Digital Strategy Starts With Marketing

It’s hard not to get confused when people start talking “digital”.  This is even true for me and my career has spanned I/T and marketing.  That said, I continue to encounter many organizations that wrestle with the question:  How do I build a digital strategy?

Defining “Digital”

What is “digital?” Digital represents a societal shift that encompasses many different domains. It  changed  the way information got processed, products developed and markets operate.  The digital shift has been happening for over 50 years. It did not kick into gear until businesses began to see the potential of the internet. The shift became a wave as new media channels started to serve as platforms for new types of businesses.

Marketers are often first to get a hold of new things and bend them to their will. That is why “digital marketing” became a thing. Digital marketing has historically represented the collection of disciplines related to doing business online: search-engine optimization, social media and programmatic advertising. As digital business becomes the norm, it has expanded to include content marketing, strategy and audience development. I suspect digital marketing will keep getting larger until it’s all just “marketing” again.

What About Digital Transformation?

“Digital transformation” is a big fancy term. I liken it to an iceberg.  On the surface, it is about how an organization’s business model should adapt.  It’s a bit scary, but nothing like what lurks underneath the water. That is where we discover all the things that need to change. To enable a digital business model, it takes leadership, technology, people development and culture!  It’s messy stuff that gets more complex as the organization gets larger.

Digital Transformation Is Like An Iceberg

Business model is only one-side of transformation though. It also depends on the evolution of consumer behavior.  Think about it:  Amazon started selling books online in 1996. It would take over a decade for Borders books to fall apart. Borders was a victim not to technology, rather to a misunderstanding of consumer behavior.  Their  number-one competitor, Barnes and Noble, is still around today. This is because it put thought into how its websites and stores would co-exist.

Digital Strategy Starts With Marketing

Businesses use strategies to get themselves from one state to another. It’s a plan for achieving a goal.  A digital strategy represents the plan and approach toward becoming relevant to digitally-enabled consumers.

It All Comes Back To Marketing

We’ve talked about the importance of consumer behavior in understanding digital.   Well, understanding and interpreting consumer behavior is the domain of marketers (see what I did just there?)   It will be within marketing that the key foundations of any digital strategy are built.

Whether you realize it or not, your marketing organization has already started building a digital strategy.  The question for you is whether it goes far enough, and how it will be taken forward.

In Part Two, I will dive deeper into how to develop a digital strategy


Also published on Medium.