Digital Strategy = The Art of Online Experience Marketing

Jul 12, 2014Marketing Strategy


The world is full of unfamiliar terms. I’ve come to find this out in my time in healthcare marketing. While I am quickly becoming acquainted with terms like “myocardial infarction” and “aortic stenosis” (two terms in cardiac medicine), I don’t claim to really understand the intricacies of their meanings. That’s the job of a physician, not a digital marketer, like me.

On the flip side, however, it is my job to understand what terms like “bounce rate”, “conversion rate”, “referral medium” and “cost per acquisition” mean and apply that knowledge in my role as a digital marketer and strategist as well.

But what, exactly, does the term “digital strategy” mean?

What is digital strategy?

It’s the job of the digital strategist to not only understand complex terminologies and how they apply (or don’t apply) to a business’s online goals, but also how to execute tactics that bring the business closer to meeting those goals.

That’s the dictionary definition.

The real definition is a lot less cut and dry, however. Digital strategy is part art and part science, probably not unlike being a surgeon.

Digital strategy is online experience marketing accomplished by executing on a formula that steps the digital strategist and company through a series actions. These steps are more project management than digital strategy, but I still find value in defining them. At a high level, most successful digital marketing projects will execute the following steps:

  1. Project Inception – the project is “born” as an idea that will satisfy a business need.
  2. Project Discovery – the project is investigated in order to determine what the goals are and how those goals can be accomplished. This is traditionally the step where most people think digital strategy lives. They’re only partly correct.
  3. Project Execution – this is the user experience and design, development, QA and UAT phases of the project where tactics are executed to reach the project’s defined goals.
  4. Project Delivery – the launch of the project and any steps that lead to the customer’s introduction to the project.
  5. Project Evaluation – this is an on-going process after the project has launched of measuring the success of the project. Measurements may continue indefinitely or they may restart the process back at step 1 as well.

What is Online Experience Marketing (OEM)?

Online Experience Marketing (OEM) is a lot like theme parks, actually. No, you don’t have to build thrill rides on your website to gain new clients, but their experience matters. I’m not just talking about their ability to find the content they were seeking or fill out a form to contact you.

It’s more than that. A lot more.

Naturally, OEM is closely tied to digital strategy. But, like digital strategy, it’s somewhat of an all-encompassing term as well. Online Experience Marketing fits within the cracks of the steps listed above. For example, OEM could be considered all of the following:

  • The “big idea” that’s uncovered in the inception phase.
  • The careful consideration of the user experience (UX) during the discovery and execution phases.
  • The best practices adhered to during the execution phase that maybe weren’t documented during discovery.
  • The strategy employed during the delivery phase where the customer is introduced to the project.
  • The close examination of the metrics produced by the project to either provide iterative improvements or more successful future project deliverables.

Why should you care about digital strategy?

A strategic plan is not required in order to launch a digital presence. But without a digital strategy, most successes will only be attributable to luck. Without a cohesive strategy and plan, how will you know when you’ve succeeded? How will you know what to improve? You will know when you’ve failed – that’s when the competition runs you out of business.

Think of it like this – sure, a pastry chef may be able to bake the perfect cake without following a recipe and just “winging it”, but what would the success rate be for that same pastry chef if they were to operate on your heart without guidance or a plan? The odds would be stacked against them (and you).

The bottom line? Don’t let a baker operate on your heart (don’t let a digital strategist, either).

What do you think?

The user’s experience while they are engaged with your online presence will determine whether they become your customer or go somewhere else. You can’t control everything about their experience, but you should have a plan for what you can control.

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