Digital Strategy Guidance notes specifically for 2020

Digital Strategy Guidelines

It’s always wise to build strategy on a sound foundation of PEST and SWOT. Since SWOT is very personal and PEST is often fairly regional or vertical, I won’t delay too long other than to say that, virtually every serious non-political commentator is pointing to trade wars, nationalism, oil prices and overburdening personal debt as strong indicators of a likely slowdown in the coming year. In fact in the UK this has very much begun and could well result in losing the fattest of the retailers and maybe even major manufacturers like Japanese Car plants, Airbus and others who have already sounded warnings.
It’s not the time for foolhardy experiments, but rather keeping what you have and focusing your attention on the product lines or services that are indispensable for now  at least. That said, this is often a very good strategy that can lead to strong growth in performance both short and long term, so it’s not looking downwards, on the contrary. . .

One of the things we have found repeatedly in 2019 and this is echoed by our clients and their customers is a degree of fatigue with the same-old, same-old.
As an internet user, where I personally concur with this message is the proliferation of ads into every corner of my life including even the aps on my phone. Customers have a slightly less antagonised view than mine in that it is a nuisance, but not a problem. I personally used to rely on search and now I don’t trust what I find and don’t find much worth even considering. This latter for me is like watching an old friend die. But this is piece about marketing strategy only.

Getting your stuff noticed and getting your voice heard are the toughest parts of marketing as always, but not the only ones. I can’t stress enough the importance of recognising this.
There are two ways to fail in marketing that I see every day I go to work: 1. failing to get noticed and 2. failing to convert interest into customers. I will deal with these two in my strategy guidelines for 2020.


Targeting is the key to getting noticed in 2020. Let me tell you from experience, if your product is hamburgers and you pull up alongside a bunch of hungry fans leaving a concert, or a bar, they will notice you immediately and come for a closer look. The more customers that come the more you will get noticed. In the car park of a top restaurant, things won’t go so well.
Whatever you have to pay to get in front of the right people is usually worth paying. Its not so simple as renting the expensive shop in the right street or arcade, but the principle is precisely the same.
It may mean search adverts, it may mean targeted ads on a search network, it may even mean social media or many other channels, it will always mean diligent and intelligent research, but you need to nail this problem right now. Choosing the right place to engage them will arise from knowing them intimately. There is no substitute.

The headline or hero.

Your first message or image is the one that’s most likely to define you, so be careful. It’s all about interest, yes, but do remember that it may have longer lasting impacts. If you attract them with “cheaper hamburgers”, you may drive away quite a few who don’t trust you to give them quality or lose those who find your prices a little steep.
On the other hand, sex sells. If you can somehow get a hamburger into a dress that’s too short, it will sell because when it comes to worlds favourite sport, we suspend disbelief and go with the flow.

Controversy sells, but be sure that your targeting is very strong and you are not dicing up your market too much. Nevertheless, better that  5% of the market loves you than they are all ambivalent.

Brand and reputation.

Unless you are Nike or Coca Cola, stop worrying about brand too much, you are probably never going to make it. Nevertheless, If you are even a cobbler with a small shop on the corner, you still need an online reputation in 2020.
86% of customers to local business in 2019 used a phone or browser to find them, or navigate to them or check opening hours and then they  read reviews and checked them out. If you don’t have a reputation, they won’t come, even if they find you and they probably won’t, because Google too, knows the importance of reputation. If you are not on the map block they will probably go somewhere that is.
Tens of thousands of businesses in UK shut down last year to give way to global chains like Lyft, Uber, Just eat etc. Unless you master digital you won’t survive in a local business in 2020. Even loyal older customers will eventually be tempted away by an offer just as they park beside your competitor or a direct message or event or other method used by a competitor. Don’t forget, many local competitors are also global brands with big switched on and well-funded marketing departments.
If your business is Locally focused, you need to be in the map-block. You need a strong GMB presence. You need a star rating of 4.3 upwards. You need presence on Social Media that looks loved and shows customers and enquiries being responded to. You don’t need a huge expensive presence unless you have a specific strategy of your own.
You need to monitor what is said online and you need to respond quickly to anything negative and also recognise those who give you a good review at times.


