Building your Digital Strategy for Execution | Perspective

Just continuing from where I left in my previous post

And I want to begin this post by quoting the legendary Sun Tzu:

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory, tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” 

Whether you are a digital marketing manager or a Digital Strategist working for an agency, this post is to remind you the importance of digital execution.

For now, lets just go back to the most fundamental questions.

Do we really need a digital strategy?

And if we really need one, when do we know that it’ll work?

One of my personal learning after pitching digital to clients globally is that any digital strategy is nothing but a powerless, pointless presentation till the time is executed.

Why Digital Strategies Fail?

Why Digital Strategy Fail

According to a C-level survey conducted by EIU, close to 1/3rd of the C-level executives believe that “lack of project management skills lead to failure in the strategy implementation.

As a marketer or a digital agency, we don’t realise that a strategy is not really a thing till we have a person and a team who could bring it to life.

Merely a bold vision & mission statement for your digital marketing at the beginning of every financial year is not sufficient till we really have a roadmap to work towards.

Perspective to Digital Strategy Execution

Tactics vs Digital Strategy

I quoted Sun Tzu in the beginning for a very specific reason, he mentioned about the importance of tactics in strategy, and often many digital marketing teams mis-interpret campaign tactics as digital strategy.

Honestly, there is a very thin line of difference.

In many problems, execution strategy is the real strategy itself. For example, if an e-commerce client is using Google search & Facebook in their marketing plans, it can’t be called as a “Digital Strategy”, as there is no rocket science there. Whereas, how you choose to use audience targeting & Re-targeting in Search and Social is the real “digital strategy”. ( Also Read: Difference between Targeted & Re-Targeted Ads )

Digital Strategy and Measurability

Any strategy without a measurable goal is like a shuttle without an orbit in an endless space.

In fact, I am one of the firm believers that the strategic process should complete, only after you have identified the most relevant metrics. Metrics lends a purpose and a stress test for your brand’s marketing efforts.

Every piece in your digital strategy can focus on pushing your brand closer to the metric, otherwise you might end up doing a thousand things but still would not find out its relevance or impact to your brand.

Digital Strategy and Technology

Top marketing challenges

According to hubspot research, close to 1/4th of the marketers say that ‘Identifying the right technology’ is a major hurdle.

Remember, nothing in this digital world can be executed without keeping your focus on its technology implications during the strategy process.

Your digital strategy is as good as nothing if you have not thought about every technical nuance related to your idea.

In fact, most of the digital strategies today are “technology first“.

Understanding of technology could well be the deciding differentiator between the usual and staying ahead of the curve.

Digital Execution

Even the best of the digital strategy would fail if the person or the team (agency) is not competent to create its roadmap.

Pritchard’s speech (from P&G) was a wake up call to the entire digital agency fraternity, that things are not going in the right direction. While digital has grown at an exponential pace, but very few agencies have understood on how to integrate the solution for the brand.

When it comes to digital as a medium, below are some of the common challenges faced by all CMOs:

  • How to take the brand philosophy in the digital media without compromising brand safety & relevance?
  • How to measure the impact of digital advertising dollars on the brand?
  • Why do we need so many agencies / vendors to land one single solution?
  • Why there is such a huge talent gap between the strategy and execution teams in digital agencies?

 

Building Perspective – The First Step In Digital Strategy

The Context

Creating future ready digital strategy is on the top priority of every brand today. Here’s what you need to know to create a solid foundation.

Below graphic (source: Global Web Index) is an indication of the times we are in. In a nutshell, 65% of our media time, across audiences (in India) is spent in Online and close to 1/3rd of our digital life is spent on social networks.

Time Spent By Media Channel

 

What has really changed after Digital?

First

Gone are the days when the products were discovered in TV commercials or Newspaper Ads (refer to below graphic), according to GWI report, 50% of the global audience discover any brand on a Search Engine.

Search As Brand Discovery Channel

Second

There is a significant shift within the younger audience (18-24) segment towards social media as the new discovery channel. (see below graphic)

Social Media As Discovery channel

Social networks are now just 6 percentage-points behind search engines as the number one port-of-call for product research.

Third

A Sample Digital Customer Journey Map

A Sample Digital Customer Journey Map

SOLOMO (Social+Local+Mobile) have altered (and continuously altering) the consumer journey for all product categories.

