Structuring your business for digital

If you’ve arrived here hoping for the one single solution to structuring your business you’re going to be disappointed. The simple reason is that there is no one size fits all solution. Making drastic changes to the fundamental structure of your business is also something that can cause unforeseen (and foreseen) major issues both procedurally and from a people standpoint amongst other areas. You must take an approach that is aligned with your goals, your company and your industry – I talk in detail about how to do this in my book ‘Digital Marketing Strategy’ – but in the meantime here are a few principles that you can apply no matter what your structure…

1. Keep it flexible

The very nature of digital means that whatever you setup today will certainly be wrong in a few years time. Do you have a virtual reality department? Do you have implant app programmers? We can’t all foresee these changes but we can allow for them. Keeping you business aligned to the core areas such as paid advertising, content, experience being led by people who live and breathe those disciplines enables you to adapt when you need to. Having these too broadly spread or tightly controlled can leave you nowhere to go when things change – and they will change.

2. Integrate the core disciplines

These disciplines mentioned above – experience, advertising, content, social, conversion etc – they do not, never have and never will stand alone. Keeping your app experience separate to your web experience creates confusion amongst your users. Your customers don’t care who runs what department at your company or what their objectives are – they care that you feel like one consistent business. Your experience must feel smooth. Carry your personalisation through all touch points. Serve your content smartly everywhere. Have one voice across paid and organic channels.

3. Keep communicating

In my view this is where most big companies get it wrong. Whether it’s not talking enough due to internal politics, career games or avoiding too many cooks, or its talking too much with non-stop meetings and committees, this is often wrong. The real secret here is to keep it human. Email is a useful channel for sharing files and keeping comms trails but it shouldn’t be the default channel – use it less. Get up and go to see people. Do it often. Keep the conversation open and honest. You are one team. You win together or lose together so help each other. Most companies with unhappy customers have unhappy employees. Keep talking and you will deliver better results all round.

4. Be represented

Whatever you do you must be heard. Doing all the best work in the world can be pointless, even if your customers love it, if you’re not represented. Whether you represent yourself or your seniors are representing you, you must get your message out. Your strategy and regular updates all need to get to the top. Only then will you be able to get the greatest success. You need to understand how to manage upwards. My book, Digital Marketing Strategy, reviews the psychology of decision making to help with this.

5. Have a plan

Have a strategy and have a plan. Without a long-term vision you can end up paddling around in circles.  Without a plan you’re just floating around randomly. You must not move from one random act to another. Those of you that have heard me speak will have heard me say that there is a scale with strategy on one end and execution on the other. You must not sit at either end of the scale but in the middle. With pure strategy nothing gets done. A good PowerPoint does not improve your share price. Pure execution causes dips in motivation, confusion, contradiction and wasted resource. You must have a plan. Know where you’re going, how you’re going to get there and maintain clear milestones. But make sure you execute against it.

6. Don’t be afraid to get it wrong

I often say ‘failure is no longer a dirty word’. There is no harm in making mistakes. In fact I have a lot more respect for people who can admit mistakes and demonstrate learning from them. I make mistakes all the time and that’s fine (mostly when cooking). You need to minimise them and learn from them. A cycle of continuous improvement and testing is essential to delivering the best possible outcomes. Control your failures. Set yourself up to fail and you set yourself up to succeed.

With all of these principles in place you have the best possible chance of being structured effectively for digital.

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