What drives your internet strategy? I’m always amazed that in today’s digital world where web based technologies reign supreme, at the number of companies that still don’t get it…It is not at all uncommon for me to find corporate internet strategies that are at best cobbled together if they exist at all. It is as if digital marketing and branding initiatives are the corporate version of the “hot potato,” such that everyone wants to have their say, but no one wants to take responsibility. Rarely do I come across corporate internet strategies that are aligned with the core business strategy. In an earlier post entitled “Who’s In Charge of Your Internet Strategy” (dated but relevant), I address many of the typical mistakes made with regard to the management of corporate internet initiatives, but in today’s post I’ll focus on the benefits derived by engineering a well conceived internet strategy.
Is your internet strategy engineered by design, or has it just evolved over time by default? There are few assets that can be leveraged across the enterprise as effectively as a company’s web assets. Furthermore, your company’s brand credibility is often judged by the quality and consistency of a user’s online interaction and experience, so why would you want to put anything other than your best foot forward? Rather than complain about your online initiatives I would suggest you correct performance gaps by taking a step back and revisiting your overall internet strategy to insure that it is properly aligned with your core business strategy.
Rule number one when developing your internet strategy is that it must be inclusive and not exclusive. Your corporate web presence should not be driven by IT, marketing or sales to the exclusion of one another, but rather it should be developed collaboratively in order to unite all departments to deliver real business value across the enterprise. A company’s digital strategy should balance ROI and contribution to the bottom line with growth-oriented business and IT initiatives.
As part of the cohesive and collaborative approach mentioned above, it is important to once and for all understand that your corporate website is where things begin, and not where they end. Believing that a corporate website can function as a single, stand-alone asset shows a complete lack of understanding of how to leverage the internet. Your corporate website needs to rest at the center of a spoke and hub architecture that includes, blogs, wikis, profiles and groups on social networking communities (Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, etc.), a network of related product/service/group microsites, article and video marketing, internet radio, TV, and PR, and the list goes on…The internet is a constantly evolving space and has changed radically from the early dot-com days.
A solid internet strategy is born out of both analytical and practical considerations with the internet strategy simply being a tactical extension of core business strategy. A well conceived digital strategy will be deeply based on customer, competitor, industry and constituent research used to identify and prioritize key business opportunities for internet channels. It will guide you towards the identification of new opportunities for increased revenue or cost savings by applying rigorous analysis of customer behavior, needs and financial value. The strategy should define associated costs and expected return as well as put forth metrics-driven implementation roadmaps.
It is also important that your internet strategy create multi-channel integration which serves to combine business and technology assessment, requirements development, and implementation. It is essential to evaluate and clarify channel strategies for effectiveness and profitability, as well as assessing areas of vulnerability and opportunity. A well designed internet strategy will also accelerate go to market time-frames and add to customer lifecycle value. With constantly evolving technology, and a better understanding of consumer behavior, barriers to adoption are falling at rapid rates. The proper strategy will leverage these trends to build strong sales funnels and increase conversion ratios. By building in strong up-sell/cross-sell mechanisms, and effective customer self-service options, margins should increase due to an increase in average order size with a lower cost of fulfillment.
Internally, the implementation of a well defined internet strategy will increase operating efficiencies by automating business process, stimulating innovation and collaboration, increasing the effectiveness of communication, and shortening production cycles. Virtually any application that was once administered through desktop solutions can now be addressed through web based solutions at lower costs with greater efficiency and scalability. Externally, the internet must align and propagate your brand promise and message in a way that works cross platform and medium to increase revenue and brand equity by reaching all constituencies in the manner in which the prefer to be communicated with.
Bottom line…the internet is only as powerful as your ability to understand and harness its strength to your advantage.