Digital Strategy Template – for startups & small business

Prologue

Building a Digital Strategy Template, is on the wish list of almost each and every individual in the digital advertising business, every tech entrepreneur, existing startups or marketing communication teams in corporates.

But can we really create a generic strategy template? Lets find out.

People in the traditional advertising would definitely know about the role of a “strategic planner“. They are the genius brains (inside every advertising agency) who create the “brand story”, who add their midas touch by wearing a strategic hat and making sure that each and every part of the brand messaging goes through a quality prism.

The problem is, there was no such concept of a “Digital Strategy Planner” for a very long time. Fundamentally, planning & strategy in the online space was restricted to “Media Planning”. The ad agencies & the marketing team never really thought about “digital strategy” from an integrated customer outreach standpoint. It was more of a “media oriented approach” where the only objective was to optimize cost per user acquisition.

Unfortunately, social media ended this madness but added some new madness of its own. With Facebook & Twitter taking over the digital world like a storm, conventional media publishing models got massively disrupted. Audience started discovering new content on the social platforms and as a result, a lot of small publishers had to shut down their operations as bulk of the marketing spends started to move into social platforms because client’s objective shifted from just acquisition to engagement.

The Need

As a digital marketing consultant, I’ve heard this from so many aspired entrepreneurs in different startups meets, there is no single approach using which they can prepare their digital strategy to promote their SAAS product or to increase their app downloads or prepare a basic customer acquisition plan while they are bootstrapping it.

A lot of startup marketing teams see “Digital Strategy” in silos and not as an integrated marketing approach which is critical to build a consistent communication & brand experience across all audience touch points.

Who can use this document?

  • Early stage – Mid Stage startups
  • B2B Marketing Teams
  • Digital Ad Agencies
  • Digital Marketing Managers
  • App Developers

In this presentation, I’ve tried to cover very practical approach on how to break down your digital strategy process into stages that cuts across identifying & segmenting your target audience, choosing the right digital marketing channels and creating the marketing metrics to track your performance.

Digital Marketing Consultant vs Digital Agency, both are relevant for business

This post is not to convince people against digital ad agencies, instead it is to help business owners make better business decisions.

Back in 2006, when I started my career in Quasar Media (a leading independent digital agency & now a WPP company) , I never thought that I would get an opportunity to work as an independent Digital Marketing Consultant for such a long time.

Over the years, I’ve worked with clients ranging from enterprise companies to absolute bare bones startups. For someone like me who has actually gone through from the mad corridors of digital advertising to the “politically corrected” corporate boardrooms and now a “meandering consultant”, its been a helluva ride.

But this post is not about me, this post is to help you make better decisions while you are choosing the right marketing partner for your business. But lets understand the business problem in a much more holistic manner.

In the last 5 years, there has been a massive increase in the number of marketing channels, marketing technologies are changing at the pace of light and the world is no longer about just generating new customer leads, thanks to social media and mobile ad tech, you can now predict when and from where you would get your next customer. But all of that isn’t that simple either.

Gartners Digital Marketing Transit Map

Gartners Digital Marketing Transit Map

Gartner’s Digital Marketing Transit Map is just an indicator of this increasingly complex world. Needless to say, with newer technologies like artificial intelligence taking over the reins, marketing can become further complex for future organisations.

In this situation, every business must choose the right vendor partner who can help them navigate through this phenomenally complex world of digital marketing.

The decision of choosing between a Digital Marketing Consultant vs Digital Agency is usually based on the size of the organization, but there are still multiple factors that affect this decision:

Digital Marketing Consultant Services

Digital Marketing Consultant Services

For Enterprise Company

If there is one word that defines their business, it is “LARGE”.

For them it is an obvious choice to hire multiple vendors/ agencies to manage their different digital work streams like customer acquisition, brand management, technology development, content marketing, publicity design, customer relationship management and the most critical one, data management. Based on these, an enterprise company usually hires vendors for the following functions:

  • Digital communication design
  • Technology development for different platforms like web, mobile, digital outdoors etc.
  • Digital brand strategy
  • Localisation agency to managed campaigns in different regions
  • PR & Social Media Agency
  • CRM
  • Digital Content Production
  • Customer Data, Analytics & Research Partner
  • Digital Media Agency ( for paid media campaigns like SEM, FB ads, Performance Marketing, Affiliate Marketing)

There are very few cases where an enterprise company hires an independent consultant. Only where the work is project based and highly niche in nature which cannot be provided at the same level expertise by any of the existing vendors in the market, hiring a consultant becomes imminent for the enterprise brand.

