6 Tips for Managing the Development of a Digital Strategy
It sounds like the worst kind of idiomatic phrase to suggest that having a “Strategy for developing your digital strategy” is a good idea. Yet, most marketers will tell you: The way you gather, validate and present your digital plan to your audience is as important as the plan itself. These tips can help you, the earnest strategist, navigate the pitfalls of effective strategy development.
Metaphorically speaking, have you ever run down a dark alley blindfolded only to feel the crushing thud of a dead-end? Often, that is how digital strategies are initiated: “Hey Bob, can you put together a digital strategy for taking our online stuff to the next level? Three weeks enough time? Great, let’s get a review meeting on the calendar.”
Can you say nebulous?
As digital continues to grow in percentage of marketing budgets for organizations, it’s also growing in discrete areas. Focus should always be wrought on specific areas of digital strategic development: Does “digital” to the requestor mean the web site, social media, mobile, advertising or any of the dozens of other areas in which a digital strategy can be developed? Hone in on the area that is the true request.
2. Get Alignment with the Expectations of your Audience … Ahead of Time
Strategy, the art of planning, is one of the most oft-abused words in the corporate dictionary. Frequently, when a strategy is requested, what you’re really being asked to provide is a thoughtful and organized group of tactics. It’s not a strategy as much as it is an improvement plan organized for review.
Seeking a shared understanding with the requestor and/or your audience on the level of strategic visioning versus executional framework is crucial to developing a plan that resonates.
Potentially successful ideas can be detoured when presented to an audience expecting an approach different than your chosen path.
3. Provide Context
After you have honed in on the key area of strategic development within the digital realm and aligned expectations with your audience, even cursory research means you will have an infinitely greater command of the digital landscape in the strategic area than the folks to whom you are presenting. Providing context is the art of positioning the conversation so it is understandable.
Take some time to think about your presentation from the point-of-view of the audience, and frame it in a way that lets you tell a story about solving a problem through thoughtful action. The truism, “Details make a story interesting” is appropriate here, and just enough detail makes a story understandable. Not acknowledging this and not breaking down your suggestions into a framework that is relatable will immediately detour your presentation into the great unknown, affectionately known as FUD – fear, uncertainty, and doubt.
4. Talk with them, not at them
If you were a physicist, how would you explain the theory of relativity? If you were at a conference of other physicists presenting a research paper, the way and type of information you communicate would be a lot different from talking with a group of laypeople.
Further, there is a reason that newspapers are written at an eighth-grade level. Showing your inner geek with your superbly deep command of the subject that is well above the grasp of the people you are talking with is sure to erode confidence.
It is imperative that you understand whom you are talking with so you can pattern your information presentation to the knowledge level of the recipient.
5. Always, Always Have Next Steps
Often times, in the first half of your strategic presentation, if done correctly, your audience will be ready to make the leap to, “What’s next?” That is great, but “What’s next” (if it’s truly a strategic plan) doesn’t always match to your preparation to that point. You are trying to validate an approach, and now you are being asked how it’s going to be done.
There may be too many what-if’s in execution to confidently match strategy to tactical execution within the scope of the same presentation so leave the Gantt chart out of your presentation, but do be prepared with a 15 or 30-day plan to take your strategy into the first stages of execution.
6. People Judge Books by their Cover
Have you ever been suspicious of the well-regarded, extremely bright person who looks like he got dressed in the dark and took a time machine to the office from 1989?
In the same vein, it is hard to take the content in your strategy seriously if it is in a shoddy, visually inept format. Readability and aesthetically pleasing formatting goes a long way to helping deliver your message.
Do not discount the value of spending time making your presentation look good.
A. Follow the Rule of 1/3’s
People on the front lines of execution have an incredible grasp of the challenges to moving strategic change forward. Yet, it is in our nature to present forward movement within the scope of the best circumstances possible. Don’t do that.
Whether it is a home improvement project or a large, unwieldy business initiative, projects usually take 1/3 longer you then anticipated, cost 1/3 more money and have 1/3 more challenges than planned for. Yet, leadership really only hears the deadline and budget you set. Plan and communicate accordingly.
SOUND OFF: What tips for managing the process of developing a strategy are missing? Do you have lessons learned not represented here?