When creating a traditional business plan, managers are considering a 3-5 year horizon. This is far too long when it comes to digital, that is your website, CRM, social media etc. The pace of innovation and change in the digital world is far too fast for specific long term planning. What is new and cutting edge today could be obsolete or passe within a year!
This fast paced change can be worrying to managers and the c-suite. In the face of this worry, managers need to resist the urge to tighten controls and plan with great specificity. Instead, a framework that allows for flexibility and frequent assessment of new tools and tech should be formed. Every organization is different of course, but the following will help get the ball rolling.
1. Define Your Goals
The first step for preparing any sort of strategy is to define the goals you wish to achieve. Why is it that you are taking on this project or work? Be careful not to lose sight of the forest for the trees though. Keep the goals focused on business outcomes, not on specific tools or tech. For example:
Instead of “Increasing Twitter Followers by 50%”, you’d be better served with “Increase impressions of our content marketing by 50%”.
Well, your goal isn’t really to conquer Twitter. It’s to have more customers engaged with your content and brand managers. If your customers aren’t on Twitter, why focus your attention there? Perhaps Pinterest or Facebook are better venues for your social media efforts. You won’t know if you set a goal based on Twitter.
2. Review Current Strategy
Take a look at what you are currently doing, and determine if it is meeting your new goals. Identify what isn’t meeting the goals and why.
If your goals are being met by your current strategy, great! But that doesn’t mean you are done. Don’t skip Steps 3-5 here!
This step isn’t as simple as it looks though. It is easy to get used to something and become blind to it. Like that squeaky chair leg, or sticky lock that you have to turn just so. Sometimes, you need an fresh set of eyes, and a second opinion. While not right for every situation, having a consultant perform a Business Review of your digital strategy can really help put things in perspective.
3. Think Beyond the Screen
It’s really easy to get caught up with creating an awesome website, or perfecting a haiku for Twitter. Don’t forget about the customers overall experience though. What happens after they buy a product from your website?
Customers experience your service as whole, not as separate chunks. If they can order your product in 30 seconds, but it doesn’t get processed at the ware house for 30 days, do you think they will be pleased?
It is during this step that you need to analyse the inputs and outputs of your digital tools, and ensure that they are relevant and working together as seamlessly as possible.
4. Choose Your Tools
This is my favourite part! I just love learning about new digital tools. And there are a lot of them. So many in fact, that you can’t review all of your options. The silver lining here is that there is almost always the perfect tool for you out there. You just have to find it.
That means you should never build a process to accommodate your tools. If there is customer service issue and you find yourself saying “The computer won’t let you do that.” then you are using the wrong tool.
This is also the step to choose things like social media platforms. Don’t try to be active on all of them. Not only is that impossible for the average business, but it is also a waste of time. Find the places where your customers are and focus your attention there.
Also take time to review the people who are using your tools. I don’t mean to de-humanize your team, but they do have to be the right people in the right job. Just like you don’t want “The computer says no!” you’re going to need developers who are up to speed with current technologies, and a social media manager that has a Facebook account. If your people don’t have the skills, get them some training and development time. If that won’t work, consider changing their role or position on the team. Letting someone go because they don’t know a new tool should be a last resort.
5. Take Time to Re-evaluate
Things are now looking good. You’ve got a plan, the tools you need, and the people who know how to use them. But there’s one thing left before you set them loose to execute. Set a time to reassess your goals, tools and team.
New tools are released every day. Google changes is search algorithm many times a year. Social networks come into and go out of fashion. There’s no sense in keeping up your Geo Cities site, and if your newest product must be picked up in person, perhaps your online store isn’t as important as it was last year, or maybe it’s more important.
The point is, the rate of change when it comes to digital far outstrips traditional planning cycles. You need to come back to these issues often, say every 6 months. That doesn’t mean you will need an entirely new Digital Strategy twice a year, but you do need to consider your goals and the tools and team used to accomplish them, even if briefly.
With this framework in place, and a commitment to an ongoing examination of the digital landscape, your organization will have the agility to avoid being left behind online.