Step 1 of a digital strategy: Research and information gathering
While a digital strategy is pivotal to your business, you must have a thorough understanding of your company’s current online presence, as well as your competitors. In our last blog, ‘What is a digital strategy’, we briefly outlined the steps that should be included in any digital plan. Now, we go into detail about what you need to do as part of step one of your digital strategy.
The first and foremost step that you should do when considering your digital strategy is to research your business and gather all information that is relevant to your company and the industry you work in. This includes your target audience, your digital position and the assets you use. You also need to study your competitors’ digital presence and assets, as well as any possible disruptors that may affect your business in the near future.
1. Your digital position and assets
The creation of a digital strategy allows you the chance to generate a greater understanding of your business’ online position in the market and the assets, which you currently use. Diving into your company’s assets presents you with an opportunity to revise your current products and services. When researching, attempt to answer: “What do we offer our customers? Is what we offer still relevant? Do we offer new services or products (if so, what)? What services or products are we famous for? What do we want to be famous for?”
Once you have reviewed your products and services, study your website and social media channels. During this step, answer: “Has our website passed a UX (user-experience) test? Is our website mobile friendly? Does it load quickly, or is it slow? Is our design and font style consistent throughout the site?” For your social media accounts, measure and map your followers, engagement rates and trends over time. Here, you may surprisingly find that one of your channels is not working as effectively as others, and not providing the required Return on Investment (ROI).
Next, examine your content marketing and keyword strategy. During this step, you may discover that you aren’t posting and sharing as much content as you should be, or that your focus keywords from 12 months ago are no longer relevant. Take note of all the areas that need to be changed, or what you think should be changed, so you can refer back to them in step two of your digital strategy creation.
2. Your target audience
Your target audience may have been set and determined months ago and hasn’t been reviewed since. This is a common mistake made by businesses who are playing in the digital space. It is crucial that you review and alter your target audience dynamically, as it can change, as your company’s services and products develop.
Compare your target audience against your recently gathered data to see whether you still have engagement. During this step, you may also discover that you have gained a new target audience due to new services and products that your business now offers.
3. Your competitor’s digital position and assets
During step one of your digital strategy, you’re not only looking into your business’ presence online but also your competitors. It is essential that you research and gain knowledge on what your competitors are currently doing online. Do a thorough search of their website and social channels, read their content and rate their assets.
Take note on how often they post on their website and social media accounts. Look at their keywords, what their social following is, where their audience is from and what are they doing wrong or right. Join your competitors emailing lists to see how they are communicating with their customers.
It is important to know exactly what your competitors are up to, so you can alter your digital strategy to try and keep ahead of them. But remember, reviewing your competitor’s digital presence isn’t a one off. A competitor’s review should be part of your quarterly business plan. You should never lose sight on what they are doing, how they are performing and where they are ranking compared to your company.
4. Potential disruptors
To research potential industry disruptors, you need to keep up-to-date on studies and research papers that feature and surround the industry your business operates in. By understanding and looking into the reports, it will allow you to develop an understanding of what has changed, why it has changed and what can possibly change in the future.
Sign up to as many research papers and websites as possible, so the results are delivered straight to your inbox. Speak regularly to industry heavy-weights and industry futurists, so you can further develop your understanding of what may disrupt your work space. If you keep your knowledge on your industry as up-to-date as possible, it will eliminate the sense of surprise whenever a disrupter is released into your industry market.
5. Market and industry
Once you have a thorough understanding of where your business is positioned within the digital space, you need to research and assess your current industry and market. By doing this, it will give you a true grip on where your business currently sits within your sector. It will also help you develop and set your goals and objectives for your digital strategy at a later step (this step will be covered in detail in our blog ‘Step 3: Set your vision’ – coming soon).
There are multiple ways you can stay on-top of what occurs and is happening with your industry, on both an online and offline basis. Ways to stay in the loop can be to sign up to databases, which release frequent newsletters; attend regularly industry seminars, LinkedIn groups and subscribe to publishing outlets who cover your sector on a consistent basis. Another tip is to form a mentorship with an industry thought-leader, who you can contact for advice, guidance and to gain knowledge. Again, this section shouldn’t be a one-off for your business. You should regularly review your industry, as it can help you stay relevant within your sector.
Conclusion: Before putting together your digital strategy for your business, make sure you tick off each one of the above steps to ensure you are on the right track. You need to know exactly where your services and products sit in the market, before being able to set your objectives and goals as part of your digital strategy. In our next blog, which is part of our digital strategy series, we will go into detail about what to do with your collected research and how you can put it to good use for your business.