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Earlier this year I wrote about how to start formulating a digital marketing strategy.
Getting the strategy right is of course paramount. But even when the strategy is right, if it’s not understood, supported, and turned into action then it’s barely more than an academic exercise.
Ella Fitzgerald was on the money when she sang "tain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it… that’s what gets results".
Here are some actions to take when creating your digital marketing strategy that will also help to build the foundation for its success.
Paint the picture
We’re optimists us human beings. We want to believe that we’re heading towards a bright future (even if the odds aren’t in our favour and we know it).
One of the simplest ways to generate support for your strategy (or for any idea) is to paint a clear and sunny picture of what could be. What will be better when the strategy is realised? In other words, what’s your vision?
If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea. – Antoine de Saint-Exupery
We’re also driven by fear. So, on the flip side, what are the risks of not taking action?
Word of warning: be careful not to over-promise. Nothing will send your supporters fleeing faster than experiencing an emperor’s new clothes type moment of doubt.
Light the way
While we might be naturally inclined to buy into a rosy picture it doesn’t mean we won’t worry about how we’ll get there and what obstacles could block our path.
Articulate how it’s going to happen (governance) and how you’ll know if it’s working (KPIs).
Also, be clear about how your digital marketing strategy will help the business achieve its overall goals. Your plan can’t sit in isolation.
For example if you’re in a sales-driven organisation, how will your strategy help it to sell? If it’s service oriented, how will your new approach to marketing improve customer experience?
In research carried out last year, Capgemini found that 64% of companies struggling with digital transformation had failed to share their vision broadly within the organisation, and pinpointed this as one of the main causes of their malady.
Communication is critical to successful change, particularly within digital where team members have to make fast and frequent decisions.
How do you increase the odds of those decisions being the right ones? Make sure everyone has a clear understanding of the strategy and how to interpret it for their job.
Capgemini’s point about sharing the plan is an important one, but I believe that this path to success starts much earlier: the best way to build understanding and support is to involve people from the beginning.
Avoid an air sandwich
I love sandwiches, but I recently read about a sandwich that doesn’t sound in any way delicious: the air sandwich – a problematic gap created by a lack of interaction between those who formulate strategy and those who have to implement it.
The simplest way to avoid an air sandwich is to expand the number of people who can contribute to the strategy development.
Big and geographically dispersed companies can do this using simple tools like surveys or blogs, or through enterprise social platforms such as Yammer or Jive.
3M invited 20,000 people to a two-week online innovation ‘jam’ to identify new opportunities and better engage employees. The result: 736 ideas and thousands of votes and comments from 1,200 people in 40 countries, leading to nine new strategic opportunities and a workforce that felt a greater sense of involvement and ownership of the outcomes.
Personally I try to talk directly with as many people as I can and involve groups usually not associated with marketing. I do this because in the most successful companies digital is understood and owned by everyone, and great ideas can come from anywhere.
Influence the influencers
A further effective and scalable way to help strategy adoption is to tap into the informal networks of influence in a company.
Are you using influencer marketing? It’s the same approach, except instead of selling a product or service you’re selling your idea.
To identify influencers, pay attention to who everyone goes to when they need help, the people who bridge different departments, or those who have the ear of senior management.
Good old-fashioned communication principles still apply
There’s so much more to be said on this topic. Like how important it is to focus your strategy on a few big things and to keep the message simple, or the compelling power of language and story telling.
Maybe I’ll pick up in another post. In the meantime Made to Stick is a great book if you’re looking for further ideas for how to make your digital marketing strategy a success.