You need hard facts in order to understand what is happening with your online engagement. Nothing is ever likely to answer all the questions and you really must get out of your chair and talk to real people, but you also need statistics. Data first, people soon after has worked well for me, but do it your way.
You need to know where your customers came from, how they were targeted and what happened afterwards at each journey stage. Without that you won’t know which targeting method is more profitable for your business. Large crowds of unqualified customers may fail to deliver, while small targeted groups may convert at very high rates. Only with the full picture in front of you can you judge this?

You need all your statistics in one place so you can see the different channels as a single marketing effort rather than being forced to work with exclusive worlds of different channels.

Talk to customers, especially when you are confused by what the data is saying, it’s fun and it really pays off.

Be careful how much you spend on Content Marketing ALA every article on Google.

With only a few exceptions, content marketing focuses on one small aspect of a conversion journey, awareness of your business and services. This is useful, but only when the readers are targeted and only when the conversion strategy is strong. Otherwise you are spreading muck without planting the potatoes or owning a harvester. See this piece on Content Marketing.
One of the cleverest strategies in some industries is to sit back while your competitors do all the hard work with expensive online and offline tactics and content marketing, then pounce with the right advert in the right place and the right offer just when they have decided to make that purchase. Don’t become the victim of this strategy.


This is a constantly changing landscape. The big changes we saw in 2019 were:

  • the ability to make our adverts dynamic and rewrite the headlines or other content based on the precise terms used by the searcher. E.G the searcher types “Selling Didgeridoos on Google” we pick that up and put it in the headline of our landing page. Imagine how impressed that searcher is and the results show how impressed she is. You do sell digeridoos, right?
    If she spells it wrong “dadgeridoo”, we will soon be able understand the context and slightly rewrite her search without losing the context. That feature should be launched by March latest.
  • The growing power of CPA budgeting. By setting up the campaign and tracking a little differently, we can nominate a target CPA and Google will work within these boundaries. Our clients love the reassurance this brings. Knowing the cost of customer acquisition opens the door to more aggressive marketing and bigger revenues. Who doesn’t love that.

Automated marketing campaigns are no longer optional.

It has become so critical, that we started setting them up for even our reluctant clients and guiding them through. It’s neither simple, nor horrendously difficult, but you do need patience. There  are many pitfalls also with email which still is more like the wild west than the Tokyo metro, but it is very worthwhile in-fact, I would say indispensable.

People have become so familiar with their mailboxes being filled with anything they search, some have commented that they only have to think about something and it appears, not quite, but it can feel that way and sometimes that is convenient. We now get customer interviews where they complain that the vendor ddn’t bother to follow up, i.e. no email follow up, no offers, etc. Each industry has its own norms, take them into account, then decide whether to conform or stand out and test your theory.
At a simple level, you can simply send emails with the information people always find most useful plus links and downloads then send a great offer to tempt a further action. This is the easiest to set-up and improves conversion rates substantially without complex algorithms.
Better by far is a fully automated system that analyses their interest and chooses the best content to the extent of having an email conversation with the customer before giving your salesforce a hint that it is a good time to make that call, or sending a killer coupon or whatever your conversion method is.
You need at least, to make a start and you need to set your sights on sophistication, email is still by far the best channel for conversions and the difference it can make to your overall campaign performance is something you can’t afford to miss.


This is controversial in places because it uses a cookie set by the platform rather than your site to track your visitor all over the web. It works by showing your chosen advert to that user who just visited  again while visiting other sites at particular times decided by the algorithms. There are many reasons why a user would react to this and it is a very successful method of converting, so while it is available I suggest strongly that you get in on the act and start enjoying the substantially higher conversion rates you will be seeing.
All you have to do is add a piece of code to your site provided by Google, or Linkedin etc.
If you are well organised you can extract a visitor list from your automated system and upload that list to Google telling it to target these visitors again with your adverts or new adverts in the hope of bringing them back. You can also a/b or multivariate test these adverts, but be aware of potentially different journey stages.

Have fun

When you’re having fun, it shows though in your marketing and moves the needle on your bottom line. If you can’t resist that frivolous video or whatever, what the heck, just do it and keep on smiling. Smiling is important and customers can see it from hundreds of miles away.

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