All well-executed plans begin with a comprehensive strategy. The Greeks hiding in their Trojan horse, England winning the ’66 World Cup, Crazy Frog earning almost $500m in ringtone downloads and somehow spending four weeks at the top of the charts. Our bad, now that’s going to be stuck in your head for the rest of the week!
And when it comes to your business's approach to digital operations, it’s no different. Success depends on the thoroughness of your planning - is your digital strategy well-informed, data-driven, expert-led, and purposeful?
Your digital strategy is the blueprint to maximising your digital capabilities, making it a non-negotiable for any company looking to undergo a digital transformation, unlock new business opportunities, or drive digital growth.
For example, perhaps you’re wondering how to capture more data around how your customers interact with your brand, and how to translate these insights into actionable outcomes that streamline your operations. Or, maybe you’re struggling to establish your online brand and expand in a competitive market. Whether you’re facing the challenge of overhauling tired and outdated processes by embracing new digital solutions, or stuck on how to optimise your existing digital presence to open new doors for your business, your digital strategy holds the answers.
Think of business goals as your destination, and your digital strategy as the roadmap that pinpoints how you’re going to get there. But like all good quests, it’s more than likely that you’re going to face obstacles along the way - haven’t you ever seen Lord of the Rings!?
If there’s one lesson to take away from Frodo and Sam’s adventures, it’s that Plan A can’t prepare you for all eventualities. Sure you can plan for some challenges, but other obstacles will be unforeseen, meaning you must be prepared to take detours when and where necessary along the way.
The good news is that the hurdles you'll likely come across in your digital strategy aren’t quite as dramatic as Frodo’s - or at least we sure hope you don’t have to deal with giant spiders or corrupt members of your team hell-bent on power. And if you do, you might want to reconsider your industry. Nonetheless, it helps to understand some of the most likely blockers you’ll need to overcome when mapping out your digital strategy to ensure it remains as agile and well-informed as possible:
- Internal pushback: many businesses are understandably set in their ways, with a set way of doing things because, ‘that’s always been the way!’. Whether it’s a hesitancy to shift from legacy systems or an apprehension about a new tech or digital direction, it’s not uncommon for stakeholders and decision makers to push back on proposals unless its value is communicated in a crystal clear way. Cultural conflicts like these can be tough to resolve without the right processes in place and without the right experts to guide the successful implementation of change from the ground up
- Knowledge/skill gaps: a strong digital strategy relies on good technical know-how, meaning that internal knowledge and skill gaps within your existing teams can often result in the delayed adoption and misguided implementation of digital solutions
- Difficulty starting: with so many avenues to explore, it can be tough to get the ball rolling when it comes to mapping out your digital strategy, especially if you’ve not conducted sufficient market and customer research to inform the direction you take
- Budget/resource restrictions: budget and resource restrictions are the age old enemy of every business. You might have big ideas for your brand’s digital strategy, but whether you have the budget and manpower to carry out your plans successfully is a different matter - particularly with inevitable scope creep somewhere down the line!
With the IDG’s 2023 Digital Business Study finding that 57% of businesses have adopted a digital-first strategy and a further 36% plan to do so, now’s the time to reflect on your own digital roadmap. Are you one of the 29% of enterprise organisations intending to adopt a digital-first approach, or one of the 41% of small businesses still in the early planning stages? If you answered no, consider the impact this is likely to have on your business’s capabilities, falling behind the times and, as a result, falling behind the competition in your market.
With over half (57%) of respondents in the same study pursuing digital strategies to improve employee productivity and collaboration in the age of hybrid working - representing a 44% rise from 2021 - it’s clear that in today’s world, a digital strategy is not a nice to have but a necessity, and getting it right is the secret to successfully standing out from the crowd.
Digital strategies: why do they matter?
OK, so we’ve established that digital strategies matter. Now at the risk of sounding like an annoying toddler who’s been told they can’t have another biscuit, we must ask: ‘but why?’
First, it’s important to understand that digital strategies can benefit businesses across every stage of their digital journey, just in different ways. For example, an exclusively brick and mortar business looking to undergo a complete digital transformation for the first time will have a strategy that looks very different to an ecommerce business looking to drive more growth.
