October 31, 2017
Creating a digital communications strategy doesn’t have to be difficult. Follow these four key steps and you’ll be on your way to success.
1. Start by identifying your business goals.
Some example business goals you might be trying to achieve are:
- Demonstrate innovation
- Grow brand awareness
- Increase lead volume
- Improve shareholder value
2. Understand the situation.
Whether it’s related to reaching investors, managing through a crisis, marketing a new product or communicating internally – identify the current state you’re working within. By focusing on the situation at hand, you’ll stay grounded as you develop your digital communications strategy. Some examples include:
- Communicating through a crisis
- Losing market share to a key competitor
- New entrants to your market
3. Gain insight into your target audience(s).
Align who you’re trying to reach with what you hope to accomplish by asking a few key questions:
- What are their digital communication preferences?
- Do they over-index on mobile use?
- Where can you find them on social channels?
- What types of content do they find valuable and engaging?
- In B2B, do your prospects prefer video, research papers, graphics or other written content?
4. Once you’ve collected this information, use it to develop your digital communications strategy.
Use your goals, situation and audience insights to customize the digital tactics. For example, let’s say you run a marketing and communications group for an advanced manufacturing organization. How would you use the 4-step process to determine the best digital tactics?
- First, you confirm that your business strategy is to win new customers by delivering innovative new products, services and superior delivery.
- Perhaps your situation involves launching innovative new products and services, but your organization isn’t currently viewed as innovative due to old school communication tactics.
- Your target audience (buyers) is entry-level and early-career engineers. They prefer to search for information online primarily using search engines, manufacturer websites, forums, association and trade media websites. They largely desire technical information and case studies. They crave new technological experiences to help them learn and understand new products and solutions.
- From there, you conclude that your digital communications strategy should build audience engagement around new products and services by using innovative technology to communicate and delight your target audience and ultimately drive leads and sales. What exactly does this mean? You identify several digital tactics that could bring the strategy to life:
- You create an online hub of product information that educates audiences and helps them solve their business challenges. Content on the hub includes educational videos, research papers with technical data, and specifications. The content is delivered in a highly interactive fashion such as project calculators or configurators to help drive further engagement. In order to help prospects find the information they need, you invest time and resources into optimizing the site and content so it’s indexed in search for high priority keywords and queries.
- To show your audience how innovative your communications have become, you develop a virtual reality experience that showcases (in an immersive environment) new products being manufactured, installed and used. This could include the product being put to the test in extreme conditions to demonstrate durability and reliability. The VR experience can be demonstrated at trade shows, at in-person meetings, posted online and promoted to your audience. You may even consider sending prospects and customers VR headsets.
- You create case studies that appeal to specific use-cases and can be targeted to trade media as well as directly to your engineering audience.
- You promote your content online through appropriate channels such as paid search, SEO, association websites, and perhaps social media such as LinkedIn. You develop a content calendar that includes a cadence of pushing out content at strategic points in the year.
- You engage in online forums where your audience posts questions or regularly participates in discussion. By discussing innovation in the industry as well as providing answers and solutions to others in the forum, you offer to help without any expectations of reciprocation.
Of course, there are many other ways to communicate digitally to support the stated strategy. Start by getting all of your ideas on a white board or in brainstorming software. Work through a prioritization process using budgets, timelines and other criteria to help narrow your focus. While not discussed in the example, keep in mind that you should measure your efforts. Track engagement with your content and develop insights to help improve your future efforts and investments.
As you work to develop the best digital tactics, keep your business goals in mind, concentrate on your target audience, understand your situation and then form your digital communications strategy. Stay focused on these four tenets to ensure your strategy is on target and will deliver the results you’re seeking. Please feel free to contact me if you’d like to discuss digital strategy.