What makes your digital strategy strong? (Hint: It isn't wizardry, but it can be magical)

Jan 18, 2019

Is your business a bit of a mess?

Are you utterly dissatisfied with how your marketing efforts are performing?

Do you feel like you have no idea how you get new customers?

This post will help. You'll learn:

  • How planning for digital success is different from the rest of your business plans,
  • Why you should use 12-Week focused sprints to achieve massive results,
  • A simple tool for measuring your progress, and
  • How to structure your digital year in the future, so the feeling of being lost in the jungle that is internet marketing never happens again.

Sound good?

Great! Let’s get to work.

Setting up a Facebook Page or a LinkedIn Profile is easy. Maybe too easy.

So easy that it’s likely you have a few of these hanging out there. It’s possible we’re even using them regularly. It’s also possible that you’re not sure what you have out there at all.

How often do you Google yourself or your company?

Go ahead and try it right now. I’ll wait…

Were you surprised about what’s out there? Did you know you had a Yelp account or more than one Twitter profile?

Grabbing a listing on Yelp or posting on a shiny new Facebook Page has become an easy and fast way to feel like we are marketing our businesses. Unfortunately, it usually goes south pretty quickly. That’s because we think that since the mechanics are easy, it’s a task for an intern or the new rep who doesn’t have a client base built up yet. Even when we take the extra step and hire a company to help, it’s usually a web design firm or a virtual assistant. It’s rare for a small business to start their digital footprint with this magical sentence:

We need a plan.

What that means is that your digital footprint is probably schizophrenic and confusing, with lots of different players, timelines, and brand identities.

If you’re confused about where you are online and who’s in charge, how do you think your customer feels?

If you’re lucky enough to be reading this before you put your flag in the ground online, hooray!

(Shameless self-promo time, start with Local Rock Star Live)

Most of us, probably fall into the other category: We’ve got a mess on our hands.

How do I know?

Because I’ve been there and it’s taken me years to figure out how to do it right.

I set up my first Facebook Page and business blog in 2008.

(Actual footage of my very first website, thanks to the Way Back Machine)

Over the next several years, I would go through many variations of a brand identity. Including such gems as:

  • C2B Development (I had no idea that Consumer to Business was a thing at this point),
  • 21 Weeks to Profitable Self-Employment,
  • Renia Grows,
  • The Development of Taste, and finally
  • Be A Real Beauty.

I tried to do the same thing in five different digital formats over the course of about seven years. My digital footprint confused the hell out of everyone, even me until a combination of Brian Dean, Hubspot, and three years experience in ecommerce development finally taught me the value of plans and processes.

I’ve spent the last two years cleaning up, organizing, planning, and rebranding. And the work isn’t done, because cleaning up a mess is way more difficult than starting right in the first place.

What makes your digital strategy different from your overall business strategy?

Honestly, not much.

We would all be better served if we stopped thinking of digital marketing as magic and started thinking of it as the study of certain metrics.

Sort of like our cash flow statements.

Yes, there is art in creating a compelling brand, but it’s not wizardry. This is wizardry:


Mostly, digital marketing is practice and focus, and it is learnable.

Digital success is more about the development of the right skills than it is about natural genius.

Gary Vaynerchuck isn’t smarter than you.

He’s hustled harder and studied the landscape closer. Marie Forleo isn’t the top coach in the world or the most gifted motivational speaker, but she is the most consistent and constant one on the internet.

When it comes to your digital plan, consistency and calling matter more than talent or celebrity.

Flexibility matters a whole lot too.

Because consistent and constant action matter more than ever, a digital strategy must be flexible. What’s that quote about the best-laid plans of mice and men? Well, if you think your plan is going to take a beating in the physical world, get ready for the twists, turns and dips of digital!

Technology will change just as you finish a project, making your new shiny website obsolete....

Facebook will release another round of updates aimed at forcing you into ever-more-expensive ads space...

The podcast you thought was the future will go the way of the cassette tape as VR takes over...

Whatever it is, 3-5 year plans do not exist in this space, because in 3-5 years space will look entirely different.

What you’re after, when creating a digital design for your business, is short sprints that help you reach your biggest business objectives.