The conventional linear journey of Awareness > Consideration > Preference > Purchase may not be able to capture all the possible decision making touch points as audience is now searching outside the funnel.

Lets take example of Automobile, thanks to the wealth of information available today through digital and traditional channels, consumers are better informed than ever—even before they actively look into buying a car.

According to BCG, 57% to 67%, depending on the country) settle on not only the make but the actual model they want to buy in the prepurchase phase.

What does digital strategy really mean?

According to Wikipedia:

Online Marketing  is an umbrella term for the marketing of products or services using digital technologies, mainly on the Internet, but also including mobile phones, display advertising, and any other digital medium.

In many ways, digital has blurred the lines between online and offline.

Hence, digital strategy is:

identifying insights about your audience, competition and category to deliver a seamless brand experience across all relevant touch points for achieving specific business objectives.

First 3 steps to infuse ‘Digital Thinking’ for your brand or agency?

Remove the line

As marketers & strategists, we can no longer be obsessed about creating television commercials only.

Our customer does not see above the line, below the line or online, lets just “REMOVE THE LINE”. It means remove the silo mentality and focus on delivering a quality experience to our audience.

Data is the new king

There cannot be any “strategic” point of view if it is not backed by data. Giving higher priority to your data in shaping your business & marketing strategy goes a long way in “future proofing” your brand.

Understanding of the metrics

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.

~ Alice In Wonderland

While data is important, knowing the digital metrics, i.e. what you want the data for is equally important. What is also important is that evaluating digital metrics is a continuous process and not a one time exercise.

4 Things you must know as Digital Strategists

  • What is your expectation from digital? (Sales, Brand Awareness, Reach etc.)
  • What is your overall business goal? (Market share, Overall Revenue etc.)
  • Do you see digital as a separate line of business?
  • Who is your digital audience?

 

Digital Media Strategy – The Past, Present & Future

Digital Media Strategy – The Past

Back in mid 2000’s, digital media strategy was just an excel crunching and data munching job. It was nothing more than a cost optimised ms-excel plan. Almost all the plans followed the same construct, lots of rich media innovations, roadblocks & tonnes of banner impressions.

Back then, even the clients had little expectations from the media planners. The term ‘Media Strategy’ was considered to be an oxymoron. Marketing folks were extremely selective while discussing their overall marketing strategy, leave alone the business strategy.

While the term performance marketing was existing, but then very few planners could show how the cross channel funnel works.

All the above points left a lot room for human bias and made the entire planning process highly dependent on the whims and fancy of media planning teams.

But guess what, times have changed.

Digital Media Strategy – The Present

With the rise of search, data analytics, biddable media, RTBs and programmatic buying platforms, complexion of media plans has changed.

Growth of RTB Programmatic in new age Digital Media Strategy

Growth of RTB Programmatic in new age Digital Media Strategy

The growth & adoption of programmatic is enormous in the western markets like the US (see above graph). More than four-fifths of agencies and brands already purchase display ads programmatically. And even greater proportion of publishers are pursuing programmatic channels as part of their sales strategies.

 

CMO queries on digital media strategy

Even the metrics for media planning have seen quite a lot of transformation. Today, most of the CMOs are more than interested in knowing how their digital activities are performing?

Discussions around basic web analytics (page views, bounce rates, etc.) have given way to more complex marketing analytics metrics.

The new marketing metrics include customer life time value (LTV), brand uplift, share of voice, engagement rates, conversion attribution etc.

With the rise of smart devices, cross device strategies became extremely crucial for all CMOs. As a result, marketing teams have understood the need of having a scientific, data driven wireframe for their digital media strategy.

These wireframes have clearly defined goals, metrics and attribution methodologies to create a comprehensive digital media approach.

The conversations in the marketing corridors are changing everyday. Digital agencies & digitalmedia planning teams have to learn to talk in the same language.

Digital Media Strategy – The Future

So what is the new language of digital media planning?

The answer is DATA!

In future, marketing teams would be more than eager to bring their digital media partner into a strategic roadmap discussion. Are media planning agencies ready to to drop their archaic hit and trial planning methods and focus on new age analytical approach?