For Small Medium Business

This is where it is most difficult to assess your business requirement. Majority of the SMB’s are focussed towards generating more sales and not building their brand. For them, marketing is an expense, which should be avoided as much as possible, and only ROI driven marketing tactics are considered by the business owners with the clear objective to achieve sales.

However, there are multiple segments (based on size, nature of business, employee count, technology, customer base etc.) within the SME space, each of which has a different level of marketing requirements.

  1. For Local Business – the size of the business is extremely small ( like a small travel operator, Builders & Real Estate Agents, SOHO business, local retail, personalised services etc. ) which is not lucrative for any mid-large digital vendor, not just from scale but from monetary standpoint.
    1. Their marketing requirements (briefs) are often vaguely defined and restricted to most commonly used plus tried & tested digital marketing practices like Search optimisation & Adwords Marketing, Social Media Optimisation and Lead Generation.
    2. Most of these businesses get their low cost websites done by some local web design company without much focus on brand hygiene or customer relationship.
    3. Recommendation : Today, there are tremendous opportunities for any local business to grow, what they lack is a clear focus and direction based on the type of their business. Digital Marketing Consultants are best bets for local business as they can help them define their business focus and create a simple roadmap to grow without spending too much money. Its like visiting a private doctor’s clinic for expert’s advice before getting admitted to a hospital.
  2. For Startups – they come in many shapes and forms based on the stage of business , funded vs bootstrapped, tech vs non tech, product based vs service, e-commerce vs non e-commerce. Based on the type of startup, their marketing requirements are also different in nature.
    1. Early stage startups literally bootstrap their marketing expenditure for a long period of time. I’ve seen founders getting their hands dirty with everything in the marketing, right from building the strategy, finding alliances and partners, writing the PR copy, social media campaign, customer support etc.
    2. Startups are also secretive about their core idea till they build enough customer base. They usually hire people for doing specific task in marketing like SEO, Social Media Marketing, Email Marketing etc. (Also read : How to hire for your bootstrapped startup?)
    3. For startups who manage to raise decent amount of funding in Series A/B, prefer to build their own digital marketing team instead of working with ad agencies. I guess most of the startup founders believe that ad agencies would not understand the vision completely. However, the trend is changing, startups are working with digital vendors for specific requirements like content marketing, online video campaigns (Also Read : How beautifully Faballey created their #unfollow campaign)
    4. Recommendation : on one side, early stage startups badly need top quality resources, but they also want to bootstrap it till the time they find gold aka funding source. Building momentum is super crucial for the founders as it allows them to build a strong business case to prospect investors. In this situation, it is highly advisable to hire experienced Freelance Digital Marketing Consultant who’ve been there and done that. The biggest benefit of working with a consultant is that they bring best practices from all perspectives including product management, sales, integrated marketing, customer relationship management etc.
  3. For Small Enterprise – these companies are those who are on a growth trajectory and certainly big enough in terms of their marketing operations, that allows them hire full time digital agencies.
    1. Despite being cash rich, these companies are extremely performance driven and sales focussed. Having said that, they still hire best of the marketing resources from elite B-schools all around the country by offering fat pay packages.
    2. Their requirements are often multi disciplinary, right from the core strategy to building a sustainable marketing plan to finding right partners in every aspect of their business.
    3. Usually these companies are cash rich and are prepared to spend money on brand building as well. The annual revenues are in high 3 digit numbers with double digit YOY growth.
    4. Please note, below recommendation is extremely relevant for Small B2B enterprise companies.
    5. Recommendation: Companies like these should prioritize their annual budgets and resources based on their short, medium & long term goals. While a Freelance Digital Marketing Consultant may not be the right option as (s)he cannot drive scale for their ambitious growth plans but (s)he can certainly come handy to drive certain specific needs like corporate training, creating your website content, creating your corporate blog strategy, building your website SEO & analytics. Digital Agencies are perfectly modeled for this kind of business as they can offer end-to-end services to their clients.