That’s why agencies that get it don’t build waterfall-method websites anymore. Instead, they use growth-driven design and data-driven campaigns to create platforms that are both consistent in their message and constantly evolving with the whims of technology and the market. It’s a tough tightrope to walk, but with the right system in place, it’s a pretty graceful thing to watch.

For example, a big goal of yours might be to be a keynote speaker at your industry’s annual conference. The first questions you should be answering are not about digital at all. They are about a message, brand, and personal network. Then, we can take those foundational elements and design short, flexible sprints to build up your platform in the right way. We do it this way because of the big white elephant of digital marketing that none of us spend enough time addressing…

A digital footprint is easy to make, but difficult to fix.

It’s easy to set up a Facebook account, claim your business on Yelp, or hire a web designer. It might feel daunting, but the barrier to entry online continues to lower. With $50 and a smartphone, you can have a website, logo, social media footprint, and merchant account in less than an hour.

But just like with food, fast and cheap often comes with consequences.

You know a Big Mac and fries will make you feel like shit and add inches to your thighs. The same is true of the fast and cheap setups almost every business finds themselves guilty of in the digital world. And these days, being a digital cheapskate can be as damaging to your bottom line as a Big Mac is to, well … your bottom line.

It will cost triple the time and money to fix a haphazard digital footprint than it costs to set it up right in the first place. So if you’re new to this, take the time to do it right.

And if you’ve already made some mistakes?

Well, just like with your health, there’s never been a better time to start undoing the damage and building a more beautiful space for your brand than now. Like anything else, the sooner you start doing it right, the easier it will be.


Annual Strategic Planning + Quarterly Mini-Planning Days

When you work within a 90-Day Epic framework, you will have a few major planning breaks scheduled in your calendar each year. These are:

  • Annual Strategic Planning - This is a 2-3 day retreat from your regular work environment. It’s a time to get off-site, off-line, and off-kilter and look at the future of your company and/or your marketing in a different way.
  • Three 13th Week Evaluation + Planning Days  - These are one-day sessions where you spend time evaluating your last sprint and setting up for the new one.

Annual Strategic Planning and Why It Matters

It’s difficult…no, it’s impossible…To plan and optimize for the big picture when you’re stuck in the day-to-day. Taking a few days to get out of the office, preferably into a beautiful place, once or twice per year allows you and your company leaders the space you need to design the future.

In an ideal world, your company would hold two separate planning retreats each year. The first for strategic planning and the second for your marketing plan. For most of the companies I’ve worked with, this ends up being combined into one.

What these sessions are, is a facilitator-led chance to bring everyone’s ideas together, interact as a team, and design the basic outline of what the coming year should look like. It is from this session that you will become clear about the opportunities you will address in your Epics.

A Word on Facilitation

Most workshops and planning sessions are most impactful when a professional facilitator is brought in to work with your team. This allows your team to be 100% focused on the work, without one person worrying about notes and another worrying about leading.

An unbiased outsider will have an easier time asking the tough questions, challenging leaders on their assumptions, and funneling the group into meaningful action.

No, you shouldn’t wait until December to have your strategy session.

If you’re lucky enough to be reading this in mid-October, then, by all means, schedule your strategic planning for December or early January. My bet is, that’s not the case.

So don’t wait!

There’s no law that says companies can only start taking smart actions at the beginning of the year. Just like there’s no law that says you can only develop a new habit in January. In fact, it’s often more impactful to do this type of planning at “off-times”, when focus on resolutions and goals has begun to wain. If your company’s never done a strategic planning session before, do it now. Get it on the calendar for June or September. What matters is the process, not the date on the calendar.

The key to a strong digital strategy is a great plan. It will never happen on a whim and a prayer.

Relay Race to Annual Success

It’s easy to get started with a Facebook Page or even a website, but creating a digital strategy that works takes time and focused attention. If you feel like you don’t know who you are online, no one else does either. By creating a digital footprint intentionally, you will create excited prospects and delighted customers that lead to a bigger impact for you and your company. You will make more money and everyone you work with will be happier.

Through strategic planning, sprint focus periods, and SMART goals, we can all stop throwing stuff at the wall and start building a beautiful digital legacy instead.

So before you go post another meaningless link on Facebook, try taking a step back to make a plan. You’ll be amazed how much easier it is to generate quality leads when you're strategy is solid and cohesive.