3 Ways to Manage a Digital Strategy for the Design Build Industry | 09

Planning Your Digital Strategy

This is a new age, and while the same game, the rules have changed. Senior executives or business owners that insist on a hands-on approach and micro managing the process will hit a roadblock due to their lack of experience with internet marketing.

Traditional marketing experience has a great value and can be a real asset when viewing digital from a 10 mile vantage point. But on the ground with new and often counter-intuitive inbound marketing strategies, and the technologies that assist them, it can often be more of a hindrance than a help.

The days of “Madmen” and creating demand for a product developed in isolation from the consumer are changing fast. Our consumers now are far more researched, opinionated and questioning. They have an idea of what they might want and go to the web to research it. The company that they can find easily, and navigate and understand easily will be in the race and the rest will have to spend large amounts on advertising.

If you are in charge of managing this process then you have a few choices.

A Game of Managing Strategy

Option 1. Micro-manage based on incomplete information.

Unfortunately this is the most common approach and inevitably it doesn’t work and the website and inbound marketing strategy get the blame. This approach is soul destroying for the web team and you will not recruit and retain top talent with this approach.

Web professionals are highly intelligent creative individuals that have chosen a field that is a wide blend of disciplines that include; design, code, technology and content. Not only is the field wide, but because the internet has only been around 20 years and the web design profession is immature compared to other marketing/design trades like print design.

This newness makes for a rapidly changing industry. Coupled with the ever changing landscape of devices people view the web on there are not many options for formal web design training. Universities can take up to three years to prepare a syllabus, by which time it would be in the dark ages of web design, so these web professionals are mostly self and peer trained.

Top Digital Talent Got Where They are For a Good Reason

The characteristics of web professionals are creative problem solvers that have been drawn to an industry on the edge of design and tech by their own motivation. To achieve any success in the field of web design, they needed to be highly self-motivated and spend 2-3 hours of their own time training each day just to keep up to date. They are driven by new technology and creating beautiful and functional experiences for people online.

Now imagine this web professional gets the choice of 100k working for a boss that micro-manages every project and makes all the decisions or 80k for a company that gives them some real responsibility and autonomy. Sure, some web designers might choose the 100k, but consider the waste of talent of turning this creative problem solver into a factory worker, and further consider the long-term ramifications.

Don’t get me wrong, a factory worker can make a good honest living and contribute greatly to society as a whole, my point is that the reason these people are web professionals is that their personality type that drove them into web design is closer to that of the entrepreneur.

What might be fine for people who are happy to be factory workers and turn their minds off work at the end of the day will not sustain most web designers and this raises the questions: How long can this web professional put up with these circumstances? And if they do. How good will there work be?”

Option 2. Teach the Old Dog Some New Tricks.

If the digital age has caught you a bit unawares and you are not sure what to do with your website strategy and even where it starts and finishes. Take comfort, you are in the majority. If you have a thirst for new knowledge, you probably already know what you need to read and you have a long list of pending on your Kindle or Ipad. In any case, here is what I have found as great resources.

  • Hubspot.com ebooks
  • Copyblogger.com ebooks
  • Designing For Emotion – Aarron Walter
  • Rework – Jason Fried
  • Design for Hackers – David Kadavy
  • The Lean Startup – How Constant Innovation Creates Radically Successful Businesses
  • The New Digital Age Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business – Jared Cohen
  • The Non-Designers Design Book – Robin Williams
  • The Principles of Beautiful Web Design – Jason Beard
  • Website Owners Manual – Paul Boag
  • Digital Adaptation – Paul Boag

My hope is that these resources will give you just enough understanding to be able to communicate better with your web team and empower them to do their job.

Option 3. Let Go of the Reigns…… But Hold the Horse Tight.

If you are at a stage of life where you don’t really want to learn new tricks, I consider this an enviable position and believe you probably have much better things to do with your time. If this is the case then just a couple of mile high books will do the trick:

  • The New Digital Age Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business – Jared Cohen
  • Digital Adaptation – Paul Boag

Then find a digital lead that you trust and stay close to them. Give them final decision making power in all instances providing they stay in budget while at the same time insist they consult you and keep you informed of all strategy and implementation. Mentor them with your years of marketing and business experience and alert them to branding and business realities that they may have overlooked.

A high quality web team needs to be able to take ownership of their deliverables, if they are treated like pawns of the marketing department then not only will the company not attract and keep good talent, but it creates a flawed system.

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