When 2010 began, I received several calls from prospective clients asking about building websites. This was the obvious place to start for most people when thinking about using technology to reach their consumers. In 2011, I have a wish for our clients, existing and new. I want them to think beyond just websites in conveying their digital messages. I want our clients to think not in terms of individual tactics, but in terms of a comprehensive digital strategy.

As we work with clients we look at the entire digital ecosystem.

(dig·i·tal e·co·sis·tŭm)Complex web of digital touch points in which your target audience interacts. Includes everything from websites to social media pages to the strategy unifying the approach. It ensures that all of your online components work cohesively together.

A great digital marketing strategy anticipates the needs of customers. As you start planning your organization’s digital presence, it is important to understand where your audience is spending their time online and how you can connect with them today, in their current environment.

Too often I see businesses asking what will be the next big thing after Facebook? The truth is that no one knows, and from a digital strategy standpoint, what matters most is where people are spending time now. It is not about emerging technologies, as most people in your target audience are likely not early adopters.

Who is your audience? Effective digital strategies are all about knowing their needs and delivering on them. Like all ecosystems, every element within the digital ecosystem works together as part of a chain of constantly occurring events. The key in digital media is having a common message that carefully weaves your tactics together. With so many ways for a consumer to connect with a company, the most effective strategies are those that possess a single voice tying together both online and offline interactions by the audience.

Not every digital ecosystem is the same, but many of them have common elements. Tactics and elements within each will vary based on the needs of the audience and the interaction the company is seeking. What is important is the single voice that will ultimately motivate your audience to engage with your company within your specific digital ecosystem.

So start 2011 off on the right foot and help my New Year’s wish come true. Sit down and conduct an assessment of your digital marketing presence. Consider these questions:

  • Do we have a unifying strategy that ties together all of our tactics? Do we understand our audience’s online habits and where they spend their time online?
  • How does our online strategy work cohesively with our offline efforts?
  • Do we have one common voice and a clear message throughout our online and offline marketing efforts?

The essential starting point in digital planning is an honest assessment of where you are and a review of measurable, quantifiable data. Developing a digital strategy following good communication planning techniques will allow you to leverage digital to achieve tangible business results and stand apart from your competition.