Understanding Digital Strategists and How to Use Them

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With digital marketing budgets projected to grow up to 35% in 2016, the demand for qualified digital strategy firms is higher than ever. Using their knowledge and experience to interpret problems, create plans of actions, analyze data and execute, digital strategists can be leveraged in a number of ways. All too often though, companies have unsuccessful engagements. We’ve written several posts about what to look for in a digital strategy firm, now let’s talk about how to succeed once you’ve found that perfect match.

What are Digital Strategy Professionals All About?

Digital marketing consultant

A good digital strategist will focus on business goals first and the current processes in place that strive to achieve those goals. Next he or she will gather all available data before considering a solution to a problem, and how the web might tie into that solution. If this sounds vague, that’s because it is vague. Every engagement is entirely unique, and often times what you initially seek from a consultant will end up being the lowest thing on your priority list after a few discussions. This phenomenon occurs because most business owners really don’t know a whole lot when it comes to modern web technology and cutting edge marketing as compared to the professionals. A successful engagement will occur when there is mutual respect on both sides for respective knowledge; both the entrepreneurs knowledge of their domain, and the strategists knowledge of doing business on the web.

The person you ultimately hire will likely be (should be) be 2 parts data-driven and 1 part creative (although most people naturally gravitate more towards one, and anyone working in digital strategy has a decent amount of each). This person or team of people will be adamant about creating a plan to track results of any efforts put forth, and putting a process in place to optimize those results. Tracking results and reporting is not only the right thing to do, but it’s how a digital strategist will ultimately prove their value to your company. Enabling data-driven decision making and injecting automation for business processes where available are going to be two of the biggest talking points of a digital strategy company.

Tips on working with a digital strategy company or consultant

    • Be open about all pain points in your company, regardless of how irrelevant you think they might be. As outlandish as this may sound, it’s likely that every process in your company could be better off with an injection of web technology. Without technology, it’s nearly impossible to collect data. Without data, it’s impossible to take decisive action.
    • Check your ego at the door and be open to seemingly radical ideas. The Internet is still so incredibly young, and most people are not immediately receptive to shifting a ton of focus and ultimately money into something so foreign.
    • A digital consultant will rarely make a recommendation or advise a client to do something that has not been successfully implemented by another company. But that recommendation might imply a major business strategy shift. Sometimes when the idea is not coming from the entrepreneur for such an important business function, for example, your main customer acquisition model, it’s hard for that entrepreneur to buy-in to the idea. This is more of a sales thing you might notice – a digital strategist might try to incept you into coming up with an idea on your own for an action they know you should take, because it might otherwise get rejected.
    • Get comfortable with being uncomfortable and investing a lot of money into something you have never invested in before. Following up on that last tip, usually a digital strategy firm will be implementing a model seen elsewhere. And while the wheel isn’t being recreated you can definitely expect to be taken to the car dealership. There is threshold of risk that an entrepreneur needs to put on the table in trusting a digital strategist with their company. Digital transformations are a lengthy process, and if the entire process isn’t seen through in it’s entirety then it’s likely the investment won’t perform as planned. Be sure to understand the entire scope of the plan, why each part is essential to success, how it all works together, and when you can expect to see the bottom line impacted (not just the top).
    • Ask a lot of questions at the beginning. If you’re speaking with a solid firm you’ll likely be speaking to more than a salesman, you’ll be speaking with someone who truly lives and breathes their craft. Digital strategists often have their heads down in code, data, Google Analytics, etc. They like to lift their heads up and talk about what they do. They like to teach, and help people understand their obsession. It’s also a great learning opportunity that will make you feel more comfortable pulling the trigger on an investment that could have a big impact. The more you know about the full scope of work, the easier it will be to stomach the first several months and possibly a year when the investment is panning out.

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» Digital Strategy, online marketing » Understanding Digital Strategists and How...
On May 2, 2016
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