Does Your Business Need a Digital Strategy?

The answer to this question, will depend on many factors, for example, the size of the business and the sector which will govern how important digital media are in influencing the customer on their path-to-purchase.

If, as in many cases, reaching and persuading your audiences via online channels is important, you may already have a digital marketing strategy, so you might think that most businesses would already have a defined digital marketing strategy or transformation plan. In a recent survey we asked businesses the question: Does your organisation have a clearly defined digital marketing strategy?.

I think the results are surprising! Even though digital marketing can no longer be described as new, nearly half of businesses don't have a defined strategy.


Kudos, if you do have a plan, or are working on digital transformation (the survey also showed that 33% of businesses are planning to introduce a digital transformation programme in the next 12 months.

But what if you're one of the companies that don't have a digital strategy yet?

Using digital marketing without a strategic approach is still commonplace. I'm sure many of the companies in this category are using digital and social media marketing. They could certainly be getting great results from their search, email or social media marketing. But I'm equally sure that many are missing opportunities for setting better targeting or optimisation or are suffering from the other challenges that are typical when you don't have a well defined business or marketing plan, i.e.

  • Unclear objectives (not SMART)
  • Lack of evaluation of success (for example are the right digital marketing KPIs being used and are they reported in a dashboard?)
  • Piecemeal, ad hoc marketing activity which isn't prioritised or integrated
  • Insufficient use of targeting and messaging to defined personas
  • Wastage from duplication or lack of scrutiny of media investment

A two-step approach to integrating digital marketing into a business

Many, a majority of companies in this research do take a strategic approach to digital. From talking to companies, I find the creation of digital plans often occurs in two stages. First, a separate digital marketing plan is created. This is useful to get agreement and buy-in by showing the opportunities and problems and map out a path through setting goals and specific strategies for digital including how you integrated digital marketing into other business activities. Second, digital becomes integrated into marketing strategy, it's a core activity, "business-as-usual", but doesn't warrant separate planning, except for the tactics.

I think these two alternatives for creating a plan which are shown in the chart may suggest a way forward.

I recommend starting with a separate digital marketing strategy or plan defining the transformation needed and making the case for investment and changes to your digital marketing and supporting people, process, structure and governance.

Then, following approval and buy-in and implementation of initial changes (which will typically take more time the larger the organisation), create an integrated digital plan which is part of the overall marketing plan. This should be the ultimate goal, digital is fully aligned and informs marketing and business strategy and becomes part of business as usual.

In my next article I'll drill down into some of the detail which needs to be covered in a digital marketing plan, i.e. which activities a digital marketing plan should include.

Dr Dave Chaffey helped design and deliver the IDM qualifications in Digital Marketing when they were first launched. We now offer a portfolio of IDM Diplomas in both Digital and Direct and Digital at Professional and Postgraduate level. Our Professional Diplomas are designed to help you plan, manage and evaluate direct and digital marketing campaigns. Our Postgraduate Diplomas will equip you with the skills and confidence to define and implement a robust direct and digital marketing strategy.

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