Building Platform Strategy | How to decide between Mobile Website vs Mobile App?

Even after so many years, a lot of people usually get confused between Mobile Website vs Mobile App and most importantly, which one is relevant to your business. The decision however, is actually not that difficult. Just so that you can understand this in a more logical manner, lets go to the bare basics.

What is a Mobile Website?

The mobile web refers to access to the world wide web, i.e. the use of browser-based Internet services, from a handheld mobile device, such as a smartphone or a feature phone, connected to a mobile network or other wireless network. ~ Wikipedia

Statistics have significantly tilted towards mobile adoption globally and there is no doubt that mobile users are exceeding desktop users on the Web. (see below graph)

mobile users beating desktop users

mobile users beating desktop users

After recent algorithm changes made by Google, I don’t think there is any option of not having a responsive website anymore. It even make a lot of business sense considering majority of the content is consumed through mobile browsers and the number is bound to increase at exponential pace in future.

However, do you really need to build a native app for your business?

What is a Native Mobile App?

Native apps are installed through an application store (such as Google Play or Apple’s App Store). They are developed specifically for one platform, and can take full advantage of all the device features ~ Techopedia

According to a report by Flurry Analytics, App usage has sky rocketed in the last 2 years and there is just no comparison with mobile web:

apps dominating mobile web

apps dominating mobile web

Native Mobile App benefits

  1. Offline Mode: Once the browser is closed, mobile website is of little use to anyone. Unless you are a huge brand in your category or your SEO rankings are really good or your social campaign is super rocking. Mobile App, on the hand allows you to download key content on the mobile which can be accessed without internet connection.
  2. Control: Because users have to download and install the app, businesses have more control over their presence on a device than they would with a mobile website, a mobile app can be closed or inactive, but still work in the background to send geo-targeted push notifications and gather data about customer’s preferences and behaviors.
  3. UI/UX: Native apps are build for a specific platform like iOS or Android or Windows and can be installed from respective App store / Play store. Although a lot of people consider this as a drawback since considerable amount of time, effort and resources is required to customize the app in its UI and UX. But the benefits clearly surpass the challenge because it offers tremendous opportunity to the developer to build personalization capabilities for the app users native to respective mobile OS.
  4. Device Features: One of the biggest advantage of the native apps is that they can take full advantage of all the device features — they can use the camera, the GPS, the accelerometer, the compass, the list of contacts, and so on. This is something you can never achieve in browser environment due to massive to-an-fro data processing which is required at the backend.
  5. Experience: For an experience that is well polished, fast response, and simply feels nice to the user, native apps are the go to solution.
    • Generally, web apps include elements from the browser such as the search and navigation bars which clutter the experience. When using a smaller device this means less space for app specific controls.

    • Native apps respond more fluidly to user gestures such as swipes and pinches.
  6. Engagement & Loyalty : Native apps allows you build repeat engagement with your customers / audience, you can focus your energies towards creating quality content and deliver powerful experience because you are not worried about your SEO rankings.

Conclusion

Mobile Website vs Mobile App

Mobile Website vs Mobile App

In order to decide if you want to develop a native app, you need to consider the following points:

  • How important speed and performance would be for the product / service you are trying to sell to your customers? e.g. gaming apps which needs huge amount of performance for graphics which is not possible to produce in a browser environment.
  • Does your communication needs engagement through any of the mobile device features? e.g. apps that require camera settings, directory listings that need your map location etc.
  • If you want your web service to be Internet-enabled, i.e. if you believe that there will be constant to-an-fro of data with the server. e.g. e-commerce apps which need continuous internet connection for faster transaction.
  • If you want your app to support multiple mobile platforms and devices and if yes, how many. See your web analytics, may be majority of your audience coming from a particular mobile device. ( Also Read: how to track mobile visitors in GA? )
  • Your budget, vs. the estimated cost of developing your app.
  • If you would like to monetize your app in the future

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