The importance of the Internet to modern business strategy was underlined by Michael Porter (2001), who famously said:
The key question is not whether to deploy Internet technology companies have no choice if they want to stay competitive but how to deploy it.
A digital marketing strategy is needed to provide consistent direction for an organisation’s online marketing activities so that they integrate with its other marketing activities and support its overall business objectives. The digital marketing strategy has many similarities to the typical aims of traditional marketing strategies, in that it will:
- Provide a future direction to digital marketing activities
- Involve analysis of the organisation’s external environment, internal resources and capabilities to inform strategy
- Define digital marketing objectives that support marketing objectives
- Involve selection of strategic options to achieve digital marketing objectives and create sustainable differential competitive advantage
- Include strategy formulation to address typical marketing strategy options such as target markets, positioning and specification of marketing mix
- Help identify which strategies NOT to pursue and which marketing tactics are not suitable to implement
- Specify how resources will be deployed and how the organisation will be structured to achieve the strategy.
Context for digital marketing strategy development
The internal influences include corporate objectives and strategy and these in turn influence marketing strategy that should directly influence the digital marketing strategy. Key external influences include the marketing structure and demand, competitor strategies and the current and evolving opportunities and threats, in particular those enabled by new digital technologies (e.g. mobile marketing and IPTV) and marketing approaches (e.g. search engine marketing and use of social media).
Digital marketing strategy as a channel marketing strategy
Digital marketing strategy is primarily a channel marketing strategy which defines how a company should set channel-specific objectives and develop differential channel-proposition and channel-specific communication consistent with the characteristics of the channel and end user requirements. The strategy determines the strategic significance of the Internet relative to other communications channels that are used to communicate directly with customers at different customer touch points. Some organisations, such as low-cost airlines, use virtual channels e.g. websites and email marketing, for delivering services and communicating with customers, whereas other may follow a strategy which uses a mix of digital and offline channels, e.g. supermarkets which use face-to-face, telephone, mobile, direct mail communications and the web.
So the focus of digital marketing strategy is decisions about how to use the channel yo support existing marketing strategies, how to exploit its strengths and manage its weaknesses, and to use it in conjunction with other channels as part of multichannel marketing strategy. This multichannel marketing strategy defines how different marketing channels should integrate and support each other in terms of their proposition development and communications based in their relative merits of the customers and company.
Chaffey, D. and Ellis-Chadwick, F., 2012. Digital marketing: strategy, implementation and practice (Vol. 5). Harlow: Pearson.