Executing an effective digital strategy is actually reliant on many different elements of online branding, inbound marketing, and sales, coming together in intentional harmony. In order to develop a good digital strategy, you must take a practical approach, starting with proper evaluation, research, and an analytical mindset, then thinking creatively. A good digital strategy doesn’t happen by accident, and it can be very easy to get wrong.
The elements of a good digital strategy
The elements of a good digital strategy include identifying who your target audiences are, discovering niche opportunities, and the best methods for reaching those groups. Coupled with ensuring your product/service has a solid market fit, and an effective scheme for monetization, you need to consider your underlying brand values and elements to tie it all together.
With proper digital strategy, a company can go from simply being a business to being an identifiable brand with a clear mission, values, and employer clout.
How branding affects digital strategy
The most basic sense, good branding makes the foundation of a good digital strategy. Without having the proper branding guidelines in place, and a clear consistency of digital assets and business practices, even the most extensive digital strategy can only go so far.
Brand values and goals should be the underscoring element that all digital strategy is based upon. It can help you to dictate the right vocabulary and tone of voice for your on-page text and marketing messages, and it can help you choose the right images and graphics for your advertising and social media campaigns. It can even help dictate market alignment and business opportunities for ensuring that all partnerships and affiliates are “on brand.”
When looking to create a new or improved digital strategy, it can be best to first start with an existing brand audit, and then going through developing a brand strategy. When you start to add on elements to your digital strategy as your online presence, marketing efforts, automation, and sales material become more complex, you will always have your branding guidelines, core values, and mission to fall back on. This ensures a clear and consistent experience for your users and prospective customers.
The right digital strategy for your company will take into consideration what kind of digital presence you want to build. When thinking about how you want people to feel about your brand and the perceptions they have of you, you should apply these aspects to where you will exist online, how you communicate your story and messages, and how to project authenticity and credibility.
It’s not necessary, or even altogether possible, to be everywhere online. Branding and digital strategy will help you to identify your priority channels for reaching the most potential customers. Or, if your goal is to execute an employer branding strategy, you can be more effective in relaying those values to potential stakeholders and prospective talent.
Your digital presence can include third party content publishing sites, third party listing sites, online editorial opportunities, business directories, online communities for your industry, affiliate sites and guest blogging opportunities, resellers, distributors, and partners. While many may think that digital presence is just about building brand awareness, it can truly be part of an overall business strategy for growth and opportunity.
Your greatest asset in a digital strategy may, however, still be your website. Thinking about your site from the perspective of branding, the customer journey, SEO optimized content, inbound methodology, creating a good on-site sales funnel, and user experience, will make your entire digital strategy more effective. Even if you have great social media or an effective awareness campaign, you can only get so far with your digital presence if your website is not strategized correctly.
Developing SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is a fundamental element for ensuring that your website and content are discoverable by new audiences. Especially important for business-to-business companies, SEO is a strategy that will not only ensure you have opportunities to display on the first page of search engine results, but it will also ensure that your on-page text and content is thorough.
SEO rules are constantly changing, but the good news is that they are all in the name of providing better experiences for online users. If search engines such as Google can help you to ensure you are giving online users what they want and need, you are more likely to be successful in converting your site visitors to paying customers.
A good digital strategy should be developed from the basis of creating branding alignment with target keywords. When you can understand and strategize which types of words and phrases your potential customers are searching for, you are more likely to create the online experiences and content that actually speak to them.
SEO is also very important for implementing a paid search strategy, since search engines such as Google rely on quality content that adds value for targeted search terms, even when bidding on, and paying for, ad placement.
Content is King
One of the best ways for modern businesses to give value to prospects and customers is through digital content. Content that is strategized based on target audiences, SEO, and topics of expertise work well to generate awareness, build credibility, and show your potential customers that you have authority within your industry.
Content marketing, while no longer new, is still growing in popularity as strategies around what types of content are most effective are changing, and customer expectations are continuing to develop. Content can be used as motivators for lead generation and lead nurturing, as you continue to engage with your prospects and move them closer towards making a purchase.
Content can come in many different forms, such as blog posts, e-books, white papers, slide shares, memes and gifs, email newsletters, videos, infographics, and more. Depending on what industry your business is in, and who your target audiences are, you will likely use multiple forms of content that are used for different purposes. Your digital strategist will help you to identify the best ways to reach your audience and the types of content that they will enjoy and are most likely to engage with.
Content is typically used in combination with other types of digital strategies such as SEO and social media. As you create greater opportunities for prospects to find you, such as through organic search (SEO) and online communities (social media), it’s important to have original content that then motivates users to navigate to your website, or share with others. Depending on your strategy, content can work to entertain, educate, or inform your audiences, increasing their perception of your brand.
Digital strategy for social media
Social media marketing continues to play a big role in digital strategy for brand awareness, community building, advertising, and more. While consumers increasingly search for information and social proof about brands before making purchases, it becomes necessary for companies to have an online presence not with just a website, but also social media pages as well.
A comprehensive digital strategy will evaluate which platforms are most suited to reaching your target audiences, and what types of audiences your existing followers are comprised of:
Using knowledge and best practices about current social media trends, a social media digital strategy can then be developed to differentiate each channel, to increase brand awareness and encourage customer engagement.
Social media can be used for a number of purposes, and a comprehensive digital strategy will take into consideration your brand values, guidelines, and goals in order to maximize impact, generate site traffic, increase customer community engagement, and allow brands to connect with their audiences. Social media strategy can determine whether to utilize paid campaigns, influencer marketing, or user-generated content.
