How to Take Your Digital Strategy Beyond Marketing and Into Product Development


Let’s talk about digital strategy and why you need one

If you have no clue what digital strategy is, you’re not alone.  Most of the froth around digital strategy centers around marketing, but there is no commonly accepted definition of digital strategy.  So, I will provide one for you.  Digital strategy is “The marriage of strategic insights and technology-based tactics in a digital first world.”  “Digital First”, in a business sense, describes how technology impacts everything about how products are envisioned, developed, marketed, monetized, and consumed.

Having a digital strategy is important because it gives you a stable approach to a changing technology landscape, and it provides a framework to experiment with new execution models while maintaining alignment with strategic goals.


Digital tools and technologies continue to change; Create stability with a disciplined approach

Its a fine line to walk:  Following all the latest digital trends means companies can chase unproven digital technologies down a rabbit hole.  Anyone remember QR codes?  But waiting too long means attempting to catch up in what may be an already saturated space, such as Microsoft and Amazon’s ill-fated attempts to gain traction in the mobile phone market.  Having a digital strategy means having the ability to test, integrate, prove, and ultimately scale new digital tools (and products) in line with their business impact.

In 2000 there was no mobile app ecosystem, there was no Facebook, there was no Twitter, there was no Pinterest, there was no Instagram.  In the last 10 years the arrival of these new tools has created unprecedented opportunities for companies who were able to test these tools, measure their impact, and integrate them into how they do business.  Unfortunately, most digital strategies have nowhere near this level of sophistication and are short sighted


Why most digital strategies are incomplete and what to do about it

  • Most companies don’t have a digital strategy.  They try new tools and techniques in a very ad-hoc way with limited support, sloppy measurement, and unorganized scaling strategy
  • Most digital strategies are silo’d in marketing.  Companies agonize about how to get more “engagement” and “brand mentions”; overfeeding the marketing monster while starving their innovation and product development machines.
  • Most digital strategies do not include product development.  Product development is the “last mile” in your digital strategy.  Whats the point of high brand engagement and 2 way conversations if you can’t convert that knowledge and engagement into products you can sell to customers?


Make sure the digital strategy budget has room for technology and technologists

Allocate 30% of your digital strategy toward the exploration, development, and use of new digital tools.  Create a “team within a team” by embedding a small cross functional product development team in your digital strategy group to rapidly prototype and release products.  This team needs to be separate from corporate IT so they are 100% aligned with the goals of the digital strategy team and don’t have the inertia of existing structures to constrain them

When marketing has an idea, the cross functional product team should be able to work digital strategy to design, build, test, market, launch and measure new product ROI in a matter of weeks.  This will let you codify the process with fewer hand-offs and test hypotheses more quickly.


Look for product ideas hidden in marketing conversations

With all the customer engagement you have, make sure you’re listening.  Often new products and services that customers are willing to pay for are hidden in those conversations.  Follow #hashtags and catalog the kinds of information you see.  Look for conversations about your competitors saying things like, “I wish they could…”, or “It would be awesome if…”, or even “It sucks that they wont….”


When initiatives show promise, scale up

Creating a digital strategy that includes product development means that when a new approach shows promise in key areas, you can scale it up quickly.  Your product development team can operationalize the approach and transition it to corporate IT while they continue to push the edge finding new techniques and tools to evaluate and measure.


Our digital future

The tempo of our digital drumbeat increases every year.  Companies who don’t see themselves as digital first will lose ground as consumer expectations evolve in lock-step with technology availability.  Companies who continue to divorce their strategy from their digital and technology strategy will muddle through, always in reactive mode, and companies who adopt a disciplined yet flexible approach to digital will be able to manage the uncertainty and change.  Welcome to the revolution.

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Until Next Time,

Stay Agile, My Friends


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