I have spent many hours with many clients demystifying this perception. What I found is that by setting a clear structure and framework around digital strategy, the many moving parts clarify into a cohesive whole and my clients have confidence in their spend.
I thought it would be useful to outline an approach you can use when building a digital strategy:
- Framework and structure
- Target audience and competition
- Setting meaningful targets
If you are a small business owner, marketing coordinator, marketing manager, or a start-up, this is perfect for you. Remember to check back next week for the follow-up on how to populate the digital strategy.
1. Your Digital Framework and Structure
Like anything in life, to achieve an objective you need a plan. Putting a structure around your digital strategy helps to streamline the next steps. Although you will not be populating the plan yet, it's good to have in your mind so you stick to the right track in the next stage.
It's like setting a savings plan for a house deposit, or looking up directions before you take a road trip.
Having a framework means your digital strategy is:
You want to reach your target market at the right time, in the right place, without overspending on marketing tactics. Then once you have their attention, you need to nurture them through the journey to become a paying customer. This requires a plan.
RACE framework for digital strategies
The RACE framework, introduced by Smart Insights, has been a game-changer for many businesses in the early stages of mapping out a digital strategy. It's a simple framework that guides you through tactics that can be employed at each stage of the customer journey.
The buyer journey is often called the "marketing funnel", so each part of the RACE framework (Reach, Act, Convert and Engage) aligns with a different stage in the funnel.
Reach correlates to the customer's Exploration stage. They are searching - exploring - the market to find a solution, so you need to be aware of the tactics you are using to grow your audience and land in their consideration set.
Your customer is starting to make a decision, so you need to give them something to act on. By prompting interactions (email sign-ups, landing page visits, pre-purchase activities) you are keeping your brand in their mind through the Decision-Making stage.
This is the critical stage where your online audience converts to paying customers in the Purchase phase of the funnel. What tactics are you using to promote or price yourself into a sale? Are you retargeting customers who enter the purchase cycle and abandon a shopping cart, and what does that messaging look like?
Your interactions don't conclude with a sale because the next step in the funnel is Advocacy. What are you doing to ensure a customer not only returns, but speaks favourably about your service and product? Finding a new customer can cost 5 times as much as retaining an old customer. It's worth your time to re-invest.
Remember, you don't need to have all the answers yet. Keep the RACE framework in the back of your mind as we take a step backwards to home in on your target market.
2. Identifying audience and competition
I introduced RACE first because it helps to set a kind of mental boundary in this second stage. Otherwise, you could end up throwing good money after bad by skipping the Reach stage and going straight for expensive Conversions, for example.
But before you can fill out your RACE framework, you need more detail about your target customers:
- Who they are
- Where you will find them
- What they like
- Why they should pick you over the competition
In this process, you will also identify a shortlist of your competitors if you haven't already done so. The result of identifying your market and competition means when it comes time to build your strategy you know which channels to target, how to get an edge over the competition, and what tactics will work best at each stage.
Defining customer avatars
First, we need to define key avatars (or personas) that represent your ideal customer. Defining avatars means understanding your customer so you can target them effectively with the RACE framework and therefore reach them with the right message, at the right time, in the right place.
Your target market is defined by more than age, gender and location. The characteristics include, at the very least:
- Social media presence
- Likes and dislikes
- Influence network
Are they scientific or creative? Do they prefer face-to-face interactions or remote communication? Will they be guided by sales and discounts, or customer reviews? What do they already know about your product?
Once you know who you are talking to, you will be able to select the most impactful (and economic) channels to Reach your avatar, and craft targeted messaging that takes them on the journey through Acting, Converting and Engaging.
Identifying your competition
You may already know a little about your competition, but unless you have done a SWOT analysis you might be missing an important factor that sets you apart. SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats,) is an industry-standard competitor analysis tool.
I normally run a 2-hour workshop with my clients to identify 3-5 primary avatars and shortlist the competition with a detailed SWOT analysis and market insights. At the end of the session, their position in the market is crystal-clear which is a good place to begin.
Bringing it all together
So you have a RACE framework, you have key avatar(s) and where to find them, you know your competition better than they know themselves, and you know what separates your brand in the market. Now it's time to set some targets.
3. Setting objectives and KPIs
A digital strategy without objectives and KPIs is like a road trip without a destination, or a savings account without anything to save for. Let's define objectives and KPIs and look at how to establish aspirational and achievable goalposts.
These are the outcomes your digital strategy is aiming to achieve. They are borne directly from the core goal or problem your digital strategy is targeting. For example, if your goal is to get more product sales, or your website visitation is low, then set objectives along those lines.
Like the RACE framework, there is a simple formula for setting SMART objectives:
- Specific: the objective is based in reality and defines a clear problem or opportunity
- Measurable: expressed as a metric, either quantitative or qualitative
- Actionable: can be used to improve future performance, and is not simply dead-end
- Relevant: contributes directly to sales growth, website visitation, lead generation etc.
- Time-bound: contained within a period (e.g. a week, a season) and compared against a previous period
Key Performance Indicators are the measurable and meaningful data points that define a successful (or not) digital strategy.
To illustrate a meaningful KPI, let's take a straightforward sales example. Your strategy aims to boost sneaker sales for your brand, so you start by defining an avatar and mapping out the competition.
Then you filter this information through the RACE framework to get your tactics. You set a target of selling 100 pairs per day to 20-somethings in Western Australia who like surf-rock music and are active on Instagram.
KPIs track your progress towards that target of 100 pairs per day, so they might be:
- Click-through rate from the Instagram post
- Emails entered on the landing page to access a discount code
- Follow-up email opens
- Abandoned cart conversions
If the numbers in one area or another are low, you can tweak the tactics to boost results and convert down the funnel. See how it's all starting to come together?
I know all this information quickly becomes overwhelming, which is why I always walk my clients through a structured approach to digital strategies.
Laying the foundation for successful strategies
To recap, we have walked through the initial planning component of your digital strategy in this post.
- Your digital framework and structure
- Identifying market and competition
- Setting objectives and KPIs
Don't worry if you don't have anything written down. Next week, in Part 2 we will move on to the part my clients love: creating the strategy and channel planning. Accessing and implementing the tools to carry out the Reach, Act, Convert and Engage tactics in a digital campaign.
In the meantime, reach out if you have any questions. You can always contact me at email@example.com