The digital divide of a digital marketing strategy framework

Michael (MJ) AllenMichael J. (MJ) Allen
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Jul 11

Over the years I have observed and tested the principles that makeup successful digital-focused teams and organizations, and have witnessed a digital divide in the context of strategic business framework to reach a level of digital maturity. I’ve observed 4 pillars that are a foundation to an organizations digital marketing framework, and a criteria against measuring the health of its maturity, and the currency it provides.

Yet I often find a mixology of viewpoints and theory on what defines a digital strategy, and baseline framework in which the strategies can be built on and align to both the big picture, and the short term.

In many cases I find a misleading conception of strategy definition as either their strategic frameworks address only tactical aspects of strategy and more appropriate to campaign planning, or the over-arching approach to execution, or multi-directional go-to-market planning.

I’ve yet to find or experience a strategic approach that fits every organization. However I have built a guiding framework that digital strategy that can be built upon, which can be rooted into almost any organizations hierarchal eco-system.

Over the last decade I’ve witness how the impact of new technology-driven opportunities can touch and influence consumer or business behavior, and how these market driven opport melded into the organizations marketing structure and cross-functional teams.  Thus the digital strategy I’ll hit on in this post will address the essential framework a digital-focussed organization should have to evolve both the teams, and organization as a whole, to a digital mature brand.

The digital framework I’ll outline is not the popularized pillars or template of an online campaign you may have heard. While the 5 or 7 online campaign pillars can apply – its more applicable to the micro or tactical areas of the strategic frameworks opportunities across paid, earned and owned media.

What this post will do is show a more macro view of a digital framework that a Head of Digital or Digital Marketing Director would lead to build and grow a brand to a digitally mature organization, that can align both global and regional strategies. It takes a step back before any campaigns or go-to-market planning is produced, and articulate a skeleton or framework that you can follow to succeed long term in any  organization that’s digitally focussed.

The digital framework and its pillars, planning, opportunities, and health currency (performance) will help plant the seeds and grow the roots to accelerate a team or organizations digital eco-system and provide an enormous competitive advantage.

The principles that apply to the digital framework can accelerate growth, provide agility and flexibility among teams and market-delivery, and create an environment for innovation that I believe all organizations need to do in today’s digital business, but only few actually perform as we’ve seen by those who lead by example; Apple and Google.

I’ll illustrate below a digital framework that is built upon the same strategic pillars, but also agile for both small and large brands to produce a digital framework that works for their business and market.

Framework Pillars

There are a number of ways to define a framework, but in the context of digital the framework is can be viewed as the essential supporting structure of the digital side of business. It defines almost like a layered structure of programs or components and functions, and how they interrelate to one another – as in the case of a global digital strategy and regional go-to-market strategies.

The comprehensive nature of a digital framework must have the essential makings to provide a sound framework to deliver and grow digital maturity. The underlying roots of the framework is where the beginnings of which everything is created, executed and measured from within the digital business strategies internal structure. I define these essential makings as the pillars that gives strength to the frameworks structure, and that everything from job roles, systems, infrastructure and data is driven from.

Within the umbrella of your organizational structure, whether your formulating the corporate strategy to a small business who  contracts expert global talent to deliver on digital, the basics of the digital framework pillars can be used as a guideline to measure the health of your digital roadmap to achieve a digital mature business.

The pillars I’ve defined through my career address the sales-side of strategy, marketing and brand assets, resources and technology and the service-oriented view of marketing in most organizations. Additionally it’s an analytic-framework that provides a measure of health to gauge business performance and how far has marketing leadership moved digital maturity on the gauge.

Albeit, digital has transformed marketing to a timid balance between a revenue-generating department and service-oriented, similar to the viewpoint of IT departments who can service organizations to deliver the intangible cost-savings from their expertise and technology (ex. IT solutions to reduce the cost of downtime that impacts the business).

The 4 pillars of the digital framework is as follows:

  1. Engagement and Access
  2. Infrastructure and Assets
  3. Service economy
  4. Digital maturity; which is not a singular pillar on its own, but instead the foundation that the latter 3 pillars rest upon.

Engagement & Access

This strategy planning and opportunities that rest upon this pillar can be defined as those strategies and programs across paid, earned and owned media, and the underlying content platform, all which aim to build and grow the brands online eco-system.

The engagement and access pillar also supports the strategic planning around how your audience will find, win/convert and engage with your brand across inbound and outbound programs for demand gen, acquisition and retention programs.

Infrastructure & Assets

This pillars addresses the brand assets within your online eco-system. This includes websites, product and community micro-sites, social brand properties, white-labels, co and sub brand digital properties, branded partnerships, tools and even the back-end web-based product solutions.

Digital assets can also include the content assets driven from your inbound strategy,  rich-media banners used in your Display program, widgets and tools for lead gen. tools, and even the relationships held with key vendors who deliver on your paid media strategies.

