. Otherwise, your strategy is just a nicely thought out document which remains unused until it is replaced the following year.
Creating a realistic, timely plan of how and when you are going to implement your strategy provides you with a roadmap to follow. This can take the form of a content plan, a social media calendar, a campaigns spreadsheet, whatever format you want to take but having an overview of the tasks you want to achieve and when they should be executed helps you to understand how to manage your time and make the most out of these pieces of work. Plotting it out in this way gives you awareness of what is happening internally and externally and where your digital activities might align with that.
In my view, there is no point in doing all of the above if you don’t go back and check how 'successful' or useful your efforts have been to your organisation. Whether that is doing monthly analytics reports on your digital presence, checking in on the results of a campaign or just simply cross-referencing your most liked or ignored posts across social media. This information is so vital in helping your online brand and strategy continue to succeed and improve. Only by measuring, can you know what your audience really engages with and where to put your time and money. It will also help you to understand what could be improved, what pages on your website are not performing and why, whether the email newsletter that took a month to create was worth or was it only read by a dozen people?
Measurement can feel like trying to prove the worth of your marketing activity and tools, but it should be used as a realistic view of what really works and what does not, without the personal feelings of those who worked hard to create the content getting involved.
If this year has taught me anything as a strategy and marketing professional it is to expect the unexpected. Big understatement there, but in seriousness, it is true. Anyone that planned out their business year for 2020 definitely did not see this coming and organisations have had to scramble quickly to keep afloat. This has been a (nope not going to say it) (unprecedented) strange year… but it has also been an important lesson in making sure you remain flexible as an organisation and continue to adjust your plan to work with whatever is thrown at you. This rang true before 2020 and will continue to afterwards.
I have always been a firm believer in switching up the plan if it is needed. Yes (as stated) a vision and a plan is crucial and a great basis for your direction, but sticking to something which was decided without contextual knowledge of current challenges is shortsighted. Flexibility is key for survival. Reading the 'room' is critical. Changing your plan, does not make the strategy a failure, it just means at that point it's not working for you and it’s better to acknowledge that and move forward than further entrenching yourself with goals that no longer work.
Enjoy the process
The whole process of creating a strategy, planning out the work, checking in to see how it is going and switching it up if necessary should be an enjoyable one and nothing to fear! Getting the chance to set out your work across the year, devise and implement exciting ideas and seeing them come to fruition is a great thing! Giving yourself time to do this and seeing it through is a real investment in your business and in your own personal development.
If you want to get started with a strategy for your organisation and aren’t sure where to start, we can help. Get in touch and we’ll point you in the right direction.