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Do you really need a digital marketing strategy?

Author's avatar By Dave Chaffey 10 Jan, 2012
Essential Essential topic

5 reasons why you don't and 10 reasons why you could

Surely it's obvious, with today's digital marketing platforms like search and social networks, desktop and mobile web applications that you need a digital marketing strategy?

I don't think so, the obvious isn't always obvious, or practical to make happen, or even considered necessary. So, a couple of weeks ago we asked readers of SmartInsights.com whether their company, or if they work for an agency or are a consultant, their typical clients have one. These are the shocking? results...

Thank you if you voted or shared this post, we had around 110 responses, so a fair number, although we have no sample frame of who since it's just an informal poll.

As I suspected, there has been little change since we asked the exact same question back in 2010 as the chart below shows. This suggests that my 5 reasons why you may not need a digital strategy below are quite compelling for many companies - lack of time, resource or a perceived need for yet another plan.

It's perhaps a reflection on those managing resource not seeing the benefits and scale of change that transformation to a digital or social business requires.

I think it's sad really since creating an initial plan for digital needn't be too involved - as a minimum you can create a 1-2 side summary of the aims, strategies and KPIs for integrating digital channels as available in our digital strategy toolkit. Of course doing the initial analysis should be more involved...

Once the broad strategies and new ways of working are defined, a separate digital strategy isn't necessary since digital is part of marketing strategy or business as usual - congratulations to the quarter of businesses who have achieved this!

Here are the original results from the poll:

5 reasons why you may not need a digital strategy

1. You already have more than enough strategies and plans

If you work for a larger company, then there will likely be a clear marketing strategies and plans for different markets? Or will there?

If you work for a smaller company, then you likely don't have time and even developing any form of marketing plan may be a struggle.

If you have never had a separate plan for online marketing, it's likely you will benefit from one. It doesn't have to be a massive 50 page report - a 2 sider like our health check looking at your priorities is probably more actionable.

2. A separate digital plan can give problems of integration and ownership

I don't personally think a separate digital planning document is needed in all companies. The ideal approach is that you initially need a digital plan to help set goals for the digital channel, make the business case for investment and to create a long-term roadmap. But once you're are on this journey the long-term ambition should be to integrate digital marketing seamlessly into your marketing or business plan.

This is why one of the answers in the poll above is... "Yes - it's integrated into our marketing strategy" - if you answered this, you're likely already a fair way along your journey.

In fact you often see an evolution from a separate plan to get buy-in, resource and structure and then digital marketing has become part of business as usual.

3. A single vision and company goals are needed

Does it really make sense to have a separate vision for digital marketing, an integrated vision of how a company will grow and goals to support this can be clearer than specific digital goals. I looked last week at a good example of integrated vision statement.

4. Digital technologies and marketing approaches change so fast

It's hard to argue with this. I've spoken to many who say that the continual launch of new marketing approaches from the social networks LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook mean that any plan is instantly out of date. The introduction of Google+ is an example of this.

I completely disagree with this argument, since actually the marketing fundamentals don't change; how you segment and target your markets and having clear propositions doesn't change every few months...

Having a plan and a longer-term roadmap you're working to will help you from being distracted by new marketing approaches which can distract from your aims.

The other counter-argument here is that the move to a digital or social business doesn't happen overnight, it takes years of transformation, so a longer-term roadmap is essential to prioritise what to invest in when.

5. Increasingly digital marketing is marketing

It's also becoming more difficult to argue with this. Some pureplay online companies gain all of their business online. But these are still in the minority. In these cases a marketing plan will mainly focus on digital activity anyway, so why have a separate plan?

The reality for many companies is that while digital leads or sales are increasing, sales or gaining awareness from other channels remains important and a multichannel plan is needed.

and 10 reasons why you could need a digital strategy

I covered these in my previous article on digital marketing strategy, I think they're persuasive, but I'd be interested to know what you think.

1. You're directionless.

2. You won't know your online market share.

3. Existing and start-up competitors will gain market share.

4. You don't have a powerful online value proposition.

5. You don't know your online customers well enough.

6. You're not integrated ("disintegrated").

7. Digital doesn't have enough people/budget given its importance.

8. You're wasting money and time through duplication.

9. You're not agile enough to catchup or stay ahead.

10. You're not optimising.

Having a clear strategy or plan will help you tackle all of these, which these reasons are all directed at getting better commercial results than your competitors.

Please vote and ask others to, I'll update with the final results next week. TIA!

Author's avatar

By Dave Chaffey

Digital strategist Dr Dave Chaffey is co-founder and Content Director of online marketing training platform and publisher Smart Insights. 'Dr Dave' is known for his strategic, but practical, data-driven advice. He has trained and consulted with many business of all sizes in most sectors. These include large international B2B and B2C brands including 3M, BP, Barclaycard, Dell, Confused.com, HSBC, Mercedes-Benz, Microsoft, M&G Investment, Rentokil Initial, O2, Royal Canin (Mars Group) plus many smaller businesses. Dave is editor of the templates, guides and courses in our digital marketing resource library used by our Business members to plan, manage and optimize their marketing. Free members can access our free sample templates here. Dave is also keynote speaker, trainer and consultant who is author of 5 bestselling books on digital marketing including Digital Marketing Excellence and Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice. In 2004 he was recognised by the Chartered Institute of Marketing as one of 50 marketing ‘gurus’ worldwide who have helped shape the future of marketing. My personal site, DaveChaffey.com, lists my latest Digital marketing and E-commerce books and support materials including a digital marketing glossary. Please connect on LinkedIn to receive updates or ask me a question.

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