Infrastructure is a key area of this pillars to deliver on the expertise and technology solutions to better service the organization cross-functinal teams, streamline efficiencies through technology, enhance speed and agility in competitive landscapes and much more. Examples of this may include:

  • Content management system (CMS) for your websites to deliver speed-to-market and localized content.
  • Marketing automation solutions to deliver on event-driven customer lifecycle programs.
  • CRM solution to manage relationships, track leads and measure sales pipelines
  • BI (business intelligence) applications or systems, such as a data-warehouse to amalgamate and centralize marketing, customer and revenue performance.

When you think of infrastructure and assets, don’t limit this to technology solutions. There is much greater asset than technology – and that’s people.

What is the make-up of your digital team, whether external vendors to support in various areas of your strategy, or internal experts in various disciplines as localized search engine optimization, affiliate management, social media, community management, editorial or front-end development. There is no one perfect org. structure, but the ideal structure to suite the unique demand of the organizations vision. In a later post I’ll outline a sample org. structure from the viewpoint of a corporate strategy across a global business, and the simplified versions for SOHO and small business structure.

Service Economy

I call this pillar service economy for two reasons. Firstly, it’s the foundation to support any and all marketing services that support internal and cross-functional teams. Whether this be support to sales teams, product or business units, it’s the service structure and performance a digital marketing team delivers to their internal customers.

The service in economy also refers to the impact the digital strategy has on influencing an organizations culture that embraces innovation, education, governance and integration.

Secondly, I label this economy as within any service-oriented organization I have a strong analytical and financial view that almost all services delivered has currency. They can be measured and shown performance on what the services have on the bottom line to either help generate revenue, cost per qualified lead or deliver efficiencies in costs.

The complacent mindset that views marketing as a service to support sales only, and cannot tie back any direct revenue or bottom line impact, will handcuff an organizations growth towards digital maturity.

To pivot this mindset, the fundamental question should be first asked of any strategy, tactical delivery, vendor relationship, or technology solution. How can these actions and re-actions can be measured?

Whether its measurement of reducing the cost of acquisition, valuation of an email address,  sales pipeline stage valuations, customer activity lift, increase in CLV of specific customer buckets, or more challenging areas of attribution modelling and the assisted valuation of each channel that may influence the lead to purchase.

Again – just as IT can show revenue efficiencies from reducing the cost of downtime, so to can marketers in almost any area to that delivers on the strategy.  But it’s for you to define your KPI’s and what valuation gauges are important to you and your business.

I won’t get into the details of analytical measurement for strategy in this post, but what you can takeaway is the measurement gauge you can use to determine your position towards digital maturity.

Each pillar in the framework can use a gauge to measure progress, or lack-thereof, towards digital maturity. And this is where the major gap in most organizations reside, or as I call it the Great Digital Divide. The great digital divide simply shows the gap or digital readiness of a business or organization today, and where they need to be by year X.

The fourth pillar is digital maturity itself, which seemingly goes across each of the latter three pillars, and split between the organizations internal maturity, and the external market perception of the brand.

Measure the Digital Divide

Measuring your business’s readiness and progress to fully embraces digital in the business strategy looks at different levels of maturity to identify the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities within the pillars of the framework.

For simplicity, envision a speedometer gauge for each of your pillars. Each marker in the gauge can be defined from left to right as:

  • Absent
  • Exploring
  • Enabled
  • Connected

For example, to understand your organizations digital readiness towards maturity within the umbrella of your corporate (or business) strategy, how has your strategies delivered and performed to fully engage and provide access ? When you evaluate the full spectrum of everything you could be doing (quality vs. quantity), do you feel your organization is absent or full connected or in-between? Whatever answers you derive will provide your team and the leadership teams a sense of maturity health.

When you understand this health, and naturally think of why the health is as it is, there are three guiding themes that help provide the answers.

  1. Do you design strategically and deploy tactically?
  2. Empowerment. Is the team, employees and customers empowered. Are the right tools available and the right motivation en-stowed to empower people to grow and amplify the vision.
  3. How have you delivered strategic impact while reducing risk? Simply put, what level of governance is there, and does it exist? Is there to much red-tape governance that drowns empowerment or prevents a properly executed strategy, and what is the risk on the business…if any?

I’ll continue the other ares of the digital framework in another post, but for now you should have a good idea of the digital framework and its pillars, and how the health of a businesses digital maturity can be measured.

In a future post I’ll continue to provide insight into the other areas of the digital framework, including the over-arching approach, the opportunities, how to align the global to regional go-to-market and overall the holistic view how it all fits together.

And before closing off, keep in mind how you will set the pace of the digital framework in your business, or across your organization. It’s not a quick solution or path to reach digital maturity, but instead a fundamental framework to follow that outlines realistic expectations of the big picture, versus short term view of strategic initiatives to consider to move the dial on digital maturity.

Got questions or experience to share on building a digital framework in your business, and its integration to deliver on a successful business strategy? Whether you’re an aspiring manager, entrepreneur, online marketer, VP of marketing, or consultant, I hope you find value in mastering these fundamentals, and share your questions and comment below.

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