But whatever the context of the situation, the foundation of your digital strategy is the same - it’s using digital approaches to create new solutions, streamline existing processes, develop more informed marketing plans, identify new revenue opportunities and a whole lot more.
In short: it’s strategically aligning your business objectives with the right digital solutions for your needs.
Sounds good, right? That’s because a winning digital strategy can bring your business a wide range of desirable benefits, including:
- More effective marketing campaigns: from organic channels, social media and content to Paid media, affiliate links and email campaigns, when it comes to digital marketing, you have more choices than an all-you-can-eat buffet. But that doesn’t mean you should just dive straight in and pile your plate with everything on offer - like most buffets we’ve been to, trying a bit of everything rarely delivers the first time around. Does curry really go with sushi? By taking the time to develop a digital strategy that researches your customer base and identifies the most effective way to reach your target audience, you can ensure that you’re spending your digital marketing budget more effectively by utilising the top channels and campaigns that reap the greatest rewards
- Propelling you to the forefront of the market: by its very nature, the digital landscape evolves day after day, meaning what once was best practice and cutting edge can be out of style quicker than double denim. We’re looking at you, Spears and Timberlake. By creating an agile digital strategy, your business can stay ahead of the curve and at the forefront of its industry by remaining up to date with the latest capabilities and, even more importantly, adaptable. And as many businesses discovered during the pandemic, the value of adaptability can’t be understated
- Improved operational efficiency: it’s easy to get caught up in the old way of doing things - after all, it’s got you this far, right? But one of the main advantages of digitalisation is the efficiencies it can drive both internally and externally, providing it’s been executed strategically. Whether it’s analysing internal data to assess how processes can be streamlined through automation or digital migration, or optimising user flows and buyer journeys to enhance the customer experience, there’s a whole host of ways your digital strategy can drive efficiency across the board
- Increased revenue and growth: you don’t have to be Einstein to understand this simple equation: well-informed marketing + optimised online presence + greater efficiencies = more growth, revenue, and profit. Even Michael Scott’s business school taught that one. Exploring the digital potential of your business enables you to open new doors by tapping into new markets and uncovering new ways of doing things. In today’s digital world, a strategic online presence and purposeful digital adoption are imperative to your ability to maximise your bottom line and expand your business, and your digital strategy is the secret sauce that helps you achieve it. All this talk of buffets and sauce is making us hungry…
The 5 pillars of a winning digital strategy
Knowledge is the beating heart of your digital strategy - it’s the thing that gives your ambitions and visions life beyond the whiteboard.
Don’t be under the illusion that this is just technical know-how, however. Of course, a deep technical understanding of digital solutions and infrastructure is super important in creating the right digital strategy, but so is a thorough comprehension of your audience, brand, and objectives.
This can often be the toughest part of shifting to a digital mindset, as without a confident knowledge of these core elements, you lack the guiding principles to direct your strategy effectively. Moreover, you’ll also struggle to justify your plans and earn buy-in from key stakeholders and decision makers.
A good starting point is to assess your mission statement - you know what you want to achieve, but do you know how you’re going to get there?
If knowledge is the heart of your digital strategy, then innovation is the blood it pumps.
By 2030, the global digital transformation market is projected to balloon to $3145bn (around £2596bn, or to convert to even simpler terms, a whole lot of dosh), representing a 24.1% CAGR (compound annual growth rate) from this year. This is a testament to just how much exciting innovation is happening in the space, and demonstrates the power a winning strategy has to reimagine not just the way your business operates, but also what it can achieve.
Explore the exciting array of digital opportunities available to your brand, and consider how these align with your objectives by evaluating both market and technology disruptions and innovations in your own industry, as well as others.
Whether it’s building custom software, embracing more technologies, or identifying new digital opportunities, the aim should be to develop a strategy that builds out new business and revenue models to provide you with a strategic advantage. Just be sure to always keep your audience at the centre of your efforts.
