The Death of the Digital Strategy?
When I am asked ‘Is the Digital Strategy dead?’ I am tempted to give a clever answer along the lines of it at least being ready for last rites. Avoiding this sarcastic retort however, I instead opt for a more professional response, expressing my opinion that what businesses really need is a ‘strategy for a digital age’.
Digital Strategy, is a marketing strategy concentrating solely on measurable outcomes of the business’ digital media activities such as Internet, social media, apps etc. There was, and still continues to be, a trend for companies to throw absolutely everything into the formation of, and strict adherence to, a Digital Strategy and in doing so, forget entirely that wider Marketing plans ever existed.
So why, I hear you ask, has a conversion specialist such as Robert Deans got such a downer on this technology-linked planning? The truth is I actually do believe there is a place for Digital, but I refute the fact that a corporation can survive on a diet of Digital presence alone.
We often speak about the customer journey and I am a huge advocate of getting into the detail of what that journey looks like close-up as I truly believe that, in understanding this, the route to sale is a much happier one for all concerned. Having scrutinised customer journeys across a plethora of business types I can honestly say that I am yet to find one which is solely Digital in nature. That is to say that the key ‘touchpoints’ made towards a potential client were both on and off line and it is very difficult to ascertain which gave them the final push towards making a purchase.
It is easy to see why many are convinced that the bias of money and energy when it comes to business strategy should be strongly skewed towards the virtual world. After all, this is the place where human time and activity is increasingly spent. That said, the failure to recognise that the target market still spend time in the real world and expect to receive information via a number of routes, including old-school options, can be a costly one.
In truth the digital space is somewhat over-populated, and it is responsible for bombarding the average consumer with so much information that it is difficult to focus, let alone make good, rational decisions. Much has been written about the problems of getting noticed on-line; indeed the attention of the audience is fast becoming one of the most valuable, and much-coveted, commodities. When a medium approaches a level of over-subscription it is common for people to look for alternatives and, in the case of advertising and promotion, this is nurturing a growing wave of nostalgia for printed media.
One of the great things about good planning is that strategies adopted are flexible and can adapt to changing times. Regular, if not continuous, review identifies what is no longer working and revisits alternatives which were perhaps initially rejected. The very definition of Strategy is “A plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim” and, for me, that re-iterates the point that whilst the aim may remain constant, the actions needn’t be.
It is all very well and good to say that Digital Strategy is dead, but can I suggest an alternative? To be honest I am not suggesting that we bury Digital Strategy altogether but rather that we recognise it can no longer fulfil its marketing expectations alone and needs to be supported by time-honoured channels from a pre-digital time. For me, web, online, SEO, PPC, Social Media etc. will always be included within my clients’ wider plan. They will just be part of the mix and will be ably supported (perhaps even boosted) by more traditional means of reaching out to the target audience.
There is an absolute wealth of data which can be gained from on-line analytics when a potential client visits a website (which I interestingly still consider to be the hub of all activity), but it may well have been off-line advertising which led that individual to seek out the website in the first place. For this reason, I return to my original statement, which is that, as a conversion specialist, I prefer to seek success by adopting a strategy which recognises the digital age in which we live rather than being exclusively digital in focus.