A good digital strategy has many building blocks: from UX and UI design, to planning email, social and SEO campaigns, creating relevant online and offline content, right through to e-commerce and mobile platform management. It is a complex network of channels through which any business – regardless of its size and target market – can communicate with its customers and cultivate its own brand identity.
To head in this direction and slot in every piece of the puzzle, you need both theoretical and practical knowledge. Using an alternative approach, we want to take you through the seven fatal errors of any digital strategy.
1. Splitting up online and traditional strategies
Traditional strategies and digital strategies go hand in hand, they are woven together to make a unique design. Every strategy starts with the goals, behaviors, needs and points of contact of your target people, who do not distinguish between digital/online on one hand, and traditional/offline on the other. A digital strategy that works is one that is intimately integrated with what is (still) known as traditional strategies.
This is because a digital strategy is not something that has only online effects: if successful, it will have a strong impact on sales and the company’s year-end profits, just like the more traditional strategies. To integrate them in the best way possible, it is key to have an overview of your marketing activities, made up of both online and offline points of contact.
2. Thinking desktop
The hall of mirrors for those involved in digital strategy is called the desktop. Although impossible to imagine up until a few years ago, the mobile has become the guiding light for all marketers. Smartphones and tablets are set to gain more and more ground in people’s lives. If we take Italy for example, in the last two years, the number of smartphones has grown at a dizzying rate: from 24% to 41% of the entire population. A trend likely to increase, pulling up with it the huge segment of online purchases. So while it is still possible to browse non-optimized sites from a tablet, use from a smartphone requires a responsive design.
This is called mobile first and is the approach that makes optimization for smartphones and tablets a prerequisite for any digital strategy: an approach that involves all elements, from user experience to the type of content and email campaigns: in our 2016 Guide to Email Design you find trends, techniques and best practices to get inspired and learn how to build responsive emails.
3. Being mono-device
The online shopping experience is increasingly diluted by various browsing options, taking advantage of the wide range of devices that technology makes available: in Italy, 53% of users already fall into this category.
The mistake to avoid is offering a rigid browsing experience that leads to obstacles and fractures when switching between devices. Whereas, your customers – whether acquired or potential – must be able to rely on a fluid browsing experience, with clear elements such as logos, links to the shopping cart and product images that are always easily accessible. The basic concept is UX design.
4. Giving in to vanity metrics
Social media should be taken with less “faith” and “objectivity”: they have strict internal principles that require careful planning. The error we often slip up on is with vanity metrics, i.e. all that collected data that doesn’t help the company make decisions or set out specific strategic directions. Metrics are useful only to temporarily comfort those in charge of a given project: the number of home page visits or the number of Facebook page fans, for example, becomes useless if those fans and visitors were not motivated by a genuine interest.
With this in mind, we recommend always and only dedicating yourself to metrics that can really help you understand the performance of your marketing plan.
5. Wanting to be everywhere
Indiscriminately marking every channel with your presence, disregarding form and content, is anything but strategic. It is better to manage a few good social networks than marking all channels available to help you with hasty automatic techniques.
Every company has its own language and needs time to manage and adapt content. The most common mistake? Automating the publication of the same post to multiple social networks, e.g. linking Twitter to Facebook, or Instagram with Facebook, which leaves out tags and hashtags. That’s we encourage you to focus only on the most suitable social media for your business, managing them with care and professionalism, as you would do for any other line of business.
6. Closing off the site to search engines
Let’s start with some basic ideas: What is SEO? SEO is the mix of strategies and techniques that makes websites comprehensible to search engines and, in turn, easy to find for web browsers. Whereas, indexing is a process through which Google and other search engines insert web pages in its “index”, matching them with some keywords. Lastly, the “crawler” – also known as the “spider” – is Google’s software that rakes the web looking for websites and pages to index.
Having said that, of the many mistakes you might make when designing a website – or optimizing a web page to make it more visible – there is one error that should never be made: closing off the site to search engines. If you do this, the site will not be indexed by crawlers and will be untraceable by browsers.
7. Not tracking conversion actions
The equation is simple: if you don’t know where the users who are most interested in your content come from, you can’t know which campaigns to invest in to boost the conversions even further. So it is crucial to have clear figures on the baseline scenario and go on measuring it when setting out the strategy and, of course, during its execution. There is always room for discretion within each strategy as it is built on forecasts. What is dangerous is ignoring the information we receive from the figures and building an “in my opinion” strategy.
A great ally of the digital strategist is Google Analytics. This should be used to test how well the site’s doing (if you already have one or more active), from which sources of traffic people are coming from to reach your conversion goals, what campaigns are yielding more results and so on.
Another fundamental tool is having a good operational plan: even the most promising strategy will not get results unless it is supported by a series of well-planned actions over time, with a suitable budget and by people who can oversee its implementation over time.