Three Key Elements of Digital Strategy

Establishing a framework for effective strategies

Last week, we looked at three common misconceptions about what makes for digital strategy in our post “What is Digital Strategy anyway? Here’s three things it’s not.” Keep in mind all three items we examined were good things in and of themselves. The challenge comes in not confusing tools and projects with strategy.

This week, we turn our attention to three key elements of digital strategy – specifically walking through a few core structural components that help you establish the framework and process for effective strategy and execution. This list is not meant to be exhaustive; think of it more as a reference point.

1) Assess and analyze.

Begin by baiting the traps for meaningful data. Cast the net wide first and then narrow as it becomes clear which data is most useful for you. Email open rates. Web analytics. Online donations and purchases. Campaign data. Twitter and Facebook. Gather and filter. Approach the data with the intention of answering some key questions like: What pattern does the data suggest? Opportunities? Gaps? What is working well?

Find ways to harmonize the data but don’t sweat the tools now — that can come later. Honestly, a simple spreadsheet is fine if it can help you get a better perspective of where you stand. Assessment is a process and not just a task so part of Step 1 is to develop a process for ongoing evaluation outside. Hooray for data!

2) Make a plan.

OK, so after our analysis we have better visibility into our digital opportunities and successes. Where do we go from here? Start by inviting stakeholders from key groups within the organization to a conversation on plan. This way, you can avoid the perception of your work as merely digital or marketing groupthink in isolation. Sure, with limited resources there are often winners and losers. However for digital strategy to work, it must meet overall organizational objectives and have good buy-in whenever possible.

What are the elements of a good digital strategy plan? That’s probably an entire series of posts in itself. At a high level, we can say that it needs to be a) focused on what matters most to the organization (e.g., donor/advocate/customer recruitment, development, increased exposure to specific ideas or content, etc) and can be measured; and b) seeks to blend your divergent digital media streams into a coherent whole while working to thoughtfully complement other marketing initiatives whether digital or not.

3) Think outside the campaign.

One of the things a good plan can do is help you resist the tendency to think of digital strategy as merely a series of peaks and valleys focused in and around campaigns. Campaigns are sometimes effective in meeting short-term objectives (e.g., one-time purchase or donation, etc.) but may come at the expense of long-term primary objectives (e.g., monthly donors, cultivating champions and advocates, etc.). A good digital strategy and plan will help you do both well over time and more importantly keep long-term, more evergreen objectives on your radar screen. You may even want to consider how to create a closed-loop marketing system.

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