What is digital?
That’s a question that we get asked a lot. Is it marketing? Commerce? Advertising?
The answer, of course, is that digital isn’t any one of those things, it’s a core element of an organization. In the same way that manufacturing, or finance, or human resources touch every part of a business, digital is not limited to a set of tactics.
That’s why we believe in Digital from the Inside Out, the idea that the best digital strategies are built from deep inside the organization to benefit and build the entire organization.
That’s fantastic, you may be thinking, but with a scope as wide as “everything, everywhere”, how can anyone possibly come up with any good ideas?
Manufacturing, finance, and HR each have established practices, organizations, and experts who have laid out easy to follow systems. There is no GAAP for digital, but that’s great news because it means that we get to create it for ourselves.
My team and I are fortunate in that we’ve had the luxury of working with hundreds of organizations across dozens of industries, so what I’m going to do for you here is break down the system that we’ve developed over that time, in hopes that you can apply it to whatever challenge you’re working on.
1. What are we trying to achieve?
It’s surprising to me how many digital strategies leave this one out. They have lots of clever tactics, and even highly effective ideas, but to what end? Great ideas are only great when they get us to a place that’s meaningful for the business.
Ask yourself the following:
- When you succeed, what will be the headline on your report?
- Why will your customers care?
- Why will your stakeholders (boss, investors, partners) care?
- How can you measure that success?
2. What are our customers telling us?
The best ideas are sometimes smacking us in the face, we just need to know which data to pay attention to. You have customers, or donors, or clients who love you. Why do they love you? What do you they want to see more of from you? What frustrates them?
Research data can sound dull, but sometimes in that data is our customers’ wants, needs and ideas. If you don’t have the data, ask for it – send surveys, mine your Google Analytics, and look at what your most successful social media content has in common.
Our weekly email The Brief was born out of this very concept; our clients had been telling us that they were overwhelmed by the amount of information out there and needed someone to break down what’s happening for them. We started including a quick update in each of their weekly reports, and three years later, here we are.
3. What’s the best in your industry doing?
“Good artists copy, great artists steal” – Steve Jobs.
Every great idea is inspired by something else. Plus, your competitors are spending a ton of time and resources researching what will work with their audiences. Why not benefit from all of that hard work? There has never been a time where more competitive information is available to put up on the ideas board, here are just a few examples:
- Social Advertising – Go to your best competitor’s Facebook Page, click on Page Transparency, Ad Library and you’ll see all of the ads that they’re currently running.
- Email Marketing – find the sign up form on all of the best sites. Take note of what the welcome email looks like, when do they email you? How much information is in there? What are the calls to action?
- Conversion Rate Optimization – Don’t go through the front door, check out the landing page experience. Find search ads, click on social content, go to their shopping cart and leave so that their remarketing ads follow you around the internet and click on those.
- SEO – Look at the heading tags on all of their best performing pages. Chances are that their targeted keywords will be right there staring back at you.
- Digital Advertising (this one’s extra stealth) – Click on their ads and copy the links into a notepad. What do you see in their UTM tags? Many advertisers will lay their entire advertising strategies out there for you to see. Here’s one that was targeting me on Facebook (I’ve bolded the relevant sections of the URL for you):
Notice: They’re running Facebook ads (source) within their social campaign (medium). The creative is their “video conversion tv ad drop the shop homepage 50% off” (term), and they’re “prospecting Western Provinces” (campaign).
When you compare that link against several more from the same brand you’ll start to see what they’re testing, what they believe is working, how they categorize their spend and even who they’re targeting.
4. What are brands outside your industry doing?
There are thousands of brands out there targeting a similar audience, with similar brands to yours, but they’re selling very different products so we often pay no attention to them. Allow yourself to open your aperture and consider what’s working for them, and how you apply that to your own business.
For all of your competitive research, remember that they’re all trying out ideas just like you are, so put yourself in the shoes of a potential customer and ask yourself:
- How would I react to this?
- Would I click? Would I sign up/convert?
- Do I feel better about this brand after this experience?
- Is it useful?
5. How does this benefit our customer?
The really great ideas will come from synthesis, meaning that you take ideas and inspiration from a wide variety of spaces and bring them to your brainstorm to ask yourself: How could our customer benefit from this?
I have no doubt that if you run through steps 1-4 your biggest problem is not going to be a lack of ideas, so now you need a filter, and that filter should always be customer benefit. If the digital experience/ad campaign/social content looks great on paper but doesn’t provide any value to the customer, then it’s not a great idea.
And, of course, if you could use a hand pulling all of this together, backing it up with research and turning it into a clear, measurable strategy, you should give us a call. We’d love to help you out.