The best digital strategies take a multi-pronged approach, but that shouldn’t just be a case of throwing all the darts at the board and seeing what sticks. We’re no darts experts, but we’re pretty sure that’s against the rules.
To borrow the words of r-kids, Oasis, the individual components of your digital strategy are ‘all part of the masterplan’ - but the key is making sure they get along with each other far better than the Gallagher brothers.
From the way you utilise internal data to the direction you take in your marketing plan, each element of your digital strategy should have its own unique objective, but these individual objectives should all be working towards a greater collective goal.
Cohesion is essential to any digital strategy; not just the cohesion of ideas, but the cohesion of your team too. This means encouraging collaboration and communication across departments to ensure that everyone is on the same page and working towards the same mission, whether that’s between internal teams or between yourselves and a third party.
The cohesion of teams is particularly important in establishing a culture of digitalisation within your business, particularly if you’re not an inherently digital company. Shifting the culture of your company towards a digital-first mindset entails education and communication, ensuring everyone understands both the value of your digital strategy and the role they play within it, which in turn helps to secure buy-in from stakeholders and decision makers when it’s needed most.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but digital strategies need to be innately - well, um - strategic. The clue’s in the name.
This makes measurement an indispensable pillar of any winning digital strategy. Without being able to objectively judge what’s working and what isn’t, it’s impossible for your digital strategy to be agile and informed enough to ensure success. That’s what the Compare the Market meerkats call ‘simples’.
Establish key performance indicator (KPI) frameworks that enable you to accurately track and assess the effectiveness of your strategy. To align these metrics with predetermined short-term, medium-term and long-term objectives, look to establish your North Star - one KPI to rule them all. This shouldn’t be a business goal like revenue or lead generation, but rather a single metric that guides you towards these goals by keeping you well informed and on the right path. Think of it as the ultimate indicator of your success and failures along the way.
Perhaps the most important rule of all here is: don’t be afraid of failure. That’s what you’re measuring for! No matter how much you strategise, not everything will go to plan - have you never seen Rocky?!
So, don’t get disheartened if the metrics aren’t on your side. Instead, make the necessary tweaks informed by the data at your disposal, and continually optimise your strategy while monitoring performance every step of the way.
It’s this adaptability and versatility that will set your approach apart from your competitors. As the Italian Stallion himself says, ‘it ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward - that’s how winning is done’!
If your digital strategy is the blueprints to the house, this pillar is the proposal for the extension - only without the three year delay waiting for planning permission from the council.
Scalability goes hand in hand with growth. Providing that you’re executing your strategy correctly, your digital expansion will see you driving more eyes to your website and driving more sales of your products, meaning it’s key that you have the plans in place to cope with an increase in exposure and demand.
But of course, it shouldn’t just be a case of keeping up with your audience. With new growth comes new opportunities, and scalability ensures you’re ready to seize them with a digital strategy built not just for today, but well into the future. For example, don’t just consider how your software will cope with an increase in traffic; plan how your digital product can evolve to meet the changing demands of this new audience, too.
When to reach out for a helping hand
Now we know what you’re thinking; ‘wow, what an amazing blog post - now I know everything I need to develop my own digital strategy’. What do you mean that’s not what you were thinking?!
Whether you agree with the first part of that statement or not (although we severely hope you do), there’s no doubt that you’re now armed with a whole arsenal of actionable tips and takeaways for creating a winning digital strategy. Unfortunately, however, this doesn’t necessarily mean your digital strategy will be plain sailing, so you might want to turn Rod Stewart down a notch for now.
Remember those pesky hurdles we said you’d come across at the start of this blog post? This is the point where you have to jump over them, and without a helping hand, it’s more than likely you’ll end up flat on your face. And you don’t have to be an athlete to know that means you’re probably not going to end up on the podium.
So how do you ensure you cross the finish line in first place? The key to developing a winning digital strategy is to get in touch with the experts and draft the help of digital professionals who know the tech space inside out.
Digital strategies are the bread and butter of experts who specialise in developing a wide range of digital solutions, meaning they’re particularly well placed to guide you down the optimal path and equip you with everything you need to reach your destination. Think of it like catching a black cab in London - your driver knows the most efficient route, and better still, they can take you there. So hop in!
