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B2B digital strategy: Making informed choices

By Hugh Allspaugh, Ogilvy & Mather Chicago

Hugh Allspaugh

Choices are the essence of strategy. It’s not always about what you actually implement, but what you choose not to allow as a distraction. Arguably the biggest challenge marketers face today is how to do more with less. With so many options, especially in the digital ecosystem, marketers must focus on making the right choices. Here are three principles to help navigate the complexity of a digital strategy and implementation.

Put business first.

Digital is not a channel, or a tactic or a silo P&L function. Too many marketers—often influenced by board members and senior executives who are not marketing oriented—get caught up in the tactical “shiny-objective” syndrome. They don’t consider the role of digital in contributing to the overall business objective, usually growth.

Marketers need to clearly articulate the job to be done in terms of business contribution. For example, do you to want steal share from competitors? Increase share of wallet or average purchase frequency from existing customers?

Identify your primary source of volume and how and where digital can influence that core target through a customer journey.

Focus on behaviors that impact the business objective.

This is really quite simple if you know your targets. Analyze and document behaviors across a customer journey. How and what do they search? How do they consume content? How do they use your current website? What is the role of mobile in their life?

Once you have a handle on customer needs, you should also evaluate how your competitors address your target needs. Look for whitespace and seize upon it for a competitive advantage or point of difference.

Most importantly, focus on digital strategies that will impact the kinds of behavior that you need to meet your business objective.

Filter your strategies and tactics.

Choose a path that makes the most sense for your business and for your customer. I recommend the following simple exercise for evaluating options.

Create a matrix with an X- and a Y-axis. The X-axis could be “Meets the needs of the business.” Then evaluate each tactic by answering a series of questions. For the X-axis:

  • What impact will this have on the overall business objective?
  • What resources will this require, internally and externally, and will it impact other activities or initiatives?
  • Are there any organizational barriers that will impede implementation?
  • Is this fast and easy to implement, or slow and hard?

On the Y-axis, ask the following types of questions about your core target.

  • Does this address a desired need or want?
  • Is this the most effective option for influencing the desired behavior?
  • Has the target adopted this type of behavior or is this still an emerging trend?
  • Is this the simplest way to influence the desired behavior?
  • Will this contribute to the overall brand experience and align to the brand personality?

Create a scoring system, and plot your results. There is no right or wrong answer, unless you have the data to help you answer the questions. But it will help you evaluate and compare your choices. And in this complex digital age, we all need all of the help we can get.

Hugh Allspaugh is executive director of marketing strategy and analytics for Ogilvy & Mather Chicago. For over 25 years, he’s been helping brands make integrated marketing choices that accelerate business. You can email him at or follow him on Twitter @hughru.

You can also catch him presenting during the weeklong Digital Marketing Management Certification Course put together by BMA Chicago and Loyola University. The course begins on Oct. 28.

Comments (1)
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Ford Kanzler
Posted Oct 17, 2013 at 11:47 AM

Certainly agree with your first point, focus is the essence of strategy. I see too much client "focus" on just doing stuff...being busy, without much or any forethought about what's worth doing. It as if by doing a ton (more all the time) you will somehow accomplish what's worthwhile. My experience also is that many marketers get caught up in the "cool tactic syndrome." They often want to copy a competitor's tactics. I won't go into why that might be a bad idea. Richard Rumelt's recent book "Good Strategy/Bad Strategy" offers superb guidance for businesses lacking and desiring a real strategic direction. Incorporating his "kernal" concept will help management avoid BS strategies like "grow 100 percent by next year," "sell 50 million in products" or "crush the competition." I know your focus is digital but there remains a need for many businesses (B2B or B2C) to execute a well integrated (on/offline) approach to their marketing communications. Which makes the choices even more challenging. With a clear competitive strategy, appropriate choices usually emerge or at least a proposed tactic may compared to how well it supports the strategy. Without good strategy, its "Ready, Fire Aim"...regardless of the media being applied.

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