By Vanessa DiMauro, CEO, Leader Networks and Advisory Board Member, Society for New Communications Research of The Conference Board
Digital Marketing is causing big changes in business today—online and offline. And, as usual with big changes, there’s no shortage of confusion in the market about exactly what’s happening, what’s working and what’s not. Pundits and industry evangelists have spread their gospel and focused their energies on digital as a new, fast and cheap marketing tool. They’ve emphasized click-through and followers. They’ve created mini-plans for mini-opportunities which can yield short-term buzz but often fail to deliver long-term value. The tactical focus of most digital programs—with an emphasis on the “tool of the moment”—has caused many senior leadership teams to view digital as a tactical, if not downright frivolous. However, well-conceived digital strategy is far from frivolous, transitory or tactical.
When confronting a complex issue or decision in the absence of certainty, groups will often move to the lowest common point of familiarity—usually something concrete and specific. In tech and marketing organizations, this is called “the valley of the tools.” So it is with digital; everywhere you turn there is a marketing manager or millennial intern reporting (loudly) that the company needs a … (insert tool name here.) But these advocates and tool suggestions are often rooted in a desire to play with new things and carve out a mini-speciality, and are just as often completely disconnected from company business goals and strategy. The end result is often a wild collection of tools across the organization with no standards or strategic plan in place.
Some of this comes from confusing the differing needs of consumer and business environments. For example, an individual Facebook enthusiast who has found the platform meaningful may use it as the concrete tool example for achieving a business goal—the application or tool du jour. But does this tool really match the vision for what digital can—and should—do for the organization?
The disconnect is not surprising; tactical and operational staff are typically not charged with developing a vision for the organization, even in rapidly-evolving areas. This is why it is so important understand and distinguish between the two kinds of work functions: strategy and execution or operations. Senior management has the charter to shape and form a digital strategy—has it has for other key initiatives. They are the ones who architect the plan and define the objectives which, in turn, determine the tactics and tools used for execution.
So … review this five-step digital strategy checklist before you go charging off with your online hammer, lest you end up whacking your thumb, or putting nails into the coffin of a once-promising marketing program … or your career!
1) Identify 2-3 significant strategic organizational goals a well-executed digital operations program can support
Do you have a strategic customer care objective that could benefit from digital engagement? Are there R&D or innovation requirements in the coming year that would benefit from social input? Are you trying to reach a new audience with your products? A strategic online program could accelerate these activities.
2) Define the operational program
Answer the key questions as you would with any implementation plan: mission, approach, costs (direct and indirect), program duration and—most important—the measures of success.
3) Identify the needed resources
Who will execute the program? Do they have the skills and capacity to fulfill the duties? Who will oversee the work? Are there KPIs or MBOs associated with delivery?
4) Track progress
Develop monthly or quarterly reports to assess whether the program is on track and circulate the reports to all who need to know. We recommend developing a RACI diagram to include departments who need to be informed about the outcomes (e.g. sales or customer service).
5) Sunset the project and capture best practices
Review what worked and what didn’t, then document the findings to leverage your results, repeat successes and change those aspects which did not perform well.
What have you learned along your digital leadership journey? What advice would you give your peers to help them advance?
Vanessa DiMauro, CEO of Leader Networks, is a seasoned advisor and strategist as well as a popular author and keynote speaker. Vanessa works at the intersection of technology and collaboration to deve…