Here’s how the market-leading knowledge and experience of digital experts can help overcome common digital strategy blockers:
Win stakeholder buy-in
Selling the value of a digital strategy is a pretty tough gig if you don’t really understand it yourself. It’s basically booking Gary Barlow to headline Download Festival.
Digital experts can help you strategise your digital approach in a way that’s proven to reap the rewards, and can assist in creating the proposals that demonstrate the high business value of the implementation.
Whether it’s offering authoritative advice and explanations that decision makers trust, or assisting with data visualisation to expand the comprehensible insights available to your company and board, digital experts can help win stakeholder buy-in and propel your digital plans forward.
Bridge knowledge/skill gaps
Working with a digital expert helps to overcome the pitfalls of internal skill and knowledge gaps by handing over the technical wizzwazz to somebody who really knows what they’re doing.
Not only does this prevent delays to your adoption and implementation, but by leaving it to the experts, you also ensure you’re using the right solutions in the most effective ways. Whether it’s delivering a tried and tested marketing plan with proven results, performing a website optimisation using leading methods and best practice, or identifying the latest technologies to create a custom digital solution, you can rest assured that you’re solving your digital problems in the most effective way.
And that’s not to say it’s just a short-term solution. By consulting with experts on your digital strategy from planning to implementation, business leaders can also educate themselves and their teams throughout the process, benefiting from the expertise of a third party by bridging internal knowledge gaps longer term.
Start on the best possible foot
Not knowing when, where, or how to kick off your digital strategy guarantees delays from the get-go. At best, it kicks the project further down the road; at worst, it kicks it over the cliff and never to be seen again.
Digital experts are super-experienced in guiding digital projects from start to finish. This won’t be their first rodeo! It could be competitor analysis, market research, digital discovery - you name it, they’ve ridden it, cowboy.
The library of experience these digital experts have means they’re well-versed in digital strategies with all sorts of objectives and endpoints. As a result, you can rest assured you’ll be guided down the best possible route to navigate the Wild Wests of your industry.
Untie budget/resource restrictions
Of course, one of the biggest benefits of reaching out for a helping hand is, by outsourcing your digital strategy and implementation, you relieve internal pressures on budget and resources.
And that’s not just at the start of your project. Digital experts can even take care of all the heavy lifting when it comes to things like monitoring and reporting, relieving the workloads of your internal teams and freeing up resources to spend time on other business initiatives.
But it’s not just a case of creating more valuable time and availability. Consulting with market-leading experts ensures you’re taking the most cost-effective approach in a revenue-driving way, guaranteeing that you get the very most out of your investment.
We get it, you’re a busy bee - promise we won’t take it personally if you don’t read the full thing!
Here are the most important insights on creating a winning digital strategy:
- Digital strategies require a combination of leading technical know-how and a good comprehension of your audience, brand, and objectives
- Discover new technologies by considering how these align with your business objectives, and evaluating market disruptions and innovations in your industry, as well as others
- Cohesion is essential to any digital strategy; not just the cohesion of ideas, but the cohesion of your team too
- Establish key performance indicator (KPI) frameworks that enable you to accurately track and assess the effectiveness of your strategy, aligning these metrics with predetermined short-term, medium-term and long-term objectives
- Scalability ensures you’re ready to capitalise on opportunities with a digital strategy built not just for today, but well into the future
- Common blockers to your digital strategy include internal pushbacks, knowledge and skills gaps, difficulty starting projects, and restrictions around budgets and internal resource
- Bringing in a digital expert to overcome these common hurdles is the most effective approach to your digital strategy
Businesses big and small rely on digital solutions to uncover new doors of opportunity, and an expert-led digital strategy is the key to unlocking them.
It doesn’t matter if your business is brand new to the digital space or has an existing online presence, without a comprehensive digital strategy in place, it’s missing out on a chance to drive significant growth and revenue. Implement the five pillars of a winning digital strategy, and don’t get left behind in today’s increasingly digital world.