Building an Effective Integrated Digital Communications Strategy

Woman holding a "Strategy" thought bubble. Spodek & Co.
Tactics? Or strategy? If you were mapping out an integrated digital communications plan, which one would you focus on?
The answer from the majority may (or may not) surprise you.

Most businesses are happy with a bunch of tactics. They are typically ‘sexier’, offer some quick wins, and can often be implemented within days.

But tactics don’t drive long term results. And they often result in money, time and effort wasted.

Now, think in terms of strategy. A well thought out, audience targeted, researched and process-oriented integrated strategy that will guide your business through long-term growth… and yes, there will be tactics involved.

How to Plan an Integrated Digital Communications Strategy

Sometimes it’s a challenge to convince businesses about the importance of strategy and why the process is more effective. So we put pen to paper (or perhaps keys to screen) and are revealing the strategic planning process that works for us and our clients. It starts with two key steps:

  1. An audit of your current digital footprint, including social presence, website, published content, influencer relationships, competitor insights and more. A deep dive into metrics and analytics is essential here so we know exactly where your brand stands and where the opportunities lie.
  2. A clear understanding of your audience personas, including where they spend their time online (websites, social media), online habits (watching, listening or buying), likes, dislikes, hobbies, age, demographics… basically get into their brains!

We’ve seen campaigns with even large budgets fail miserably when these steps aren’t completed. So please, resist the temptation to jump into sexy tactics and don’t assume you know enough to “get started”. As the saying goes, you don’t know what you don’t know!

Now Start Building

After the audit and personas are completed, your agency should then build an informed integrated digital communications strategy. We’re not going to reveal every aspect of a strategy that we deliver to our clients, but we do want to share how we marry the audience personas with the tactics…because we know how much you all love tactics! The process looks like this:
Planning Cycle - Customer A in the centre surrounded by discovery, engagement, retain and reward.
Some businesses may need to focus on one phase more than another, and will apply different tactics to meet the needs of each phase of the process. Throughout the journey there will be tweaks along the way and we can guarantee there’ll be ‘a-ha’ moments. Let’s dive in…

Discovery
At this stage, your customer likely doesn’t even know you exist. You have to get your name out there! Tactics to consider here could be:

  • Search engine optimized website and content to get your brand positioned higher in Google search results
  • Paid social media advertising on your customer’s favourite platforms (thanks to the audit and persona development, you know exactly which platform(s) to advertise on)
  • Contribute a story on a third-party website that’s focused on your target customer
  • Increased organic social media posts with hashtags that your customer is using

Engagement
Once your customer has discovered your brand, you need to keep them engaged. They aren’t ready to buy yet, so it’s essential to keep the lead warm. Here’s some tactics that work well for engagement:

  • Like and comment when a customer shares or reacts to something on your social media stream
  • Start retargeted advertising so that once your customer has visited your website, they will see your ads pop up in their social media streams
  • Create content that will educate your customer on the benefits of your product and solution—short videos are fantastic for this and are proven to increase engagement!

Conversion
Your customer is moving their way down your sales funnel—you just need them to finally click ‘buy’ or ‘contact’. Make it happen by trying these tactics:

  • Content that includes how-to use your product or service and includes links to purchase your products with a special offer
  • Get your previous customers to do some of the work for you. Ask them to share a testimonial, review or an image of how your product or service helped them. Word of mouth and referral is one of the best conversion drivers!
  • Keep those retargeted ads going—they are excellent for conversion as well
  • Host a live streaming event to educate potential customers; existing customers can join to share stories and new customers will be encouraged to ask questions

Retain and Reward
It’s official! You have a buying customer! Now you have to retain them in your tribe and turn them into loyal ambassadors. Here are some tactics to try:

  • Email marketing is a must at this stage! Keep the emails regular, informative and include a special offer every so often to encourage repeat purchase
  • Invite customers to share pictures or stories of how they are using your product or service; offer a special deal or contest entry in exchange
  • Show that you care and value their loyalty by liking and commenting when they post on your social media; address negative comments quickly

Measure, Report and Repeat

This is the beauty of digital communications. There is a tonne of data and analytics that will tell you almost right away if your tactics are working. Your digital communications agency should be monitoring these at least once per week and recommending/implementing adjustments if needed. (It’s important to know what matters most or you and your agency will be spending too much time (and money) sifting through the data.) Typically, a report will be delivered monthly where you will have a complete view of how the needle is moving closer to your goals.

As mentioned earlier, many digital communications agencies follow a similar strategic planning process, but there are differences in how the work is delivered, the creative ideas, the experience of the team, the professional ‘fit’ and the value. If you’re thinking about working with an integrated digital communication agency, let’s chat about how we can help.

Line drawn peony from Spodek & Co Digital marketing site