After more than 3 decades working first in direct marketing strategic marketing, analytics and finally digital marketing, I know how exhilarating it can be when a plan comes together. Well thought out strategy that drives the execution of a plan to the ultimate benefit of the company. This culmination proves that    targeted relevant messages culminate in increased sales and profitability allowing a substantial return on investment to be achieved.

It is the ultimate marketing nirvana, however all too often what could have been a company’s potential to achieve great success, is weighed down by a malaise of cultural baggage. Here are the common elements that make the difference between the ‘thud’ factor of a strategy document gathering dust or becoming a dynamic business driver:

Executive Engagement and Commitment

I have often been involved in many strategic workshops presented by Francois Muscat  aimed at showing how to use Rivers of Information’ to provide a  regular flow of strategic and vital competitor and market information to executives in order for them to steer the ship through generally uncharted and treacherous waters. At the end of these workshops the consensus of most savvy CEO’s is something like this “I know we need to do this. We are counting on you to lead us in the right direction.”

This is always a magic moment as apart from the verbal commitment demonstrating support, we at that stage know that we will be able to work effectively with that particular client as they will be actively engaged in the strategic partnership being formed and will lead, endorse and support the part of the program determining next steps.

This active leadership is CRITICAL to organizational change.

The person at the top must “get it” and make people accountable for the change. Measurable expectations for change must be driven into performance objectives. Here is the most important thing a leader can do to keep the change going week to week:  Ask questions about it in staff meetings.

Learning by doing!

When we hear the question “Can you just do this for us?” we know that client is not yet ready to commit to the organisational change needed to make a social media strategy work.

The big difference between companies “checking the box” and one that is really being transformed is that people are rolling up their sleeves and learning by doing. They’re not out-sourcing tweets and blog posts. They’re making “content” and customer engagement central to the company’s marketing mission and adjusting job requirements accordingly.

There is certainly nothing wrong with ‘testing’ and kicking off by outsourcing your ‘Community Management requirements ‘initially in order to ‘listen’ to your customers and start to understand what it is they want before entering a full dialogue on many different Social Media channels.

We do understand that it is very difficult for many Marketing Executives to look at resourcing internally being conditioned as we are to pay advertising agencies to handle customer media and then sit back and wait for something to happen.

Certainly advertising is still an important part of the marketing formula. But a content strategy must be organically linked to some extent between employees and customers for it to “take” in the company culture.

Social Media Channels have essentially replaced ‘Customer Services’ departments as it allows not only outgoing communication to those customers who actively engage with us but ‘listening’ on a far greater and more socially interactive level

Resources + Patience + Content Strategy = Success

Starting a social media strategy from scratch is like putting a rugby team together while the game is underway — you still have a business to run.  Certain players will rise or fall, certain strategies will work or be abandoned as we adjust to the competition and the reaction from the market.

To persevere in this rather chaotic transition, a team made up from all department i.e. Marketing, Sales, IT, HR and Operations should be identified, brought together as a team and provided with the appropriate amount of resources and enough patience to allow them to gel and perform.

The change is not sustainable if it is simply an “add on” to an already full plate.  You wouldn’t take a bundu bashing trip in an old and tired 4X4 and then run out of diesel in the middle of Lion country. The first few kilometres might be fine, but for the long-term you need to have a vehicle with the right gear and the fuel to help you get to your goal.

Focus, focus, focus

Chasing the shiny white ball is a strategy killer.  If you have done the upfront research and planning, here WSI and its team can assist, you should be confident in following a plan long enough to give it a chance to make an impact. We generally recommend breaking up your annual strategy into quarters that can be managed with particular emphasis on the outcomes and learning’s gained. Shifting priorities willy-nilly will waste time and money faster than anything else.

 Creative application

A few years ago, I might not have made this such a priority.  Back then, it was probably novel enough just being on the social web! But today, most companies have a blog. Pretty much everyone has a Facebook page and are tweeting. Are you devoting creative resources to these efforts and designing  a common look and feel for your brand, to really stand out and deliver the goods for your customers particularly taking in the increasing trend towards using pictures for ‘visual’ communication and ‘info graphics’ on new channels such as ‘Pinterest’

Aligning goals with Analytics

In today’s data-filled world, there is no reason NOT to measure. It’s this simple: How do you know your strategy is working if you don’t measure? Don’t get caught up in the endless ROI debate. Pick meaningful KPI’s that will measure success and show that you are achieving your business objectives.

Well that’s my take on what it takes to make a digital marketing or social media strategy work and work well.  We would love to hear your comments or if we can assist with your strategy in the New Year please contact us via our website

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