The Digital Strategy: What is it and How to Create One
Many organisations understand that to remain competitive, they must invest in new technologies and digital processes. However, most organisations are likely attempting to make digital changes with little guidance or direction. It’s easy to jump on new trends, especially when exciting new developments are taking off in your sector.
Think back to live streaming in the mid-2000s and the rise in companies investing in live-streamed events and talks. Fast forward to Artificial Intelligence today… ChatGPT has dominated industries with millions of companies investing in AI just to keep up. However, we’re still seeing an influx of organisations adopting new technologies simply because it’s what everyone else is doing.
A solid digital strategy helps you understand your current position in your sector by evaluating what’s working and what isn’t. It becomes the guiding force to an organisation’s digital transformation, ultimately leading to further growth. In this guide, we’ll unravel the web of the digital strategy, discuss its benefits and provide actionable tips on creating a winning digital strategy that will empower your team to thrive in a digital age.
Understanding Digital Strategy: What is it and why do I need one?
A digital strategy is a written plan of action that aligns an organisation’s goals with digital platforms and channels to attract, convert, and retain customers. It can include digital activities from website design to social media marketing and SEO. All aimed at driving growth through digital tools and processes. It will also work on internal processes, such as CRM or ERP systems, and broader software and IT projects.
There are many benefits of a digital strategy, including:
🚗 An effective digital strategy provides direction
📈 It allows organisations to make informed and data-driven decisions based on trends & research that align with overall business goals
🔍 It helps organisations to digitally innovate and unlock new opportunities to create a competitive advantage
🙋♀️ It helps all leaders be accountable
🎯 It gives rationale and purpose to decisionmaking
A key benefit of a digital strategy is the ability to track ROI on the digital activities an organisation puts into place. Instead of a ‘scattergun’ approach to adopting new technologies, a digital strategy allows organisations to keep track of which tools and campaigns are effective and what areas might need re-evaluating. Taking stock of your digital activities gives your organisation valuable insight that will help you reach your business goals.
“Digitisation can disrupt industries when it changes the nature of supply, demand, or both.” – Smart Insights
Steps To Writing an Effective Digital Strategy
Gauge Your Digital Maturity
You’re now ready to begin creating a digital strategy, but where do you start? A good starting point is to understand your current strengths and weaknesses. By taking a digital maturity assessment or conducting an audit, you can gain valuable insights into your current digital activities and identify areas of improvement.
A digital maturity assessment allows you to understand how you currently compare to your competitors and identifies areas of improvement. The assessment uses the Digital Maturity Model, a useful tool that evaluates five business areas that together make up a holistic view of digital maturity across an organisation.
The assessment breaks down each of the five business areas into digital criteria ranging from customer experience to security. It’s used to serve as a guide that can be referred to when designing your digital strategy. You will be able to find digital maturity assessments tailored to specific industries, but for a more generalised assessment, visit digitalmaturity.org.
It can also be helpful to run a digital audit of your previous and current campaigns, workflows and processes. A digital audit will help you to understand how your brand is being represented and perceived digitally and identifies areas of improvement and growth.
Create a Structure
There are many ways to structure a digital strategy and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Your digital strategy should be representative of your organisation and its needs. For example, the UK Digital Strategy produced by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, is extremely detailed and discusses digital innovation across six of the main organisational areas such as digital skills, finance and governance. However, this level of detail might not be relevant to your organisation. You may choose to focus on your main business goals, e.g. website design for digital growth. A digital maturity assessment and/or a digital audit will be a useful resource to help you benchmark current performance and understand your key areas of improvement.
Assess the Competitive Landscape
Conducting competitor analysis provides your organisation with valuable insights into your competitive landscape. The process enables you to better understand your competitors’ digital strengths and weaknesses and to identify digital innovation that is being used to improve processes and give them a competitive advantage.
Start by identifying the key competitors within your sector and analysing their online presence, including their website, social media accounts and digital marketing efforts. Evaluate their website design, user experience, and functionality to identify areas where your organisation could improve. Look for any gaps in their digital marketing or social media accounts that could provide opportunities for your organisation to provide additional value to your audience.
Competitor analysis is an ongoing process and should be updated regularly. The speed at which technology innovates means your organisation could be left behind if you’re not up-to-date. We discuss this in more detail in our comprehensive guide to running a competitor analysis workshop.
Track Digital Trends
Depending on your sector, your organisation should keep up with technology trends and progress such as artificial intelligence and wider trends such as shifts in digital behaviours such as online shopping. Keeping informed about new and developing digital trends helps position your organisation in the best possible position for reaching, attracting and converting your audiences.
Understanding how your target audience interacts with digital tools and platforms helps tailor your strategy to meet their needs. This could involve exploring new social media platforms, incorporating chatbots or updating your website’s user journeys, among many other options.
Understand Your Personas
User personas are fictional representations of your target audience. They help you to better understand your audience’s needs, objectives, motivations and behaviours. We’ve written a detailed blog on how to effectively define user personas here.
A set of defined user personas can be used as a guide to align your digital goals with their specific needs. For example, if you identify a user that values additional support and documentation, a valid digital goal of yours could be to develop a digital support hub that is easily accessible on your website.
Evaluate Your Digital Touchpoints
Evaluate your current digital touchpoints and identify areas of improvement. Look deeper into how your audience interacts with your brand, whether on social media or your website. Is a certain user persona lacking a digital touchpoint that can better serve their objectives? Are there any missing automatons that can streamline your current processes?
Consider all other digital touchpoints such as email marketing, mobile applications or chatbots. Assess their effectiveness in providing a seamless user experience for your audience. Look for areas where new or updated technologies can help to improve the customer journey or your organisation’s internal processes.
Most crucially, your digital strategy should evaluate all your current software and platforms. You want to assess their effectiveness in achieving your business goals and identify updates that can improve processes. Digital technology improves productivity, profitability and how value is delivered to customers, so ensure your technology is up-to-date and robust.
For example, you can begin by analysing your content management system (CMS). Is your current CMS scalable? Does it have the necessary features to meet your business goals? Consider whether switching to a different CMS will give you better results both in the short and long term. The same can be done with your other digital platforms such as your customer relationship manager (CRM), analytics software, SEO software and so on.
Define Your Goals
The next step is to outline the goals for your digital strategy. Setting goals allows your organisation to keep track of milestones and helps assess the overall impact of the digital strategy. Consider the following; what do you want to achieve with your digital strategy? Understanding the overarching goals will help you to define measurable goals. The best practice for defining measurable goals is by using the SMART goal system. Goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound.
By completing the above steps and outlining your digital strategy goals, you’ll now be able to design a roadmap that incorporates all of the digital improvements required. Similar to SMART goals, your roadmap should be achievable and relevant and incorporate the relevant people assigned to each task, the processes that will be required and assets that may need to be created.
Your roadmap should include assumptions, risks and anticipated challenges; see here our RAAIDD (risks, actions, assumptions, issues, dependencies, decisions) template that you can use to plan any potential roadblocks with your digital strategy. It’s a useful exercise to ensure your team and all stakeholders are aligned with any potential issues and are aware of timelines & costs.
Need Help With Your Digital Strategy?
At Crucible, we strongly encourage organisations to take a look at their current digital processes and evaluate their effectiveness. Crucible’s digital transformation and consultancy services offer in-depth sector expertise with a focus on governance, marketing, customer experience and internal systems and technology. We empower organisations and their workforce to embrace digital innovation and cultivate growth.