Digital Strategy is the New SEO

Chess as Strategy Practice
When I tell people I’ve gone into business for myself, they ask “Oh? What do you do?” I tell them I’m a digital strategist and then something happens to their face. It goes through this rapid cycle of reactions that seem to range from “That’s sounds smart and complicated and technological” (i.e., confused) to “That sounds like jargon and doesn’t give me the slightest idea of what he does” (or, a different flavor of confused). So here we go: an inglorious look behind the scenes of what a digital strategist does.

A General Description

The shorter and general idea is this: I help small business owners (typically new small business owners) figure out and articulate their business goals, how progress toward those goals might be measured, and then come up with a strategy for them to use to achieve those goals.

There are actually a lot of skills, behaviors, mental patterns, and more that go into this, but it’s all about getting a business owner from feeling unsure, confused, anxious, lost, and befuddled to having narrowed down the possibilities so that at any given time there are just a small handful of things that might be “next.”  This leaves you (I’m assuming you’re a business owner or a potential entrepreneur) feeling clear, effective, and ready to act.

What Falls Under the ‘Digital Strategy’ Heading?

In a way, a digital strategist is many things and one thing.  The ‘one thing’ is a strategist.  This is how my top “signature theme” on was described in Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham & Donald Clifton:

The Strategic theme enables you to sort through the clutter and find the best route. It is not a skill that can be taught. It is a distinct way of thinking, a special perspective on the world at large. This perspective allows you to see patterns where others simply see complexity. Mindful of these patterns, you play out alternative scenarios, always asking, “What if this happened? Okay, well what if this happened?”  This recurring question helps you see around the next corner.  There you can evaluate accurately the potential obstacles.  Guided by where you see each path leading, you start to make selections.  You discard the paths that lead nowhere. You discard the paths that lead straight into resistance.  You discard the paths that lead into a fog of confusion.  You cull and make selections until you arrive at the chosen path—your strategy.  Armed with your strategy, you strike forward. This is your Strategic theme at work. “What if?”  Select.  Strike.

The ‘many things’ part of being a digital strategist is all of the possible paths.  Your business is going to be different than mine, which are both going to be different than the shop on the next corner.   If my specialty, then, is lending the “special perspective on the world” part of my brain to you, the rest of the role is a generalist.  I need to know enough things about enough ways to know what’s going to work best for you.

For example, depending on your needs and skills and business goals, I might draw on any of the following areas in order to put together the right strategy for you:

Email Marketing:  Helping you set up ways to build your mailing list.  Once you’ve got a decent sized list, it might be figuring out how to best use it to do what you want—building relationships with your customers, building loyalty, increasing repeat purchases, or moving list members to make their first purchase.  Whatever it is that’s right for where you are.

Social Media Marketing:  So, do you have a Google+ business marketing plan?  Should you be on Instagram?  Having mentioned on Facebook that you’re in business doesn’t constitute a strategy.  I can teach you how to use the tools to your best advantage once we’ve figured out which ones you can safely ignore.

Search Engine Optimization / Search Engine Marketing (SEO/SEM):  A huge amount of traffic is directed by Google and Bing.  Gone are the days of just stuffing a page full of keywords.  We can work together to serve your audience first, but without getting in the way of the needs of the search engines; in fact, many things you can do on your website help both!

Content Marketing:  Are you good with words?  Good with graphics or photography?  Good with video?  Perhaps you can bring those skills forward and market with “content” (the online marketer’s term for “stuff people share and link to on the internet”).  There are an unbelievable number of tools to help you show off your expertise, particularly if you are comfortable creating content…or willing to learn!  You can, quite literally, become a publisher or produce a TV-style show from the comfort of your laptop.

Advertising:  “Do people really click those ads?”  Yes, they do.  And if that’s the right way to go for you, I can help you figure out how to write the ads, figure out where to buy ad space, track the results, and experiment to increase your return on investment (ROI).  The techniques prior to this one can all be largely done for little to no cost, but this one can cost you—particularly if you go about it the wrong way.

Referral Marketing and Lead Generation:  Ardea Coaching actually started as a life-coaching service, and it was almost entirely built on referrals.  (Thanks, Jeff!)  Some industries have ethics rules that govern how they advertise or market.  Others just recognize that having a bunch of leads and others referring good business to you is a really useful thing to have.

Website/Conversion Optimization and Analytics:  Oh, the things you can learn from the people who visit your website!  This is, in many respects, the purest science of marketing.  You’re actually finding the things that are mathematically better for your business.  You may really like that picture on that page, but our A/B test shows that the picture you don’t care for as much is 18.3% more likely to result in a sale.  Now you can choose what you want to do from a more informed position.

(One organization I worked with found a surprising amount of its traffic came from a neighboring city’s government website, and that website traffic in general accounted for the majority of their new clients.  I recommended that they explore collaborating with city, and doing events there more frequently.  Clearly, the data showed there was interest there!)

Summary (or TL;DR)

I don’t really like throwing around jargon.  If you’re unfamiliar with it, “TL;DR” stands for “Too Long; Didn’t Read” and is sometimes used as the short summary and takeaways of a longer article.

A digital strategist, or digital marketing strategist, is a professional who utilizes strategic thinking to narrow client options down to the most useful approaches that are right for achieving their business goals.  It draws on multiple disciplines of online marketing, business development, coaching, skills assessment, psychology, and education.  And done right, will make you more money.

Interested in exploring the possibilities or in getting started right away?  Contact me to get your business a digital strategy!  Or have comments or question?  Please leave them in the comments below!

Posted by Michael J. Coffey  |  0 Comment  |  in Tools & Terms

About Michael J. Coffey

Michael started learning about online marketing as the web store manager for a scrappy little game retailer during the "dot com bubble" of the 1990s. Since then he's helped fitness companies, tea wholesalers and retailers, lawyers, clothing designers, restaurateurs, and entrepreneurs in many other fields. In his spare time he drinks very high quality tea, writes letters with a fountain pen, and reads literature.

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