The simple way to build and deliver a digital strategy

Most people either elect to outsource their digital services to a third-party, or keep them entirely in-house. Both approaches have their pros and cons:

In-House GOOD

  • Lower cost
  • Faster deployment
  • Incremental learning
  • Better understanding

In-House BAD

  • Resource constraints
  • Skills limited
  • Limited experience
  • Fear of change
  • Slow to evolve
  • Best of breed

3rd-party GOOD

  • New ideas
  • Unlimited resource & skills
  • Best of breed
  • Competitive knowledge
  • Scaleable
  • Changeable

3rd-party BAD

  • Expensive
  • Slower to deliver
  • Don’t get the vision
  • Multi-level relationships
  • Operationas vs strategic balance
  • Loss of internal learning

The challenge is to create a hybrid solution that meets the needs of your organisation, fits well with the digital agency and continue to motivate both to strive for improvement. Motivation is the important word here, suppliers can get a little lazy after a while and so can internal marketing departments. Both need to have clear goal, a game plan.

Start with a gameplan

Before you appoint your agency, before you assemble your marketing team you’ll have a gameplan. Except most of us are not in start-ups ,you might have acquired a working department with relationships, suppliers and processes. You’ll still need a game plan, though.

Publish what’s wanted and expected from digital services. Thats everything from customer acquisition through to service and product delivery, billing, management and reporting. Share this with staff, supplier, partners and customers alike; they’ll all have some nuggets of wisdom to add (and a fair amount of guff to ignore, true).

Everything from here on down hang from this gameplan. If it doesn’t further the gameplan then either don’t do it or chuck the gameplan and start again. This will avoid distractions, wasted resource and the temptation to buy into snake oil, or fairy dust.

The upshot is we need a hybrid solution that brings together the benefits of using both in-house and 3rd-party solutions. Collectively we need to aim for a strategic and operations model that offers:

  • Low cost
  • Fast deployment
  • Lots of documented learning
  • Clearer vision

  • New ideas
  • Competitive knowledge
  • Scaleable
  • Best of breed

We do have to watch the pitfalls: Fear of change, lazy folks, slow evolution, spiralling costs and losing site of the gameplan.

Strategy First

Its better paying good money for good strategy and operations than paying no money for strategy and good money for operations. However, a good operational marketing team will, broadly, deliver the strategy whilst an exceptional one will over-deliver. It’s all about getting the balance right and the simplest way is to involve everyone in the gameplanning phase and start the process of working out which bits the folks and teams are better at.

With the gameplan published it’s for the teams to come up with the strategy, if they start coming up with operational solutions they need to be gently coaxed into thinking one level up. Some can, and some can’t. It’s not a reflection on the team and we all need a range of skills and experience to be able to successfully deliver a winning digital strategy.

The strategy will need regular review, probably every quarter of when something ground-breaking occurs. The gameplan, on the other hand, probably needs checking at the same time but thoroughly reviewing annually. Unless the world (or the business) has done a handbrake turn and headed off in a different direction.

Operational Marketing

Much of the work carried out by digital agencies is fairly low-tech, frequently hidden in a black box and wrapped up in a £££ invoice. Often, the operational marketing tasks in the digital world can be automated to a high degree, or bought-in as services in a very cost effective way. Spend the time looking for ways to cut the operational load and simplify/de-skill/speed-up/automate the work.

A good example of this is social media sharing; this is a low-tech task that involves an individual selecting some content to be shared and then posting it to various social authority channels (Facebook, Twitter, Google + et al). Except, there exists a plethora of tools to do all the hard work for you, automatically posting at scheduled times, recording clicks and shares etc. Use them, and use your in-house folks to deliver all the automation elements. It takes no time and it’s good to be in control of the big levers and switches as you might change suppliers and wrenching the control of levers can be painful, slow and frustrating.

If you can’t manage to create the operational levers in-house, then get your agency to set them up for you but make sure you take them back off them. It’s good to collaborate and it’s good that your partners can take the strain in time of trouble but all organisations should be digitally self-sufficient at an operational level.

The final element is around reporting and management. If the vision has converted into a gameplan that everyone understands then the whole team should be on top of delivery without the need to have draconian reporting measures (read: toxic meetings). With all information out in the open and accessible by the teams and the stakeholders there should be no surprises. If this sounds alien then you’ll need to allocate a project manager and add reporting lines and processes … or look to become more agile, maybe review your working environment and encourage time efficiency.

The old linear style of waterfall delivery is being replaced as new working environments and tools offer more flexible and faster ways of designing and delivering digital services.