As a digital media planner, one has to look into different data sources at all stages of strategy planning. These data points would cut across marketing and sales, online and offline, consumer and partners etc. Any sustainable digital media strategy must connect all these dots together.

Digital media planning would no longer be restricted to a few selected channels like display, social and search. On one side, number of channels are increasing and on the other side, the lines are continuously blurring between digital and media strategy.

Is your digital media planner ready for the future?

Search is the beginning, middle & end of every buying journey

More than a decade ago, when I started my digital marketing career, concepts like consumer buying journey were non-existent in the agency parlance. In fact, no marketer was even asking this question to their agency. Perhaps digital was not considered strategic enough.

But travel e-commerce players (like MMT, Yatra etc.) changed it all forever, when they showcased the true power of the digital world to all marketing folks. From that point, it truly opened a perennial chapter of gold rush in the advertising business.

Arguably, if there was one company who was in the middle of this (never ending) gold rush, it was Google. Google’s success in the online business compelled a lot of people to try their hand at creating disruptive online products, but most of them ended up failing miserably.

Today, optimising customer buying journey is the most critical aspect of any digital strategy. Search continues to dominate every buying journey across categories.

Buying Journey – The Beginning

Over the years, humans appetite for information search has touched gigantic proportions. Mobile only added more fuel to this insane pace of growth. (see below image)

mobile vs desktop internet users - last 5 years

mobile vs desktop internet users

The journey which took desktop 20 years, mobile not just covered it in just 7 years but outpaced desktop in no time at all. And the result was quite apparent from there onwards. It triggered a never seen before surge in human appetite for information “search”. So much so that it became the penultimate lifeline in online discovery.

 

eCommerce buying journey in mobile

By 2013, more than 48% of online audience were discovering products through search only in the automobile (42%), home and garden (41%), apparel & beauty (38%).  Mobile only accelerated this phenomenon further.

Over the years, Mobile (or rather Mobility) has not just amplified the overall searches across categories but also altered user’s path to discover new products & services.

consumer journey by devices

Source : Forbes

Over 75% of product discovery starts on a smartphone or tablets, whereas only 25% is happening on PCs. This phenomenon has forced the brand teams to re-look at their entire marketing funnel and create a mobile first strategic approach.

Buying Journey – The Middle

Usually, the discovery cycle for any product category is longer, take for example the automobile category.

Source : Google Insights

In automobile, any purchase consideration cycle can go up to 120+ days. And the reason is quite obvious, there are multiple layers to any purchase consideration and it can get extremely complex if the category is highly competitive:

  • Type of vehicle to purchase ( Sedan vs Hatchback vs Crossover vs SUV etc.)
  • Variant A vs Variant B (Petrol vs Diesel vs CNG )
  • Brands A vs Brand B ( Honda vs Hyundai )
  • Car Dealer A vs Car Dealer B ( Outskirts vs Suburb )
  • Color Preference ( Metallic vs Non Metallic )
  • Finance Company A vs Finance Company B

When beginning a new purchase journey, most consumers consider an average of 3 to 4 brands, if they are not already loyal to one in particular. During this stage it becomes vitally important for marketers to increase their brand visibility while consumers are developing their considerations sets.

The search allows the consumer to deep dive into various parameters that can assist them in decision making by comparing multiple complex options at ease.

Buying Journey – The End

Customer Care Search Trends on Google

10 Years Customer Care Search Trends on Google ( Source : Google Trends)

Last 10 years Google search trends shows how customer care related queries have sky rocketed.

This shows that search does not stop at purchase, in fact it is a great tool for brands to engage with customers on ongoing basis by helping them find solutions to their problems. A lot of brands miss out on this opportunity to connect with their customers in the post sales phase.

 

How to approach Mobile Marketing Strategy as a CMO?

Let me tell you something, if you are a CMO who is creating the mobile strategy for the first time, then only god can help you.

Guess what, the fault is not yours. Mobile marketing space has become increasingly complex and confusing for even the best of digital professionals and building an integrated mobile marketing approach for the company is no child’s play.

As a CMO, the most important thing to do before building your mobile marketing framework, is to get the right facts on table so as to see the future strategy in the right perspective.

Here’s how a CMO can approach his mobile marketing strategy:

Mobile Marketing Strategy Framework

Curate the right Mobile Trends

Mobile is one of the hottest topics in the digital parlance, and it would continue to remain critical until AI takes over. Every platform owner (like Google & Facebook) or market research agencies (like KPMG & Nielsen) offer their biased point of views w.r.t mobile strategies.