Social media channels can also be one of the best ways to promote any content that your company produces for informational, educational, or entertainment purposes. As social media content and advertising tend to increasingly be a first point of interaction for many of today’s customers, a consistent and appealing presence is a necessity.
Why Social Media without Social Listening is pointless
While being present on social media is often critically important for brand awareness, audience engagement, and enhancing your business’s credibility, there is no point to a social media strategy without knowing how to properly “listen” and analyze the effects.
Social listening is the concept of monitoring social media activity – not only for the results and effects of what you post, but for what others are saying about your brand, competitors, industry, and trends. With social listening set up, you can better understand the sentiments of your customers, properly respond to any issues regarding customer service that is expressed on social platforms, or even find opportunities to add commentary to industry news, current events and trending topics.
Without a social listening and response strategy, social media strategy will not be as effective. Just as with lead generation, growth driven design, or lead nurturing strategies, it doesn’t do any good to set it up without ensuring that it’s working. Social listening strategy is the way to evaluate performance, seize opportunities to connect with your customer base, and mitigate crisis, should they arise.
Social listening strategy is also important for acquiring data that can help to inform your future digital strategy and content. With social listening, you can be better at understanding what it is your core audiences are interested in, what types of content they are sharing and engaging with, and the topics they are most responsive to. You can therefore use information gathered through social listening to improve targeting, and adapt your content marketing strategy to these insights.
Inbound marketing and branding
When it comes to modern marketing and sales, the inbound methodology is a necessary component of any web design and digital strategy. Inbound marketing is the ability to more accurately attract potential customers and deliver timely, relevant content as they move through each phase of the sales process, as you increase the awareness, trust, and credibility of your brand.
The inbound methodology is more effective for a number of reasons, the biggest being that you can better target and identify the potential customers that are more likely to buy from you, and also that you can make better use of your company time and resources rather than traditional outbound strategies.
Branding is a large part of inbound marketing and sales because every activity you do, and every piece of content you create, should be “on-brand” and working together to create a comprehensive identity of your company that is consistent and credible.
Inbound strategy is something that improves over time, as you gain more insights about your prospects and customers. In this way, you can become better and smarter at targeting, and delivering the messages that are not just what you want people to know about your company, but are actually what your customers are most interested in.
Growth Driven Design
As digital presence and online branding is so important for business these days, web design and user experience are at the forefront of ensuring your business is growth-focused. In this way, traditional web design may no longer cut it when it comes to how you create experiences for your customers and prospects.
Growth driven design is a strategy for ensuring that your website is built for the buyer’s journey, providing the right opportunities, the right content, and the right structure for converting site visitors to sales. It also means that the design and build of your site is done as effectively and efficiently as possible, so you can easily make adaptations based on customer usage insights, and always be improving your conversion rates.
The principles for implementing growth driven design are based on three fundamental elements, the first is that you minimize the risks associated with traditional web design, the second that it allows you to continuously learn and improve, and lastly, your site becomes more closely aligned with marketing and sales. Since your website should be seen as a component of your marketing, sales, and overall digital strategy, you should be using your website to inform your marketing strategy, and vice versa. The overlap between your site, lead generation, and content should be crystal clear, and these components should work in harmony to best service your customers and prospects.
A digital strategist can help you to align these elements, and develop a growth driven designed website that is agile and cost effective. Working to improve your ability to gain insights about your customers, and how usage affects the sales process, having a system in place to analyze your site design can lead to your ability to more easily scale your business.
KPIs – Evaluating the success of a digital strategy
The great thing about a comprehensive digital strategy and inbound methodology is that it can be quite easy to measure results. While the key performance indicators (KPIs) that you decide for your company are quite individual, you can more than likely measure against industry benchmarks, as well as use similar types of metrics in your analysis.
Common metrics to look at when it comes to online branding and marketing are things such as site traffic and traffic source. With successful social media campaigns, you should perhaps see a high percentage of your site visitors coming to you from your social channels. Or for evaluating the effectiveness of your search engine optimization, you should be closely monitoring your ranking performance for specific targeted keywords, and seeing increasing traffic coming from organic search sources.
For evaluating the success of your website, you can look to metrics such as bounce rate, time on page, new versus returning visitors, number of page visits per session, and conversion rates. When you set up goals for completion, such as a user filling out a lead generation form, signing up for a newsletter or membership, or making a purchase, you can measure these as conversions which you compare by looking at conversion rate, or rather the percentage of site visitors who complete a goal.
Finding a digital agency
For ensuring you are developing and executing an effective digital strategy, you want to be diligent in finding the right digital agency. Your agency should understand your goals, your needs, and your audiences to find the best, most effective way to disseminate your brand message.
Choosing the wrong agency can be costly, and will show you little return on investment, making it so that customer acquisition becomes too expensive, and your profit margins decrease. Knowing how to wisely allocate your resources with the right agency who can prioritize your needs and discover the right opportunities for your brand, however, can help catapult your business towards success.
To find the right agency, you should consider how well your point of contact understands your mission, is able to translate your ideas into succinct and effective marketing messages, and can develop innovative ways to reach your ideal customers.
There are several directories for finding such agencies with various specialties, including Sortlist, which is a great database with Swiss agencies, and Clutch, which also recommends some of the top agencies.