The idea should be to hand pick the most relevant trends that suits your nature of business.

Also see : Mobile Marketing – A quick guide for chief marketing officer and digital agencies

Defining Consumer Journey in Mobile

Consumer Journey in Mobile

Consumer Journey in Mobile

 

The consumer journey of various categories can be different but what matters for a CMO is to ascertain the touch points that needs mobile first makeover and optimisation. Once you define your brand’s consumer journey in the digital space, keeping in mind the mobile trends, you must map your mobile objectives in that journey.

Deciding the platforms

Once the CMO has identified the mobile objectives, choosing the platforms would be an easy deal. But there are times when marketing teams fall in the trap of choosing between what adds value vs what adds vanity? For e.g. B2B business need not create a consume facing app just because apps are the flavour of the day.

Also read: How to choose between Mobile App vs Mobile WAP 

Choosing Marketing Channels

A combination of your chosen platforms and your end marketing objectives would further help in defining your mobile marketing channels. If you have taken the App route, you have to build an acquisition / App download strategy followed by an App usage strategy.

Most of the performance marketing companies or affiliates do not bother about the app usage. App usability is not even there as the last metric.

As a CMO, you must see it at all times that your digital agency and affiliates are not compromising on the user targeting so that the usage data does not go too diagonal.

If the focus is your responsive website, you must create a mobile first marketing plan across all channels including search, display & social.

Creating Mobile Content

Your brand’s content must resonate with your audience mobile usage. If the trends are in favour of social media content, you must create more liquid or shareable content to increase your organic reach and engagements.

Choosing your Mobile SEO keywords is perhaps the most difficult exercise and needs more intricate planning over a period of time. You have to depend a lot on your google analytics organic data for building the roadmap for Mobile SEO.

Short form video content is must-have for social ads as it increases your advertising ROI. ( Read : What type of content should you create? )

 

 

Digital Marketing for CMOs – rocket science or a piece of cake?

In 2016, I completed a decade long career in the world of digital marketing and advertising. Over the years, I’ve seen the nature of client queries & problem statements changing quite dramatically. From a very simple one liner like “We want to do something in digital” to “How can we generate leads through digital?”, and the most recent one, “How can we do digital transformation of our business?”.

Arguably, brands in India have evolved significantly when it comes to their receptivity towards digital marketing. Still, there is a sense of fear about digital marketing practices in the minds of business owners and CXOs, majorly due to wrong perception and poor knowledge imparted by a series of small time vendors / consultants  & agencies they’ve met in the past.

I won’t say that the fear is completely out of context. Digital medium has indeed grown at a breakneck pace, both in terms of the audience adoption, the excessive use of tech in marketing and the massive data generated by digital devices.

digital-marketing-channels

This ‘never seen before pace of growth’ in the Digital world eventually turned the digital marketing landscape into a complex mesh of related and unrelated choices of tools, techniques, media channels, platforms, ad formats and marketing metrics.

Till now, a lot of brands were operating in a single, well defined template of producing one TVC, one print ad & one radio jingle in their entire marketing calendar. Their world was pretty straight forward (not taking anything away from the mainline agencies), until digital shook the entire landscape with its never ending options and opportunities.

Google-Algorithm-Upate-Timeline

Nothing seems to be at rest in the digital world. The biggest discovery platform – Google, changes its search algorithm almost 3-4 times in a year. If you are a marketer who understands SEO & SEM, you would perhaps know what that really means from a content creation standpoint.

With platforms like Facebook, Twitter & Instagram becoming a way of life, social media marketing suddenly became the most important priority for all marketers (big or small). Apparently, strategy for social media engagement is the most abused thing in our business. Not many brands actually know “why they are doing what they are doing?”.

Mobile further added a complex dimension of location & personalisation (UI & UX) to the digital marketing process. Customer experience on WAP & App is now looked upon as the biggest strategic project.

Programmatic Luma Landscape

Programmatic ad tech also added a tonne of new set of questions in the minds of already confused marketing teams. The number of 3rd party stakeholders involved (DMP, DSP, SSP, Exchange, Networks, Publishers) with their insanely complex terminology and even more complex execution process, programmatic has enough arsenal to scare a NASA scientist.

However, with all its complications, digital is still looked upon as the next big platform for innovation by many brands.

Simplifying Digital Marketing

I think there is a way in which you can simplify digital marketing strategy for your brand. As a CMO, here are some simple go-to steps that’ll get you going instantly in your digital marketing strategy because you would start asking the right questions to your agency:

Discoverability

  • Always check the status of your brands discoverability in the search engines.
  • Ensure your SEO vendor has deployed the SEO best practices.
  • Create as much content about your product/service/brand. This would ensure that you start getting the right audience on your website.

Analytics

  • Use the analytics data from your website to find out more about your audience.
  • Serve more content which is generating more audience visits and active visits on the website.
  • Find out the segments you should target in your future campaign based on organic search results.

Digital Marketing KPI

  • Your marketing KPIs would vary from business to business, and especially based on the type & stage of business you are.
  • Don’t just say that you want to “sell your products”, that is business goal.
  • Your marketing goal should be to reach out to the right targeting audience, ensure they spend as much time as possible with your brand and eventually leave their contact details to know more / transact online / visit your store. All these goals can be measured.
  • Type of digital metrics
    • Vanity Goals – Impressions, clicks, ctr
    • Performance Goals – CPC (cost per click), cost per visit (CPV), cost per active visit (CPAV), cost per acquisition (CPA)
    • Business Metrics – footfalls, final sales or lead conversion

Digital Media Mix

  • Here’s how you can match your primary goals with the relevant digital channel:
    • Branding : Banners, Rich Media & Video in Desktop & Mobile
    • Lead Generation : PPC, SEM, SEO, Native Ads, Email Marketing
    • Driving Footfall : Email, Mobile, Social Ads
    • Sales: PPC, Affiliate Marketing
    • Engagement: Content Marketing

There is no doubt, while the conventional media industry like Television, Print, Radio & Outdoor were living in their fool’s paradise, digital became the new poster boy of all marketers.

However, when it comes to the Indian market, despite their positive intent, most of the brand teams are still trying to adapt in the cutthroat world of digital marketing.

With RHS gone, search marketing has changed forever

With right hand side ads disappearing in search, google is clearly telling brands to focus on mobile in their paid search marketing strategy.

Adwords will soon display four ads above organic search results, no ads to the right of search results, and three additional ads below search results, according to The SEM Post.

At the same time, the company says it may show an additional ad — four, not three — above the search results for what it calls “highly commercial queries”.  Google has also confirmed that this change is global and that it applies to all languages supported on Google Search. It’s expected this change will be rolled out to all Google Search users by February 22nd.

This is certainly a major shift by the search engine giant and would force brands and agencies to re-look at their search marketing strategies.

Here are some of the early observations based on the news stories trickling in:

Desktop Search Marketing going Native

The removal of ads in the right sidebar of the results means Google’s desktop search results pages will look a lot more like mobile search results pages, which are displayed in a single column for obvious reasons. Google is clearly moving in the direction of native search advertising where the line between paid and organic would actually disappear.

Also Read : On Google, Teens can’t tell the difference between sponsored links & organic listing

Making Search Marketing More Premium

Search Marketing Changes impacting Google YOY Ad Revenue

Search Marketing Changes impacting Google YOY Ad Revenue

Google’s share of revenue per search ad has slid recently. For years, Google ran up to eight paid ads on the right side in desktop mode. While the total varies for each search, there will now probably be fewer paid spots for each result — and, therefore, a scramble by advertisers to bid more in Google’s auction.

What falls under highly commercial queries in search marketing?

According to Search Engine Land, This would involve searches like “hotels in Mumbai” or “car insurance” and the like. There are also two exceptions to the right-side change:

  1. PLA boxes will be the only time ads will continue to show on the right side of the desktop search results page.
  2. Ads in Knowledge Panel

Poor score in search marketing might get penalised

Although the update is limited to desktop search results pages, so your brand’s desktop traffic may get affected. However, ads that appear beneath the third or fourth position may see a decline in click-through rates immediately. This means that google PPC campaign would require a lot more optimisation than ever before. This would also force the site owners to improve the overall content quality on their landing page to improve their search score and build more deeper relevance for the search engine.